[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]The Big Ten Conference will be eager to start the season with 8 teams ranked inside of the 25 and Ohio State and Michigan tabbed as serious playoff contenders heading into the season. The two bluebloods of the conference will battle it out in the East division with a very deep, experienced Michigan State team looking to spoil the party. In the West, we will see a wide open race with as many as six teams with a chance to take the division crown. I will breakdown the contenders, highlight some key games, and give my predictions for this season.
Michigan (+203) – Star quarterback Shea Patterson returns for his Senior season with a very talented wide receiver corps at his disposal. The offensive line was shaky last season at times but is expected to improve significantly. Harbaugh will pass play calling duty as Michigan will transition to more of a spread offense this year. The defense is loaded with talent and is always top notch under Coordinator Don Brown. Michigan will get both Ohio State and Michigan State at home propelling many to appoint the Wolverines as the pre season favorites. Michigan should be favored in every game this play this season.
Ohio State (+178) – Ryan Day takes over for Urban Meyer and Georgia transfer Justin Fields, former #1 recruit, will replace Haskins at the helm. Fields will have playmakers all over the field led by star running backs JK Dobbins and Mike Weber. The defense struggled mightily last season but will return 9 starters on that side of the ball this year. I expect a huge improvement on the defensive side of the ball this season.
Michigan State (+2000) – Michigan State returns 17 starters from last seasons team including quarterback Brian Lewarke who came into last season with lofty expectations before suffering through an injury-riddled season. Practically the entire defense returns from the nations best rush defense last season. The front seven, anchored by preseason All American linebacker Joe Bachie, is one of the top front sevens in the country. Ultimately the Spartans success will be dependant on what kind of play they get out of Lewarke.
Nebraska (+1000) – Scott Frost has reenergized this program and has them on the fast track to competing for Big Ten championships. Sophmore QB Adrian Martinez is the real deal. Frost has brought in an excellent recruiting class with tons of playmakers to support Martinez on offense. Nebraska is a very young roster as Frost begins to build the program with his players. Also, Nebraska does not play Michigan, Michigan State, or Penn State this season and gets Ohio State at home.
Iowa – Iowa loses 7 starters on defense and Two All American Tight Ends to their offense but will return All American AJ Epenesa on defense. QB Nathan Stanley is one of the best qurterbacks in the conference and the offensive line will be one of the best in the country. Iowa is a perennial monster at home but will have to navigate through several challenging road games including Michigan and Nebraska to end the season.
Wisconsin– Heisman hopeful Johnathan Taylor returns to carry the offense. Wisconsin will likely start the season with Junior Jack Coan at QB. They will lose 4 of their best 5 defenders this season. Wisconsin drew both Michigan schools and Ohio State from the East this season.
Purdue – Receiver Rondale Moore is a bona fide superstar. Jeff Brohm is a fantastic head coach and it is a border line miracle Purdue has been able to hold onto him. Purdue beat three ranked opponents last season including the 29 point drubbing of Ohio State. Brohm brings in Purdues best recruiting class in the past 15 years.Junior Elijah Sindelar will replace David Blough as the starting QB. The defense returns 9 starters. Purdue avoids both Michigan schools and Ohio State from the East division but will get Penn State and Iowa on the road.
Key Conference Games:
Michigan State @ Michigan 11/16: The Battle for the Paul Bunyan trophy is later in the season and will only elevate the stakes even higher as I have Michigan coming into this game undefeated and Michigan State with a lone loss to Ohio State. Last year, the Michigan defense completely overwhelmed Lewarke and company and held them under 100 total yard for the game. I expect this game to be tight and played close to the vest by both coaches. Ultimately, Patterson is able to make more plays than Lewarke. Michigan prevails 23-16.
Iowa @ Nebraska 11/29: I have both division coming down to the final weekend with Iowa traveling to Lincoln to go to the Big Ten Championship. Nebraska are always extremely tough to beat behind the crowd at Memorial Stadium. This game will be a battle of styles as Iowa will look to pound the ball and control the clock and Frost will have the Nebraska offense in high tempo from the start. In the end, I expect a more experienced Iowa team to win the turnover battle and get the job done. Iowa 23-20.
Ohio State @ Michigan 11/30: The east division and playoff hopes will be on the line when undefeated Michigan takes on a one-loss Ohio State team in Ann Arbor. With the game being played in Ann Arbor, Michigan will come in as a slight favorite in this matchup. Ohio State obliterated Michigan last season with speed all over the field. Justin Fields and the Ohio State offense outscore Patterson’s Wolverines in an instant classic. Ohio State 41 Michigan 35
Ohio State 41 Iowa 20
Player of the Year: Justin Fields QB, Ohio State
Defensive Player of the Year: AJ Epenesa DE, Iowa
Coach of the Year: Ryan Day
Futures/Win Total Bets:
Iowa Over 7.5 wins -160 3U
Wisconsin U8.5 -133 3U
Ohio State O10 +107 2U
Purdue O7 +104 2U
Iowa to win West +450 1U
We will be back Sunday to breakdown the SEC conference
Follow me on twitter @YoYo_Picks