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CFT Predicts: the Big Ten

Urban Meyer AP

As the 2013 season draws near, we peek into our crystal ball and guess project how each of the five major conferences will play out. Today, we examine the Big Ten.  

While we’re at it, be sure to check out our other conference predictions: SEC, Pac-12

Leaders Division

1. Ohio State (Last year: 12-0)
What happened last season?
Urban Meyer‘s first year with the Buckeyes was flawless, at least as far as things go in the win-loss column. Though Ohio State had no postseason to look forward to thanks to NCAA sanctions, it went undefeated during the regular season. That’s propelled OSU to become one of the preseason favorites to appear in the final BCS championship.

So why are they ranked here?
The more appropriate question would be why wouldn’t the Buckeyes be ranked here? Meyer is easily one of the best in the game and quarterback Braxton Miller is now the betting favorite to win the Heisman. There are some concerns along the defensive front for this team, but it doesn’t have the appearance of something that will be an insurmountable problem.

Anything else?
The Game against Michigan can go either way, but there’s really only one spot I can potentially see Ohio State slipping. That would be an Oct. 5 game at Northwestern. The Wildcats enter 2013 with some hype (there’s something you don’t type everyday) after winning 10 games last year.

2. Wisconsin (Last year: 8-6; lost to Stanford in Rose Bowl) 
What happened last season?
The Badgers can thank the NCAA for getting to the Big Ten title game as both Ohio State and Penn State watched from home. The Badgers struggled with offensive consistency throughout the year even though Montee Ball was among the leading rushers in the country. 

So why are they ranked here?
Gary Andersen takes over for the departed Bret Bielema. Though Ball is gone and the quarterback situation needs to be figured out, this is a veteran team with some recognizable names still around like running back James White and receiver Jared Abbrederis. The bigger concern lies on defense, which will be moving to more of a 3-4 this year.

Anything else?
The Badgers avoid Michigan, Michigan State and Nebraska this season. It may not help Andersen win the Leaders Division in his first year, but it should help with a few more W’s. Also, QB Tanner McEvoy has started getting some looks at receiver and should help in that department.

3. Penn State (Last year: 8-4)
What happened last season?
Bill O’Brien took over what felt like an impossible situation and won eight games with the Nittany Lions. The crowning achievement of a season that surpassed many expectations was the development of quarterback Matt McGloin, who is now getting some buzz in the pros with the Oakland Raiders.

So why are they ranked here?
Penn State is a little bit of a wildcard this year. Christian Hackenberg and Tyler Ferguson are battling it out for the starting quarterback job, and this defense loses some key leaders from a year ago including linebackers Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges. What we’re banking on is some more O’Brien magic with a quarterback who was not on last year’s roster.

Anything else?
There are some young defenders that Penn State fans should be excited about. Defensive end Deion Barnes was the conference’s Freshman of the Year in 2012.

4. Purdue (Last year: 6-7; lost to Oklahoma State in Heart of Dallas Bowl) 
What happened last season?
Getting to the postseason wasn’t enough for Danny Hope, who was let go last November [“Hope-less” pun goes here] [hates self for it]. Alas, the mustache just wasn’t good enough.

So why are they ranked here?
Darrell Hazell was considered a good hire for the Boilermakers, but he has a lot of work ahead of him in 2013. Rob Henrya veteran guy, has been named the starting quarterback, but he last played meaningful snaps in 2010. The rest of the offense should feature a lot of newer faces, though there is talent there.

Anything else?
Things could get off to a rocky start for Hazell. Looking at the schedule, there are only a couple games the Boilermakers figure to have a chance to win. Things ease up at the end of the season, which could pave the way for some momentum heading into 2014.

5. Indiana (Last year: 4-8)
What happened last season?
Kevin Wilson got the Hoosiers to four wins. The offense showed consistent ability to score points and Indiana almost knocked off Ohio State in a shootout. 

So why are they ranked here?
It doesn’t appear offense is going to be a concern for IU, and Wilson has three capable quarterbacks from which to choose in Cameron Coffman, Tre Roberson and Nate Sudfeld. The defense returns many of its starters from a year ago. The problem is that unit finished among the worst in rushing defense and scoring defense last year. The Hoosiers can score with most, so if they can make some stops and force some turnovers they’ll be in a position for an outside shot at a bowl game.

Anything else?
Roberson didn’t have much of a chance to showcase his athletic potential after going down with a season-ending leg injury early in the year. He’s a valuable weapon though, so it’ll be interesting to see if/how Wilson utilizes him if he doesn’t regain the starting job.

6. Illinois (Last year: 2-10) 
What happened last season?
Tim Beckman‘s first year with Illinois went poorly as the Illini won just two games and had a few brutal losses to Michigan, Ohio State and Northwestern.

So why are they ranked here?
There are a lot of players returning on offense, including quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase, but this was also a group that barely scored more than two touchdowns a game last year. Beckman hopes that hiring former Western Michigan coach Bill Cubit as offensive coordinator will help in that department. Still, a brutal schedule from start to finish may be too much for the Illini to see any real improvement in the win-loss column.

Anything else?
Beckman took a veiled shot at former Illini coach Ron Zook earlier this summer by suggesting he left the cupboard bare when he was fired two seasons ago. Still, there’s already mounting pressure to win in Beckman’s second year.

Legends Division

1. Nebraska (Last year: 10-4; lost to Georgia in Capital One Bowl)
What happened last season?
Like every other year under Bo Pelini, Nebraska was good. But, like most years, the Cornhuskers couldn’t get over the conference championship hump. Instead, Wisconsin founds its mojo and hung a cool 70 points on the blackshirts on their way to Pasadena.

So why are they ranked here?
Good question. There’s been no indication so far that Nebraska can take the next step under Pelini and get to a BCS bowl. Yet, somehow, here I am giving them another chance because I can’t quit ’em. The offense should be one of the best in the Big Ten with a core group of playmakers coming back, including Taylor Martinez, running back Ameer Abdullah, and receiver Kenny Bell. The defense will be young, but if it can just play well enough, Nebraska will be back in the Big Ten championship.

Anything else?
The Legends Division may not take form until November. Nebraska plays Northwestern, Michigan and Michigan State in consecutive weeks.

2. Michigan (Last year: 8-5; lost to South Carolina in Outback Bowl)
What happened last season?
The Wolverines’ win total dipped and there were some cringeworthy losses to Alabama, Notre Dame and Nebraska. And, yes, to point it out again, Ohio State beat Michigan. Though Denard Robinson got hurt and finished the season as a running back, fans got a glimpse of what the Devin Gardner era may look like.

So why are they ranked here?
There are plenty of quality players for the Wolverines — Gardner, Fitz Toussaint, and Jeremy Gallon just to name a few. But depth is definitely a concern, especially at quarterback. Linebacker Jake Ryan is currently trying to make his way back from a knee injury and is projected to return around midseason.

Anything else?
Brady Hoke has yet to lose a home game in Ann Arbor, so conversely a majority of his seven losses have come on the road. And there will be some tough road games for the Wolverines: at Penn State and at Michigan State. Trips to Northwestern and Iowa could be tricky as well.

3. Michigan State (Last year: 7-6; beat TCU in Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl)
What happened last season?
Sparty went 6-6 in the regular season, primarily because of the team’s inability to win close games.  Five of MSU’s six losses came in games decided by a touchdown or less.

So why are they ranked here?
While we certainly hope Mark Dantonio goes #B1G and plays four quarterbacks at the same time, Andrew Maxwell is likely the starter — for now, at least. The offense has some some good wide receivers returning, but tight end Dion Sims and running back Le’Veon Bell are gone. If it can’t find any sort of constancy, the defense will be relied upon once again to keep the Spartans in a position to win. That’s certainly possible, but Sparty’s O can’t be “Sparty No!” again and reasonably expect to win the division.

Anything else?
Like the other Legends Division favorites, November is an important month for the Sparans, who do not have to play Ohio State, Penn State or Wisconsin. If the offense can get going, this can be a dangerous team with one of the highest ceilings in the conference.

4. Northwestern (Last year: 10-3; beat Mississippi State in Gator Bowl) 
What happened last season?
As crazy as it may sound, Northwestern was three combined quarters away from being undefeated in the regular season. Still, 10-3 and a January Bowl win is always respectable. And it’s Northwestern. 

So why are they ranked here?
For the first time since the invention of the forward pass, the Wildcats have some legitimate preseason hype. That can only be attributed to what an incredible Job Pat Fitzgerald has done at not only building the program, but maintaining continuity among staff and players. Offensive line is a concern this year, but Kain Colter returns as the centerpiece of the Wildcats offense.

Anything else?
Northwestern gets Ohio State and Wisconsin in back-to-back weeks in October. As mentioned above, this is a team that could knock off the Buckeyes. The divisional schedule is difficult too and there’s some question as to whether Northwestern can take the next step as a program. This would be the year to do it though.

5. Iowa (Last year: 4-8)
What happened last season?
Kirk Ferentz suffered his first losing season since 2006 and the Hawkeyes dropped their last six in a row.

So why are they ranked here?
Scoring points has been difficult for Iowa recently and keeping a healthy running back has been even harder. Quarterback James Vandenberg is gone and there are questions at that position. Defense should be fine with a solid linebacker unit returning. The most important objective (besides win) is for offensive coordinator Greg Davis to get more out of this offense, which ranked among the worst scoring units in the country a year ago.

Anything else?
Kirk Ferentz has an enormous buyout, but another losing season — and Iowa’s schedule isn’t very forgiving — could have the program thinking harder about a change anyway.

6. Minnesota (Last year: 6-7; lost to Texas Tech in Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas) 
What happened last season?
Jerry Kill‘s team saw a three-game turnaround that got the Gophers back to a bowl game — and Minnesota almost won. But Texas Tech came from behind to beat UM in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas.

So why are they ranked this year?
The Gophers went through three quarterbacks last year and still won six games. The last one to starting time, sophomore Phillip Nelson, should take the field first for Minnesota this season. Chemistry in the passing game could be a question with A.J. Barker gone and Andre McDonald missing part of preseason camp due to suspension.

Anything else?
Getting back to a bowl isn’t out of the question for Minnesota, especially with a favorable out of conference schedule. Climbing up the Legends Division ladder is another story, but there are a few opportunities late in the year to steal a win at home from what will likely be a favored opponent when Nebraska, Penn State and Wisconsin come to Minneapolis.


John Taylor‘s prediction:

1. Ohio State
2. Wisconsin
3. Penn State
4. Indiana
5. Purdue
6. Illinois

1. Michigan
2. Nebraska
3. Northwestern
4. Michigan State
5. Iowa
6. Minnesota

Ben’s Big Ten champ: Ohio State
John’s Big Ten champ: Ohio State 

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21 Responses to “CFT Predicts: the Big Ten”
  1. alligatorsnapper says: Aug 22, 2013 3:27 PM

    It does appear that it is Ohio State’s to lose. They likely will not go undefeated again this season, but will win the Leaders.

    Dependent upon having a few really good games Nebraska may win the Legends. The B1G appears it will be more competitive this season.

  2. zoneread510 says: Aug 22, 2013 3:39 PM

    Gopher Strong!

  3. fnc111 says: Aug 22, 2013 3:40 PM

    I predict the big 10 11 12 soon to be 14 is going to suck yet again.

  4. 8to80texansblog says: Aug 22, 2013 4:21 PM

    alligatorsnapper says:
    Aug 22, 2013 3:27 PM
    It does appear that it is Ohio State’s to lose. They likely will not go undefeated again this season, but will win the Leaders.

    Have you seen their schedule?

    Toughest game might be Michigan in the Big House. They get Wisconsin at home, Penn St. at home, and no Nebraska.

    It’s very reasonable to think the Buckeyes are going undefeated in the regular season.

  5. matrychapcox says: Aug 22, 2013 5:25 PM

    So how does Michigan do given the Lewan Gibbons situation that seems to be gaining momentum? Check out jezebel for the story.

  6. alligatorsnapper says: Aug 22, 2013 5:28 PM


    Even with that schedule, it is very rare in college football to go through two consecutive seasons undefeated. I don’t think they will. College football is played more with emotion oftentimes even more than talent. A key player being down and another key player being up can change the whole game. That will happen to Ohio State at least once this season.

    By the way, this upcoming game v. the Texans will help us see if we have made improvements from last seasons worst defense in NFL history.

  7. imaduffer says: Aug 22, 2013 5:55 PM

    OSU plays three top 25 teams, A&M and Alabama play two top 25 teams. So quit your bitchin about who plays who.

  8. tigersgeaux says: Aug 22, 2013 6:39 PM

    How many top 25 teams does LSU play?

    1. Alabama
    5. Georgia
    7. TAMU
    10. Florida
    20. TCU

    A total of 5 top 25 teams.

    Equal to Ohio State and Alabama put together.

  9. dmvtransplant says: Aug 22, 2013 7:00 PM

    Ron Zook put together 2 teams his last two years that won back to back bowl games. How many Big Ten teams can say that other than Michigan State? The current guy at Illinois needs to be fired and I hope they bring Zook back just to give the current ungrateful fan base the middle finger. How many Rose Bowls did Illinois get to before he got there?

    Bleacher Report had Indiana at 3rd and Penn Start at 4th. I just don’t know that I see that happening?

  10. tigersgeaux says: Aug 22, 2013 7:13 PM

    dmvtransplant: BR had Indiana at 3rd and PS at 4th? That is strange, very strange.

    I really like your thoughts on Zook. He is a quite a character and a coach!

  11. imaduffer says: Aug 22, 2013 7:17 PM

    You are correct.
    And that is why LSU won’t be in the top 25 at the end of the season and Boise St.will be in the top 25. And that sucks.

  12. inhokewetrust says: Aug 22, 2013 9:35 PM

    the champions of the west…..

  13. dmvtransplant says: Aug 22, 2013 10:16 PM

    @ tigersgeaux

    Zook was a great recruiter and not all the guys from the Gator 2006 NC team were brought in by Meyer.

  14. tigersgeaux says: Aug 22, 2013 10:48 PM

    LSU had nightmares with that Gator team. We gave it all we had and more and just could not handle them. The coaches and team studied the films until they just about memorized them, and the next year we had better success. So many over there. Love going there to visit.

  15. necr0philia says: Aug 22, 2013 11:33 PM

    I expect the U will dominate like usual and win this conference again this year!… Sorry guys my wife yelled at me and said the Miami is no longer part of that conference! Either way go Canes!

  16. tobeexact says: Aug 23, 2013 10:36 AM

    Everyone knows that ohio st and michigan are the BIGS pet teams and get all the questionable calls and ones that dont exist. They should have lost the indiana game and the penn state game. But the BIG wasnt gona let indiana or penn state beat osu because they needed them to go undefeated so they could say see ,if not for a bowl ban we would have a team in the bcs title game. They were getting there asses handed to them in the first half against penn state, then comes the second half and calls that dont even exist as penalties start flying when ever osu was going to have to punt again. Even the announcers were dumb founded by the calls being made and or not made. Then there is the nebraska game where again the refs stepped in who thought they were part of the illegal sanctions against psu and took away what was the winning td.
    Also if not for the transfers aloud psu doesnt lose its first to games due to a lack of a field goal kicker.
    And its amazing how ohio st gets 3 out of the last four psu games at home and two in a row.
    I dont see nebraska winning there side nor do I see osu going undefeated. They might win there division again with divine intervention from the refs again but thats it.
    I see north western possible winning there side,due to the fact osu and michigan and wisconsin and nebraska all lost a huge amount of players slash starters to graduation and alot to injury.and off the field issues. So to me , besides maybe illinois its any teams to have.
    I dont think there are any dominant run away with it type teams within the conference .

  17. dugst88 says: Sep 5, 2013 6:01 PM

    the big CUPCAKE, AND SOON TO ADD MORE CUPCAKES. THE PREDICTIONS— Nebraska, THAT DEFENSE couldn’t stop a high school team. and Ohio State, now they CAN stop a high school team, they play six of then. an EMBARRASSMENT AND A JOKE only the favorites because their schedules. “GO BIG CUPCAKE”

  18. dugst88 says: Sep 5, 2013 6:04 PM

    OSU will beat Michigan twice and go take a beating in the rose bowl. nothing new for Michigan , Alabama beat them twice in one half and got ready for sports center in the other half

  19. tobeexact says: Sep 24, 2013 10:24 AM

    As I now look back after week four it looks like I was pretty damn close to being spot on.
    Ohio st has played its usual cupcake out of conference schedule,michigan as i predicted would struggle,nw looks good so far and so does minnesota. Nebraskas defense looks bad as I also predicted.
    Besides a horrible call wisc would or should be undefeated,but looking at what stanford did to the same asu team ,wisc defense isnt that good.
    But I will predict they beat osu unless the refs make there usual bad calls to save the bigs to pet teams osu and michigan. Already this year the refs across the country have made some horrendous calls that could cost teams a shot at a conf championship and even a bcs bid.
    But none worse then the big ten especialy when it comes to them thinking they are part of the sanctions against penn state . Im calling out jim delaney of the big and ncaa president emmeret to step up and be men not punks and put a stop to it.
    My wife follows football and knows quite a bit about penalties and what’s what. All you had to do was watch the game against kent state for all the proof you need, and pay speial attention to what offensive lines are allowed to get away with against psu defensive front.
    On one replay it was so evident even though it wasnt the reason for it,an O lineman for kent state not only was he holding but had the facemask of a D lineman and completely turned him around with it and drug him to the grind ,it was going on the entire game or kent state would have been lucky to have 30 yards of offense.
    And then there are the plays that are reviewed but only when they will affect psu n stop a drive or give the other team the ball , and going back to the start of last year psu is lucky if one out of 50 went there way even when the announcers were without doubt that penn state would get the call. It should continue to be interesting to watch as the season goes on how many calls that ohio st n mich get in order to stop a loss and how many more horrendous calls or no call go against psu.
    Last year they made sure with the nebraska call that psu would not make it to the conf championship.

  20. lifeimitatesfootball says: Oct 26, 2013 12:40 AM

    ahhhh, THE Ohio State University….gimme the days of Woody and Bo, Big Two Little Eight…not…and why is the Big 10 stilll the Big 10 when it should be the Big 12? Or is it Big 13 now?

  21. johngaltwho says: Nov 27, 2013 3:56 PM

    John Taylor‘s prediction:

    1. Michigan
    2. Nebraska
    3. Northwestern
    4. Michigan State
    5. Iowa
    6. Minnesota

    Would he have done worse picking from a hat?

    1. Michigan State off by 4
    2. Nebraska right
    3. Iowa off by 2
    4. Minnesota off by 2
    5. Michigan off by 4
    6. Northwestern off by 3

    Total off by 15 (I was off by 10 picking from a hat)

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