The Big Ten conference gained a lot of respect last year as its members beat four top 15 teams in bowl games last year including Oregon, Georgia Tech, Miami, and LSU. The respect will only grow this year with Ohio St expected to compete for a BCS national title this year. Penn St, Iowa, and Wisconsin all have a chance to be elite teams as well. Next year the conference adds perennial power Nebraska, so will be even stronger. Here is a look at each team individually Odds to win the conference championship are in parentheses from Bodog.
- 1. Ohio St (2/5) Coming off a surprising Rose Bowl victory against a strong Oregon team, The Buckeyes are loaded for a run to the BCs title game. They return 9 starters on offense lead by junior quarterback Terrell Pryor. Pryor has been somewhat inconsistent during his first two years but has shown signs of living up to the hype. With two years under his belt, he might even compete for the Heisman. The defense returns 6 starters, and only gave up 12.5 points a game last year. The schedule is very favorable as they have home games against Miami (FL), Penn St, and archrival Michigan. They go on the road to Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota.
- 2. Wisconsin (4/1) The Badgers ended up with a 10 win season including a bowl victory over Miami (FL). They return 16 starters including 10 on offense. Senior QB Scott Tolzien and RB John Clay lead the offense that scored 31 points a game last year. The non conference schedule is a joke as it opens with a trip to Vegas to play UNLV, and home games against San Jose St and a rebuilding Arizona St team. They should be 4-0 before a touch stretch that includes road games at Michigan St and Iowa sandwiched around home games versus Minnesota and Ohio St. if they can survive that stretch, and then they have a chance to win the conference title.
- 3. Iowa (4/1) The Hawkeyes surprised many people last year by winning their first 9 games. They lost 2 of their last 3 games after quarterback Ricky Stanzi was injured. He returned for the Orange Bowl and led the Hawkeyes to an upset against Georgia Tech. Stanzi comes back for his senior season, but the strength of this team is the defense which returns 8 starters. The schedule is pretty difficult but 9 or 10 wins is a possibility. They have home games against Iowa St, Penn St, Wisconsin, Michigan St, and Ohio St, and road games at Arizona, Michigan, Northwestern, and Minnesota.
- 4. Penn St. (13/2) The Nittany Lions ended winning the Capital one Bowl in a muddy mess against LSU last year. This year they break in a new quarterback, Kevin Newsome. Penn St will lean heavily on the running game led by Evan Royster until Newsome gets used to running the offense. The defense will continue to be strong, and they can win 10 games if things go their way. The schedule is tough, as they have a showdown at Alabama, followed by road games at Iowa, Minnesota, and Ohio St. Michigan, Illinois, Northwestern, and Michigan St all come to Happy Valley this season.
- 5. Michigan (12/1) Rich Rodriguez’s seat remains hot, and this could be his last season in Ann Arbor if the Wolverines don’t improve significantly. They do have 7 starters on offense back from a team that averaged almost 30 points a game. The problem is at Quarterback where Tate Forcier is the favorite but Denard Robinson and Devin Gardner are expected to be considered as well. So if you are using 3 quarterbacks that isn’t good. The schedule is pretty difficult as it opens against UConn at home and a trip to South Bend to take on Notre Dame. The conference slate includes home games against Michigan St, Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin. The Wolverines travel to Penn St, Purdue, and Ohio St.
- 6. Michigan St. (15/1) The Spartans return 7 starters on offense including QB Kirk Cousins. They scored 29 points a game last season, but the defense remains a question, giving up 26 points a game last season. The schedule isn’t that tough, though it does include home games against Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, and Purdue. They avoid Ohio St this season, but do travel to Michigan, Iowa, Northwestern, and Penn St.
- 7. Northwestern (30/1) The Wildcats surprised some teams last year and went to the Outback Bowl where they lost to Auburn in overtime. Senior QB Dan Persa takes over from Matt Kafka. The schedule is favorable as they avoid both Ohio St and Michigan. They have road games at Vanderbilt, Rice, Minnesota, Penn St, and Wisconsin. Purdue, Michigan St, Iowa and Illinois come to Evanston this season.
- 8. Purdue (30/1) The Boilermakers went 5-7 last year under new coach Danny Hope. This year they have a new quarterback, Robert Marve, who is eligible to play this year after transferring from Miami (FL). He might be the difference in the Boilers making a bowl game this season, but the defense remains suspect. The schedule is not bad as they avoid Iowa and Penn St. they have road games at Notre Dame, Northwestern, Ohio St, Illinois, and Michigan St. They play Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Indiana at home.
- 9. Illinois (30/1) Though Ron Zook’s seat isn’t as hot as Rich Rodriguez’s in Michigan it is still pretty warm. Since going to the Rose Bowl in 2007, the Illini have been mediocre at best. This year they have to replace QB Juice Williams with sophomore Jacob Charest. I don’t expect them to go to a bowl this year as the schedule is pretty tough. They open in St. Louis against Missouri, and also travel to Penn St, Michigan St, Michigan, Northwestern, and a pesky Fresno St. they have home games against Ohio St, Purdue, Indiana, and Minnesota.
- 10. Indiana 40/1 The Hoosiers only won 4 games last season and this year they should struggle as well. They will compete with Minnesota for last place in the conference. Despite senior QB returning, the Hoosiers will struggle on both sides of the ball. They travel to Ohio St, Illinois, Wisconsin, Purdue and a neutral site game against Penn St in Landover, Maryland. They have home games against Michigan, Northwestern, and Iowa.
- 11. Minnesota (50/1) The Gophers play in a beautiful new stadium that opened last year, but the team is not very good. They do return 9 starters on offense including senior quarterback Adam Weber, but lIke Indiana will struggle on both sides of the ball. The schedule includes home games against mighty USC, Penn St, Ohio St, and Iowa. The Gophers travel to Wisconsin and Michigan St.
The College football season opens up this week, be sure to get on board for Maddux’s winning college football picks against the college football point spread. A great investment if you are going to be wagering on college football this year.