Let's wrap up the week with my Big Ten preseason predictions. These are pretty much guaranteed to go wrong, but hey, we're all about equal opportunity here, so if I'm going to rip other people's predictions, I need to give some of my own.
1. Ohio State OVERALL: 10-2 (Big Ten: 7-1) Losses: USC 9/12, @ Penn State 11/7
Buckeyes reload and win a share of their fifth straight Big Ten title, but the early loss to USC and a set back in Happy Valley means they're out of the national title hunt. All that means is somebody else besides Ohio State will get the bejezus beat out of them by Florida in the National Championship, allowing the Buckeyes to play in the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1997. Ohio State in Pasadena means the Big Ten as its best shot at winning the Grand Daddy of Them All for the first time since Wisconsin beat Stanford in 2000. Also, don't be surprised if the Pac 10 foe is Cal or Oregon instead of the Trojans.
2. Illinois, 11-1 (7-1) Loss- @ Ohio State 9/26
The Juice is finally loose! Yes, I'm probably more bullish on the Illini this year than anyone else outside (and maybe even inside) Champaign. The Illini have the best offense in the conference by a mile, and their D should be improved enough. They're the one offense in the Big Ten who can not only hang with Penn State's, but their passing attack can exploit the Nittany Lions' thin secondary, and getting that game at home is huge. Their loss to Ohio State will keep them from winning their first Big Ten title since 2001, but will still be a huge bounce-back for The Zooker.
3. Penn State, 10-2 (6-2) Losses: @ Illinois 10/3, @ Michigan 10/24
While they return some of the conference's most talented players, I just think replacing almost your entire receiving corps, offensive line and secondary, as well as your top three defensive ends, is going to be too much to overcome to win back-to-back Big Ten conference titles. They'll still be tough at home and another cupcake schedule will help them out (as does getting Ohio State at home), but I see a loss to Illinois, as well as an upset somewhere along the way. In 2007 it was Michigan, and last year it was the shocker to Iowa. Michigan seems to always have Joe Pa's number, and I think they get them again in the Big House.
4. Wisconsin, 10-2 (6-2) Losses: @ Minnesota 10/3, @ Ohio State 10/10
Despite a QB conundrum, their incredibly soft and forunate schedule (cupcake non-conny and they don't play Penn State or Illinois. Seriously) and returning talent will be more than enough to get the Badgers back to a New Year's Day bowl. As always they've got a stable running game and massive offensive line, and they might have their most talented group of pass catchers in years. They've got three weeks to figure things out defensively and at QB before their Big Ten opener against Michigan State. Fortunately, or unfortunately depending upon how much you hate head coach Bret Bielma, his job is safe for another season.
5. Iowa 9-3 (5-3) Losses: @ Penn State 9/26, @ Wisconsin 10/17, @ Ohio State 11/14
Since we hate Iowa here, it's difficult to look at them objectively, so this is as well as I could do. Their brutal road slate will be too much to overcome, and losses at Penn State (there's no way the Joe Pa's get upset by them two years in a row. Zero. Zilch. Nada) and Ohio State seem pretty obvious, but losing at Wisconsin? The Badgers are ALWAYS tough at home (since 2002 they're 19-8 at home in conference play) and Bucky will pull the upset at Camp Randall.
6. Minnesota 7-5 (4-4) Losses: California 9/19, @ Penn State 10/17, @ Ohio State 10/24, Illinois 11/7, @ Iowa 11/21
As I wrote yesterday, I see seven wins this year, but the Illinois, Michigan State and Sconnie games could go either way, which means I'm at least guaranteeing a revenge win over Northwestern.
7. Michigan State 7-5 (3-5) Losses: @ Wisconsin 9/26, @ Illinois 10/10, Iowa 10/24, @ Minnesota 10/31, Penn State 11/21
A program on the rise under coach Mark Dantonio, but I think they're a little overrated this year. The defense should be excellent but it's going to be difficult to replace tailback Javon Ringer and QB Brian Hoyer. I do think/hope they're good enough to knock around Notre Dame and keep the always-overrated Irish and their lame schedule out the National Title hunt.
8. Michigan 6-6 (3-5) Losses: Notre Dame 9/12, @ Michigan State 10/3, @ Iowa 10/10, @ Illinois 10/31, @ Wisconsin 11/14, Ohio State 11/21
The Wolverines will get back to a bowl, which should be barely enough for Rich Rod to keep his job for one more season. I see them pulling one big upset (the win over Penn State at home. I'd love for them to knock off Notre Dame, but it's just too early in the year for them to have things figured out), but they're going oh-fer on the road in conference this year.
9. Northwestern 6-6 (2-6) Losses: Minnesota 9/26, @ Michigan State 10/17, Penn State 10/31, @ Iowa 11/7, @ Illinois 11/14, Wisconsin 11/21
Pat Fitzgerald is working wonders in Evanston, and while he returns a solid defense it won't be enough to overcome an anemic offense. Plus they're Northwestern: I just can't take them seriously and see them being legit two years in a row. I also hope Minnesota beats them by 30.
10. Purdue 3-9 (1-7) WINS: Toledo 9/5, Northern Illinois 9/19, @ Indiana 11/21
Not a good year to be a football fan of Big Ten schools from the Hoosier state. Purdue's going to be lucky to split their non-conference games, and it's basically a coin flip to see whether they beat IU or not.
11. Indiana 3-9 (0-8) WINS: E. Kentucky 9/3, W. Michigan 9/12, @Akron 9/19
See above. For the love of all that's Maroon and Gold, why does Indiana have to be off the Gopher's schedule the next two years?!?!?
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