There’s a couple different ways you can look at the Big Ten conference from 2015. They negative is the teams who ended up playing for the Big Ten title got destroyed in their bowl games. Michigan State lost 0-38 to Alabama in the playoffs and Iowa lost 16-45 to Stanford in the Rose Bowl.
On the bright side, they had six different teams finish the year with double-digit wins. They were a respectable 48-18 in non-conference play, with a 12-13 mark against Power 5 teams. They also had the most players drafted in the first three rounds of the NFL Draft.
The Big Ten clearly is getting a lot of talented players and it only figures to keep improving in the coming years. A big reason for that is the top level head coaches in this league.
The two at the top of the list being Ohio State’s Urban Meyer and Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh. Not a big surprise that these are the consensus top two teams in the conference going into 2016.
I’ve researched all 14 teams and have compiled my projections for the coming season. I’ve also included the future odds for every team to win their division and the entire conference. Let’s take a look at the predictions.
Big Ten East Predictions
|Pos.||Team||Conf||Overall||East Odds||Big Ten Odds|
It’s pretty clear that the East is the much tougher of the two divisions. While not as deep as the SEC West, it’s definitely loaded at the top. As mentioned, the two teams that everyone is talking about is Ohio State and Michigan. Most have both somewhere in their Top 15 teams in the country.
You could make a strong case for either team to win the division, but my money is on the Buckeyes. Since Meyer arrived in Columbus, the Buckeyes have gone a ridiculous 50-4. They won it all just two years ago and were arguably the best team in the conference last season, despite finishing 2nd in the standings.
Only having 6 returning starters would be a major red flag for a lot of teams. That’s not a big concern for the Buckeyes, who are loaded with 5* recruits across the board. Last year the went into the Big House and destroyed Michigan 42-13. This time they get them at home and I believe it will be the difference in the standings.
While all the attention is on the Buckeyes and Wolverines, it’s not a sure thing they will end up 1-2. You can’t discount Mark Dantonio and the Spartans, who are 36-5 over the last 3 years. For Michigan State it will come down to how they do replacing Connor Cook at quarterback.
The other team to watch out for is Penn State. The Nittany Lions are now in their 3rd year under James Franklin. The sanctions are over and done with and there’s a lot of talent on this roster. They too lose a starting quarterback in Christian Hackenberg, but he wasn’t a great fit. They are confident the offense will be better with a more mobile signal caller.
That leaves Indiana, Maryland and Rutgers to battle it out for the final three spots in the division. All three teams have a lot of experience coming back, but don’t have the talent to be a threat to the top four.
Big Ten West Predictions
|Pos.||Team||Conf||Overall||West Odds||Big Ten Odds|
Last year the Hawkeyes surprised everyone by running the table in the regular season. Unfortunately for Iowa fans it turned out to be a bit of fools gold. The Hawkeyes benefited from a very easy schedule and wound up losing their final two. However, it is worth noting they gave Michigan State all they could handle in the Big Ten title game.
The good news for Iowa fans is they once again have a very managable schedule. The Hawkeyes have to play Michigan at home, but avoid Ohio State, Michigan State and Penn State. They also get Nebraska, Wisconsin and Northwestern at home.
That’s more than enough for me to call for Iowa to defend their West title and get back to the Big Ten title game. The two biggest threats in my eyes are the Cornhuskers and Badgers.
The problem with both of those teams is they have brutal schedules. Nebraska’s toughest games are all on the road and Wisconsin draws the top three teams out of the East.
Some will have Northwestern included in the mix as contenders in the West. I’m not one of them. They only managed to score 19.5 ppg last year, but allowed just 18.6 ppg. I don’t see the defense being able to duplicate that.
Like the East, there’s some not so great teams at the bottom of the division. Minnesota, Illinois and Purdue aren’t expected to do a lot this coming season. However, all three teams should put out a better product.
For example I have Purdue going winless in Big 10 play at 0-8, but that’s only because of a brutal schedule. With 16 starters back they should be greatly improved on both sides of the ball. It just won’t be enough to impact the win column.