Big Ten Leaders Division Preview
College Football‘s future in regards to a playoff system were answered yesterday after a handful of university officials gathered in Washington to put the finishing touches on a Final Four. Goodbye BCS. You will no longer be considered the answer to delivering the two best teams in college football at the end of the season.
What we all wanted is finally here. A system that will give us what we ultimately want and still give significance to a bowl system. This will all begin in 2014, so lets wait just a bit. For now, raise your glass and celebrate the end of a corrupt system we use to call the BCS.
Yesterday, we previewed the Legends Division in the Big Ten where I chose Michigan State to repeat. Today, we look at the Leaders Division and which team will be a surprise this coming season. Buckle Up!
1. Wisconsin (10-2, 7-1)
If Wisconsin doesn’t lose the two games last year against Michigan State and Ohio State on hail Mary’s, they probably end up in the title game against LSU. I’d say there still is a little leftover bitter taste in some mouths in Madison, especially returning Heisman Trophy finalist Montee Ball. The Badgers always have a stout offensive line. It seems they always reload with massive forest men who are ready to block for Sconnies next stud running back. The Badgers are deep at almost every position, except for wide receiver. No one has yet to prove themselves and senior Jared Abbrederis will need a little bit of help catching passes. Danny O’Brien has arrived and tries to mimic Russell Wilson. Give the ball to Montee 70% of the time.
2. Ohio State (10-2, 6-2)*
Notice the asterisk. Ohio State will be ineligible to go to a bowl game this season, but don’t think that will slow down new coach Urban Meyer and what he wants to accomplish this year in C-bus. Meyer comes in after taking a year off and relaxing in the broadcast booth. The team he inherits is talented but has holes in several positions all over the field. Braxton Miller began to improve at the end of last year and has the potential to thrive in Meyer’s offensive system. The Bucks lack talent at the receiver position and need to improve on their 115th nationally ranked passing attack in order to have success on offense this year.
3. Purdue (8-4, 5-3)
Danny Hope is said to have his best team yet in West Lafayette this fall. They have experience at a number of positions, including the secondary and hope that the speed they have on offensive will finally kick in to high gear this season. I can see the Boilers winning eight games this season if they play to their potential. That three game stretch between Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio State is brutal however. But, they get Big Blue and the Badgers at home and travel to the horse shoe to take on the Bucks. If Hope and his crew can come away with one win in those three games, I can see Purdue winning eight games this season. An improvement nonetheless.
4. Illinois (6-6, 3-5)
It feels like Nathan Scheelhaase has been around for quite some time now. Last season, he was in the Heisman race up until week 6. That was the week it all went downhill for the Illini. Scheelhaase needs to take control of this team and step up in new coach Tim Beckman’s system. Scheelhaase does not have a canon for an arm, but has the ability to throw outside the pocket on the run and create plays. Short intermediate routes are what he thrives off of and there will be plenty of that in the spread system. Who will step up at receiver now that Jenkins is gone?
5. Penn State (5-7, 2-6)
It’s been a difficult year for the Penn State family. They’ve had to endure more pain than many of us deserve to go through during our whole lives. On the field, Bill O’Brien arrives from the New England Patriots and brings in the spread offense where he’s chosen Matt McGloin to be his guy to run it. McGloin won’t have to worry about splitting time with anyone this season, just improving on his 55% completion percentage. What’s hindered Penn State the past few years is their inability to put points on the board. In the past, this hasn’t been a problem with the Nittany Lions strong defense. But having to replace four in the secondary this season will be a difficult one.
6. Indiana (3-9, 0-8)
Junior running back Stephen Houston is poised to have a big season. On 151 carries last season, Houston rushed for 802 yards and eight touchdowns, good enough for 5.3 yards per carry. His quarterback, Tre Roberson, didn’t make his first appearance last season until the sixth game against Illinois. The soon to be sophomore showed he has potential to be the number one guy in Bloomington and provide a dual threat option being able to run with the football. It wasn’t necessarily the offense last season that hindered the Hoosiers success. It was more of the defense being unable to stop, well, anyone. There will be several JUCO players that contribute this season and its imperative they get all the reps they can in spring practice and fall camp.
So there you have it. My prediction on what each division will look like this season in the Big Ten. It looks like we will see a rematch in Indy after all. I believe it is Michigan State’s year to get over the hump and make it to significant bowl game.
Will Wilson is a writer for Rant Sports covering College Football and the Big Ten Conference.