2018 College Football Preview: Big Ten

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Last season was a crazy year for the conference, but it wasn’t shocking to see Ohio State claim the championship. In what is arguably the most balanced conference in college football, you could see numerous teams make a ton of bowls. With that being said, lets look at the squads.

East Division

Indiana

It may not have been a winning season for the Hoosiers, but there is a lot of promise. Immediately, the first thought is that they play in a division where they would have to play Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan, and Michigan State, it’s tough to get any sort of momentum. Head coach Tom Allen will have to navigate the waters a little bit with such a stacked division, but they should be a team to watch.

Maryland

The news coming out of Maryland the last few weeks has put a real damper on the team. No one should have to die for a game, and the coaching staff’s negligence seems problematic at best. We’ll see how the team recovers with their head coach on leave following a very troubling story. In general, this school has been an interesting case as it seems they can’t get consistent results. One season they are good and the next they struggle. Will the real Maryland please stand up? Yes, they do play in a very tough division, but they could compete with the rest. They will be an interesting case as they do have some talent and they got a few transfers that could beef up their team.

Michigan

Led by Jim Harbaugh, expect them to compete for the division crown and the conference title. However, they will have to exorcise their demons as trying to beat Ohio State, their bitter arch rival, will be their toughest task. Last year the Wolverines had to totally rebuild a good portion of their team which might have hurt them especially with how tough the division is. They got Shea Patterson from Ole Miss and there is some young talent here, but they got a very tough schedule so it could be another long year in Ann Arbor.

Michigan State

Remember how good that 2015 team was? Yeah some are considering this to be even better than that one. And they will also boast a lot of experience as that could help them in the long run. On paper, things look great, but once the season starts, who knows what will happen as this is the hardest division to predict with all the great programs it has. Michigan State might surprise everyone and dethrone Ohio State, but they need to beat Michigan and Penn State if they want even challenge the Buckeyes.

Ohio State

The defending Big Ten champions, they are one of the favorites to win it once again as they are the gold standard. However, last year, because of their massive loss to Iowa, it prevented them from even making the College Football Playoffs even though they were arguably better than some of the teams that made it. You cannot lose big to a team like Iowa in the fashion that they did. The biggest task will be who will replace J.T. Barrett at quarterback. Dwayne Haskins is expected to take over as the starting quarterback and he does have some great potential. With Nick Bosa leading the charge on defense, this is one incredibly talented squad. However, they cannot allow any slip ups like they did last season and hope this scandal that has gotten their head coach Urban Meyer suspended doesn’t impact their chances at the playoffs.

Penn State

My how the mighty have fallen… really hard. Once the whole Jerry Sandusky scandal tarnished the school and Joe Paterno’s legacy, it was going to be a difficult task to regain a positive image. Last year, the Nittany Lions came back strong and at one point it seemed like they were the best team in the conference, however a rude awakening happened for them when they lost a heartbreaking game to Ohio State after they started strong. Last season, they had a very good team, but there will be some top players like Saquon Barkley to replace. That being said, Penn State will be a strong team in 2018 which will make this division race incredibly interesting to watch.

Rutgers

Not only the weakest team in the division, but possibly the entire conference. But that being said, that doesn’t mean they aren’t a good team, in fact there is a lot of talent here. And they possibly could upset some teams in their division that could alter how things go with not only the Big Ten Championship, but possibly the playoffs. Their defense is great, but the offense is a question mark. If the offense produces, they could make some noise and with former NFL coaches on the coaching staff, Rutgers might be on it’s way on to becoming a decent program.

 

West Division

Illinois

Lovie Smith is trying to make the Fighting Illini into a powerhouse and after going 2-10 last season, things aren’t going the way they want. However, there is promise here as they are bringing many of their starters back and experience could go a long way. And not only are they experienced, they are also young. They might even make some noise in their division. And with the hire of Rod Smith, the hope is that their offense can take off.

Iowa

Iowa hasn’t gotten the consistent results they have wanted as they fluctuate between a great program or mediocre one. However, the Hawkeyes have a really good chance of winning this division. Iowa seems to always compete and they could even steal the division. Their defense will be their biggest asset as they always produce great players from that side of the field and it could help them win so many games this season. Keep an eye out on them.

Minnesota

They are always trying to get better, but with what is a very good conference, Minnesota always seem to get screwed over with a tough schedule that doesn’t allow them to showcase their incredible talent they manage to recruit. Now, they are actually recruiting talent that could make them a stronger contender very soon. There’s a good chance that the West is up for grabs and Minnesota could challenge for it. The time is now for them to succeed and with other programs in the division getting stronger, Minnesota needs to play it’s absolute best in every game they play.

Nebraska

Start the Scott Frost era now. Frost was one of the most highly sought after head coaching prospects and the Cornhuskers got him. While the program is a couple of years away from being a competitive team again, things are going in the right direction for the school. There is a lot of talent here like Stanley Morgan and Adrian Martinez, but this will be a work in progress for Frost and the future looks promising.

Northwestern

Northwestern might finally breakthrough as they are now at the point where they can be a competitive side every year. Just like Minnesota, the time is now for them to breakthrough and take the next step. With a boat load of talent, the hardest thing will be replacing Justin Jackson at running back who was just an excellent player. That being said, the defense is a bit of a concern, but the hope is that they can overcome that and show how good they really are.

Purdue

This will be a short and sweet primer for the Boilermakers, but this team is really good. And in a division where it’s up for grabs in which could be a free for all, Purdue may actually make it to the Big Ten Championship game. Purdue’s defense could be a huge difference maker as to whether they will win the division or not, but keep an eye out for this squad in 2018.

Wisconsin

They were really close to possibly making it to the College Football Playoffs last year, but then a glaring weakness appeared in the Big Ten Championship game against Ohio State, their offense was able to navigate a weaker division, but was not able to face off against a strong foe. The receiving corp was subpar last year despite the strong running back play from Jonathan Taylor, but offense was a concern. This year, starting quarterback Alex Hornibrook has better receivers now and their running backs are deep, strong, and talented, which could mean their offense could put them over the top, and with a strong defense, they might actually make it to the playoffs this year.

 

Predictions

James Rowe: Ohio State vs Wisconsin in Big Ten Championship game. Ohio State are the Big Ten champions. Yeah, again. That’s how good they are.

Thomas Martin: Ohio State manages to push it over Michigan to win the East, while Purdue shocks the doubters to win the West. Ohio State edges out Purdue in a tight championship game.

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