When it comes to the Big Ten this year the East is the Beast. I think that 3 of the top four conference teams will come from that division and that the talent gap is very real.
Clearly, the favorite in the starting gate is Ohio State and I see no reason to bet against them. Head Coach Urban Meyer has done what he's always done, out-recruited everyone and built a power. The clear number 2 teams is (still) Michigan State, with Penn State nipping at their heels as Head Coach James Franklin is loving life now that the post-season ban and scholarship restrictions, stemming from the Sandusky horrors, are finally in the rearview mirror.
In the West, I think Wisconsin is the clear favorite and it's not close. Many are picking Iowa as a dark horse because they have a relatively easy schedule. Unfortunately for the Hawkeyes I don't think their team is strong enough to compete. I see Jerry Kill coached Minnesota as a more likely threat to usurp the Badgers than anyone, but I still don't think they have the firepower to do it.
Finally, my team, Michigan. This is the first year of the Harbaugh era and, while excitement is high, I think the team still has several holes in terms of talent that they need to fill before they can truly contend. Still, I have them making a bowl.
So, without further ado, here's how I think it will go.
1. Ohio State 12-0 (8-0 Conference) regular season (Champion of the East)
2. Michigan State 11-1 (7-1 Conference)
3. Penn State 10-2 (6-2 Conference)
4. Michigan 7-5 (4-4 Conference)
5. Rutgers 6-6 (2-6 Conference)
6. Maryland 5-7 (2-6 Conference)
7. Indiana 4-8 (1-7 Conference)
1. Wisconsin 11-1 (7-1 Conference) regular season (Champion of the West)
2. Minnesota 8-4 (5-3 Conference)
3. Nebraska 7-5 (5-3 Conference)
4. Iowa 6-6 (3-5 Conference)
5. Northwestern 5-7 (3-5 Conference)
6. Illinois 5-7 (1-7 Conference)
7. Purdue 4-8 (1-7 Conference)
To be honest, the bottom half of the Big Ten is still pretty bad. To be fair however, the bottom half of every conference is not that great, it's just that the trend of the media is to try and penalize the Big Ten more than say, the SEC or Pac-12, who have some bad teams making up the bottom half of their conferences.
The thing is, the top of the East is going to be very, very good. Ohio State is one of the best teams in the Country, as is Michigan State, Wisconsin has been tough for years now and Penn State is rebuilding successfully. In the middle there is a lot of parity, with Michigan, Minnesota and Nebraska all coming in at about the same level. I think Rutgers and Iowa round out the Bowl picture for the Big 10, but Northwestern, Illinois and Maryland could sneak in there if they pull an upset or two. At the bottom, poor Indiana and Purdue are hopeless, they need new directions in both of their programs,.
In the conference championship game I think we get a repeat of last year, and Ohio State wins again, although I doubt we see another 59-0 shellacking.
The good thing for the Big Ten is that all of the teams get to pepper their schedule with some pretty horrible MAC teams thus guaranteeing a winning record for some fairly mediocre teams. That said, Ohio State's Playoff Championship and Michigan State's bowl win last year revitalized the image of this conference and they're not longer considered a pathetic joke by all but certain talk-radio hosts and sports writers who don't know anything anyway, or are just trying to get some attention.
So, it's Ohio State then, and we'll see them as the number 1 seed in the College Football Playoff. If anyone can upset the apple cart it's Michigan State, but I don't think they have the offensive firepower.