|Bowl Teams:||9||(Not including 5-7 team bids)|
|Coaches on Hot Seat:||Indiana|
1. Ohio State - I still think that that damn school down South has the team to beat. I think Urban Meyer is a fantastic coach and I think he'll get his offensive issues sorted. I don't think we understood just how big of a loss then OC (now HC at Houston) Todd Herman really was to the Buckeyes but I think we do now. I see an undefeated run for the Buckeyes and a return engagement into the CFP. (More on that later).
2. Michigan - I place them number 2. in the conference because I think they are better than Nebraska. There's a LOT of CFP betting interest in the Wolverines this year but I'm not buying in, yet. I think Michigan is going to be very, very good defensively, and struggle a little bit on the offensive side of the ball early on. That said, I think Harbaugh is amassing insane amounts of talent at the school and. if (hopefully) he and Meyer decide to stick around, we could be in for a new 10 years war. (fingers crossed).
3. Nebraska - Here's the thing, I don't think the Cornhuskers are going to be all that great this year. What I do think is that they are going to ride a pretty favorable schedule into the conference championship game where they are going to take a drubbing from Ohio State. Still, given their recent woes this is a good result for the Cornhuskers and represents an improvement.
4. Michigan State - There will be no "kick-six" this year to bail Sparty out, and I think they will take a step back this year but will still be able to beat everyone in the conference save Michigan and Ohio State. State also has to travel to South Bend to play Notre Dame which I think is going to trip them up. Dantonio's team is going to be solid on defense, but not so solid on offense again this year.
5. Minnesota. - Last year was brutal for the Gophers with the mid-season retirement of Jerry Kill. I think that obscured some talent on the roster that will fully reveal itself this time around. I like the Gophers offensively and expect them to run the hell out of the ball. On defense they have decent, but not great, speed which should hold up except against the top teams in the conference.
6. Wisconsin. - Poor Wisconsin. I don't think they are a bad team but they're slated to play a potentially great team in LSU to open the season and I think that's going to be a bridge too far. There are teams in the B1G that I think can hold up to, and beat, the top SEC teams this year (more on that later) but I don't think Wisconsin is one of them.
7. Maryland. - Ugly helmets, pretty good team. Last year I thought Maryland under achieved but this year I think they can put it together due to experience and, to be honest, a better all-around team. They also have a pretty favorable schedule catching Ohio State and Michigan State at home. Tough games include Minnesota on the road however which could be their biggest surprise of the season.
8. Penn State. - The rebuilding from the Sandusky disaster continues, and head coach James Franklin is still trying to work against negative perceptions in recruiting. Gone is QB Christian Hackenberg, In is SO Trace McSorely who will be more mobile. To be fair, a kitchen counter would be more mobile than Hackenberg. The Lions are harping on their Sr laden O-line, but people forget that the returning players haven't been that good. Mediocrity this year, maybe better down the road if they can recruit some linemen.
9. Iowa. - Last year was a dream season for the Hawkeyes, this year I think they come crashing back to Earth. They won't be bad, they have too many winnable games on their schedule, but they won't run the table as they did last year either. I think we're going to see that they lack enough overall team speed to really compete with the big guys this year. They make a bowl, but they won't get as lucky. No one can.
10. Illinois. - Hardee, Turner and Cain might be the best WR grouping in the conference. The question is will transfer QB West Lunt be able to get them the ball? The Illini are relying on a SO and true FR to man the guard positions this year so running the ball and pass protection will be key. I don't think the Illini have sufficient talent on this roster to be all that competitive in an improving league. I'm also not sold that HC Lovie Smith's transition to the college game is going to be seamless either.
11. Northwestern. - Coach Pat Fitzgerald has always gotten the most out of his players, and he always seems to be hanging around fringe bowl contention. I don't think so this year however because I think the Wildcats are rebuilding. Yes, they have a roster full of Jr's and Sr's but those are, in large part, guys who have been behind more talented starters for a couple of years now. Still, they are a well coached team and could pull an upset or two and squeak into a Bowl, I'd never put that past them.
12. Indiana. - I think this is the year that HC Kevin Wilson's run with the Hoosiers comes to an end. The former OU offensive coordinator has never really seemed to be able to recruit the type of player that he needs to run his offense, and defensively they just haven't been all that good. Couple that with an unfavorable schedule and I think you have a recipe for an off-season coaching search. Houston HC Herman will be at the top of their list of course, but I think Herman should stay far, far away from this mess.
14a. Purdue. - This place is a mess. The only reason I place them before Rutgers is because P comes just before R in the alphabet. In truth, both Purdue and Rutgers are dumpster fires of athletic programs. This is coach Hazell's 4th year and I think it's his last. There are so many holes on this team it's hard to find too many strengths.
14b. Rutgers. - This place is, also, a mess. New HC Chris Ash has inherited a program with little talent or morale right now. I think Ash is a good coach, but I'm not sure if he can overcome the structural deficiencies at the State University of New Jersey right now. To be honest, the B1G should have tagged UConn for expansion over Rutgers. This is not a power 5 program and I don't think it will ever grow into one.