Finally, it’s August so that means football is close to being back. The NCAA season is imminent and should provide another set of unexpected as well as chaotic events.
Most people would rather focus on the player that could win the Heisman or even the team that could hoist up a national championship. However, none of these things can be achieved without owning your conference and taking it one week at a time.
Without further ado, let’s break down the Big Ten.
The Top Dogs
The team to beat in the Big 10 is once again the Ohio State Buckeyes. The Buckeyes have to replace JT Barrett, but previous seasons have shown that quarterback woes are the least of Ohio State’s problems. The defensive side will be huge for them, sporting one of the best defensive lines that only Clemson could rival. They get Michigan at home this season which will be big considering the tumultuous events surrounding Columbus. The head coaching situation could be a deciding factor as well but the Bucks have talent to overcome it.
After winning 10 games in back-to-back seasons to start Jim Harbaugh’s tenure, the Michigan Wolverines slipped to 8-5 last fall. The on-field regression wasn’t a surprise as they only returned six starters and were forced to play three quarterbacks. Signal caller is not an issue this season with the transfer of Shea Patterson from Ole Miss. The stout defense led by Devin Bush and Rashan Gary means the Wolverines could be poised to take over this year.
The Wisconsin Badgers would have made the College Football Playoff last year if they had beat Ohio State in the championship game which is easier said than done. The Badgers have a Heisman hopeful in Jonathan Taylor who is arguably the best running back in college this year. Alex Hornibrook threw 15 interceptions and the defense only returns three starters this year with the major voids at corner. Let those problems get fixed and another championship game will be played by the Badgers.
Top Players to Watch
Bush was the anchor to the Michigan defense as he had 95 tackles, 10 TFL and 5.5 sacks in 2017. Bush is a different breed at linebacker as he is not the biggest, but he provides defensive mismatches. Bush is fast, strong, and very aggressive and reads plays better than anybody, making opposing quarterbacks nervous.
When you hear about Ohio State, the first you thing you might think about is offense, but when you watch Ohio State you see the defensive dominance. Nick Bosa spearheads that defensive assault. In 2017, he had 8.5 sacks and 16 tackles for a loss. He did it with speed, finesse, and power. Expect him to boost those numbers in 2018.
Wisconsin’s Taylor is a Heisman hopeful coming off a season where he rushed for almost 2,000 yards and being dubbed the conference’s Freshman of the Year. Expect Taylor to be bigger, stronger, and faster this year. That could be a scary sight considering the fact that he is only 19.
If Michigan’s Patterson plays to his potential he will own the conference. He will be stepping into a situation where two parties will be benefiting. He will be benefit from getting the playing time he wants and Michigan can truly say they are contenders now. Patterson was the biggest transfer of the summer and will only increase Michigan’s hopes of contending in the conference and on a national scale. It is safe to say they will not finished 91st in total yardage on offense this season.
Saquon Barkley carried a big load for the Penn State Nittany Lions the last two years. However, Trace McSorley returning at quarterback will make losing Barkley not as bad. PSU also has scheduling on their side with Ohio State, Michigan, Iowa, and Wisconsin all being played at home.
The Iowa Hawkeyes are projected to go 5-4 in conference play. Their best shot to win the division is against Wisconsin at home. They do not have to play Ohio State, Michigan, or Michigan State in crossover play. Quarterback Nate Stanley is returning after a season in which he threw 26 touchdowns. Iowa’s defense will also be stout like always.
The Big Ten is in shambles right now with Ohio State making many (unwanted) headlines. It should be even more wide open as we approach season’s end.