Happy 4th of July everybody! This is a great week to be an American. Time to bust out grill, set off some fireworks, and watch some baseball! Unless you are me. Then it is time to break down the B1G conference. The B1G seems to have one clear favorite right now, with five teams battling for second. Looks can be quite deceiving. With some miserable showing against the SEC the past few years, the B1G has taken a beating. Weâ€™ll start with the Leaders division. View attachment 53818 The Illinois Fighting Illini were bad last year. How bad? They have lost fourteen straight B1G games. Head coach Tim Beckman has only been there one year, and is already on the hot seat. Can the Illini improve on their 2-10 record? The Illini had two offensive coordinators last season. That didnâ€™t work out too well as they finished with the worst offense in the B1G. Both of those coordinators, Chris Beatty and Billy Gonzalez are gone. In to replace them is former Western Michigan head coach Bill Cubit. Cubit does have eight returning starters to work with. Back at quarterback is fourth year starter Nathan Scheelhaase. Scheelhaase will have to learn a new offensive system for the third time in his collegiate career. That is never a recipe for success. Junior running back Donovonn Young returns after rushing for 571 yards last season. Illinois will have a senior laden receiving core, which should help out Scheelhaase. Illinois returns three starters on the offensive line, including the whole left side. They will be breaking in a new center in junior Alex Hill. The biggest question mark of the offensive line will be sixth year senior Corey Lewis. Lewis has had five surgeries on his right knee since 2010. It will be interesting to see if he can stay healthy for the whole season. The Illini return four starters on defense, but only one to their secondary which was one of the best in the nation last season. The defensive line might be experienced in years, but not experienced in playing time. The only returning starter, senior defensive end Tim Kynard, has only six starts under his belt. Junior defensive tackles Jake Howe and Austin Teitsma have combined for 20 tackles. The linebacking core does return two starters, led by sophomore Mason Monheim. The Illini struggled through a 2-10 record last year. This year doesnâ€™t look like it should be much better. They have tough home contests against Cincinnati, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Ohio State, and Northwestern, road trips to Nebraska and Penn State, and a matchup against Washington at Soldier Field. The ceiling for the Illini looks to be 4-8 with another 2-10 year being the floor. View attachment 53819 The Indiana Hoosiers had a tough season last year. After finishing 4-8, head coach Kevin Wilson knows that he is on the hot seat. The Hoosiers return ten starters from a year ago on offense, with the only loss being at left guard. Junior quarterback Cameron Coffman returns this season after throwing for 2,734 yards and 15 touchdowns last season. Coffman is fighting off freshman Nate Sudfeld and redshirt sophomore Tre Roberson. Roberson was the starter last season, but he broke his leg week two against Massachusetts. Senior running back Stephen Houston comes back, but has lost his starting job to sophomore Tevin Coleman. Indiana is returning their top three receivers in junior Shane Wynn, junior Cody Latimer, and senior Kofi Hughes. Those three as well as senior tight end Ted Bolser all had at least 40 receptions last year. The offense relied on the passing game a lot last season. This year, they are hoping the running game can be more of a factor. The defense is returning eight starters from a year ago. Both defensive ends return in junior Ryan Phillips and sophomore Zack Shaw. The interior was boosted by freshman Ralphael Green. There is a lot of hype surrounding this young man. Junior David Cooper is the leader of the linebacking core. Senior safety Greg Heban is the leader of this defense though. Indiana will look to improve their horrendous play on defense a year ago. The Hoosiers schedule is brutal compared to last seasonâ€™s. They host Missouri and Penn State this year, but have to travel to Michigan State, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Ohio State. If the Hoosier defense can improve, they should have no problem topping out at 7-5. If the defense continues to be one of the worst in the country though, Indiana could bottom out at 3-9. View attachment 53826 The Ohio State Buckeyes are everybodyâ€™s favorites this year. A year after finishing 12-0, those expectations are realistic. With Urban Meyer at the helm, it seems hard to disagree. Ohio State has frequented the BCS numerous times since itâ€™s inception, winning one championship in 2002. Could this be the year Urban leads the Buckeyes back to the promise land? UPDATE: Senior running back Carlos Hyde has been kicked off the team after being named a person of interest in the assault of a women at a bar. The Buckeyes are returning nine starters on offense. This offense was not much of a passing threat though. Junior quarterback Braxton Miller is back, and his Heisman campaign has begun. Senior Carlos Hyde is back to anchor the running game once again. The receiving corps has been the most scrutinized part of this offense. Back is senior Corey Brown, who led the team in receptions last season, and junior Devin Smith. Smith is looked at as an explosive option, but he had six touchdowns last year. The offensive line return four seniors. Right tackle is the position to watch as Taylor Decker and Chase Ferris will battle for the starting job. This offense, when clicking on all cylinders, is scary good. The defense was tough last year. Unfortunately, only four starters return this season. The defensive line lost every single starter, but return a lot of talent. Sophomore defensive ends Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington combined for seven sacks in the Spring Game. All-B1G linebacker Ryan Shazier returns this season. He is considered by many to be one of the best in the nation. The secondary return three starters, including both safetyâ€™s. Bradley Roby is considered one of the best corners in the nation. Junior Doron Grant will have to step up quickly as he replaces Travis Howard. The Buckeyes are back from their one year bowl ban, and are looking to prove that last season wasnâ€™t a fluke. The schedule set up quite favorably this year. They will travel to Northwestern and Michigan but get to host Wisconsin and Penn State. If the Buckeyes can find a way to replicate last seasonâ€™s success, they could finish the season 13-0 with a B1G Championship in tow as they head to Pasadena for the championship. If Ohio Stateâ€™s defense has a tough time replicating last seasonâ€™s success though, we could be talking about a disappointing 9-3 finish. View attachment 53827 The Penn State Nittany Lions had a great year last year, considering the circumstances. The Nittany Lions finished 8-4 after all the turmoil surrounding Jerry Sandusky. They will look to keep the momentum as they continue to play for university pride. Penn State returns six starters on offense. Matt McGloin is gone at quarterback, and there is no clear favorite to replace him yet. Freshman Christian Hackenberg is the favorite right now, but JUCO transfer Tyler Ferguson is pushing him hard for the starting job. Junior Zach Zwinak is back after rushing for 1,000 yards last season. Junior Allen Robinson returns to lead the receiving corps after a phenomenal season. The whole left side of the offensive line returns, as well as right guard John Urschel. This offense did a pretty good job last season after Silas Redd, Justin Brown, and Kevin Haplea all transferred out. The defense was the pride of State College as usual last season. That same defense will return five starters. Sophomore Deion Barnes, the B1G Freshman of the Year, returns at defensive end. Freshman Austin Johnson will have to step up as he replaces Jordan Hill. The linebacking core was hit the hardest with Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti both moving on to the pros. Senior Glenn Carson will have to lead the way. The secondary returns both starting safeties, but loses both cornerbacks Sophomores Daâ€™Quan Davis and Jordan Lucas will have to come along quickly, or they could cripple this defense. The Nittany Lions schedule looks much more manageable this season. They do have some tough road contests in Ohio State and Michigan. Not to mention, they host UCF, Michigan, and Nebraska this year. Penn State does open against Syracuse this season at MetLife Stadium. The Nittany Lion are an inspired bunch. This is a team that was in every game last season. Penn Stateâ€™s best case scenario would be a 9-3 season. Worst case, the offense has itâ€™s growing pains, the secondary proves to be a weakness, and Penn State goes 7-5. Either way, Penn State will continue with their winning ways, even during these bowless years. View attachment 53828 The Purdue Boilermakers were a team of streaks last season. After starting the season 3-1. they lost their next six, before winning the last three. This is a team that gave Notre Dame and Ohio State quite the scare last season. This also got throttled by Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Penn State, and Oklahoma State. The Boilermakers got themselves a new coach in Darrell Hazell, who was last seen leading Kent State to an 11-3 record. Purdue returns five starters on offense. The quarterback competition is in full swing. Senior Rob Henry has the edge right now, but donâ€™t sleep on freshman Danny Etling. Junior Akeem Hunt takes over in the backfield. Senior Gary Bush is back to lead the receiving corps. Junior Raheem Mostert will have to step up as he will be replacing O.J. Ross, who was suspended this Spring. The offensive line will have to hope that seniors Devin Smith and Cody Davis can fill the holes at guard. The defense returns nine starters from a year ago, including the entire linebacking core. The defensive line lost Kawann Short, but will have the luxury of having Bruce Gaston succeed him as the anchor of the line. The secondary returns both safeties. Senior cornerback Ricardo Allen is clearly the most talented player in the secondary. He will be matched up with sophomore Frankie Williams. This defense will need to step it up from a year ago. Purdue went bowling last season, which is great, except they got steamrolled in their bowl loss. the schedule got tougher this season though, as they have to travel to Cincinnati, Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Penn State. They will host Notre Dame, Northern Illinois, Nebraska, and Ohio State. Purdue could be looking at a 5-7 season, or a 2-10 season. One thing seems to be certain. A bowl game is not realistic this season. View attachment 53829 The Wisconsin Badgers have been to three straight Rose Bowlâ€™s as B1G Champs. The downside of that, they have lost all three. Head coach Bret Bielema left for Arkansas. His replacement is former Utah State head coach Gary Anderson. The Badgers return seven starters on offense. The quarterback situation in Camp Randall has yet to be settled. Sophomore Joel Stave looks to be the leader, but sixth-year senior Curt Phillips and JUCO transfer Tanner McEvoy will push him for the job. One thing is certain, the quarterback play must improve after the Badgers had one of the worst passing attacks in the FBS. The strength of Wisconsin has always been the running game. Record setting Montee Ball is gone, but senior James White is back and ready to be the man. Senior Jared Abbrederis is back to lead the receiving core. The offensive line lost two starters from a year ago, and had a hard time reloading. The defense returns six starters, including the whole defensive line. Two-time first-team All-B1G linebacker Chris Borland returned for his senior season. He will continue to be the leader of this defense. Seniors Brendan Kelly and Tyler Dippel will switch from defensive end to outside linebacker. The secondary lost the most as senior strong safety Dezmen Southward will be the only returning starter. Junior Peniel Jean and sophomore Darius Hillary will have to step it up. This defense was one of the best in the nation last season. They will need to keep it up if they want to compete for the B1G championship. The Badgers schedule looks manageable. The tough road contests will be Arizona State and Ohio State, while they host Northwestern and Penn State. If Wisconsinâ€™s offense can match the play of the defense, the Badgers could take the B1G championship and be spending their holidays in Pasadena getting ready for the National Championship. If the offense continues to struggle passing, Wisconsin could be in for an 8-4 year. Either way, the Badgers look to continue their bowl streak. View attachment 53820 We will move on to the Legends Division now. To kick off the Legends division, we will start with Iowa. Iowa had a disappointing season last year, and that might be an understatement. After starting the season 4-2, the Hawkeyes fell apart and wound up finishing 4-8. That leaves many questions for head coach Kirk Ferentz to answer. Iowa returns six starters to an offense that was awful last season. When I say awful, I mean they were one of the worst in the FBS. Quarterback James Vandenberg is gone, and his replacement will be decided in Fall Camp. Sophomore Jake Rudock holds the edge over junior Cody Sokol, for now. The running game was decimated by injuries last season. Sophomore walk-on Mark Weisman was thrust into the starting spot, and took off. Weisman returns this season, as does sophomore Jordan Canzeri, who missed last season with a torn ACL. The receiving corps was a weakness this season. That needs to change if Iowa expect to be competitive this season. Senior tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz does return this season after catching 45 balls a year ago. The offensive line will have to replace both guards, but this will still be a strength of the team. The defense returns eight starters from a year ago. This defense could only do so much last season, as they were on the field constantly. The defensive line lost two starters. This unit was a weakness last season, combining for a paltry 8.5 sacks. The whole linebacking core returns in seniors James Morris, Christian Kirksey, and Anthony Hitchens. The secondary returns three starters, led by senior corner B.J. Lowery. The secondary will need to step it up after a down year last season. This season, the schedule does not set up too favorably for a return. Iowa will travel to Iowa State, Ohio State, and Nebraska. They do host Northern Illinois, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Northwestern, and Michigan. Iowa is not used to missing out on bowl season, but this season does not look like the year for them to make it back. If everything goes right, Iowa could finish 6-6. As we know though, everything does not go right. If the offense continues to be awful, Iowa could struggle through a 3-9 season. View attachment 53821 The Michigan Wolverines took a step back last season, finishing 8-5. This season, they are manyâ€™s favorite to win the Legends Division and play in their first B1G Championship game. Can Michigan live up to those expectations? The Wolverines return four starters on offense. Junior quarterback Devin Gardner replaced the injured Denard â€œShoelaceâ€ Robinson last season, and looks to lead the team to the promise land this season. Gardner did a pretty good job last season, and the expectations for him are pretty high this season. Senior Fitzgerald Toussaint returns to man the backfield. Senior Jeremy Gallon will once again lead the receiving corps. The offensive line returns both tackles, led by senior left tackle Taylor Lewan. Lewan was projected to be a top pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. The Wolverines will rely on freshmen Ben Braden and Kyle Kalil at guard this season. The offensive line must keep Gardner healthy, as his backup Russell Bellomy tore his ACL in Spring practice. The defense returns three starters from a year ago. The defensive line returns one starter in nose tackle Quinton Washington. The linebacking took a hit this Spring when leading tackler Jake Ryan tore his ACL. That leaves junior Desmond Morgan as the only starter from a year ago. The secondary was one of the best in college football this season, but returns one starter, senior strong safety Thomas Gordon. The defense will get junior Blake Countess back though after he missed all of last season with a torn ACL. The Wolverines schedule last season was miserable. This season sets up much favorable, just by exchanging Alabama for Central Michigan. They will have to travel to Penn State, Michigan State, and Northwestern, as well as host Notre Dame, Nebraska, and Ohio State. If the defense can avoid a letdown season, and Gardner stays healthy, a 13-0 season with a BCS Championship game appearance is not out of the question. If the defense struggles though, Michigan could be staring at an 8-4 season. View attachment 53822 The Michigan State Spartans had a down season last year. Yes, they did finish 7-6 last year and won their bowl game, but the people of East Lansing expect more. The Spartans return five starters on offense. The same offense that wasnâ€™t good last year. Redshirt senior Andrew maxwell returns, but he is being pushed hard by sophomore Connor Cook. Cook started the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl last season, and led Michigan State to a 17-16 victory over TCU. Redshirt freshman Riley Bullough will replace Leâ€™Veon Bell at tailback. Bullough came to Michigan State as a linebacker. The Spartans receiving led the nation in dropped passes with 66 last season. Hopefully they will turn it around this year. Sophomore Aaron Burbridge looks to be the leader or the receivers, but struggled with inconsistency and injuries last season. The offensive line returns both guards, but will have to fill holes at center and both tackles. The Spartans offense must improve. The defense returns six starters from one of the best defense in the FBS last season. The defensive line was hit the hardest though as they lost three starters. Junior defensive end Marcus Rush will have to step up his play, as William Gholston is no longer there to draw double teams. The defensive line is not devoid of talent though. Sophomore defensive tackle Lawrence Thomas is drawing comparisons to Jerel Worthy. All three starting linebackers return, led by first-team All-B1G senior Max Bullough. The secondary returns senior All-B1G corner Darqueze Dennard, but has to replace Johnny Adams. The Spartans schedule is quite manageable. They do travel to Notre Dame, Nebraska, and Northwestern but host Michigan. If the offense can get their act together, the Spartans could easily finish 12-0 and find themselves playing for the B1G Championship game and a slot in the BCS Championship Game. If the offense continues to torture East Lansing, the Spartans could be looking at an 8-4 season. Either way, it is a step up from last year. View attachment 53823 The Minnesota Golden Gophers finished 6-7 last season. In doing so, they doubled their win total from 2011. This season, the Gophers have the potential to be even better. They just canâ€™t afford letting one loss snowball into three. The Gophers offense returns ten starters. Sophomore quarterback Philip Nelson is back, but is being pushed by redshirt freshman Mitch Leidner. None of the returning receivers caught more than 19 passes last year. Junior running back Donnell Kirkwood will be leaned on this year. He responded last season with 926 yards, and will look to crack the millennium mark this season. The offensive line returns all five starters. The offense had a miserable season passing last year. That must improve for the Gophers win total to improve. The defense returns seven starters from a year ago. The defensive line returns three of those guys led by senior manimal Raâ€™Shede Hageman. The linebacking core is returning only one starter though, in senior Aaron Hill. The front seven was a disappointment last season. They had a miserable time stopping the run, and that must improve. The secondary returns three starters. This secondary was one of the best in the nation a year ago. This secondary is loaded with talent, and should be the strength of the defense, maybe even the team, yet again. The Gophers schedule is no cake walk. They will host San Jose State, Nebraska, Penn State, and Wisconsin. The road contests will consist of Michigan, Northwestern, and Michigan State. If offense can make some drastic improvements, the Gophers could finish 6-6. If the offense continues to struggle, the Gophers could find themselves at home this bowl season with a 4-8 record. View attachment 53824 The Nebraska Cornhuskers have been extremely competitive every year they have been a member of the B1G. That should continue this season as the Huskers look to build off of a 10-4 season. The Huskers return seven starters on offense, led by senior quarterback Taylor â€œT-Magicâ€ Martinez. Martinez has done nothing but win since he stepped foot on campus. Junior Kenny Bell will lead the receiving core. Bell became only the seventh player in Nebraska history to record 50+ receptions in a season. I think it would be safe to say Martinez will look Bellâ€™s way often. Junior Ameer Abdullah returns as the starting tailback. Many people believe Abdullah is one of the best backâ€™s in the nation. The offensive line returns three starters, but the Huskers never have a difficult time finding new lineman. The Huskers will lean on the running game as usual, but an improvement in the passing attack could lead to a Heisman nomination for Martinez. The defense returns three starters. The defensive line returns one starter from a year ago in senior defensive end Jason Ankrah. The linebacking corps will be breaking in three new starters. After being awful against the run last season, it will be interesting to see if the injection of new blood will revitalize the defense. The secondary was not a weakness last season. It was one of the best in the nation last season. This season should not be much different as both starting cornerbacks return. They will be breaking in two new safeties though. If this defense can improve against the run, the Huskers ought to be quite a defensive force. The Huskers schedule got much easier this season. Ohio State and Wisconsin were replaced this season by Indiana and Purdue. The Huskers do host UCLA, Northwestern, and Michigan State this season with road trips to Michigan and Penn State. If the defense can improve against the run, the Huskers could find themselves right back at 12-0 and in Indianapolis playing for the B1G title and a spot in Pasadena for the National Championship. If the front seven has the same year as last against the run, Nebraska could be taking a step back to 8-4. View attachment 53825 The Northwestern Wildcats were three fourth quarter collapses from being 12-0 and playing for the B1G championship. This season, they cannot afford to do the same. Northwestern capped off a 10-3 season with a 34-20 win over Mississippi State in the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl. This season, could be really special, if all the pieces fall the right way. Northwestern returns eight starters from a year ago. Senior Kain Colter and redshirt junior Trevor Siemian will continue their rotation at quarterback. It worked out just fine last year, so why change it? Senior running back Venric Mark returns this season as the B1Gâ€™s top rusher with 1,366 yards last season. The holes in this offense are all on the offensive line. The Wildcats will be trying to replace the whole right side plus left guard. If the Wildcats offensive line can gel, this offense will be scary good. the defense returns seven starters from a year ago. The defensive line was hit the hardest with only half the line returning. Senior defensive end Tyler Scott returns though. he was the B1G co-leader in sacks with 9.0 last season. The linebacking core returns two starters, led by tackle machine Damien Proby. The senior Proby will lead a front seven that was strong against the rush. The secondary returns three starters, including both corners. The secondary was suspect last season, and must improve for the Wildcats to be a true contender. The Wildcats schedule looks tougher this season. With road trips to Wisconsin and Nebraska and home contests against Ohio State, Michigan, and Michigan State. If the defense improves, Northwesternâ€™s ceiling looks to be 11-1 and a trip to the B1G Championship game. If the defense continues to struggle, the floor looks to be 7-5. Either way, these Wildcats will go bowling once again. View attachment 53817 As usual, the B1G will have some must-watch games this season. Most of these games will be conference games. Week 2: Notre Dame @ Michigan. This series is just so exciting. Every year, the games seem to come down to the wire. Week 3: UCLA @ Nebraska. Nebraska will be looking for revenge for last seasons 36-30 defeat. Wisconsin @ Arizona State. Wisconsin will be looking to have a better start to the season then they did last season. Week 4: Michigan State @ Notre Dame. The Battle for the Megaphone ought to be a good one. Week 5: Wisconsin @ Ohio State. Ohio State will be looking to end Wisconsinâ€™s dominance of the Leaders Division. The past three years, these have been classics. Week 6: Ohio State @ Northwestern. The very next week, the Buckeyes will have to travel to Evanston. Northwestern will be looking to let the college football world they mean business. Week 7: Northwestern @ Wisconsin. Northwestern will travel to the ever-hostile Camp Randall. Northwestern needs the win to be a contender. Wisconsin needs to win to keep pace with Ohio State. Michigan @ Penn State. Penn State is always a thorn in Michiganâ€™s side. This year shouldnâ€™t be any different, especially since it will be Homecoming weekend. Michigan needs the win. There is no other way to say it. Week 9: Penn State @ Ohio State. These games are always competitive. Penn State will be looking to play spoiler. Ohio State will be looking to make a strong push in the BCS. Week 10: Michigan @Michigan State. This is the rivalry of Michigan. There is no clear favorite in this game. Both teams will be jostling for Division positioning. Northwestern @ Nebraska. Northwestern will need to forget about last seasonâ€™s collapse, while Nebraska will be trying to prove that last seasonâ€™s victory was no fluke. Week 11: Nebraska @ Michigan. The conference schedule has really heated up. The fight for Legends supremacy. Week 12: Michigan @ Northwestern. Who will be on top of the Legends by the time this game comes around? Michigan will be playing their third straight tough one. Michigan State @ Nebraska. By now, we ought to have figured out who is the leader of this division, or we will realize that there is a log jam. This will be a wild ride folks. Week 13: Michigan State @ Northwestern. When does the schedule end? These two ought to be fighting for the top, but will they still have gas in the tank? Nebraska @ Penn State. Penn State can really spoil Nebraskaâ€™s chances of returning to Indianapolis. It is never easy in Happy Valley. Week 14: Penn State @ Wisconsin. Will Wisconsin need this win to clinch the division? You can bet Wisconsin will be looking for revenge for last seasonâ€™s 24-21 loss. For Penn State, this will be their bowl game. Ohio State @ Michigan. The Big One. This could only be round one. Last season, we saw a good one. Michigan will be looking for revenge. The B1G looks to be extremely competitive this season. The traditional powers seem to have taken their spots at the top, but donâ€™t count out Michigan State, Nebraska, Northwestern, and Wisconsin. I will tell you that i predict Ohio State to take the Leaders Division and Michigan to take the Legends Division. In the rematch, I have Ohio State taking down Michigan. Now which day do I have Ohio State playing in Pasadena. Youâ€™ll just have to patiently wait.