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Big Ten Conference – A fan’s predictions

Leaders Division

Ohio State  I love this team! However it should be noted up front, that the Buckeyes are ineligible to go bowling this year! Urban Meyer inherits a boat load of talent here on both sides of the ball. Sophomore Quarterback Braxton Miller will direct the offense which returns six starters. Miller was the Big 10 Freshman of the year last year, running for more than 900 yards and passing for 1,159. The Bucks lose stud Running Back Dan Herron, but the backups are all highly touted and figure to but up good numbers. All three top wideouts return, but it is important to note they combined for just 42 catches last year. With Meyer’s schemes on offense I fully expect the Buckeyes to score well beyond the 24.5 they averaged last year! Defensively, is where this team really will shine! Back are nine starters and all three levels are LOADED! Defensive End Joe Simon and Tackle Jonathon Hankins and Safety C.J. Barnett are all possible All-Americans! Look for the Buckeye D to allow much less than the 21.0 PPG they surrendered last year and possibly be one of the top ranked units in the nation!

Big Game:  Host Michigan November 24.   My prediction –  11-1

Wisconsin Will Danny O’brien have the kind of success like Russell Wilson did last year?  I don’t think so. I would also not be shocked to see the Badgers lose as many as four games! One thing we do know is the running duo of Monte Ball and James White will run for a lot of yards, even though the Badgers must replace three offensive linemen, two of which are in the NFL. The kicking game also concerns me as they lose both the kicker and punter. I don’t see any way they come close to the astounding 44 PPG they scored last year.  Defensively six starters are back.  The front wall is a major question mark, with three of four departing.  The linebacking and secondary are solid. With the loss of the lineman I see struggles against the run. It will be difficult for Bucky to hold opponents under the 19 PPG allowed last year!

Big Game:  September 29 at Nebraska.   My prediction – 10-2

 

Illinois Normally, I don’t like new coaches, with new schemes in year one.  However, Tim Beckman is walking into a great situation, The Fighting Illini are loaded with talent.  Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase passed for more than 2,000 yards and led the team in rushing, with more than 900 yards, and should be better this year.  With an improved running game and a decent offensive line, the Illini should do better than the 22.6 PPG they scored last year. Beckman brings is a defensive coach, and has seven returning starters.  There is a decent chance they could be 5-0 headed into Wisconsin!

Big Game: October 6 at Wisconsin  My prediction 8-4

 

 

Purdue  Fifteen returning starters have me calling for a nice season for the Boilers. The key here is who will play Quarterback.  Remember Robert Marve? He was very highly rated coming out of high school, but injuries and a transfer have derailed his career up to this point. He will battle Caleb Ter Bush for the top spot, and either way I expect better production from this spot this season. With the return of the top four rushers and three offensive linemen, this offense should only get better, easily topping last year’s 26.9 PPG. The two concerns I have about this squad are the loss of both safeties and an inexperienced kicking game. The defensive line welcomes back three starters and these guys form the biggest D-Line in the conference! Only two underclassmen will start, and with that leadership I see improvement to the 26.8 PPG surrendered last season.

Big Game:  October 6, Michigan at home    My prediction 7-5

 

Penn State I’m going to keep it short and sweet — I hope Bill O’Brien stays the course because deserves better, as The Nittany Lions have been stripped to Pussycats. I know Silas Redd bolted for USC and Rob Bolden transferred to LSU. However Bolden wasn’t going to play that much and Redd was in one of the most talented backfields in the country. That’s right; the backfield still has loads of talent! Sophomore Quarterback Pal Jones should get all the time he needs to get involved in the offense! Last year they averaged 19.3 per game and I honestly think they will improve!  Defense is going to be a challenge for the Lions, who have only four returning starters. It’s all going to be a matter of motivation for this club and I predict the Lions will win a game or two they shouldn’t.

Big Game:  September 1 host Ohio            My prediction 5-7

Indiana I actually think the Hoosiers will start 3-0 . . .  and then the wheels will fall off. With 15 returning starters, you might expect bigger things, I just don’t. Tre Roberson is back to direct the attack. The sophomore passed for 900 yards and rushed for another 500 last year. Also back are leading rusher Stephen Houston and three starting linemen. If Roberson stays healthy, they should better the 21.4 from last year, but they will have to be – the Hoosier defense allowed 37 PPG. The strength of the D will be the secondary, where 3 starters return! My concern is up front where they gave up 5.3 yards per carry last year, and in the linebacking corps, and in a league with talented dual-threat QBs and stud running backs, that spells TROUBLE.

Big Game:  November 24 at Purdue      My prediction  3-9

Legends Division 

Nebraska  I also love this team to possibly make a solid BCS run! I expect big things from Taylor Martinez this year. If he stays healthy, he should improve upon the 2,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards from a year ago. With Rex Burkhead back in the backfield and the top three receivers returning, watch out! The only question mark will be replacing three offensive linemen. However, this is Nebraska. They should score well over the 29.2 from last year! The defensive line features three returning starters and these guys are GOOD! The only question mark might be in the secondary where they lose two starters. They should easily allow less than the 23.4 PPG allowed last year! Let’s also not forget one of the better kickers in the country! Welcome to the BCS party Husker fans!

Big Game:  October 6 at Ohio State.  My prediction – 11-1

 

Michigan I like Brady Hoke, however I want to see him do it again! Yeah, he has Denard Robinson, one of the most exciting players in the country. Robinson threw for over 2,000 yards, while also running for over a 1,000. He benefits from having Fitzgerald Toussaint joining him in the backfield and has three offensive linemen returning. They must replace leading receiver Junior Hemingway, but Gallon and Roundtree should pick up the slack.  If Robinson stays healthy, they should top last year’s 33.3 PPG. Defense is where my concern is. Gone are three defensive linemen  — replacing them will be a major challenge.  The rest of the D looks formidable! With the loss of so much talent upfront I believe they give up well over the 17.4 allowed last season.

Big Game October 27 at Nebraska  My prediction 10-2

 

Michigan State Unlike many, I am NOT on the Sparty bandwagon this year. I just don’t see how they replace a guy like Kirk Cousins and the top four receivers overnight.  Starting Quarterback Andrew Maxwell was a highly recruited and will need to rely on four returning starters on the offensive line and leading rusher Laveon Bell.  I see a big drop from the 31.0 PPG the Spartans scored last year.  On defense, eight starters are back and they are loaded with outstanding talent at all three levels.  The defense will need to play shut-down football for Sparty to earn a right to play for the Big 10 Championship. I do see them allowing even less than the 18.4 PPG last year.

Big Game: Sepember 29, Ohio State at Home    My prediction 7-5

Northwestern  I think Pat Fitzgerald is one of the better head coaches in the NCAA. Something else you may not know is that Kain Colter is damn good! He passed for 673 yards in limited duty and rushed for 758 yards.  He also caught 43 passes for another 466. I think you’ll see more of the same role for the playmaking Colter, only he’ll be the starting quarterback.  Look For USC transfer Kyle Prater to step up big. Prater was the top-rated receiver coming out of high school and if the Wildcats can find a couple running backs to step up, watch out!  Defense has always been a problem here and this year should be no exception.  The Cats need to replace both corners two linebackers. It will be tough to improve on the 27.7 they allowed last year! But if the offense clicks, they should be able to outscore most clubs!

Big Game: September 8, Vanderbilt at home   My prediction 7-5

Iowa I haven’t been on the Ferentz bandwagon for a few years now. There comes a time when things get stale and I believe this is what has happened here in Iowa City. We know the offense will be pretty vanilla and the defense will be stout! We also know that for some odd reason there will be turmoil at the running back position! Virtually zero experience returning in the backfield, will leave things to fall on the shoulders of Quarterback James Vandenberg. He is steady, completing 58 percent, and throwing for more than 3,000 yards with 25 TDs. However he loses stud receiver Marvin McNutt and three offensive linemen!  Duplicating last year’s 27.5 PPG will be TOUGH!  Defensively, I also see a downturn, with only six returning starters.  Not good for a team that relies heavily on a good defense. Look for them to give up more than the 23.8 surrendered last year!

Big Game:  October 13 at Michigan State      My prediction 6-6

Minnesota  Let’s see………..The Gophers do have Marqueis Gray, a big strapping 6-4, 245 QB. He ran for 1,090 yards and passed for another 1,495. Last I looked he is about it! They do return three starters up front, but lack experience at all the skill positions, Gray can only do so much. They averaged 18.4 PPG last year, and should settle in around that number again. Defensively, six starters return. The strength of the defense appears to be the linebacker.  With the line and secondary looking like problem areas, the opponents will roll up the points. Last year, the Golden Gophers allowed 31.7 PPG and that will get worse.

Big Game:   October 13 host Northwestern    My prediction 2-10

Big 10 Championship Game:  Wisconsin Vs. Nebraska

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