Well, the Big Ten is wide openâ€”sort of. Hereâ€™s why.
Ohio State, last yearâ€™s Big Ten champs and the team that went onto the national championship game still has a lot of talent and experience. Thereâ€™s talent at WR and some good run potential with RB Chris Wells. The defense, which only allowed 12.8 PPG, ranking them fifth in the nation, is still very tough. Last seasonâ€™s veteran QB Troy Smith, who could improvise and make things happen on the run, is gone and being replaced by either junior Todd Boeckman or sophomore Robbie Schoenhoft. Thereâ€™s not much experience in either.
Michigan returns Chad Henne at QBâ€”one of the most accurate passers, veteran signal callers and smartest QBs in the nation. With talent and experience at RB and WR and a solid line, the team looks very good. The teamâ€™s defense faltered near the end of the season and on average allowed 15.9 PPG. The line is depleted. The defense has to be much more consistent and find inexperienced guys to step-up.
Penn State has another solid defense despite losing Paul Posluszny. QB Anthony Morelli is a senior who started to turn it on during the latter part of last year. The key here is consistency in leadership and performance. If Morelli can do that, this team may prove to be the conference sleeper.
For Wisconsin, thereâ€™s fine talent and depth at RB. The team has an experienced and talent offensive line and good WRs. But the starting QBâ€”probably either Tyler Donovan or Allan Evridge will lack experience. The club sported the second-best defense in the nation, allowing only 12.1 PPG. But there are some big loses at LB and in the secondary. Thereâ€™s talent there but how fast can they learn?
Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Wisconsin all play one another. All of these contests are swing games. If any one team runs the table, winning all three, then they will win the conference. The fact is that any one team can possibly do that. No matter what, one team will be left out in the cold. Leaving this a three-team race. Key loses for each team and unknowns connected with returning starters, makes the relatively stable Michigan Wolverines the favorites, especially with Chad Henne at QB. The conference could be wide-open until the final week.