The Big Ten is a very strong conference each season. But aside from Ohio State, they have seen very little success when it matters. In order to gain national respect, these teams need to step up when it counts.
The East division is led by the Buckeyes. We’ll find out early on if the drama surrounding them the last couple weeks will affect them. JT Barrett is gone, but the running game, behind JK Dobbins and Mike Weber will be among the best in the country. They also bring back their top 6 receivers. Michigan is a team looking to get over the hump. Wolverine fans desperately want them to beat OSU. Harbaugh may need that this season. Shea Patterson will be under center and he’ll have the entire Wolverine receiving crew returning. Karan Higdon and Chris Evans provide a dynamic 1-2 punch in the backfield. Michigan also has one of the best defenses in the country.
Penn State is heading into the season without Saquon Barkley. Huge loss, but QB Trace McSorley has proven to be a top QB. They lost DaeSean Hamilton and Mike Gesicki on the receiving end, but the passing game should be ok. Michigan State is returning 19 starters, including 10 on offense. Brian Lewerke was very effective last season and he gets his top 3 WRs back. Senior RB LJ Scott will anchor the running game.
Maryland, coming off of a 4-8 season, is facing a tough schedule this year. Losing WR DJ Moore doesn’t help either. Ty Johnson will be relied upon to run the ball, but the passing game needs to be there for him to have success. Indiana will be handing the reigns over to Arizona transfer Brandon Dawkins. This will improve their passing attack. RB Morgan Ellison looks to contribute more this season to provide a solid running game. Rutgers will have a tough go of it this year. Their schedule isn’t easy and they’ve lost some pieces on both sides of the ball. They went 4-8 last year, don’t expect much more this season.
The West division will see Wisconsin at the top. On offense, 9 starters return, including QB Alex Hornibrook, RB Jonathan Taylor, and most of their WRs. They have a strong defense every season, expect the same this year. Iowa will be led by QB Nate Stanley and TE Noah Fant. I expect quite a few red zone connections between these two. Wadley is off to the NFL, leaving the Hawkeyes with an inexperienced running game. Northwestern will have Clayton Thorson at QB again, and he gets his top 2 receivers back as well. Sophomore RB Jeremy Larkin looks to continue his success from last season out of the backfield.
Nebraska is an enigma heading into this season. Tanner Lee is gone and freshman Adrian Martinez is expected to start under center. WR Stanley Morgan returns coming off a very nice season. It seems to me that the running game will be by committee. Minnesota will have a new QB this season, but RB Rodney Smith and their top 2 WRs are returning. I think they improve slightly on their 5-7 record from last season. Purdue is a team that I feel can surprise some people this season. QB Elijah Sindelar is back, as is WR Jackson Anthrop. These 2 should connect quite often. This is another team that looks to be running back by committee. Illinois, 2-10 last year, doesn’t look to have improved much. This may be a long season for Illini fans. They are a very young team.
The Big Ten is always an exciting conference to watch. The issues surrounding Urban Meyer may or may not affect OSU. We find out in a couple days whether or not he’ll still be coaching them at all. Or, if he is, if any suspensions are imminent. This could very well change the landscape for the Big Ten. Who steps up if they stumble?