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Big 10 Football
Preview and Odds
Most years, you can preview Big 10 football by taking a look at a handful of likely contenders that rarely changes. Michigan, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Penn State and now Nebraska would be at the top of the pecking order with Iowa not far behind. Every now and then Purdue, Indiana, Minnesota, Northwestern and Illinois make a run or are at least very competitive. It's all about recruiting and likely won't change any time soon. The best players are going to choose to go to those schools at the top of this list.
But this may not be just any year. There are some significant happenings in the Big 10 that could have an impact on that traditional pecking order. The obvious would be the Penn State situation. It's hard to imagine Penn State having even a decent year. Many players did stay with the program, but they lost at least a half dozen, including Silas Redd who ran for 1,241 yards last year. A new coach in Bill O'Brien means learning new schemes and all of that has to go hand in hand with the sanctions handed down by the NCAA which includes scholarship limitations and no Bowl/Title game appearances.
Ohio State would be the other penalized team, not eligible to play in the Big 10 Title game but obviously in much better shape than Penn State. They return 9 starters on defense and while they lost 7 games last year, they were all close but one. There may be some growing pains with a new coach, but it's not just any new coach, it's Urban Meyer. We look for Meyer to make his presence felt right off the bat. The Buckeyes may not be eligible for post season, but they'll have a big impact on the Big 10 by handing some contenders a loss here and there.
Wisconsin is a no brainer to pick as a contender in the Big 10. They contend every year, routinely winning 10 or 11 games. They replace Russell Wilson with another ACC transfer at QB, Danny O'Brien. All in all they return 5 starters on the offense and 6 on defense, but remember, this is a program that is generally loaded with recruits. The Badgers schedule is also very cooperative. They get their two toughest games, Michigan State and Ohio State at home and they don't play Michigan. Also worth mentioning is that both Ohio State and Penn State are in Wisky's division within the Big 10. So there two toughest competitors won't be able to compete for the top spot. Go ahead and pen the Badgers into the Big 10 Title game.
Nebraska will be interesting to watch. They were 9-4 a year ago and they return 7 starters on each side of the ball, including QB Taylor Martinez. However, they were smoked by the Big 10 elite last year, losing 45-17 at Michigan, 48-17 at Wisconsin and they were hammered by South Carolina in the Capital One Bowl, 30-13. Those are some big gaps to close.
Michigan will enter year 2 of Brady Hokes tenure and it will be hard to improve upon last years 11-2 run. They open up September 1st against Alabama, which should tells us right off the bat how the Wolverines fit into the big picture in 2012. They also have tough road games at Notre Dame, Nebraska and Ohio State. The Wolverines will go bowling for sure, and may contend for the Big 10 title but there will be a few bumps in the road this year.
Michigan State is another 11 win team from last year, losing the Big 10 Title game to Wisconsin. They lose QB Kirk Cousins and return just 5 starters on offense, but that offensive line figures to dominate once again and they return 8 starters to a stellar defense. The Spartans season figures to be defined by consecutive games in October as they face Michigan and Wisconsin, both on the road, in back to back weeks.
Don't count out the Iowa Hawkeyes. It's a young team, with just 11 returning starters, that won 7 games a year ago. They have won 9 games or more in 5 of the last 10 years and have been very competitive in those 6 and 7 win seasons. Their schedule is also very favorable. They have Michigan State in the middle, and then finish the season with Michigan and Nebraska. Plenty of time to build some momentum heading into those games.
Illinois could be a surprise. They return 14 starters to a 7-6 team, but it's never easy to win right off the bat with a new coach (Tim Beckman). They play Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio State, all on the road and last year they lost 6 straight down the stretch, including 31-14 to Michigan, 28-17 to Wisconsin and 27-7 to Minnesota. Beckman has his work cut out for him.
Purdue would be the last team worthy of mention.7-6 a year ago and returning 7 starters on offense and 6 on the defense. But there was still an obvious talent gap which was clear in losses to Wisconsin by a score of 62-17, 36-14 to Michigan and 38-10 to Notre Dame. Those losses and very close wins over the likes of Indiana, Illinois and Middle Tennessee tell us that the talent gap in the Big 10 is alive and well making Purdue a long shot once again.
Listed below are the odds to win the Big 10, courtesy of 5 Dimes Sportsbook. We don't see much value at the top of the board, Wisconsin through Michigan State. However, at 35/1, Iowa looks to be the best value of the bunch. The favorable schedule, the coaching consistency, perhaps worth a shot.
Odds to win the Big 10
Michigan State +600
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