Big Ten Division previews/predictions

Steve O Speak

A Guest Blog By Tyler Fenwick:

With the heat of August drawing ever so near, that can only mean one thing in the world of college football: camp. So, with that in mind, I have decided to take this opportunity of hype and anxiety to reveal both my previews and predictions for the Leaders and Legends divisions.

So here you go:

Leaders Preview

Illinois: The Fighting Illini will finally be able to offer some stability from both sides of the ball this season. With Nathan Scheelhaase returning to run the spread, and an improving defense, I would look out for the Illini to maybe take some upsets this year.

Indiana: The Hoosiers are looking to rebuild. Especially now that Ben Chappel has gone to the NFL, I can’t see a situation where this team finishes with more than 5 wins. However, Coach Kevin Wilson has already proven he can draw in some talent to Bloomington. So it may not be long before we see a contending Hoosier football team.

Ohio State: The Buckeye football program doesn’t have a lot going for them right now. The usually strong recruiting base has started to find homes elsewhere in places like Michigan and Michigan State. But not everything is lost for the Buckeyes this season. If Luke Fickell can find the right man to put behind center, we could still see a contending Ohio State football team.

Penn State: The Nittany Lions are an annoying kind of lucky. With two great options at quarterback, it seems like they will be set, no matter which direction they end up going. Defense may be shakey at times, but in the end, I expect them to be able to get the job done when it counts most.

Purdue: The Boilermakers are looking to make some bigger strides in 2011 than they did in 2010. After the season came to another disappointing end with no bowl bid, Coach Hope made it very clear that we could start counting on a change from West Laffayette.

Wisconsin: The Badgers have a lot to prove after last year’s Rose Bowl defeat to TCU, but many things are going their way right now, including the transfer of Russel Wilson, which will hopefully take some of the blow away from the departure of Scott Tolzein.

Three Games To Watch:

1. Ohio State vs. Wisconsin (October 29)
2. Penn State vs. Illinois (October 29)
3. Purdue vs. Illinois (October 22)

Leaders Prediction

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

Five Players To Watch

1. Dan Herron (Ohio State)
2. Russel Wilson (Wisconsin)
3. Nathan Scheelhaase (Illinois)
4. Edward Wright-Baker (Indiana)
5. Robert Marve (Purdue)

Legends Preview

Iowa: If the Hawkeyes can find a way to lessen the impact of a departing Ricky Stanzi, you can look for Iowa to be a serious contendor for the Legends Division this season, despite some question marks on defense.

Michigan: The Wolverines are looking to come out strong in Brady Hoke’s first year as head coach. Denard Robinson will be leading another talented offense, and the defense is making improvemnts.

Michigan State: Kirk Cousins is on a lot of people’s watch list to take home Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, and for good reason. The Spartans are considered to be the second-favorite, next to Nebraska.

Minnesota: In Jerry Kill’s first year as coach, I can’t see the Gophers getting much done that would spell “success” for most people. But if he can pull out a 5 win season, he’ll be heading in the right direction.

Nebraska: The Cornhuskers are looking to make some big noise in their first year with the Big Ten, and they have the tools to do so. With a rising quarterback like Taylor Martinez, and a shut-down defense, it’s easy to see why they are favored to win the Legends Division.

Northwestern: The Wildcats could very well be a sleeper this year in the Legends Division. Dan Persa is coming off of a season-ending injury to his foot. And if the defense can cover up some holes, this is another team that could surprise a lot of people.

Three Games To Watch

1. Nebraska vs. Michigan State (October 29)
2. Michigan State vs. Michigan (October 15)
3. Iowa vs. Northwestern (October 15)

Legends Prediction

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

Five Players To Watch

1. Denard Robinson (Michigan)
2. Dan Persa (Northwestern)
3. Kirk Cousins (Michigan State)
4. Taylor Martinez (Nebraska)
5. Edwin Baker (Michigan State)

Conference Overview

Overall, the conference is looking very strong from both divisions. If I had to pick the stronger one, though, it would have to go to the Legends Division. But the number one thing I am looking out for isn’t even within the divisions; it’s the “cross-over” matchups that have me the most excited. Of course, there is always the Michgigan-Ohio State game. And then there are games like Ohio State-Nebraska and Michigan State-Wisconsin that are also going to be very good.

So who will win the Big Ten Championship at Lucas Oil? Well, I have Michigan State and Wisconsin squaring off in that game. And I have to give the edge to the Badgers. With the Russel Wilson transfer and a very strong backfield, I think we will be seeing a lot of what we saw last year.

Don’t Be Surprised If…

Don’t be surprised if a team like Northwestern or Penn State somehow make it out of their respected divisions. It certainly wouldn’t be easy, but crazier things have happened.

So there you have it. Hopefully I was able to break everything down that you need to know for the upcoming Big Ten Football season!

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