With CBR's Big Ten Preview Week drawing to a close, it's time for our staff to give some bold predictions for the conference in the coming season.
Allen Kenney: I have a hard time seeing Michigan living up to expectations this year.
Brady Hoke had a helluva debut season, but living on the edge the way the Wolverines did last year is tough to sustain for two years in a row. Michigan went 3-1 in games decided by eight points or fewer. In one of those wins, the Sugar Bowl versus Virginia Tech, UM was nearly doubled in total yardage. Not to mention, the Wolverines feasted on turnovers. The Maize and Blue won't get all of those breaks this year.
The schedule is also appreciably harder this season. Michigan has road games against Ohio St., Nebraska, Notre Dame and a dangerous Purdue team to go along with the opener against Alabama at JerryWorld.
Even if Hoke fields a better team in 2012, I expect the Wolverines to take a step back in the win-loss column.
Big Ten Champions: Wisconsin over Michigan
Andrew Coppens: What Allen said, I've been saying the same thing all summer about the Maize 'N Blue
as far as the win-loss column.
But the one team hardly anyone is talking about is Northwestern. Pat Fitzgerald is a helluva a coach and my favorite interview in the Big Ten. He also happens to have one of the better playmakers in the conference in Kain Colter who will be playing QB full-time in 2012. It wouldn't surprise me to see them with a chance of playing for a trip to Indy in late November.
Big Ten Champions: Wisconsin over Michigan State
Aaron Torres: My prediction? I just don't see how Ohio State has the weapons to win a B1G tit---oh, wait, never mind. My bad Ohio State.
In all seriousness though, does anyone else feel like the Urban Meyer hype machine is a little bit in overdrive right now? Now, is he an excellent coach? Of course. Do I believe that he has his personal problems under control more than he did in the final days in Gainesville? Yes, I do. Will he ultimately be successful in Columbus? I have little doubt.
But we are talking about 2012, and the idea that some people are placing Ohio State in their preseason Top 10's is laughable to me. Even Top 20 I have a hard time believing. I mean seriously, did anyone actually watch this team last year? Adam Sandler's team in the Longest Yard had more talent than those guys, and the Buckeyes lost a bunch of their best players from last year's roster as well. I mean seriously, people do realize this is a team that finished behind PURDUE in the divisional standings in 2011, right?
As for the roster, I like it, but am hardly in love with it. Braxton Miller is an elite athlete who'll get there eventually... but right now he is still a flawed passer with minimal help around him. The running backs are talented (I expect big things from Carlos Hyde this year) but no one who has proven they can do it week-in and week-out like Boom Herron, Beanie Wells. There might be one wide receiver on this entire roster that could've played at Florida in Meyer's hey day (Corey Brown). The defense has been wiped clean of the depth from the (vacated) Sugar Bowl season two years ago. Point being, this is a good football team, but not without flaw.
In the end, I do believe this team will be improved from the 6-7 season from a year ago, but to anyone who thinks that this is a team that's going to go 10-2 simply because of Meyer's presence... well, I'm guessing you also believe that purse you bought your wife on the street corner in Times Square was real Gucci too. Guess what? It isn't. And this team isn't even coming close to sniffing 10 wins.
Best case scenario I see with this club is 8-4, and really, I think 7-5 is more realistic.Urban Meyer is good at what he does. He isn't a miracle worker either.
Big Ten Champions: Michigan State over Wisconsin
Kevin McGuire: I don't know exactly how off the wall this is, but I have a very good feeling about Wisconsin quarterback Danny O'Brien this year. Will he be Russell Wilson? Probably not, but the Badgers don't need him to be Russell Wilson either. I'm not buying that O'Brien's sophomore season shows he is a bust the way some will. I think he was just another victim of what could only be described as a tire fire at Maryland in year one under Randy Edsall. I don't think O'Brien, during the time he was on the field, was representative of his talents, much in the same way I do not think Edsall is as terrible a coach as he looked last year.
With Wisconsin O'Brien will have the luxury of handing the football off to Montee Ball 20 times a game, and that makes most any quarterback's job a little easier, but when the time comes when he does need to throw the pigskin I think O'Brien will be in a good situation with a program that is known for solid offensive lines and has shown some decent talent at the wide receive position. I think by the end of the season O'Brien will prove to be the best all-around quarterback in the Big Ten, and that includes Denard Robinson at Michigan.
With a rebound season from O'Brien in Madison, I expect Wisconsin to once again win the Leaders Division (it helps that Ohio State and Penn State are out of the running) by holding off surprisingly tough challenges from Illinois and Purdue, and I can see the Badgers once again making a trip to Pasadena. Will the third time be the charm? I don't know, but they better take advantage of it soon because I believe Ohio State will be ready to make some noise in year two of Urban Renewal.
Big Ten Champions: Wisconsin over Michigan
Dave Singleton: I'm going to walk out on a limb here and pick Nebraska to win the Big Ten Northwest
Division (no "Leaders" and "Legends" for me). I realize that Nebraska has lost some key contributors from defense as well as defensive coordinator Carl Pellini to a head coaching job at FAU. I do think there is
enough talent coming back for the Cornhuskers to be formidable enough to win their division.
I think Michigan State takes a step back. I don't think they are going to crater; I believe enough in Mark Dantonio to think he can keep them from collapsing. But the losses on offense at the receiver and quarterback positions will be felt in East Lansing.
Michigan is the other choice to win the division, but they have to go to Lincoln to face the Cornhuskers late in October. It sets up well for the Wolverines, even with a daunting non-conference schedule, but I like Nebraska's overall schedule a little bit better, and that game will make a difference.
Big Ten Champions: Wisconsin over Nebraska