Ten Early Bold Predictions For The Big Ten

Posted Jan 23, 2012

Phil Harrison: Ten early predictions for the Big Ten.

Phil Harrison
Harrison: Big Ten Early Bold Predictions for 2012

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The smoke of a season's long battle has cleared, the early entrants to the draft have materialized, and several coaches have driven rented UHauls to new parts of the country. It all leads to a good time to throw out some early, bold predictions for the 2012 Big 12 Season

10. Denard Robinson will win the Graham-George Offensive Player of the Year Award-
Okay, so we start with a prediction that's pretty safe, and less bold to throw out there. Robinson is a dynamic athlete and the coaches finally got on board with trashing their idea of being "balanced" in the sense of using him less towards the tail end of last year. The Wolverines scrap and fight when Robinson isn't de-clawed in the offensive attack. He'll be used similar to the end of the year, put up numbers, and be the offensive star of the league--all year.

9. The conference will be down overall--again.
Wisconsin and Michigan State are replacing starting QBs, Ohio State and Penn State are taking on new coaching staffs and old turmoil, and everyone besides Michigan has glaring holes to fill. It'll be a down year once again for the conference, and one not even on par with 2011. The possibility will exist of just one BCS bowl invite which may actually mean better match ups in some of the bowl games to save face. The down cycle will end at some point, but not this year.

8. Michigan State will take a step back-
Sparty has earned its stripes of being a top program in the league because of its performance on the field the last couple of years, but that shouldn't give MSU the right to get the benefit of the doubt with the personnel losses it'll have to absorb. Most importantly is the loss of its leader and heart and soul--QB Kirk Cousins. Le'Veon Bell is back to run behind a veteran front, but gone are explosive plays in the passing game with Keshawn Martin, BJ Cunningham, and Keith Nichol. The defense will be very good again, but there's too much to replace on offense to expect the Spartans to be a top ten team like a lot of folks are prognosticating.

7. Iowa will be the surprise team of the league-
The Hawkeyes lose a lot of key personnel on both sides of the ball, none bigger than star RB Marcus Coker being exiled from Iowa City. Still, the "beak" seems to bite when it gets solid QB play under Ferentz' system. With James Vandenberg coming back wiser, and more mature, the offense will be solid enough to move the chains consistently. Add in the over-performing defensive base scheme (despite the Norm Parker loss) that allows the Hawkeyes the ability to plug in pieces of a puzzle and there won't be much drop off on that side of the ball. As always, the Hawks will play down to some competition and skin their knees where they shouldn't, but also stay in games against more talented teams to spring an upset or two and stay competitive in the Legends division race.

6. Danny Hope's desk chair will get even hotter-
Apparently mediocrity is the goal at Purdue these days. Because the Boilermakers squeaked into a bowl game, Hope got an extension and a bit of a reprieve on all of the coaching change speculation. It won't last long. Despite the new contract, another mediocre season will open up the flood gates of conjecture yet again. Money spent wisely?

5. Indiana, Minnesota, and Illinois will all struggle-
Whether it be the transition of a new coach with Illinois, or a continued lack of talent with both Minnesota and Indiana, college football Saturdays will not be fun in Bloomington, Minneapolis, and Champaign. In Indiana and Minnesota's case, the slight improvement in year two of new coaches won't have a great impact on the overall win-loss record because of how far the two programs still need to come. For Illinois, Tim Beckman simply has his work cut out for him trying to revamp things while having to caravan to Ohio State, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Welcome to the Big Ten Becks.

4. The Urban Meyer era will start out fine, but not great-
There won't be a repeat of what occurred with USC in the Pac-12 this year for the Buckeyes. OSU will be better, and there will be glimpses of the promise that the Urban Meyer era brings, but the installation of new schemes and coaches in combination with the reality that there is not much to play for will keep Ohio State from having the best record in the Legends Division. It'll be eight or nine wins in 2012 with momentum building for 2013 and beyond - when the Buckeyes are eligible for teh post-season again.

3. Wisconsin will win the Leaders Divison-
Yeah, yeah, yeah..Russell Wilson is gone so Wisky must break in a new signal caller. So what? Ohio State isn't eligible for the title and Penn State is in hot water. The options aren't there. Wisconsin will go back to being Wisconsin and not featuring the quarterback, but rather relying on Montee Ball and a physical offensive front. The offensive coaching staff has a ton of turnover, but it won't matter. The defense will not be great, but solid enough, and the schedule is favorable with Ohio State and Michigan State coming to rowdy Camp Randall. Advantage Badgers.

2. Michigan will win the Legends Division-
In year two, the Wolverines will continue to improve, but the overall record may not be as good. That's because the non-conference schedule is much tougher with a game against Alabama at Cowboy stadium to start the year in combination with a trip to South Bend to face a dangerous Notre Dame squad that might be getting its sea legs. Once conference play begins however, the schedule remains palatable. At Nebraska and at Ohio State won't be pillow fights, but Michigan State and Iowa come to Ann Arbor. The remaining games are ones that Denard Robinson and company should win--tied shoelaces or not.


1. Michigan will win the Big Ten Championship game in Indy-
The Wolverines came close to getting there this year, but with all of the momentum and confidence that Hoke and Mattison have brought to the program, Denard Robinson's senior year will be capped off with a Big Ten title and BCS bowl birth. Michigan staked its claim to being back last year, and this year the winged helmets will prove it was no fluke. Rich Rodriguez who?