Out of all of the major conferences in NCAA college football, the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) looks like it’s on the weaker end of things. However, that doesn’t change the fact that they have the defending champion and annual powerhouse Clemson Tigers in the conference.
A conference that is always bringing the headlines is the Big Ten, and you can expect 2019 to be the same way. For example: Despite Urban Meyer leaving the head coaching post at Ohio State and Michigan improving, the odds-makers still have the Buckeyes on top of the board to take the conference.
According to online betting site Bovada, Ohio State places as the favorite to take the Big Ten yet again with a +105 figure. Following the Buckeyes, we have Michigan in second place at +225, followed by Penn State in third at +1000. Afterwards, we have Wisconsin in the No. 4 position placed at +1450, and then Nebraska rounds out the top five for us with +1500 odds. Coming in sixth place is Michigan State at +1800, followed by Iowa and their +2500 mark in seventh. In the No. 8 spot, we’ve got Northwestern sitting at +2800, and then Purdue comes in ninth at +3500. Rounding out the top 10 for us is Minnesota and their +5000 figure. After that, we’ve got Indiana and Maryland at +7500, Illinois at +22500 and then Rutgers sitting in dead-last with +50000 odds.
With the departure of head coach Urban Meyer from the Ohio State Buckeyes, the Big Ten is looking wide open for the first time in years. Under Meyer, the Buckeyes would go an unbelievable 58-5 in conference play over seven seasons. Despite losing Meyer, Ohio State is still loaded with talent, but it’s going to be fascinating to see if they can keep up the same success without their former head coach.
With Urban Meyer now gone at Ohio State, Michigan’s time to take over the Big 10 could be now. Since Jim Harbaugh came back to coach his alma mater, he hasn’t been able to get over the hump to get the Wolverines back to elite status. The main reason for that is an 0-4 record against Urban Meyer and the Ohio State Buckeyes. Now with Meyer out of the picture, Harbaugh and Michigan may finally get their opportunity.
Out of the entire Big 10, Shea Patterson is looking like the best quarterback in the conference. Not just that, but the Wolverines’ defense is going to be pretty good again as well, so you can expect a nice mix of offensive and defensive production from Michigan this season. The Wolverines have been craving for an opportunity to get a spot in the College Football Playoff, and this season, they may finally get that chance.
Since the Big 10 switched up their divisions back in 2014, no school from the West division has been able to win the conference. This season, it’s looking like that stretch will continue. Yeah, the teams of Wisconsin, Nebraska, Iowa, and Northwestern will be solid teams, but they won’t beat an Ohio State, Michigan or Penn State from the East division.
I do admit that the West has closed the gap a little bit with the East, but I wouldn’t expect them to top anyone from the East in a championship game, at least not this season.
Let’s go over the favorites to win the 2019 Big Ten, the odds and then we’ll review the rest of the pack. Afterwards, I’ll then give you my official locked-in prediction for who will win the conference, as well as my long shot to sneak in and steal the Big 10. You can also check out my preview on the ACC, and you can look forward to other conference breakdowns and my national championship prediction.
Per usual, the Ohio State Buckeyes had an amazing season last year, tallying an overall record of 13-1 and they would go 8-1 in the Big Ten. They would take that performance and deliver another victory over rival Michigan, the Big Ten East division championship, the Big Ten conference title (a blowout 45-24 victory over Northwestern), a berth into the Rose Bowl and they would take the 28-23 win over Washington in ‘The Granddaddy Of Them All’. It was an elite season that would lead them to the No. 3 ranking in both the Coaches and AP polls.
They would deliver the goods on offense, ranking eighth in the nation in points-per-game with a 42.4 tally. On the defensive end, it wasn’t bad, but they could have certainly been better. They ranked 55th in the country allowing 25.7 points-per-game from opposition. Regardless, they would get the job done.
Here’s the problem for Ohio State entering the new campaign, however, despite all of the 2018 success: Not only would they lose head coach Urban Meyer, but they would also lose massive talent to the NFL: DE Nick Bosa, QB Dwayne Haskins, WR Paris Campbell, DT Dre’mont Jones, WR Terry McLaurin, CB Kendall Sheffield, C Michael Jordan, OT Isaiah Prince and RB Mike Weber. Needless to say, that’s going to be pretty tough to recover from. They have a decent recruiting class coming in this year though, ranked 14th in the country with three five-star recruits and nine four-star recruits. The problem is, I don’t think it’s good enough to be able to provide the depth to be able to replace all of that lost talent.
With that being said, you can look for Ohio State to take a nice-sized hit this year, and possibly decline a bit to 8-4 and 9-3 football for a few years — only time will tell.
They might have not gotten past Ohio State yet again last season, but it was still a successful 2018 campaign for the Michigan Wolverines. They would tally a double-digit winning season at 10-3, and they would only suffer one loss in Big Ten action (to OSU) at 8-1 that would see them as Big Ten East division co-champions. That elite performance would take them to the Peach Bowl, but unfortunately for Michigan, they would suffer a 15-41 blowout loss to the Florida Gators. When the smoke cleared, they would take a final ranking of No. 14 in both the Coaches and AP polls — a bit of a disappointing finish after what was an overall fantastic season from the Wolverines.
Statistically, Michigan was on point, providing production on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. On offense, they would rank 21st in the nation with an average of 35.2 points-per-game, and on defense, they were even better with a No. 12 ranking allowing just 17.6 points-per-game against them.
The Wolverines may have taken some hits to the NFL Draft losing LB Devin Bush Jr., DE Rashan Gary, DE Chase Winovich, CB David Long and TE Zach Gentry, but they have a load of talent coming back. Not only that, but they also have the eighth best-recruiting class in the country with two 5-star recruits and 14 4-star recruits to help counter the lost talent.
Expect Michigan to have another great season like last year, and I expect them to be even better in 2019. As a matter of fact, it could be the season that Jim Harbaugh and the University of Michigan finally gets over the previously-mentioned hump.
The Penn State Nittany Lions had a successful season last year, putting up a near double-digit winning record of 9-4 overall and 6-3 in the Big Ten. The solid performance would lead the Nittany Lions to the Citrus Bowl where they would face off against Kentucky — they would suffer a 24-27 defeat. The overall good season would lead them to the No. 17 ranking in each the Coaches and AP polls. It wasn’t a special season, but like I said, a good season from Penn State.
Similar to Michigan, PSU would bring the statistics on each the offensive and defensive side of the ball. On the offensive end, they would tally themselves in the No. 32 position with 33.8 points-per-game, while on defense, the Lions would crack the top 20 with their defense ranking the 20th best in the nation — they would be elite, allowing just 20.0 points-per-game against them.
I have my concerns about Penn State repeating that success, and in my opinion, I personally have them declining this year.
Just look at the talent lost to the NFL: RB Miles Saunders, DE Shareef Miller, CB Amani Oruwariye, QB Trace McSorley and S Nick Scott. The biggest ones that stick out are playmakers Saunders, Oruwariye and McSorley, three massive hits to Penn State. Again, you can expect a decline.
They would do decent in recruiting bringing in the 13th best class in the nation with one 5-star recruit and 17 4-star recruits, but I don’t see it replacing all of that lost talent. That’s just too much to recover from in just one season, especially at the quarterback position. Pass on the Nittany Lions.
Wisconsin would score a solid season this year, putting up a winning 8-5 record overall, as well as a victorious 5-4 record in the Big Ten conference. Their tallies would lead to a Pinstripe Bowl berth where they would face off against Miami (FL) — they would grab a dominant 35-3 win over the Hurricanes to be the champions of that bowl. It was another successful season for what’s become a consistently winning program.
It’s fortunate that the Badgers were able to pull out wins in the 2018 campaign, however, because their statistics didn’t help them that much. On offense, they weren’t the best with a No. 62 ranking in the nation with an average of 29.7 points-per-game scored, while on defense, they would take the 43rd ranking allowing 24.3 points-per-game from the opposition.
Entering the new campaign, Wisconsin has plenty to rebound from, particularly the losses that they suffered on the offensive line: They would lose G Michael Deiter and OL David Edwards to the NFL Draft, as well as OL Beau Benzschawel to graduation. They would take significant hits on defense as well, losing LB Ryan Connelly and LB Andrew Van Ginkel to the draft, and LB T.J. Edwards to graduation. It’s going to be a load of talent to recover from.
They wouldn’t have the best recruiting class at No. 28 in the nation, but to their credit, they would bring in a five-star offensive tackle and four-star OT to counter their offensive line losses. I don’t expect anything special from the Badgers this year, but with their incoming class, they might be able to pull a repeat 8-5 season. That’s about all I have for Wisconsin.
The Nebraska Cornhuskers would have a dismal season last year. They would start out the campaign losing their first six to go 0-6, and then afterwards, they would win four out of their next six games to get a little hot. Still, the Cornhuskers would finish with a lackluster 4-8 record, and they’d also suffer a losing 3-6 in the Big Ten conference — all of this for no bowl appearance.
Their misery would show in their numbers as well. The Badgers would claim the 58th best offense in the country, which wasn’t a bad average of 30.0 points-per-game. Still, the ranking isn’t fitting Nebraska’s standards. When you look at the defense, this is where the majority of their misery came from, only 11 spots from the 100th position in No. 89 with 31.3 points-per-game from the opposition. If they can clean up the defense, they wouldn’t necessarily be a bad team. At the same time though, it’ll be tough to beat an Ohio State or Michigan putting up just 30 points.
There’s some hope here for the Nebraska football program though. Not only is pretty much everybody coming back for the Huskers, but they’re also bringing in the 18th best-recruiting class in the nation. They might not have any five-star recruits, but they do have a solid seven four-stars coming in.
With the Nebraska Cornhuskers being older, bringing in a top 25 recruiting class and head coach Scott Frost being able to light a fire in his players, I could see a season of improvement — maybe even a bowl appearance. As far as taking over the Big Ten though, Nebraska has a long ways to go before they can climb up that mountain.
A team that you may want to consider as your long shot are the Iowa Hawkeyes and their +2500 odds. Last season, they would nearly achieve a double-digit winning year with a 9-4 record, and they’d also pull off a victorious record in the Big Ten as well at 5-4. This would ultimately lead them to the Outback Bowl, where they would win the bowl’s championship over Mississippi State by a 27-22 score. They would finish the season ranked in the top 25, placed in No. 25 in the AP poll.
Statistically, the Hawkeyes were on point. On offense, they were solid, ranking No. 44 in the country with a tally of 31.2 points-per-game. The defense is where their success would come from, however, being incredibly dominant ranking 11th in the nation. Their lock-down techniques would only allow 17.4 points-per-game from the opposition.
Iowa would take a few hits to the NFL Draft, but nothing too major that they can’t recover from: TE T.J. Hockenson, TE Noah Fant, DE Anthony Nelson, and S Amani Hooker. To counter the losses, they wouldn’t bring in the best recruiting class placed at No. 41 and bringing in just three 4-star athletes, but a lot of talent is returning.
With the Hawkeyes gaining a year of experience with a lot of the same corps from last season, you can expect them to repeat the success of a 9-4 campaign. With them being older alongside new depth, you may see Iowa accomplish a double-digit mark this year. They certainly won’t take the Big Ten from Ohio State or Michigan, but they certainly have a lot of value in their +2500 odds to make things interesting. Ride with the Hawkeyes for the potential payday.
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