When the Big Ten realigned and added Nebraska, it appeared that they would be the most complete conference behind the SEC. However, in a flash Penn State imploded as a football powerhouse, Ohio State was faced with violations, Michigan appeared to be in a longer rebuilding process and Michigan State couldn’t overcome the larger hurdles. This left Wisconsin to go for 3 consecutive B1G Titles, a feat that seemed unbelievable, then they lose their coach to the SEC. So where does this leave the conference now… The B1G has huge upside this year but the depth of the conference is questionable and could haunt a potential BCS contender. Without further discussion, let’s get too it… Here is the Rundown for the Top 5* Teams in the B1G Conference for 2013!
1. The Ohio State Buckeyes 11-1 (Leaders Division Champion)
Last season the Buckeyes escaped two overtime games against Purdue and Wisconsin with victories, they beat Michigan by 5 and slipped by Michigan St. by one point and found themselves with a perfect season, normally that would be one heck of a season but without the chance to prove themselves against Alabama, they enter the 2013 season with unfinished business. Ohio State has reasons to believe that this year will be no different, they get help with an offense that returns 9 starters and a schedule that features the football powerhouses of Buffalo, San Diego St, and Florida A&M. They also get Wisconsin and Penn State at home before getting to a November that has 3 of 4 games on the road, with a (don’t laugh) much improved Indiana program as the only home game. We like the chances of Ohio State playing for a National Title, but feel like they will slip up and lose one game before playing for a B1G championship and don’t see them making the BCS Championship Game.
2. University of Nebraska Cornhuskers 11-1 (Legends Division Champion)
The Cornhuskers have finished with only four losses for the last 5 seasons, yet if you are a Nebraska fan, you can’t be satisfied with anything, especially with an ending last year that featured one of the most embarrassing losses, on one of the biggest stages in school history. If there was a year for a program looking to prove that they have officially returned to the main stage this is it for the Huskers. They have an offense that is going to score and score often to keep them in every game and will blowout it’s lesser opponents. The questions remain on defense where they have to replace 8 positions with a collection of new faces and juco transfers but with a schedule that is lined up for them to be 8-0 with a match-up with Michigan, we like the Huskers to return to the B1G title game and this time, they will show-up. Look for the Huskers to be in a BCS game and maybe a trip to Pasadena.
3. University of Michigan Wolverines 9-3
We like the look of Michigan, they have the right schedule featuring home games against Notre Dame, Indiana, Nebraska, and Ohio State. We like what their coach Brady Hoke is putting together in Ann Arbor, with solid recruiting and playmakers on both sides of the ball, but we don’t like them on the toughness meeter…meaning they have to replace too many starters within the trenches and we see them getting better and improving from the 8-5 season they had last year, but talks about them playing for a B1G championship or a BCS game will have to wait another year.
4. Northwestern Wildcats 9-3
Ok, this just feels weird. We’ve now picked Northwestern before Wisconsin, Michigan St and Penn State… what the #*$% is going on here! So, last year Northwestern proved that they could play with everyone! They had no bad losses and came within a couple of touchdowns of having a 10 win regular season, this year Pat Fitzgerald and the Wildcats might hit the double digits again with a bowl win and easily could prove to be the number four team in the conference overall. They return a solid and exciting group on offense and have enough talent and returns on defense to hold off it’s competitors. We like the idea of back to back 10 wins for this Northwestern team and maybe their best season yet under coach Fitzgerald.
5. Indiana University Hoosiers 9-3
This is a hard pick, this might be a surprise and this might be overreaching but in making preseason predictions, sometimes you have to take a bold step out and look for a program to turn a corner. This might be our best pick and it could be our worst but we are picking Indiana as the fifth, that’s right fifth best team in all of the B1G conference this year. Looking backwards first, Indiana finished 4-8, which if you factor close games that could’ve swung in their direction with a little more experience, they could’ve ended easily at 7-5, if that would’ve happened, we think everyone would be talking about them turning the corner this year, like they are with Northwester, as a football program and coach Kevin Wilson as the real deal, so we are. If they make it past a couple of tough home games early against Bowling Green (yes, an early game against a good MAC team looking to prove something will be tough) and Missouri, look for a 4-0 record going into a home game against Penn St, where a win could put them on the map. Make no mistakes, we are not picking them to win the conference but we think that Wilson has the pieces he needs at the right time to make a surprise run and put together a great season for the Hoosiers.
6. Michigan State Spartans 8-4
So this is just crazy…We have completed our top half of the B1G conference and no Wisconsin and no Penn State but Michigan State deserves this spot! Last year they lost 4 of their last 7 but they played well in all of those games, suffering only a bad loss in OT against a down Iowa team. This year they return leadership on both sides of the ball with 14 starters coming back for the Spartans, they have a schedule which has no Wisconsin, no Ohio State, and no Penn State and they will be in every game till the end. Don’t be surprised if Michigan State finds themselves in the race for the legends division, we wont.