Big Ten Football Preseason Predictions
This year’s Big Ten is not the conference that you’re used to. Although the perennial championship contenders continue to dominate the national spotlight, there are new programs looking to join the party. With 4 teams featured in the AP Top 25 poll, along with a few more on the outside looking in, the Big Ten is set for another year as part of the forefront of the college football landscape.
1. Ohio State
After a disappointing loss in last year’s College Football Playoff Semifinal, Ohio State is looking to have another dominant season atop the Big Ten East.
The weight on offense will fall on senior Quarterback J.T. Barrett to run the offense, along with his supporting cast which includes sophomore running back Mike Weber.
On defense, Ohio State has one of the most dangerous front 7 groups in the nation, featuring All-American junior defensive lineman Jerome Baker.
2. Penn State
This year, the majority of the starters will be returning, including the Heisman Trophy contending duo of quarterback Trace McSorley and All-American running back Saquon Barkley. On defense, the Nittany Lions have an extremely experienced secondary consisting of safety Marcus Allen and cornerbacks John Reid and Grant Haley.
The two week stretch featuring Michigan, followed by Ohio State, will show if the Nittany Lions have what it takes to make another run at a conference championship.
The Michigan Wolverines are facing a major roster turnover after losing 11 players to the NFL Draft, but Ann Arbor is still full of optimism heading into this season
On the offensive side of the ball, Michigan’s receiving core will be made up by freshmen Donovan Peoples-Jones, Tarik Black, and Nico Collins. It will be very interesting to see how these highly touted underclassmen are able to transition to playing against some of the best defenses in the country. On defense, all eyes are on the former top recruit, defensive end Rashan Gary.
The Hoosiers enter this year hoping to replicate last season’s run which ended with a bowl bid. The team decided to part ways with Coach Kevin Wilson, who was replaced by defensive coordinator Tom Allen.
With this familiarity on defensive, expectations are high, especially for the defensive line which includes standout tackle Nate Hoff.
On offense, quarterback Richard Lagow and the rest of the unit must work on eliminating turnovers. The team will also take on a committee approach and divide touches between Mike Majette and Cole Gest.
5. Michigan State
After a conference championship in 2015, Michigan State did not enjoy as much glory last season, finishing with a record of 3-9.
On defense, Michigan State must improve upon their pass rush, which only recorded 11 sacks during last year’s campaign. On offensive, running back L.J. Scott is coming off multiple offseason shoulder surgeries, but has the potential for a breakout year after struggling last season.
The Terps’ offense will feature a dual running back system that includes potential star junior Ty Johnson, along with Lorenzo Harrison.
The future is bright for this Terps unit, but with a difficult schedule that includes some of the conference’s best talent in Northwestern, Ohio State, and Penn State, this season could end up with very few wins for Maryland.
Head Coach Chris Ash is in the process of creating a solid foundation that will help the program be competitive in the near future. The team added a handful of transfers, including quarterback Kyle Bolin, receiver Damon Mitchell and former Miami running back Gus Edwards. These transfers should make a quick impact on the offense by providing much needed experience to the unit.
Coming off of a successful season that ended with a loss in the conference championship, the Wisconsin Badgers are looking to return to the top of the Big Ten west.
The Badgers feature quarterback Alex Hornibrook will be the starter after splitting snaps with Bart Houston last year. Highlighting the unit is wide receiver Jazz Peavy, along with tight end Troy Fumagalli, who should finish the season in the awards conversation. On defense, the Badgers will be depleted after losing Jack Cichy who tore his ACL and will miss the whole season.
Consistency is usually not enough to run the table, but when a program does not lose ANY of their talented top 7 defensive backs or their dynamic quarterback, large results should be expected. The Wildcats will be facing the defending conference champion Penn State in early October. A win against the Nittany lions would put the conference on notice and shred any doubt regarding the team’s capabilities.
The biggest change for Nebraska comes at the Quarterback position after long time starter Tommy Armstrong Jr. was replaced by Tulane transfer Tanner Lee. Lee will have no shortage of talent with receivers Stanley Morgan Jr. and senior De’Mornay Pierson-El looking to find success and reignite this offense. The Cornhuskers will be switching from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 defense to help maximize the skill of Nebraska’s front 7.
Sophomore Nathan Stanley will be taking over at quarterback and has critics raving about his arm strength and, although he needs to improve on his accuracy, it is hard to ignore his potential. The amount of success that this defensive unit achieves this season is very dependent on how linebacker Josey Jewell and the rest of the front seven can limit the rushing attack.
As we have seen in the past, it is never wise to count coach Ferentz and the Hawkeyes out early, but with many inexperienced players receiving playing time, Iowa should not be pegged as a contender for the Big Ten title this year.
This is a very exciting time to be watching and following the Minnesota Golden Gophers. The team hired former Western Michigan coach P.J. Fleck as their new head man after leading the Mustangs to a historical season. Now Fleck has the resources to utilize his strengths on a much larger scale, in a much larger conference.
The process of developing a program from the ground up, especially one ridden by scandals, can take time and patience, but if anyone can take this Minnesota program to new heights, P.J. Fleck is undoubtedly the man for the job.
On the offensive side of the ball, junior Chayce Crouch will serve as the new quarterback. The offense will also feature Mikey Dudek, who had more than 1,000 receiving yards as a freshman, but has suffered two torn ACLs since then. He, along with leading receiver Malik Turner, should help the offense score points through the air. On defense, all four starting defensive linemen graduated, which opens up space for freshman Kendrick Green.
Purdue’s offense will revolve around the Big Ten’s leader in passing yards, David Blough. Blough’s supporting unit in the backfield is very deep and has potential to score in bunches. The mix of running backs Markell Jones and D.J. Knox will provide a balanced attack.
On defense, the Boilermakers have 6 starters returning from last year, one being sophomore linebacker Markus Bailey, who was a key contributor to Purdue’s defense last season.
Jordan Kalfon is a freshman majoring in Broadcast Journalism. To contact, email email@example.com