B1G Predictions

Hawkeye Insider Publisher Rob Howe has some fun while predicting the Big Ten Football Season.

Iowa CITY, Iowa - The Big Ten took a beating last year in the court of public opinion. Nobody sniffed national championship contention and two of its top teams were ineligible for the postseason.

The 2013 campaign opens with five conference schools in the AP Top 25. Before you buy into a resurgence, consider that four of them are ranked 17 or lower. Ohio State is No. 2.

Meanwhile, the SEC, winners of seven consecutive national championships, boast five teams in the Top 10 of both major polls this preseason. Alabama, Georgia, Texas A&M and South Carolina all sit in the first seven.

Perhaps the Big Ten teams are being punished for last year's shortcomings. There's probably some truth in that. We'd be fooling ourselves, though, if we pretended that the conference doesn't need to make up ground to catch the SEC.

Ohio State Coach Urban Meyer encouraged his conference colleagues to pick it up in recruiting. I'm pretty sure they're trying, Urban.

Of the high schools in the Fox Top 50 national poll, only eight hail from the Big Ten footprint. It's not an exact reflection of where the top talented is located, but it gives you an idea that the conference needs to pull players away from the warm weather schools in many instances. A lot of those athletes contribute the elite speed at the skill positions the league is lacking.

The Big Ten saw just one player selected in the first round of April's NFL Draft. The Cowboys picked Wisconsin center Travis Frederick at No. 31 overall. It was another sign that the league had fallen off.

Ohio State playing for a national championship or at least remaining in the conversation for most of '13 could pave the way for a resurrection. Nebraska and Michigan, two of the other "name" schools in the conference, could help things by becoming relevant again on the national landscape. That could be hard to do with apparent parity behind the Buckeyes.

While the balance might not be good for the league's perception across the country, it certainly might make for an interesting and wild race to the Big Ten title game. Let's take a look at how we see things shaking out:

ILLINOIS

Projected Record: 2-10 overall, 0-8 Big Ten.

Wins: Southern Illinois, Miami (Ohio).

Losses: Cincinnati, Washington (Soldier Field), at Nebraska, Wisconsin, Michigan State, at Penn State, at Indiana, Ohio State, at Purdue, Northwestern.

Illini Fun Fact: Dedicated in 1994, the Grange Rock honors Illini great Red Grange. It sits near the northeast end zone and comes from the same stone quarry in Indiana used to form the granite columns in the stadium. Players will touch the rock on their way to the field.

University Fun Fact: Developed the first transitional living program for students with physical disabilities needing personal assistant support services.

INDIANA

Projected Record: 6-6 overall, 3-5 Big Ten.

Wins: Indiana State, Navy, Bowling Green, Minnesota, Illinois, Purdue.

Losses: Missouri, Penn State, at Michigan State, at Michigan, at Wisconsin, at Ohio State.

Hoosier Fun Fact RB Anthony Thompson is the only IU football player to have his number (32) retired.

University Fun Fact: Kinsey Institute for the study of Human Sexual Behavior is located on campus.

IOWA

Projected Record: 6-6 overall, 3-5 Big Ten.

Wins: Northern Illinois, Missouri State, Western Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, at Purdue.

Losses: at Iowa State, at Minnesota, at Ohio State, Northwestern, Michigan, at Nebraska.

Hawkeye Fun Fact:Former DB Emlen Tunnell was the first African-American elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

University Fun Fact: First U.S. public university to admit men and women on an equal basis when its doors opened to students in 1855.

MICHIGAN

Projected Record: 10-2 overall, 6-2 Big Ten.

Wins: Central Michigan, Notre Dame, Akron, Connecticut, Minnesota, at Penn State, Indiana, Nebraska, at Iowa, Ohio State.

Losses: at Michigan State, at Northwestern.

Wolverine Fun Fact: Last October, Michigan won the 900th game in program history, becoming the first school to do so.

University Fun Fact: The university claims the only alumni association with a chapter on the moon, established in 1971 when the crew of Apollo 15 placed a charter plaque for a new U-M Alumni Association on the lunar surface.

MICHIGAN STATE

Projected Record: 8-4 overall, 5-3 Big Ten.

Wins: Western Michigan, South Florida, Youngstown State, Indiana, Purdue, at Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota.

Losses: at Notre Dame, at Iowa, at Nebraska, at Northwestern.

Spartan Fun Fact: Nick Saban's five-year record in East Lansing was 35-24 -1. In six years, Mark Dantonio is 51-28.

University Fun Fact: Only university in the country with on-campus medical schools graduating allopathic (MD) and osteopathic (DO) physicians, and veterinarians (DVMs)

MINNESOTA

Projected Record: 6-6 overall, 2-6 Big Ten.

Wins: UNLV, at New Mexico State, Western Illinois, San Jose State, Iowa, Penn State.

Losses: at Michigan, at Northwestern, Nebraska, at Indiana, Wisconsin, at Michigan State.

Golden Gopher Fun Fact: Up until 1992, the University of Minnesota marching band was in charge of the Goldy Gopher mascot. Members of the band rotated wearing the costume. After 1992, control of the mascot was given to the athletic department.

University Fun Fact: On September 2, 1952, the world's first successful open-heart surgery was performed at the University of Minnesota.

NEBRASKA

Projected Record: 10-2 overall, 6-2 Big Ten.

Wins: Wyoming, Southern Mississippi, UCLA, South Dakota State, Illinois, Purdue, Minnesota, Northwestern, Michigan State, Iowa.

Losses: at Michigan, at Penn State.

Husker Fun Fact: Every home game since the 1940s after the Huskers score their first touchdown, thousands of helium balloons are released into the sky by the fans. In 2012, a global helium shortage was about to put this tradition on hiatus, but after reviewing the amount of helium there was, the University kept the tradition alive throughout the 2012 season.

University Fun Fact: The first graduate college west of the Mississippi River was established at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1886.

NORTHWESTERN

Projected Record: 8-4 overall, 5-3 Big Ten.

Wins: Syracuse, Western Michigan, Maine, Minnesota, at Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Illinois.

Losses: at California, Ohio State, at Wisconsin, at Nebraska.

Wildcat Fun Fact: Before the Wildcats became the official school nickname, a caged live bear cub named Furpaw was the team's mascot. In 1923, however, the team had a bad season and decided the mascot was bad luck. During the following season, the nickname Wildcats was officially adopted by the university after the teams defense was described as a "wall of Purple wildcats" by Chicago Sun-Times writer Wallace Abbey.

University Fun Fact: The Rock is one of Northwestern's best-known landmarks, a huge chunk of stone set in a plaza in the middle of campus. Painting the Rock with colorful (in both senses of the word) slogans is perhaps Northwestern's best-known tradition. The Rock has served as the campus' low-tech message board since 1957, and displays messages about upcoming events, issues of the day, and even the occasional marriage proposal.

OHIO STATE

Projected Record: 11-1 overall, 7-1 Big Ten.

Wins: Buffalo, San Diego State, at California, Florida A&M, Wisconsin, at Northwestern, Iowa, Penn State, at Purdue, at Illinois, Indiana.

Losses: at Michigan.

Buckeye Fun Fact: Begun in 1934, each player who wins "first-team All-America" honors is recognized by the planting of a buckeye tree and installation of a plaque in Buckeye Grove, now located near the southwestern corner of Ohio Stadium next to Morrill Tower. Trees are planted in ceremonies held prior to the Spring Game.

University Fun Fact: Students and alumni often refer to OSU as The Ohio State University. "The" is actually an acronym that stands for Tradition, Honor, and Excellence.

PENN STATE

Projected Record: 8-4 overall, 5-3 Big Ten.

Wins: Syracuse (in NJ), Eastern Michigan, Central Florida, Kent State, at Indiana, Ilinois, Purdue, Nebraska.

Losses: Michigan, at Ohio State, at Minnesota, at Wisconsin.

Nittany Lion Fun Fact: Fifty tons of waste, on average, is collected at each home football game, of which approximately 35 percent is recycled.

University Fun Fact: The approximate 161,234 members of the Penn State Alumni Association make it the largest dues-paying alumni association of its kind in the world.

PURDUE

Projected Record: 3-9 overall, 1-7 Big Ten.

Wins: Indiana State, Northern Illinois, Illinois.

Losses: at Cincinnati, Notre Dame, at Wisconsin, Nebraska, at Michigan State, Ohio State, Iowa, at Penn State, at Indiana.

Boilermaker Fun Fact: The marching band's Big Bass Drum is known as the "world's largest drum," it stands 10 feet tall on its field carriage and is handled by a crew of four band members with two beaters.

University Fun Fact: Students often begin and end their time at Purdue with a run through either of the West Lafayette campus's fountains. The Purdue Mall Fountain, dedicated in 1989 as a gift from the class of 1939, and the Loeb Fountain, built in 1959 and relocated to Founder's Park in 1989, run from April through October.

WISCONSIN

Projected Record: 9-3 overall, 6-2 Big Ten.

Wins: Massachusetts, Tennesse Tech, Purdue, Northwestern, at Illinois, BYU, Indiana, at Minnesota, Penn State.

Losses: at Arizona State, at Ohio State, at Iowa.

Badger Fun Fact: Bucky Badger's full name is Buckingham U. Badger.

University Fun Fact: Camp Randall Stadium was once used as a training ground during the Civil War.

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Offensive Player of the Year: Braxton Miller, Ohio State. If he stays healthy, a big if, should be a Heisman favorite.

Defensive Player of the Year: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State. Few quarterbacks will throw his way in '13.

True Freshman to Watch: Dontre Wilson, Ohio State. Fills the need for speed in Columbus.

Under the Radar Star: Ra'shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota. Could be a first-round pick in April's draft.

Coach on Hot Seat: Kevin Wilson, Indiana. It's Year 3 at $1.3 million annually with a staff that's also handsomely compensated. The first two seasons have seen a total of five wins.

Best Non-Conference Game: Notre Dame at Michigan, Sept. 7, 7 p.m. CT. Huge game for the national perception of the conference.

Senseless Non-Conference Game: Florida A&M at Ohio State, Sept. 21. The Buckeyes should be ashamed of themselves for scheduling an FCS opponent at home. A&M was 4-7 in '12.

Best Conference Game: Ohio State at Michigan, Nov. 30 - The Wolverines could very well be in position to dash OSU's national title hopes.

Worst Conference Game: Illinois at Purdue, Nov. 23 - Luckily, basketball season will have started at both schools.


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