NCAA: The Way Too Early Big Ten Football Predictions

The Big Ten conference can’t be happy with the results of the last two seasons. The conference hasn’t sent a team to the College Football Playoff (CFP) since Ohio State went in 2017. They haven’t had a team appear in the National Championship since the Buckeyes won the very first CFP in 2014.

Heading into 2019 however, there’s a lot to like about where the conference stands. Ohio State, Michigan, and Penn State figure to all be legitimate playoff contenders in the East. On the other side, the West looks to be stronger than it has in many years with Nebraska, Purdue, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, and Northwestern having legitimate chances to win the division.

Here’s a way too early prediction of each Big Ten team’s final record:

Big Ten East Projected Standings:

  1. Ohio State 11-1: There’s no real surprise here. Despite losing a ton of talent including starting quarterback Dwayne Haskins, the Buckeyes will have reinforcements on the way. Though the quarterback position is a question mark, there’s plenty of talent on the OSU roster to make them conference favorites.
  2. Michigan 10-2: Like Ohio State, Michigan will come into the 2019 season with a lot of talent NFL bound. However, they will have quarterback Shea Patterson back to go along with a loaded roster. Michigan will again be a playoff contender but, need to beat Ohio State if they’re going to go anywhere.
  3. Penn State 9-3:Penn State won’t have Trace McSorley back under center but, unlike Michigan and Ohio State the Nittany Lions will have many of their young starters returning in 2019. It may be a year where the team figures each other out but, should still be a winning one in happy valley.
  4. Michigan State 8-4: The Spartans has a disappointing 2018 season but, there’s reason for optimism for 2019. Quarterback Brian Lewerke will be back and healthy and have a lot of his weapons from last season returning. The defense which was strong a year ago also is mostly still in tack. The Spartans should slightly improve from a 7-6 2018.
  5. Maryland 6-6: With the hire of Alabama offensive coordinator Mike Locksley to be the Terps new head coach, all the drama surrounding the past regime is in the rear view. The Terps showed promise last season beating Texas and nearly Ohio State thus, under Locksley they should find their way back to bowl eligibility.
  6. Indiana 5-7: The Hoosiers football program have taken steps forward the last few seasons but, missed out on a bowl bid in 2018. There isn’t a lot to like about Indiana heading into 2019 but, their schedule is manageable enough that they should come close to a bowl bid.
  7. Rutgers 2-10:After a four-win season in 2017, it seemed Rutgers was finally on the upswing. That promise was short lived as the Scarlet Knights won just one game in 2018. There’s a good amount of talent on the offensive side of the ball but, the defense again is shaky. It probably won’t be a pretty season in Jersey.

Big Ten West Projected Standings:

  1. Iowa 9-3: Iowa quietly had an excellent 2018-19 season. They won the Outback Bowl over Mississippi State finishing the season with nine wins. Heading into 2019 the Hawkeyes have Nate Stanley back under center along with his great offensive line. The defense is also in great shape with a handful of 2020 NFL Draft prospects looking to win big in their final college season. The Hawkeyes are the early favorite to win a suddenly competitive Big Ten West.
  2. Wisconsin 8-4:Wisconsin at one point in 2018 was ranked in the top ten. Unfortunately for the Badgers they struggled to put teams away all season finishing short of a big ten west division title. They won their Pinstripe Bowl match-up with Miami and flashed potential with the nation’s top running back Jonathan Taylor set to take pressure off a new quarterback Wisconsin should improve in 2018.
  3. Minnesota 8-4: The Golden Gophers took a step forward in PJ Fleck’s second season. They reached and won a bowl game over Georgia Tech. Heading into 2019, the Gophers return their dynamic backfield of Shannon Brooks and Rodney Smith. Not to mention, they have key guys returning on both sides of the ball. This team is underrated and one to keep a close eye on in 2019.
  4. Purdue 8-4: Despite an ugly showing in their bowl game loss to Auburn, Purdue football, under Jeff Brohm, is fun to watch. The Boilermakers blew out Ohio State and held their ground in big ten play. With Rondale Moore only a sophomore and a talented recruiting class coming in 2019, Purdue has the potential to be special.
  5. Nebraska 7-5: Despite a second straight eight-loss season, the Huskers are on their way back to football prominence under head coach Scott Frost. Sophomore quarterback Adrian Martinez leads the charge for the young Huskers. They will likely be back in a bowl game in 2019. In addition, they have the potential to climb back into the top 25 after a two-year absence.
  6. Northwestern 6-6: Northwestern is coming off their third straight bowl win as well as a Big Ten West division title. They hung close with Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship but, mainly because of a senior guided team. There’s a lot of players to replace including quarterback Clayton Thorson. We may see the Wildcats take a step back in 2019.
  7. Illinois 3-9: It hasn’t been pretty for the Illini in recent years. Yet, Lovie Smith has started to improve the program from the ground up slowly. Despite his efforts and improved recruiting classes, it’s unlikely there will be much winning for Illinois in 2019.
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