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, they have struggled to produce a legit contender the past 3 seasons.
In 2015 it was Michigan State that surprised everyone and won the Big Ten title and earned 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. Last season the Big Ten failed to even get a team invited to the playoffs.
It was almost as if the Big Ten teams that made a bowl wanted to send a message after getting left out, as they went 7-1 in bowl games, all of which were against other Power 5 teams. The conference also finished the year with 5 teams ranked, with Oho State (5), Wisconsin (7) and Penn State (8) all finishing in the Top 10.
Big 10 College Football Preview & Predictions
Looking ahead to the 2018 season, there’s a number of teams within the conference who have their eyes set on the playoffs. That includes all four powers in the East Division in Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State. You could make a legit argument for all 4 of these teams, which really makes things exciting.
It’s not quite as crowded at the top of the West Division, where just about everyone is going to have Wisconsin picked to defend their title. That’s not to say it’s a sure thing. Teams like Iowa and Northwestern have the talent to surprise and both get the Badgers at home. There’s also plenty of buzz around year-two of P.J. Fleck in Minnesota and Jeff Brohm at Purdue. However, the real hype comes at Nebraska, where the Cornhuskers are doing back flips after signing on Scott Frost as their new head coach (only new head coach in the conference).
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.
2018 Big Ten Projected Standings, Rankings & Betting Odds
|Pos.||Team||Conf||Overall||East Odds||Big 10 Odds|
The safe pick to win the Big Ten would have to be Ohio State, simply given the track record the Buckeyes have produced under head coach Urban Meyer. Ohio State has gone 73-8 in the six seasons under Meyer, recording at least 11 wins and no more than two losses each year. Alabama during this same stretch has posted a 77-8 record, so you can see just how good the Buckeyes have been.
As you can see, I’m far from being down on Ohio State, as I have them going 10-2 overall and 7-2 inside conference play. The big thing for me is the schedule (Penn St & Mich St on the road) and the fact that Ohio State loses one of their all-time great quarterbacks in J.T. Barrett, who set more than 35 records in his time at Columbus.
My pick to win the East is Michigan, who I think is ready to take that next step that everyone was expecting right away when the Wolverines brought in Jim Harbaugh. This is now year 4 under Harbaugh and the biggest thing that has plagued Michigan in his first 3 years on the job is less than stellar quarterback play.
That’s no longer a concern with the Wolverines, who landed Ole Miss transfer Shea Patterson, who is eligible to play right away. Patterson made 10 starts at Ole Miss and completed 62% of his attempts for 3,139 yards with 23 touchdowns to just 12 interceptions. In the 13 games played last year, Michigan quarterbacks completed 53.5% of their attempts for 2,226 yards with 9 touchdowns to 10 interceptions.
Not only is the offense going to be drastically improved with a legit passing attack, but the Wolverines might just have the best defense in the country. I have Michigan slipping up once inside the conference, but wouldn’t be shocked if they ran the table.
The big sleeper in the division is Michigan State, who returns 19 starters from a team that went 10-3 in 2017 after finishing just 3-9 the previous season. What makes the Spartans a dangerous team in the East is they get both Ohio State and Michigan at home.
A lot of people are going to include Penn State in the mix as teams with a legit shot of winning the East, but I’m not nearly as high on the Nittany Lions going into this season. The loss of star running back Saquan Barkley is at the top of the list to why I’m down on Penn State, but it’s not the only reason. The Nittany Lions only have 3 starters back on defense and have to replace 7 of their top 8 tacklers from last year. They also lost offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead, who is now the head coach at Mississippi State. Penn State averaged just 23.2 ppg and 349 ypg in 2015. The next year they hired Moorhead as their OC and the offense improved to 37.6 ppg and 433 ypg. The got even better in the second year under him, posting 41.1 ppg and 460 ypg last season.
While Indiana, Maryland and Rutgers are going to be an afterthought for most people, all 3 are going into the 2018 believing they can pull off a big upset or two and get to a bowl game.
|Pos.||Team||Conf||Overall||West Odds||Big 10 Odds|
While I went out on a limb and didn’t take the obvious choice in the East, I’m not about to go against Wisconsin in the West. The Badgers have put together quite a recipe for success and that’s pounding the ball on the ground behind one of the best offensive lines and fielding a top notch stop unit. While the defense only has 4 starters back, they returned just 6 last year and only gave up 13.9 ppg and 262 ypg, so I’m not concerned at all with that side of the ball.
What really has me excited about the Badgers is the offense could be dynamic. Wisconsin has all 5 starters back on the offensive line, three of which will likely be playing in the NFL next season. They also have an experienced quarterback in junior Alex Hornibrook (23 starts) and the Heisman frontrunner in sophomore running back Jonathan Taylor.
The real debate in the West is who is the next best team behind the Badgers. I personally give the slight edge to Iowa, who has one of the more underrated quarterbacks in the conference in junior Nathan Stanley and are loaded on both the offensive and defensive lines. The Hawkeyes also have the best schedule of the other contenders. Iowa avoids having to play Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State out of the East and get Wisconsin, Northwestern and Nebraska all at home.
After Iowa, I got quite the log-jam in the standings with the Cornhuskers, Golden Gophers and Wildcats all sitting at 4-5. A lot of people will probably be higher on Northwestern, given they went 10-3 last year and have 14 starters back, but they draw both Michigan and Michigan State out of the East, have to play Wisconsin at home and play 5 of their 9 conferences games on the road.
It’s a similar story with Nebraska and the schedule just not setting up well for Frost’s first season. Not only do the Cornhuskers have to play 5 conference road games, they are against the likes of Michigan, Wisconsin, Northwestern, Ohio State and Iowa. They also draw Michigan State at home, forcing them to play the 3 best teams out of the East.
Maybe the biggest surprise is how low in the standings I have Purdue. I absolutely loved the hire of Jeff Brohm last year by the Boilermakers and wasn’t the least bit surprised to see this team end up at 7-6 after only winning 8 games the previous 4 seasons combined. It’s not that I’m not longer on the Brohm bandwagon. The schedule simply couldn’t be any harder. Purdue has just 4 conference home games and those 4 are against Northwestern, Ohio State, Iowa and Wisconsin. I also think the defense is going to take a big step back this year with just 4 starters back.
Big Ten Championship Game Prediction: Michigan Defeats Wisconsin
|Players (Pos, School)||Odds|
|Johnathan Taylor (RB, Wisconsin)||+600|
|J.K. Dobbins (RB, Ohio State)||+650|
|Trace McSorley (QB, Penn State)||+1800|
|Dwayne Haskins (QB, Ohio State)||+2200|
|Nick Bosa (DL, Ohio State)||+6600|
Find out where these odds rank against the other top players in the country in our Heisman odds section.
Top Playoff Odds
Looking for more NCAA football future odds? We got you covered. Check out our college football win totals to see the over/under mark on the regular season wins for each team. We also have a special page dedicated strictly to the national championship odds.