The Big Ten enters the 2013 season as one of the strangest leagues in the nation. The presumed front runner, Ohio State, is coming off a season of probation in which they went 12-0 despite some very close calls. Usual powers Michigan and Penn State have plenty of question marks and Nebraska hopes to become more consistent, especially defensively. On the other hand, Michigan State hopes to become more consistent offensively. Iowa is coming off its first losing season since 2000, while Northwestern won their first bowl game since 1948. The recent top dog, Wisconsin, welcomes in a new coaching staff after the surprising departure of Bret Bielema. Also welcoming a new coach is Purdue. The Boilermakers limped to a bowl game at 6-6 a season ago, just like Minnesota. Last there is Illinois, who hopes to get off the mat following a brutal 2-10 year in which they went winless in conference. Adding to the oddity of this season, this will be the last year until expansion part two occurs with Rutgers and Maryland joining. Enjoy it before those dogs pollute the water folks!
Hopefully this isn’t your first time checking out our stock report, but if it is, the above chart is the power rankings of the league. The buying/holding/selling stock in a team is relative to preseason expectations, making a better bowl, or surprising the league and competing for a division title. Just because I’m buying a lot of stock in a team doesn’t mean I think they are better than the first place team. Now that we are all in sync, let’s get after it!
Indiana – As you saw in my Best Case / Worst Case / Prediction for the Hoosiers, I have them going bowling for the first time since 2009 and just the second time since 1862, hang on…I might need that fact checked. Anyway, I really like the offensive performance under Kevin Wilson last year despite the injuries. I expect that unit to take the leap in year three under Wilson and the defense to perform just well enough to get this club to 6-6.
Michigan – I’m not crazy about some of the holes they have, especially up front, but if Devin Gardner lives up to the hype and the new faces don’t implode, you have to like this team’s chances in a wide open division.
Michigan State – Coach Mike Dantonio has proven himself to be one of the league’s best defensive minds. If the offense can muster just a couple more points a game this year, this Spartans team could find its way to Indianapolis.
Nebraska – My choice to win the Legends, you knew that since I know you poured over their Best Case / Worst Case / Prediction. You didn’t? Oh, this is awkward. Long story short, tons of returning talent at the skill positions on offense. If the big uglies up front can block and if the defense doesn’t struggle again, they will be in Indianapolis.
Northwestern – Love the backfield, not crazy about everything else but I still have them going 8-4 with some very close losses. This will be coach Fitzgerald’s most complete team.
Wisconsin – Their expectations are lowered with a new coaching staff and quarterback, but the rest of the roster is loaded with experience and talent. My sleeper to win the division. Oh, they are everyone’s sleeper? Fine I’ll pick Penn State. Oh, they are still banned from post season play? Back to Wisconsin.
Iowa – They were woefully unlucky to go 4-8 last year. They dropped tight games even after their running back and offensive line became the walking dead. They are breaking in a new qb and I’m not sold on Greg Davis yet, but I think the dire predictions of this team being DOA are greatly exaggerated and probably propaganda generated from either Ames or Minneapolis.
Ohio State – I have yet to do my in depth preview so I don’t want to give away all my best stuff, fine I will, this team had too many close calls a year ago against too many sub-par teams to really be 100% confident in. A few bad bounces and they could have lost…a lot. Cal, UAB, Michigan State, Indiana, Purdue, Wisconsin and Michigan all dropped games by a single possession last year. I still like the Bucks to be a force, but based on the national title talk, I’m going to hold on for a few weeks to see them in action.
Penn State – The returning talent is enticing but there was turnover in key places. I don’t think we’ll know how much Matt McGloin’s graduation will affect Penn State until they hit the field.
Illinois – They will improve marginally but I have them going 3-9 with just a lone league win. If this prediction turns to reality we could be talking about yet another coaching carousel in the off-season down in the Ch-Urb. Side note, as anyone ever refereed to it as the Ch-Urb before? Let’s shelve that one.
Minnesota – Making a bowl with a banged up team has made Minnesota a popular pick for a breakout season. Not me. Philip Nelson is the only QB on roster to take a snap in college and he wasn’t exactly lighting things up last year. They won pretty ugly in 2012 and I just think it was a bad team surviving during a bad year for the league.
Purdue – In 2011 Illinois went 6-6, fired Ron Zook and hired an offensive-minded coach from the MAC and went 2-10 (0-8) in 2012. In 2012 Purdue went 6-6, fired Danny Hope and hired an offensive-minded coach from the MAC. Give me your argument for why we should expect anything from the Boilermakers this year. If it starts with (or includes) starting QB Rob Henry you need to return to debate camp.