The 2019 Big Ten Preview with the Game of the Year, Players of the Year, top pro prospects, big-time players who deserve a bigger spotlight, and more.
Big Ten Team Previews, 5 Things To Know
East Indiana | Maryland | Michigan | Michigan State
Ohio State | Penn State | Rutgers
West Illinois | Iowa | Minnesota | Nebraska
Northwestern | Purdue | Wisconsin
All of a sudden, the Big Ten has become wildly unpredictable, and it should make for a fascinating season.
All it took was for Urban Meyer to retire – for now – and for seemingly all of the top Ohio State quarterbacks to leave. The East is still almost certainly going to come down to the big boys, but considering the changes in Columbus, and the prove-it factor in Ann Arbor, the division might be there for the taking.
The Buckeyes are still more talented than everyone else, and Michigan has the make-up to make another giant run, but Michigan State is going to be an absolute killer if the offense can just do anything to complement what should be among the nation’s best defenses. Penn State has way too many moving parts, but it still has enough talent to beat anyone in the division.
Rutgers is still the 14th-best team in a 14 team league, but it should be stronger, Indiana will have a dangerous enough offense to worry about, and Maryland is a wild card under new head coach Mike Locksley.
The West is going to be even crazier.
Wisconsin has the best team, but it also has an unfairly brutal schedule with Michigan State, at Ohio State, and Michigan all to deal with from the East, and it has to figure out its quarterback situation early on.
Defending conference champion Northwestern should be even better – even if the final results don’t show it – Purdue has a fantastic-looking offense with a higher-octane passing game coming, and Illinois is going to be sneaky-good if the defense can simply come up with a random stop.
Minnesota appears ready to build off the terrific finish to the end of the 2018 season – PJ Fleck is creating something solid in Minneapolis – and Iowa will go all Iowa and be deep in the thick of the chase all year. And then there’s Nebraska, which might not make the leap up to a Big Ten title level quite yet, but will be the team no one wants to face.
Every week there’s going to be something interesting. Every week you can expect something Purdue-over-Ohio State-like …
And then it’ll probably come down to Ohio State vs. Michigan.
Big Ten Team That Will Surprise
The Lovie Smith hasn’t worked so far. Just 9-27 in his three years at the helm, his defenses have been non-existent, his offenses inconsistent, and Illinois has finished last in the Big Ten West in each of the last two seasons.
To be fair, Smith has deliberately gone with a whole slew of young players to build to this point, and to also be fair, he hasn’t had a whole lot of good luck. He had Miami’s top receiver Jeff Thomas coming in as a transfer, only to lose him when Manny Diaz took over, and tragically, star pass rusher Bobby Roundtree suffered a neck injury this offseason.
Smith has a slew of transfers coming in, an exciting freshman quarterback in Isaiah Williams, and a favorable schedule with Akron, UConn, Eastern Michigan and Rutgers all must wins, and with no Ohio State or Penn State on the slate.
– Illinois Team Preview
Big Ten Team That Will Disappoint
The defending Big Ten West champion took down the division in a hurry last season, but it also played on the edge with close win after close win. This is still a fantastic team that should be even better in some ways, but this year it has a whole slew of tougher road games.
Last year’s team played Rutgers, Purdue and Minnesota on the road. This year it has to go Stanford, Wisconsin and Nebraska, and unlike last season, it has to deal with Ohio State in the regular season. The Wildcats will still go bowling, and they’ll win their share of good games, but don’t expect a repeat run to Indianapolis.
– Northwestern Team Preview