2013 Big Ten Conference Football Season Preview & Predictions
It’s the final year for the Legends and the Leaders in the Big Ten Conference. Last year both Penn State and Ohio State were ineligible for postseason play, but only Penn State is ineligible this season. The Buckeyes went 12-0 in their first year under Urban Meyer last year, and expectations are as high as ever in Columbus.
The Big Ten has been great in basketball the last few years, but this conference just hasn’t been up to par in football over the last few years. Brady Hoke and Urban Meyer are raising the bar at Michigan and Ohio State, and they are trying to take this conference back toward the top.
BangtheBook has been looking at some of the top conferences in college football, and this is the final conference preview. We’ll look at teams that have a chance to be in contention for the conference crown and make a selection at the end of each preview. All odds listed are from BetOnline. Let’s take a look at the top contenders for the Big Ten crown.
Ohio State (-105)
There’s no doubt that Ohio State is the major favorite in the Big Ten this year. Braxton Miller is second only to Johnny Manziel in the Heisman Trophy odds. Miller is the perfect quarterback for Urban Meyer’s system. The Buckeyes have some youth on the defensive side of the ball, but they have had some great recruiting classes the last couple years. The running game should be one of the best in the nation. Look for the Buckeyes to pick up the tempo and try to keep defenses off guard. Can this team continue to win close games? They’ll probably have to in order to stay in the BCS title picture.
Teams to Watch:
The Wolverines took a step back last year, but Brady Hoke definitely has this program going in the right direction overall. Devin Gardner got a lot of playing time last year, and that will make this offense much better this season. Fitz Toussaint should have a bounce back year after a disappointing 2012. Jake Ryan’s injury during the offseason will hurt the defense quite a bit, but this secondary is still very good. Michigan’s schedule is a difficult one, but they do get most of the top teams on their schedule at home in the Big House.
I don’t like the direction of the Nebraska program right now. Bo Pelini’s teams just haven’t played any defense in big games over the last couple years. The defense looks even less talented than they were last year, and I expect that to be a major problem. Taylor Martinez and the offense will rack up a lot of yardage and points, but this defense can’t stop the top offenses in the Big Ten. Pelini will be squarely on the hot seat if this team doesn’t perform very well this year.
Michigan State (+700)
Michigan State went just 7-6 last year, but the Spartans lost 4 of their 6 games by three points or less. They didn’t lose a game all year by more than a touchdown. Michigan State’s defense will likely be the best in the Big Ten again this year. They lost a couple of stars, but the Spartans retain a great group of linebackers and lots of depth at each level. Without Le’Veon Bell to lean on offensively, the Spartans will have to get better quarterback play. The offense is the major question mark in East Lansing. The Spartans do get a favorable schedule.
Montee Ball is gone, but the Badgers have two more very good backs in James White and Melvin Gordon. Bret Bielema is in Arkansas, but I expect Wisconsin to continue to run a similar style of offense this year. Wisconsin needs improved play at the quarterback position, and the defense is going to have to win them some more games this year. If Chris Borland stays healthy, he might be the Big Ten’s best defensive player this season.
No coach in the Big Ten has done a better job with less talent than Pat Fitzgerald. The scary thing for the rest of the Big Ten is that Northwestern is starting to catch up when it comes to talent. Venric Mark is as dangerous as anyone in the league with the football in his hands. He is probably the best return man in the nation. Colter and Simien are an impressive duo that complement each other well at quarterback. If the defense continues to get better, this team could really make some noise this year.
Big Ten Conference Pick: Ohio State (-105)
The Buckeyes have a couple very tough road games at Northwestern and at Michigan this year, so I doubt they can go undefeated, but this Ohio State looks better than they did a year ago. Expect the Buckeyes to stay in the national title picture for at least most of the season. Northwestern is a nice sleeper pick if you are looking for a value play.
2013 Big Ten Conference Odds
14001 Iowa +4500
14002 Illinois +20000
14003 Indiana +4800
14004 Michigan +500
14005 Michigan State +700
14006 Minnesota +7500
14007 Northwestern +900
14008 Nebraska +700
14009 Ohio State -105
14010 Purdue +9000
14011 Wisconsin +900
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