Ohio State will be eligible to participate in postseason action this year, after going undefeated last season and sitting out Big Ten Championship and bowl season. Other Big Ten teams will be gunning for the Buckeyes as they are the clear favorite to win the league. I think Nebraska, Michigan, Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Indiana (yes, Indiana) will also be contenders.
Top Big Ten playmaker in 2013: Braxton Miller (QB – Ohio State)
Braxton Miller’s ability to move Ohio State’s offense forward it well-documented. He has the ability to escape a collapsing pocket and make a tremendous play down the field. His game has gotten better over the years. Last year, he threw for 2,039 yards and 15 touchdowns, while he ran for 1,271 yards and 13 touchdowns. He seems to be on everyone’s preseason Heisman list, including mine. His staying healthy will be the single most significant determinant in how far Ohio State goes this year.
Most disappointing team: Iowa
An eight-loss record a year ago left many Hawkeye fans wondering what had happened to their program. Iowa has never really been a BCS contender, but it has always been competitive. But not lately. I don’t think that will change in 2013. With trips to Iowa State, Ohio State, Purdue and Nebraska on the schedule, I think the Hawkeyes will end with five wins and seven losses. With a record like this, I think Kirk Ferentz, who just a few years ago was the highest paid coach in the sport, will be shown the door.
Surprise team: Indiana
Kevin Wilson enters his third season as the head coach in Bloomington. In his first year, his team (if you can call it that) went 1-11. Its only win was against FCS South Carolina State. Last year, his squad went 4-8, which included two Big Ten victories — at Illinois and Iowa. It was a major improvement. I’m really sold on the job Wilson is doing at Indiana, and I think the Hoosiers are in line for another big season. I like them to win seven games and, for the first time since the 2007 season, clinch a bowl berth.
Top two games to watch:
At long last, I think the Michigan vs. Ohio State rivalry will return to where it belongs. This year’s edition, which will be played in Ann Arbor, should have a direct effect on who will represent the Leaders and Legends Divisions in Indianapolis.
Wisconsin at Ohio State on September 28th is also a game I will be most interested to see. The Badgers will be in the thick of it once again this year, and both teams should come into this one unbeaten.
Big Ten Leaders standings:
- Ohio State 11-1 (7-1)
- Wisconsin 11-1 (7-1)
- Indiana 7-5 (4-4)
- Purdue 5-7 (3-5)
- Illinois 6-6 (2-6)
- Penn State 5-7 (2-6)
Big Ten Legends standings:
- Nebraska 11-1 (7-1)
- Michigan 10-2 (6-2)
- Michigan State 8-4 (5-3)
- Northwestern 6-6 (3-5)
- Iowa 5-7 (2-6)
- Minnesota 4-8 (0-8)
Big Ten Championship Game: Ohio State 38 Nebraska 31
Nebraska’s return to the Big Ten Championship Game will be a much more competitive affair. I still like the Buckeyes to win the league. With only one loss on their resume, I think Ohio State will be right in the thick of the BCS conversation.