If you aren’t a Big Ten student or alum, and you didn’t watch any Big Ten games last season (like me), no one can blame you for that. This league stunk up the 2012 season, finishing with only four ranked teams. Doesn’t sound so bad? Well, two of them, Michigan and Nebraska, were 24 and 25, respectively, and the second best team, Northwestern believe it or not, finished at 17. If it wasn’t for Ohio State, who was ineligible for postseason play stemming from the Tattoogate “scandal,” this league would have no teams with less than three losses. It’s not even like last season was unusually bad for them; the Big Ten hasn’t won a national championship in football since Ohio State in 2002. Bring this up to any Big Ten alum and they’ll quickly point out how academically superior their schools are. Pssshhh. Like that really means anything. I hate this conference. Let’s bash these teams, shall we?
Urban Meyer has had quite a terrible offseason for a coach who finished 12-0 last season, huh? Winning two titles at Florida kept the media mostly off his ass about the misbehavior of his Gators, but the Aaron Hernandez saga and new trouble from some Buckeyes has made his record of “player development” impossible to ignore. No one, except maybe Johnny Manziel, is as ready for the season to start as Coach Meyer. The good news is, once it does start, the Buckeyes might have the best shot of anyone to end the SEC’s reign of terror. Junior QB Braxton Miller will compete for the Heisman. Joining him in the backfield, fresh off his near indictment on assault charges after allegedly smacking a woman, will be RB Carlos Hyde (although he will serve a three-game, school-issued suspension). The D is young, but like always in Columbus, supremely talented. If Urban can keep his players from pimp-slapping hoes and beating up bros, the Buckeyes have a great shot at beating the SEC representative in the final BCS national championship game ever.
The Denard “Shoelaces” Robinson era ended with a dud in his senior season, but it really got Wolverine fans excited for Devon Gardner. The Detroit native will begin his junior season as the starting QB after playing some last season, and taking snaps at WR for parts of his first two years. Brady Hoke has been recruiting top-notch talent, like incoming running back Derrick Green, to fill his pro-style offense, and the transition away from the spread offense of previous coach Rich Rodriguez has been pretty quick. The Wolverines made it to a BCS bowl his first season, then nearly won the Outback Bowl before Jadaveon Clowney decapitated a poor Michigan RB.
Devon Gardner is good, the schedule is much easier, and a win against Ohio State on the last weekend of the season is a strong possibility. Even if they lose a possible Big Ten Title game rematch the next week, Go Blue could find itself in a BCS bowl.
The Wildcats were the second best B1G team last season, although no one remembers that because no one’s watched a Northwestern game since their surprise Rose Bowl appearance in 1996. It will be interesting to see how Northwestern responds to having any preseason expectations at all. On their side is senior running back Venric Mark, who might be the best back in the Big Ten. He was also a first team All American kick returner last year. Although Pat Fitzgerald sounds more like the name of a Notre Dame resident advisor, he is a pretty good football coach, and a Northwestern guy who started at LB for the 1996 team which played for the roses. His seven years have been building up to this, the best Northwestern team (on paper) since he last played. For a team that has only two bowl victories ever, it’s pretty weird to hear Big Ten championship talk from the Wildcats. It’s possible because they get Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State on their home grass.
The Huskers have begun each of the last two seasons expecting to win the Big Ten title, and each year they’ve been disappointed, no more so than last season when Wisconsin smeared them 70-31 in the title game. That cost them a trip to the Rose Bowl, but with one more year of Taylor Martinez, Big Red thinks they have a shot again. No. Martinez can scoot down the field faster than shit through a goose, but he throws the rock like a hippie playing disc golf. Far too often do his passes sail high and into the arms of his opponents. And even though they will be wearing these black alternate uniforms for the September 14 game against UCLA, the Blackshirts defense hasn’t been a thing since they fired Frank Solich way back in 2003. Here’s a fun fact: before they were the Cornhuskers, the Nebraska nickname was actually the Bugeaters. Share that with you closest bandwagon Nebraska fan and watch him squirm while he says he already knew that.
The Nittany Lions football program endured the storm of the Sandusky scandal well enough, hiring the right man for the job in Bill O’Brien. An 8-4 season is a good start on the path of recovery, but this team is still ineligible for the postseason for three more years. It’s not often I talk about tight ends (unless I’m watching the Victoria’s Secret fashion show), but this Penn State team is packed full of big, strong men on either side of the offensive line. Three quality pass-catchers return and they also added the top tight end recruit, Adam Breneman. Even with those boys, the best receiving target is junior WR Allen Robinson. His highlight video would make Jerry Sandusky cream his khakis.
The Spartans had the best defense in the conference in basically every category in 2012, and they’re a virtual lock to do so again this season. The problem for Sparty is that there isn’t a single offensive playmaker following the loss of RB Le’Veon Bell. He’s replaced by several speedsters, yet they have no experience. Michigan State returns the entire passing unit, but they ranked 114th last season in passing efficiency. It’s unlikely another season of experience will make QB Andrew Maxwell suck less than that one time I unknowingly took a bar-mat shot (order one this fall for the pledge that annoys you most. Should be free). That being said, the schedule is weak enough (no Ohio State, Penn State or Wisconsin) that MSU could be 8-0 heading into a three game stretch in which they play Michigan, at Nebraska and at Northwestern. A win the final weekend against Minnesota should propel them to a quality bowl.
With a name like Gary Andersen, shouldn’t the Badgers’ new coach be at Minnesota instead? This Squarehead just moved to Wisconsin from Utah State following the sudden departure of Bret Bielema, who decided that he and his gorgeous 27-year-old wife would like Fayetteville better than Madison. Now, anyone North of the Mason-Dixon Line just assumes it’s a given that Madison is the best college town in the country. I haven’t visited, so I’m just going to make some broad assumptions here, but isn’t there snow on the ground half the year? I really can’t believe it’s that great if the cheese-munching girls who go there never remove their hoodies. And, OHBYTHEWAY, hoodies are not flattering, ladies. Students in the B1G have no style. Anyway, this will be a weird transition year for a team that’s gone to the Rose Bowl the last three seasons (losing all of them). The Badgers will keep the power running game (because who doesn’t just love that style of offense!?), but the new OC promises to develop the passing game as well as add in some new pistol or zone read sets in the red zone. The schedule is easy, they don’t play Michigan, Michigan State or Nebraska, but they won’t have the experience to win the game at Ohio State and sneak into the Rose Bowl for a fourth year.
Guess which team had the most passing yards per game in the Big Ten last season? Trick question, the Big Ten outlawed the forward pass in 1967. Seriously though, the answer is the Indiana Hoosiers, which is as unbelievable as the fact that they waited until 2013 to wear these candy-striped domes. Indiana has played in one bowl in the last 20 seasons, but with an easier schedule than 2012, this might be the year they pop that Hoosier red cherry. Head Coach Kevin Wilson is having a tough time choosing a starting QB between last season’s primary gunslinger, Cameron Coffman, a guy who was injured most of last season, Tre Roberson, and the rising sophomore Nate Sudfeld.
The Boilermakers somehow convinced Darrell Hazell to leave the comfy confines of Kent State to come fix this mess of a team. That’s not really fair, Purdue doesn’t suck, they’re just irrelevant. The Boilermakers have had a double digit win total once in history (1979), and with a minimal financial commitment to athletics, that number won’t change anytime soon. The 2013 schedule is really challenging, with out of conference games at Cincinnati and home vs. Notre Dame and Northern Illinois. They return eight defensive starters, but will have lots of inexperience in the backfield even if one-time starter Rob Henry wins the QB job. Running back Akeem Hunt deserves your attention should you choose to punish yourself by watching Purdue football. FYI, here’s SNL’s MacGruber teaching you how to pronounce Darrell Hazell’s name.
Head Coach Jerry Kill looks like the butcher at my neighborhood Piggly Wiggly. He’s even got the perfect name for the job. This is really fortuitous for him, because without a bowl win this year Jerry will likely be looking for other employment. This team went 6-7 last season with a loss to coach-less Texas Tech in a pre-New Year’s Day bowl. Minnesota plays crap opponents in the non-con schedule (doesn’t everyone in the Big Ten?), so they could be 4-0 heading into conference play. Unfortunately, about every team has a better offense than them. Fans of the Golden Gophers should be superstitious about the number 13; in 2012 Minnesota lost four conference games in which they scored only 13 points.
Here’s a list of yoga positions I would rather practice than watch an Iowa football game: Cow Face Pose, Feathered Peacock Pose, Pose Dedicated to the Sage Koundinya II, and Half Lord of the Fishes. Kirk Ferentz must have bestiality photos (not uncommon in Iowa) of the Iowa AD, because this jagoff should have been fired years ago. Although he “earns” a salary on par with the GDP of Paraguay, his team is just above .500 since 2005, if you toss out that fluke 2009 Orange Bowl season (the Hawkeyes nearly lost to Northern Iowa in their first game that year). This year, Iowa will start a unnamed QB who has never attempted a pass at the collegiate level, and the schedule does them no favors. Non-conference games against Northern Illinois, Western Michigan, and rival Iowa State (Ferentz is 6-8 against the mediocre Cyclones) will determine whether they will be bowl eligible. But it’s not all bad in Iowa City; they were just named the top party school by the Princeton Review.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that I expect a HEISMAN-WORTHY season from the Illini’s senior QB, Nate Scheelhaase, and I promise that has little or nothing to do with the fact he is on my college fantasy team (we finished last in 2012. Go figure.). Illinois sucked in 2012, and there’s little reason to believe they’ll improve much in 2013. Scheelhaase is a run-first, pass-last QB, which explains why last year’s leading receiver, Ryan Lankford, gained all of 469 yards. The good news for Illini fans is Illinois moves to the West division next season, which will reduce the level of competition. Whether or not second year head coach Tim Beckman makes it to next season is uncertain. There’s no chance if his young roster cannot improve on this amazing stat from last season; all but one loss was by greater than 14 points.