1. Ohio State -- It’s the trendy pick for a reason. Ohio State could very well be the No. 1 team in the country when Rutgers travels to face them this October. It’s hard not to pick a team coming off an undefeated season that returns its All-American quarterback.
2. Michigan State -- The Spartans were stellar last season, and have arguably the best defense in the country. There could be growing pains with some new faces, but they remain a serious BCS contender out of the gate.
3. Michigan -- It’s a big year for Brady Hoke after going 3-5 in the conference and losing the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl last season. The Wolverines hauled in a huge recruiting class and return some impact names to Ann Arbor.
4. Penn State -- James Franklin has all of the momentum in the world, but has not coached a game. Expect things to get tougher with an inexperienced offensive line and a thinned out roster because of NCAA sanctions. Sophomore quarterback Christian Hackenberg is the real deal and can make stars out of the Nittany Lions’ skill players if given enough time in the pocket.
5. Maryland -- The Terps and Randy Edsall have dangerous potential when healthy. The key phrase – when healthy. Maryland has had some brutal injury concerns over the last two seasons and lost to Marshall in Annapolis, Md., to end a 7-6 ACC season.
6. Rutgers -- Take a step back from fandom and look at it objectively. Rutgers has serious quarterback questions and is coming off a disappointing season in a mediocre football conference. The Scarlet Knights have an element of surprise for opponents, but must overcome a year’s worth of distractions and the transition out of the AAC.
7. Indiana -- It’s a very close battle between the bottom four teams in the division. The Hoosiers caught teams by surprise with an innovative offensive look last year, but fell short of a bowl game. Teams have a lot more film on the two-quarterback attack, but both are back from last season to even the odds.
1. Wisconsin -- The Badgers return a running game that is beyond impressive, and haven’t digressed whatsoever since losing Bret Bielema to Arkansas two years ago. Look for a strong showing in the western division here, and an even more interesting Homecoming for Rutgers fans. Melvin Gordon is an impact player and the biggest challenge to Braxton Miller for Offensive Player of the Year.
2. Nebraska -- The always entertaining Bo Pelini was one of the biggest winners of bowl season by leading the Cornhuskers to victory over Georgia. Nebraska fell short of its preseason goals last year, but brings momentum and key returners as the biggest challenger to Wisconsin in the west division.
3. Iowa -- The Hawkeyes come off a solid season that resulted in five conference wins and an Outback Bowl appearance. There is little separation between the top three teams in the western division.
4. Northwestern -- Northwestern will have the attention of Rutgers fans to see what receiver Miles Shuler brings to the table for his new squad. The Wildcats started off very hot in 2013 but lost a lot of momentum midway through the year and finished at just 1-7 in the conference.
5. Minnesota -- Coach Jerry Kill started the Gopher turnaround last year, and can continue momentum this year. Minnesota made back-to-back bowl games in 2012 and 2013, but lost both in Texas Bowl appearances.
7. Purdue -- The Boilermakers have low expectations after nearly going winless in 2013.
Offensive Player of the Year -- Ohio State QB Braxton Miller – Miller is a heavy, heavy favorite for this honor and a legitimate Heisman Trophy contender. If Ohio State comes close to running the table like last year, it is only logical for its top offensive player to take home this honor. The former Scout.com five-star recruit has more than 8,000 combined passing and rushing yards and 84 touchdowns going into his final season.
Defensive Player of the Year -- Michigan State DE Shilique Calhoun – Calhoun, a Jersey guy, will put up the stats that voters love in a defensive player. He will also do it for a very strong defense. Calhoun broke out last year as a second-team All-American. The next challenge is to continue his success with a bigger spotlight on him.
Freshman of the Year -- Michigan DB Jabrill Peppers – The four-time state champion has no plans of flying under the radar or biding his time. Peppers picked Michigan with intentions of making an immediate impact, and will have plenty of eyes on him because of the hype that surrounded a stellar high school career.