Sean's Big 10 Conference Preview
By: Sean Higgs Published on: 08/24/2013
Let's head to Big 10 country and get a look at the Leaders and Legends Divisions
1. OHIO STATE - These guys were undefeated last year in Urban Meyers first year and will look to duplicate that success and have something to show for it at the end of the year. Clearly the best roster in the Big 10. With 9 starters back on offense led by QB Braxton Miller. This is an experienced group and they will need it all since the defense with just 4 starters back will be the weaker link. The toughest game will be the last one at Michigan. Barring some major collapse, these guys should be undefeated heading into that November 30 match-up.
2. WISCONSIN - I have the Badgers as probably the 5th or 6th best team overall in conference. But here, they will slide a bit ahead of Penn State for #2 behind the Buckeyes. They have a new HC in Gary Anderson and a boatload of new assistants. But, they do have 23 seniors and 15 returning starters to help ease the transition. These guys have gone to the Rose Bowl 3 straight years, so you know they have talent. This team has plenty of depth at RB but the OL is a bit weak and they QB situation is shaky. Still, with this much returning talent, Wiscy should match last years 8 wins.
3. PENN STATE - It won't surprise me if PSU finishes 2nd to OSU in this side of things. They have 8 starters on offense and 6 more returning on defense. But now that the Joe Pa Saga/Drama is behind them, it will interesting to see how things play out. Plenty of playmaker ability on offense, but the question is who will be the QB. 5* recruit Christian Hackenberg is there along with JUCO transfer Tyler Ferguson. Let's see what these guys do now after the drama.
4. INDIANA - Third year HC Kevin Wilson is making some nice strides in Bloomington. They went from 1 to 4 wins. I can see them getting another 3 here this season. Good thing about being bad is you can promise youngers some serious PT. Well he has 10 returning starters on offense and 9 more on defense. The offense moved the ball well last year scoring over 30ppg. Now if the defense can make some stops, we might see the Hoosiers bowling for the first time since 2007.
5. ILLINOIS - These guys have lost 14 straight Big 10 games and open vs Nebraska, Wiscy and Michigan State. 2-10 last year. With 9 starters including their QB back you would think that 3 wins is possible.
6. PURDUE - New HC in town as Darrell Hazell comes over from Kent State. He liked to run the ball there, and has the RB in Akeem Hunt to carry the load. This isn't so much about rebuilding. They went bowling the last 2 years. He does have 5 starters on offense back. Plus another 8 on defense. The schedule is tough.
1. MICHIGAN STATE- I'm taking the Spartans to win this side of things. The offense brings back 9 starters and 7 more on offense. The defense is first rate. This was a Top 5 unit last year and should be one again. If the offense can score a little (20ppg LY) this team will easily be better than 7-6. 5 of those losses came by a combined 13 points! We know the defense will be excellent. We just need the offense to go from poor to decent.
2. MICHIGAN - Wolverines lost 5 games last year. 4 of those on the road. #1 Bama, #3 OSU, #4 ND, #8 South Carolina. Those teams were 58-8.They get ND and OSU to come play this year in the Big House. This team can leap frog State, but I think the defense and the fact they play at Michigan State will be what decides this conference.
3. NEBRASKA - QB Taylor Maritinez is back and should lead an exciting offensive unit. Cornhuskers shed Wiscy and OSU and get Indiana and Purdue. If HC Bo Pelini can turn this defense around, maybe, just maybe, Nebraska can get back to their once proud status of the 80s and 90s. The defense was terrible last year allowing nearly 28ppg. They allowed 10ppg in 2009! In 4 losses they allowed over 53ppg.
4. IOWA - Will Kirk Ferentz seat be getting hot this fall? Off a 4-8 2012, I don't think it will get much brighter here in 2013. The guy has been here 15 years so maybe they go for a change if the team sinks again. They do lose 4 of their 8 games by 3pt or less and 9 of their 12 foes did go bowling. With its top 2 RBs back, plus 4 of its 5 WRs I think they can avoid some of those losses. The defense does return 8 starters including its top 3 tacklers. I always like this team. Seems to me, when nothing is expected, they seem to shine.
5 NORTHWESTERN - These guys won 10 games last year and their first bowl win in 64 wins. HC Pat Fitzgerald should run for Mayor, hell President. They have 15 total starters back and will be looking for a piece of the Division Title. The weak link in my eyes ins their OL with only 2 starters back. But the talent is there to surprise.
6. MINNESOTA - HC Jerry Kill is in year 3 and normally that is when things should start looking up. Golden Gophers return 10 starters on offense and 7 on defense. The run game is decent and the defense improved greatly last year. If they can build on that, they can avoid the basement.