2017 Big 10 Preview

 

2017 Big 10 Preview: Does Ohio State roll to a Big Ten Championship? That’s the biggest question going into the 2017-2018 Big Ten College Football Season. The Big Ten, ever since Urban Meyer became coach at Ohio State, has rushed back to College Football prominence.

But, are the Buckeyes, who have fallen as low as -115 in some sportsbooks, that huge of a lock to win the Big Ten Title in 2017?

Check out our 2017 Big 10 Preview of the once again important conference!

2017 Big 10 Preview

Which teams look like Big Ten Contenders?

Ohio State +125

When a college football program gets good, it usually remains good. Ohio State has now made it to the College Football Playoff in 2 out of the 3 seasons that the CFP has been in existence. That’s not bad at all.

Does it mean that Ohio State is a lock to win the Big Ten? Maybe. The Buckeyes do return one of the most electrifying quarterbacks in all of college football in J.T. Barrett. Barrett should have plenty of weapons while the offensive line is once again stout.

The defense is what makes the Buckeyes scary. The D-line should be incredibly strong with Tyquan Lewis and Sam Hubbard both returning. If the Buckeyes can get great play from a young secondary, Ohio State’s D should be one of the best units in college football.

Michigan +400

There are two pieces of good news for Michigan. First, 6 starters return. Second, Jim Harbaugh has become a recruiting beast at Ann Arbor. Is there any bad news?

Well, yes. From the 6 returning starters, only 1 returns on the defense. That could be a problem for a Michigan team that ranked first in yards allowed per game, 261.8, and second in points allowed per game, 14.1.

Michigan QB Wilton Speight is talented. Speight has thrown for 2,500 yards and 18 TDs. He completes 61.9% of his passes. Harbaugh always gets the most out of his quarterbacks. Speight shouldn’t have an issue impressing in many games.

The biggest problem is along the offensive line. Speight’s going to look impressive until the Wolverines play the better teams in the Big Ten. Then, Michigan’s offensive line, which must replace 3 starters, could end the Wolverine’s dream of a Big Ten Championship.

Wisconsin +450

Wisconsin owns the Big Ten’s “B” Division. While Ohio State, Michigan, and Penn State all play in the Big Ten East, Wisconsin plays in the Big Ten West versus teams like Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Northwestern.

The Badgers were in line for yet another Rose Bowl berth last season for winning the Big Ten West. Could they take the division this season, and upset one of the Big 3 teams from the Big Ten East? Possibly.

I write possibly because the Badgers could find the sledding tough if right tackle David Edwards doesn’t fill the giant shoes of departed left tackle Ryan Ramczyk. Edwards is the choice to move from right tackle to left tackle. Not only that, but Wisconsin’s QB, Alex Hornibrook, must be more consistent if the Badgers are to become more than a one-dimensional rushing attack team.

The main problem I see with Wisconsin is that the Big Ten Conference has changed. Meyer and Harbaugh have brought passing attacks to the conference. Penn State has become a terrific team due to their passing attack led by a possible Heisman Trophy candidate.

The changes in the Big Ten may have passed by the Badgers’ football program.

Penn State +500

The Nittany Lions broke through in a big way last season. Penn State finally shrugged off the sins of the past by beating Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game and marching to the Rose Bowl.

The season didn’t start out with success. Penn State was 2-2 at one time. Then, the light bulb went off. How bright was the light bulb? The Lions won 9 games in a row. Among the teams they beat were Ohio State, Iowa, and Michigan State.

Penn State’s offense should be awesome. The Lions return 4 starters along the offensive line. They also return QB Trace McSorley, a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate, and RB Saquon Barkley, who’s also a legit Heisman Trophy candidate.

The defense isn’t bad. Although Penn State must replace some starters on D, the replacements have experience in games. Right now, Penn State is looking awfully tough to deal with.

Which teams could pull off the Big Ten Championship upset?

Nebraska +2000

4 of 5 offensive linemen that started in the Music City Bowl last season return. That’s great news for Nebraska fans. Coach Mike Riley did more with less at Oregon State. He might have a diamond in the rough passer in Tulane transfer Tanner Lee. Also, although the Cornhuskers don’t have a name RB, there’s no need to worry.

Riley’s teams are all about the system. Nebraska should have some success. If a player or two at a skill position breaks out, the Huskers can upset Wisconsin in the Big Ten West.

Northwestern +2000

Northwestern’s offensive line must improve. The Wildcats’ O-line has allowed 102 sacks the past 3 seasons. The offensive line allowed 39 sacks in 2016. But, the O-line isn’t full of newbie players.

In fact, Wisconsin’s offensive line has some of the best experience of any O-line in the Big Ten. The key will be how it protects the quarterback. Northwestern was too one-dimensional in 2016.

The defense might be one of the best units in the conference if not one of the best in all of college football. The D is loaded with returning starters. Northwestern employed a sweet 4-2-5 defense last season that was effective on many occasions.

If the D can be slightly better, and the offensive line protects the passer, the Northwestern Wildcats are going to be a tough out for any opponent they face.

Which Team Wins the Big Ten in 2017-2018?

Usually, I’d have a couple of under the radar teams that could surprise. Not so when it comes to the Big Ten Conference in 2017. The Big Ten, although 14 teams play in the conference, isn’t nearly as deep as the Pac 12, and ACC.

The problem with the Big Ten is that the best 3 teams in the conference, Ohio State, Michigan, and Penn State, are much better than any of the other teams in the conference. Ohio State and Penn State, in particular, are loaded.

From the 2 heavyweights, I much prefer Penn State. The Nittany Lions return the best QB-RB combination in college football in quarterback Trace McSorley and Saquon Barkley. McSorley passed for 3,614 yards last season. He threw 29 TD passes to only 8 interceptions. He had only 40 pass attempts in 2015. The kid blossomed into a serious talent in 2016.

Running back Saquon Barkley rushed for 1,496 yards. His per carry average was 5.5 yards per game. He’s one of the reasons the Nittany Lions beat Ohio State 24 to 21. Barkley is a great running back.

My pick to pull off the Big Ten Championship upset is Northwestern. From my perspective, Northwestern’s defense could lead to a Big Ten East title, which would lead to a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game.

If Northwestern’s offensive line can learn to pass protect, the Wildcats could be the surprise team in the conference. The offensive line pass protecting as well as it run protects is the only thing Northwestern needs to beat Nebraska and Wisconsin in the Big Ten “B” Division.

I’m going with Penn State and Nebraska as my Top 2 picks. Fair odds on the Penn State Nittany Lions to win the Big Ten Conference are +400. Fair odds on Northwestern to win the Big Ten Conference are +2000.