1. OHIO STATE (11-1/7-1, loss to Northwestern) Does that loss make a lick of sense? Nope, but such are preseason predictions. The Fightin’ Urbans draw Northwestern the week after what’s sure to be a knock-down drag-out brawl with Wisconsin, and the Wildcats come off a bye week.
2. WISCONSIN (10-2/7-1, losses to Arizona State, Ohio State) Don’t expect a team that basically reloads on offensive and defensive line to regress much.
3. PENN STATE (7-5/4-4, losses to Syracuse, Michigan, Ohio State, Nebraska, Wisconsin) The Nittany Lions got through 2012 on great quarterback play and a lot of emotion. In 2013, with scholarship limits taking their toll on depth and adrenaline wearing off, don’t expect the same.
4. INDIANA (6-6/3-5, losses to Missouri, Penn State, Michigan State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio State) The Hoosiers look poised to make a bowl game this year despite a vicious schedule.
5. PURDUE (3-9/2-6, losses to Cincinnati, Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Northern Illinois, Nebraska, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, Indiana) Darrell Hazell is in for a rough first year. They need to generate some serious defensive play in order to scrape together anything better.
6. ILLINOIS (2-10/0-8, losses to Cincinnati, Washington, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Penn State, Indiana, Ohio State, Purdue, Northwestern) Yep, that’s the entire conference slate I have them losing to. No playmakers at any position besides quarterback and a shaky defense, not to mention that schedule (the B1G gods who smote 2011 and 2012 Nebraska are apparently now directing their ire towards Champaign) and Tim Beckman‘s probably out.
1. NEBRASKA (11-1/7-1, loss to Michigan) My question about any of Nebraska’s opponents this fall: who’s gonna outscore ’em? Surely not Michigan State or Penn State, the trendy picks to upset the Huskers. Maybe Northwestern, maybe UCLA, maybe Michigan. I say Michigan because it’s that big-time road game the Huskers like to crap away.
2. MICHIGAN STATE (9-3/6-2, losses to Notre Dame, Nebraska, Northwestern) This defense, man. It’s gonna knock loose fillings. I was this close to having them at 10-2, that Notre Dame game is a toss-up. I like Notre Dame to win 4-3. Yep, two safeties. Probably more likely than two touchdowns.
3. MICHIGAN (9-3/6-2, losses to Notre Dame, Michigan State, Ohio State) I’m not as bullish as others on the Wolverines. A lot of youth out there (though youth can develop over time), which is why I think they drop Notre Dame and Michigan State.
4. NORTHWESTERN (9-3/5-3, losses to Wisconsin, Nebraska, Michigan) Shame the Wildcats have such a tough schedule, as this is shaping up to be their best team of all time. But I do think they have a decent chance to knock off Ohio State.
5. MINNESOTA (4-8/1-7, losses to San Jose State, Michigan, Northwestern, Nebraska, Indiana, Penn State, Wisconsin, Michigan State) Rough year for Jerry Kill‘s squad. Not a lot to work with on defense and the offense is facing a rebuilding year.
6. IOWA (2-10/0-8, losses to Northern Illinois, Iowa State, Minnesota, Michigan State, Ohio State, Northwestern, Wisconsin, Purdue, Michigan, Nebraska) It doesn’t help that Iowa has to deal with having no offense and a brutal schedule. I think by the time they go visit Purdue late in the year they’ll be in a full tailspin before thwackings from Michigan and Nebraska to end the year.
B1G CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: Ohio State over Nebraska
(Worth nothing: Cincinnati, Northern Illinois, and Notre Dame have a good shot to post a combined 7-0 record against the B1G.)