Conference Preview: Big Ten
The Big Ten conference proved a lot of doubters wrong last season.
The conference ended the year with a winning bowl record, and probably their best bowl record in the past five years. The Big Ten was the only conference to have two teams finish in the top five, Michigan State and Ohio State. Coming into 2015, the Big Ten hosts some of the top quarterback prospects for the 2016 NFL draft, and brings back the defending national champion in Ohio State. The question on many people’s mind is can the conference sustain success and be one of the top three conferences in the country?
On a smaller scale, people wonder if Penn State can have it’s best year since the Paterno era, is Michigan back, can Minnesota sustain success, what’s Mike Riley going to do for Nebraska, Purdue still has a football team?
Big Ten West
- Wisconsin 8-0
- Minnesota 5-3
- Nebraska 5-3
- Iowa 4-4
- Northwestern 3-5
- Illinois 1-7
- Purdue 1-7
The Badgers got lucky with a relatively easy conference schedule, not including that week one game against Alabama. The Badgers travel to Minnesota and Lincoln, which will prove difficult, but beside that Joel Stave is ready to lead the Badgers to another Big Ten West title. Corey Clement should keep the Wisconsin running game in good hands with no Melvin Gordon, and the defense is loaded, especially in the secondary, for the Badgers.
Jerry Kill and the gang are back, trying to evolve Minnesota into a consistent contender in the West. The loss of David Cobb hurts, but the Gophers return pretty much everyone from one of the best scoring defenses in the country. With Nebraska at home, look for the Gophers to make another improvement on the year before.
And Minnesota has this guy:
Nebraska should have solid offense under new head coach Mike Riley, but the defense suffered last year, and with no Gregory, it might not be pretty at times. The Huskers have a manageable schedule and if a few key games swing their way they may end up on top of the west.
Big Ten East
- Ohio State 8-0
- Michigan 6-2
- Michigan State 6-2
- Penn State 6-2
- Maryland 2-6
- Indiana 1-7
- Rutgers 0-8
Ohio State is most likely going to go undefeated again, and return to the national championship, hard to deny the talent they have back. But watch out for that game in Ann Arbor against the team up north come November.
The rest of the teams in the East are all very close, and the final standings depend on how they matchup with each other. Michigan gets Michigan State at home, and I like a fired up Michigan crowd under Jim Harbaugh to take out the Spartans. Plus, Michigan State’s weakness is their secondary which returns just one starter, which will play in favor of Michigan, who will be struggling at quarterback. Penn State is solid all-around on defense and will cause major problems for the Wolverines, however Christian Hackenburg struggles against the blitz, which plays in favor of Michigan State. That’s why I have a three-way tie between those three teams.
As for the rest of the east, good luck. And poor Rutgers, with only three starters back on defense, maybe Indiana won’t finish dead last.