Are you clamoring for Big Ten predictions? Then look no further than right here, because the Land of 10 staff is about to tell you who will win the conference championship and provide plenty of reason as to why.
Our seven-man staff – for now, with many more to come by kickoff – came together to collaborate on predictions for both the Big Ten East and West. Below is a table of our predictions for each division, plus a conference championship game prediction and explanation from each writer.
A few things regarding how this preseason poll was tabulated:
- Each staffer ranked each division from one to seven.
- Each team received a point value based on where they were placed. An example, if I placed Michigan at No. 1 in the Big Ten, the Wolverines would receive one point. If I had Iowa ranked No. 3, the Hawkeyes would receive three points.
- The teams were then sorted in order and division winners were decided by the fewest amount of points
Without further ado, here are our fearless Big Ten predictions, along with my analysis of our picks.
Big Ten West Prediction
|1. Iowa (6)||8 points|
|2. Nebraska (1)||15 points|
|3. Northwestern||24 points|
|4. Wisconsin||27 points|
|5. Minnesota||32 points|
|6. Illinois||42 points|
|7. Purdue||48 points|
- All but one panelist had Iowa winning the Big Ten West. The lone ranger to not pick the Hawkeyes opted to take Nebraska.
- Six of the seven panelists believe Purdue will finish last in the Big Ten West. That doesn’t exactly bode well for Darrell Hazell.
- Northwestern was a polarizing team. The Wildcats were ranked as high as second by one writer and as low as fifth by two panelists.
- Everyone had either Wisconsin or Northwestern finishing in third except for one writer: His pick was Minnesota.
Big Ten East Predictions
|1. Ohio State (4)||10 points|
|2. Michigan (3)||11 points|
|3. Michigan State||23 points|
|4. Penn State||27 points|
|5. Indiana||35 points|
|6. Maryland||42 points|
|7. Rutgers||48 points|
- The East was a bit more straightforward, with clear division amongst the tiers of the division.
- It’s apparent our staff is split on who will win the division.
- All but one panelist had either Michigan State or Penn State finishing in third or fourth in some order. The one outlier had Indiana finishing fourth and Penn State in fifth.
- Another writer had Indiana finishing in sixth. Every other writer picked Indiana fifth.
- All but one staffer had Rutgers in the basement. The only one who didn’t choose Rutgers picked Maryland to finish in the cellar.
Conference Championship picks
Matt Barbato: Michigan over Iowa
I feel the de facto Big Ten championship game will be played between Michigan and Ohio State a week earlier, but I’m going with an experienced Michigan group over a potentially talented but unproven Ohio State in that one. Michigan has 14 starters returning, compared to Ohio State’s six. Now, I’m not underestimating the power of J.T. Barrett, but I’m concerned his supporting cast will inhibit him.
Iowa feels like an easy pick for the Big Ten West, but I’m not ruling out Nebraska’s potent aerial attack. Northwestern has more talent than people think, but also plays a horrendous schedule.
The only thing Michigan really lacks is a quarterback, and that’s Jim Harbaugh’s specialty. Harbaugh will back up his self-induced hype by developing a capable quarterback, whether it’s Wilton Speight, John O’Korn, or Shane Morris.
William McFadden: Michigan over Iowa
I’m bullish on Jim Harbaugh and Michigan. I believe he knows exactly what he’s doing on the recruiting trail, and he’s already proven to be a capable coach. The massive loss of experience at Ohio State has opened the door in the East, and I think Michigan has the talent to take advantage. It may seem surprising that I have Penn State at No. 3, but I’m a big fan of the Lions’ skill players. Saquon Barkley is an absolute stud, and Penn State’s group of wide receivers is the most talented in the conference.
In the West, Iowa has a favorable home/road schedule and should repeat as division champs, although I don’t think they have the talent to compete against Michigan in the title game. Nebraska and Northwestern could both make plenty of noise as well. The Huskers lost five close games last season and have a quarterback I’m high on in Tommy Armstrong, along with a great group of receivers. Northwestern’s defense should be the strength of this team, and the Wildcats’ offense should flow through ultra-talented running back Justin Jackson.
Nate Atkins: Ohio State over Iowa
I’d be surprised if the East doesn’t come down to The Game. Michigan comes in with the experience, but the guys Ohio State returns are most of the ones that matter most: Quarterback J.T. Barrett, guards Pat Elflein and Billy Price and middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan. Those kinds of stars make filling other spots with top recruits a little easier. I think Penn State sneaks up in the division behind a simple offense and more playmakers to work with than Michigan State will be able to offer. Indiana will continue to push these teams but has a defense that’s still too far behind.
Out West, Iowa feels a large step ahead of the pack after going 12-0 last year and returning its best players on both sides of the ball in C.J. Beathard and Desmond King. Nebraska will be the Big Ten’s surprise team by turning some of its terrible fortune around through what could be the league’s best passing game. Northwestern should be better at all the components that gutted out wins last year. Wisconsin is the toughest to figure in the conference, with what should be a rekindled running game but enormous questions everywhere else. I think the schedule will eat them alive. The group drops off after Minnesota, which should settle behind Mitch Leidner after a rocky 2015.
Sean Keeler: Ohio State over Iowa
For the Bucks, aside from Norman, Madison, East Lansing and The Game, I’d be stunned if the rest of the dance card stayed within 17 points in any given week. Michigan-Iowa in Iowa City is usually one of those sneaky-fun games, and it could be the kind of not-sneaky-not-fun Wolverines setback that swings the division to Urban Meyer. Again.
The schedule plays into the hands of Iowa, Nebraska and Minnesota — with an upset or two, the Gophs could roll out of the chute 8-1 or 9-0 — and hates Wisconsin. But don’t sleep on Bucky just yet; Paul Chryst trotted out a patchwork offensive line and a cadre of backup tailbacks last fall and still won 10 games. If Mike Riley can tailor the scheme to quarterback Tommy Armstrong’s strengths — and throwing it 45 times a game ain’t one of them — the Huskers should throw a Big Red wrench into the West division race.
Steve Petrella: Ohio State over Nebraska
The Buckeyes still have the best quarterback in the conference and while they lost a whole mess of top-end talent, Urban Meyer has recruited at a high enough level (second nationally behind Alabama over the last five years) to curb any steep decline. Ohio State gets Michigan at home and is currently a 3-point favorite in that game — an indication that oddsmakers think these teams are just about even. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Michigan enter The Game unbeaten and fall to Ohio State, losing a Big Ten title and College Football Playoff spot in the process.
In the West, it’s hard to bet against Iowa, which returns the second-best quarterback in the league in C.J. Beathard. But oddsmakers give Nebraska just as good a chance to win the Big Ten. The Huskers lost five games by five points or fewer last season, and should regress to the mean in a good way. They do play at Iowa to end the year, but draw easy crossover games other than Ohio State (Indiana and Maryland). Iowa hosts Michigan and goes to Penn State and Rutgers.
Tom Brew: Michigan over Iowa
Even though I still have concerns over Michigan’s QB situation, I think there’s enough talent everywhere else on both sides to get past Ohio State in 2016. The Buckeyes just have too much to replace and I don’t think they’ll be as dominant as they’ve been the past few years. They’re clearly the 1-2 in the East and I think there’s a big dropoff from Michigan State and beyond. Indiana may surprise with better play on defense under new defensive coordinator Tom Allen.
In the West, I like Iowa to stand out, and it’s a 1-2 race with Nebraska as well, although I always hate counting out Northwestern. I like Iowa’s depth at critical positions and I like the coolness of C.J. Beathard. I also like that their biggest games are all at home. Michigan and Iowa meet in the regular season as well, so we may get to see this matchup twice.
Jeremy Birmingham: Ohio State over Iowa
I think the Big Ten East will put itself right alongside the SEC West as the preeminent division in college football this season and, in doing so, will beat the living snot out of each other all year long. That said, I give the Buckeyes and Urban Meyer the nod because I think their schedule sets up a bit better than their rivals even though Ohio State has a number of challenging in-division road tilts. JT Barrett gives the Buckeyes something no one else in the East has – an experienced quarterback – and The Game in November will set the stage for the Big Ten championship game.
Out West, Iowa will look to keep building on last year’s momentum and they’ve got the opportunity to do so. The Hawkeyes get Michigan, Northwestern, Wisconsin and Nebraska all at home and Kirk Ferentz’s team has the experience to keep their heads cool when things get hot.