When the Ohio State Buckeyes won the inaugural College Football Playoff back in 2014, many believed the Big Ten was ready to join the SEC at the top of the college football hierarchy.

While there’s no doubt the conference as a whole has improved, it has not translated into success on the biggest stage. After sending a team to the playoffs in each of the first three seasons of its existence, the Big Ten has been left out each of the last two years.

Not to mention the last two teams to represent the conference in the playoffs failed to score a point.

In 2015 Michigan State surprised everyone and won the Big Ten title, earning a spot in the playoffs. They got destroyed 38-0 by Alabama in the semifinals.

The very next year Ohio State returned to the playoffs, despite not winning the conference title, and got annihilated 31-0 by Clemson in the semifinals.

Missing the playoffs in 2017 was eased by the fact that the Big Ten finished the year with 5 teams ranked in the Top 10. They couldn’t even come close to that claim in 2018. Ohio State was the only team in the Top 10 at No. 3.

Big 10 College Football Preview & Predictions

The depth of the Big Ten could actually be costing the conference, as it’s hard to go through the 9-game gauntlet with 1 or fewer losses. Just one little slip up can cost a team. It’s happened to Ohio State each of the last two years. The only blemish on the Buckeyes resume last year was a 29-point loss at Purdue.

At the same time, I think the lopsided divisions also hurt the conference. I don’t think there’s any arguing Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State are the three best programs in the Big Ten. All three are in the same division, which also includes Michigan State, who is probably even with Wisconsin on the pecking order.

If the Buckeyes were to have say beat Michigan in the Big Ten title game instead of Purdue, it may have propelled them into the mix.

There is hope that West Division is closing the gap. There’s a ton of hype with Nebraska and the direction they are headed under Scott Frost. Teams like Purdue (Jeff Brohm) and Minnesota (P.J. Fleck) are also growing quickly under new head coaches.

Below is a look at my projected records for all 14 teams. I’ve included the records for both conference play and overall. I’ve also included an assortment of betting odds throughout the article.

For a more complete picture on the college football landscape, be sure to check out my NCAA football predictions page. Now is also a great time to start looking ahead to opening week odds.

2019 Big Ten Projected Standings, Rankings & Betting Odds

East Division

Pos.TeamConfOverallBig 10 Odds
2ndOhio State7-210-2+100
3rdMichigan State6-39-3+3000
4thPenn State5-48-4+1600

As you can see from the odds, the books see this as a two-way race between Ohio State and Michigan. They give the slight edge to the Buckeyes and it’s hard to argue given that the Wolverines have yet to beat Ohio State under Jim Harbaugh.

I believe this will finally be the year that Michigan snaps the losing streak to the Buckeyes and not just wins the Big Ten, but gets the conference back int he playoffs.

We know the defense is going to be outstanding under Don Brown, but it’s the buzz around a new offense and the return of senior quarterback Shea Patterson that has me sold on this team.

Harbaugh is putting his old-school style aside and going to a more spread/no huddle offense under new offensive coordinator Josh Gattis. Not to mention Michigan gets all 3 of their rivals at home, as they will host Notre Dame, Michigan State and Ohio State.

The fact that the Buckeyes no longer have Urban Meyer definitely plays into my decision, but don’t sleep on Ohio State under Ryan Day. He’s more than ready for this gig and the talent is definitely there. The biggest thing is they were able to replace the great Dwayne Haskins at quarterback with Georgia transfer Justin Fields. They also got 9 starters back on D.

While Penn State is considered by the books to have the third best odds to win the division, I think Michigan State is the dark-horse that everyone needs to watch out for. Injuries, specifically to quarterback Brian Lewerke put this team behind the 8-ball last year. They have 17 starters back and Lewerke is 100% going into the season. The defense will be one of the best in the country. The problem is they have to play 5 of their 9 games on the road and 4 of those are against Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin and Northwestern.

As for the Nittany Lions, this might be the last little hiccup before Penn State moves up into that elite status. They may even prove me wrong and take that step this year. I just think it’s asking a lot for this team to replace the likes of Trace McSorley at quarterback. So many young guys will be asked to play big roles. If they find a QB, this team will be absolutely loaded going into 2020.

Unfortunately for Indiana, Rutgers and Maryland, there’s not a lot they can do to compete with these power programs. The fact that they got those 4 teams on their schedule no matter what makes it hard to just get to a bowl.

I think Indiana is definitely a team that can get to a bowl this year. I’ve really liked what Tom Allen has done here and they have been knocking on the door for a big upset. Maryland is a team that could surprise, but there’s just so much going on that it’s hard to pick them any higher.

West Division

Pos.TeamConfOverallBig 10 Odds

I mentioned earlier that the West Division is getting stronger and all eyes are going to be on Nebraska this year. There’s a firm belief that it’s just a matter of time before Frost has this team not just hoping to play one of the big boys in the Big Ten Championship, but back to competing for national championships.

They were definitely a much stronger team than their 4-8 record in Frost’s first season. They got something special in sophomore quarterback Adrian Martinez. It’s just a matter if the defense can hold up.

I have them finishing in a tie with Iowa on top the West at 6-3, but they get the tie-breaker, as I have them winning the head-to-head matchup in the regular-season finale.

Some might wonder how the Hawkeyes will compete after having two tight ends drafted in the first round and only have 4 guys back on defense. The offensive line is going to be really good and they got one of the best signal callers in the conference in Nathan Stanley.

I got quite the log-jam of teams in a tie for 3rd, as I have Wisconsin, Minnesota and Purdue all finishing at 5-4 in the league and 8-4 overall.

Wisconsin is arguably the most talented of the group. They got a legit heisman candidate in running back Jonathan Taylor. The problem is they may be starting a freshman at quarterback, lost 4 of their top 5 tacklers and draw Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State out of the East.

Both Minnesota and Purdue could flip the script and win this division. That’s how highly I feel of both Brohm and Fleck. The Gophers will return 16 starters and just need to find a solution at quarterback. Purdue is going to have a defense that can compete with 9 starters back. Given Brohm’s ability to coach offense and the Boilermakers returning junior QB Elijah Sindelar and wide out Rondale Moore, this team is built to cash havoc in the Big Ten.

I had a hard time slotting Northwestern in the basement of the West with Illinois. The thing is they lose their all-time leading passer in Clayton Thorson. This team might not have much fight come November, as they open with 6 of their first 7 against Stanford, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Ohio State and Iowa.

As for Illinois, they should be improved in what is year four under head coach Lovie Smith. The problem is they are still a year or two away from being taking seriously.

Big Ten Championship Game Prediction: Michigan Defeats Wisconsin

2019 Big Ten Win Totals

Ohio State10.5
Penn State8.5
Michigan State7.5

Click here for a full list of win totals for the upcoming college football season.

Heisman Odds

Players (Pos, School)Odds
Justin Fields (QB, Ohio State)+900
Adrian Martinez (QB, Nebraska)+1200
Johnathan Taylor (RB, Wisconsin)+1700
Shea Patterson (QB, Michigan)+2600
Rondale Moore (WR, Purdue)+5000
Tate Martell (QB, Ohio State)+6000

Find out where these odds rank against the other top players in the country in our Heisman odds section.

Top Playoff Odds (Win National Championship)

Ohio State+900
Penn State+5000
Michigan State+15000
Maryland N/A
Indiana N/A
Illinois N/A

Check out our National Championship Odds page to see how the top teams in the Big Ten stack up against the rest of the country.

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