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The Ultimate 2017 Big Ten Preview

2017 Big Ten Preview.

EAST

1. Ohio State (Ranked #2 Nationally)

Ohio State had one of the least experienced teams in college football last season, but Urban Meyer willed the Buckeyes to their second college-football playoff appeareance in just three years. This year’s team brings back 15 starters from last season, including QB J.T. Barrett and ballhawking corner Denzel Ward. Michigan will be on the road and home games against Oklahoma and Penn State will be challenging, but Ohio State avoids Wisconsin from the West. Bringing back fifteen starters from a playoff team is unheard of, and despite the tough schedule, I see Ohio State going undefeated and getting a berth in the College Football Playoff on the back of JT Barrett. Projected Record: 12-0 (9-0)

2. Penn State (Ranked #7 Nationally)

After starting last season 2-2 and finding himself on the hot seat, James Franklin turned Penn State around and won nine straight games en route to a Big Ten title and an appearance in the Rose Bowl. 17 starters are returning from that Rose Bowl team, including potential Heisman finalists Trace McSorley and Saquon Barkley. This team should be even better than last year’s squad that I ranked #7 in the country. They return 4/5 offensive lineman, and avoid Wisconsin from the West. The division’s spot in the Big Ten Championship Game will all come down to October 28th @ Ohio State. Even were they to lose that, Penn State should make another New Year’s Six Bowl. Projected Record: 11-1 (8-1)

3. Michigan (Ranked #12 Nationally)

Jim Harbaugh is one of the top coaches in college football, but don’t be surprised if the Wolverines take a step back in 2017. Michigan finished as my #10 team last season, but they only return five starters from that team, including just one on the defensive side of the ball. Jim Harbaugh has recruited well, but with Penn State on the road this year, a draw of @ Wisconsin from the West, and a tough non-conference game against Florida, anything North of an 8-4 record would be something Jim Harbaugh could be proud of. I do see them getting past 8-4, with a chance of a double-digit win season with a bowl win, but a playoff bid is a step too far… this year. Projected Record: 9-3 (6-3)

4. Indiana

Kevin Wilson is out as head coach after allegations of player mistreatment arose. Taking over for Wilson is Tom Allen, who was the defensive coordinator a year ago. The advantage of promoting someone within your staff is they already know some of the players, so Allen won’t have the same growing pains as a normal first year head coach would. With 17 returning starters, a much improved defense, and veteran quarterback at the helm in Richard Lagow, the Hoosiers will make their third straight bowl, and finish with just their second winning season in twenty-four years. Projected Record: 7-5 (4-5)

5. Michigan State

Coming off of a trip to the college football playoff, Michigan State was projected as a top 25 team last season, and the Spartans ended up finishing 3-9. They only return eight starters from that team, and they are the least experienced team in the entire Big Ten. Mark Dantonio is a fantastic coach, and he will get the Spartans past the 3-9 mark from last year, but I don’t see a bowl game in 2017 for Michigan State, as they draw three bowl teams in Iowa, Minnesota, and Northwestern from the West, and face Notre Dame in non-conference. Projected Record: 5-7 (3-6)

6. Maryland

After making it to a bowl in his first season with the Terps, DJ Durkin brought in a Top-20 recruiting class, and soon, Maryland will be a perennial bowl team. Just not this year. The Terps lose their quarterback, and the schedule gets a lot tougher. They draw @ Minnesota, @ Wisconsin, and Northwestern from the West, and face Texas in non-conference. Getting back to a bowl game in year two doesn’t seem likely, but just watch, if Durkin can keep this up, Maryland might actually have a shot at challenging teams like Michigan in the future. Projected Record: 4-8 (2-7)

7. Rutgers

After going 0-9 in the Big Ten last year, and putting up goose eggs in four of those, Rutgers needs a lot of work going into this season. Non-conference games against Eastern Michigan and Morgan State should serve as a tune up for Big Ten play, and I do think the Knights will get a win there, probably vs Purdue or @ Illinois. The defense will be better with eight starters back, but a bowl is still a long ways away.Projected Record: 3-9 (1-8)

WEST

1. Wisconsin (Ranked #11 Nationally)

Wisconsin went 11-3 last season despite a tough schedule, this year, Ohio State, Penn State, and LSU are all off of the docket, so the schedule is much more manageable. The Badgers bring back 15 starters from last year’s team, including Alex Hornibrook, who will benefit from an added year of experience. They bring back seven starters from a defense that ranked #4 in the country, and with 4/5 returning, the offensive line will be something to reckon with this year. The Badgers are better than last year with an easier schedule, and my power ratings system gives them a 27% chance to go 12-0 in the regular season. Projected Record: 11-1 (8-1)

2. Northwestern

Northwestern Football always has a see-saw motion, in the past five years they’ve had ten wins twice, missed a bowl twice, and last year they were just in the middle at 7-6. This is the turning point to see if the Wildcats are really a contender. Home games against Iowa and Penn State as well as road games @ Nebraska and Wisconsin will decide if Northwestern can really contend in the Big Ten. With 16 starters returning, including potential all-american rusher Justin Jackson (who ran for over 1,500 yards last year) this is the year that we will find out if the Wildcats are for real or not. Projected Record: 9-3 (6-3)

3. Nebraska 

Nebraska took a big step forward in Mike Riley’s second season. The Huskers went 9-4, and could’ve gotten to ten wins if they hadn’t faltered down the stretch. They started the year 7-0, but after losing to Wisconsin in overtime, everything went into a downward spiral, and Nebraska ended up losing four of their last six. That could continue this year, as they draw Ohio State and Penn State from the East, and go to Eugene in the non-conference. With just ten starters returning, I don’t see Nebraska getting back to nine wins, but a bowl game is probably a safe bet. Projected Record: 7-5 (5-4)

T4. Iowa

Last year’s season was a confusing one. After a loss at home to FCS North Dakota State, the Hawkeyes went 6-3 in Big Ten play, including wins over Nebraska and Michigan, to finish with an 8-5 record. With 14 starters returning, including all five members of the offensive line, the team should be better, but the schedule gets a lot tougher. Non-conference games against a sneaky good Wyoming team and an improving Iowa State should prove difficult, and Iowa draws Ohio State, Penn State, and Michigan State from the East along with having to face the top three teams in the West all on the road. A bowl game is still the expectation, but against this schedule, Iowa isn’t a contender for the Big Ten title. Projected Record: 6-6 (4-5)

T4. Minnesota

Minnesota got to 9-4 last season with a win in the Holiday Bowl, but fired their coach after he stood with players attempting to protest that bowl game. The Gopher’s replacement for him is P.J. Fleck, who took Western Michigan from a struggling MAC program to a New Year’s Six Bowl. Minnesota will probably take a step back in year one with a new coach and a first year quarterback. Even with a tougher schedule, I see PJ Fleck taking Minnesota to a bowl game in year one. Projected Record: 7-5 (4-5)

6. Purdue

I think Jeff Brohm was a fantastic hire for Purdue, but to expect him to turn it around in year one is unrealistic. The Boilermakers return just five starters on offense, and start the season tough, with five of their six first games against teams that made a bowl last year, that list includes Louisville, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Opportunities for wins in conference play come @Rutgers, and home against Illinois.  Record: 3-9 (2-7)

7. Illinois

In year one under Lovie Smith, Illinois actually took a step back, going from 5-7 to 3-9. Smith probably bit off more than he could chew, as the Illini aren’t even close to becoming a contender in the Big Ten. I see them taking another step back this season, with only 11 starters returning, and a tough out-of-conference slate featuring Western Kentucky and South Florida, Illinois will lose another game, and go 2-10. Projected Record: 2-10 (1-8)

Big Ten Title Game: Ohio State over Wisconsin

All-Big Ten Team & Awards

Offense

QB: J.T. Barrett – Ohio State
RB: Saquon Barkley – Penn State
RB: Justin Jackson – Northwestern
WR: Nick Westbrook – Indiana
WR: Simmie Cobbs – Indiana
TE: Troy Fumagalli – Wisconsin
C: Billy Price – Ohio State
OL: Jamarco Jones – Ohio State
OL: Mason Cole – Michigan
OL: Sean Welsh – Iowa
OL: Beau Benzschawel – Wisconsin

Defense

DL: Maurice Hurst – Michigan
DL: Tyquan Lewis – Ohio State
DL: Rashan Gary – Michigan
DL: Steven Richardson – Minnesota
LB: Jerome Baker – Ohio State
LB: Tegray Scales – Indiana
LB: Josey Jewell – Iowa
DB: Rashard Fant – Indiana
DB: Marcus Allen – Penn State
DB: Godwin Igwebuike – Northwestern
DB: Denzel Ward – Ohio State

Special Teams

K: Emmit Carpenter – Minnesota
P: Blake Gillikin – Penn State

MVP: J.T. Barrett, QB – Ohio State
Offensive Player of the Year: Saquon Barkley, RB – Penn State
Defensive Player of the Year: Tyquan Lewis, DE – Ohio State
Newcomer of the Year: Tanner Lee, QB – Nebraska

247Sports Recruiting Rankings

  1. Ohio State
  2. Michigan
  3. Penn State
  4. Maryland
  5. Nebraska
  6. Michigan State
  7. Wisconsin
  8. Iowa
  9. Rutgers
  10. Illinois
  11. Northwestern
  12. Minnesota
  13. Indiana
  14. Purdue

Five Quick Questions

Team on the rise? Northwestern
Team on the decline? Iowa
Best chance for Heisman? J.T. Barrett (Ohio State)
Who will win Ohio State – Michigan? Ohio State
Best new coach? P.J. Fleck (Minnesota)

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