Preview 2012 - Big Ten Predicted Finishes
Posted Jun 16, 2012

The early summer look at where we think each team will finish.

Preview 2012

Big Ten Leaders Conference Picks

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Preview 2012 - Predicted Conference Finishes
- ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | C-USA | Ind. | MAC
- Mountain West | Pac-12 | SEC | Sun Belt | WAC

1. Wisconsin
2011 Record: 11-3, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 10-2

Here’s the little secret that Wisconsin doesn’t like to talk about over the last two Rose Bowl years: the schedules have been really, really soft. Oh sure, there’s a blowout over Nebraska here and a steamroll over Penn State there, but for the most part the Badgers haven’t exactly had to deal with the SEC West. The same goes for this season in what should be yet another terrific run to the Big Ten championship game – helped by Ohio State being ineligible. Going to Oregon State sounds dangerous, but it’s not, and while Utah State is an interesting test, it shouldn’t be a problem for Bucky before starting out the Big Ten season at Nebraska. The other road games are against Purdue, Indiana, and Penn State – the Badgers will be big favorites in all three games. Michigan State and Ohio State both have to come to Madison. The offseason addition of QB Danny O’Brien will fill the giant hole left by Russell Wilson, and Mifflin Street Block Party tickets aside, Montee Ball will still be a front-runner for the Heisman working behind a line that has two possible first-round 2013 NFL draft picks in Ricky Wagner and Travis Frederick. The defense needs some retooling, but the linebacking combination of Mike Taylor and Chris Borland should be among the best in college football.

2. Ohio State
2011 Record: 6-7, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 10-2

Urban Meyer will have the team ready to rock and roll from Day One, but it’ll be a building season for 2013. The Buckeyes might not be eligible for the Big Ten championship or a bowl game, but there’s a ton of talent on both sides of the ball and QB Braxton Miller appears ready to blossom into a superstar in Meyer’s attack. At the same time the Buckeyes will play loose, since there’s no pressure with nothing to play for, and angry, because Urban is will make the team that way. UCF is a dangerous non-conference game, as is Cal, but both are at home with Buckeyes getting five home games in the first six weeks. There are only four road games and one of them is Indiana. However, going to Michigan State and Wisconsin will be beartraps and Penn State isn’t a layup. Michigan and Illinois have to come to Columbus, and the Buckeyes should take care of home and win both.

3. Illinois
2011 Record: 7-6, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 7-5

Will Tim Beckman be able to get the Illini to be more consistent? The defensive front should be among the best in the Big Ten even with Whitney Mercilus off to the Houston Texans, while Jonathan Brown should be among the league’s best linebackers. Nathan Scheelhaase and the running game might not explode, but it should be effective to go along with an efficient passing game. Considering Penn State is questionable, if the Illini can win at Arizona State they should be 5-0 before dealing with back-to-back road games against Wisconsin and Michigan. Throw in a date at Ohio State and Beckman has one of the roughest stretches of three road games in four weeks that any coach has to deal with. Even so, a winning season should be a lock if everything goes according to plan.

4. Penn State
2011 Record: 9-4, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 6-6

New coach Bill O’Brien has done a terrific job so far of taking the most distracted program in college football and making it his. Not only does the team have to deal with everything on the outside, but it has a ton of work to do to make any noise in the Big Ten race. The quarterback situation continues to be a concern after spring ball and the line has to replace four starters, and while the linebacking corps has the potential to be among the best in the country, the defense has to retool up front and has to replace all four starters in the secondary. Fortunately, there’s time in the schedule to sort things out with Ohio Navy, and Temple at home in the first four weeks, but going to Virginia in Week Two could expose the flaws. Ohio State and Wisconsin come to Happy Valley, and while going to Illinois, Iowa and Purdue might not seem like a big deal this season, it will be for these Nittany Lions. Throw in a road game against Nebraska, and it’s going to be a season-long fight.

5. Purdue
2011 Record: 7-6, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 6-6

The Boilermakers have upside, experience, and enough talent to start making noise in Big Ten play, but they’ll have to rock early on to make up for a possible second half slide. Having five home games in the first six it might seem like things are easy, but Michigan and Wisconsin come to West Lafayette in the first two weeks of October and then comes the payback with four road games in five weeks. The running game should be terrific and the quarterback situation will be a plus once it gets sorted out. With DT Kawann Short as the anchor up front the potential is there for a good year from a defense that should be the best in the Danny Hope era. Even so, eight wins might be the ceiling while six victories will be more realistic.

6. Indiana
2011 Record: 1-11, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 3-9

The first year under Kevin Wilson didn't exactly go well without a win over an FBS team and with way too many gaffes. Job One will be to get more out of the offense starting with promising quarterback Tre Roberson, who needs to be a rock with Edward Wright-Baker and Dusty Kiel transferring. The defense that was so soft gets all the key parts back on the line and in the secondary, but there has to be a night-and-day improvement for any big steps forward in the record. Getting Indiana and UMass early should double the 2011 win total before the first week of September is over, and there should be enough overall improvement for two more wins, but it'll take a major shocker to be close to getting to six wins. Big Ten Legends

Legends Picks

1. Michigan
2011 Record: 11-2, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 10-2

Rip up any preconceived notions about Michigan if it can beat Alabama in the season opener. If Brady Hoke’s club pulls that off, then it’s Game On for the national title chase even with road games at Notre Dame, Purdue, and Nebraska as part of a run of four away games in six weeks. Michigan State and Iowa have to come to Ann Arbor, but good luck in the regular season finale at Ohio State – it’ll be the Buckeyes’ bowl game. The talent level is improving to a BCS championship level with a great recruiting class coming in, but will all the young players be ready to help improve the depth? Denard Robinson and the running game will roll the week after dealing with the Tide, while the defense should be fantastic in the secondary and terrific at linebacker. The line will have to retool in a hurry, but it’ll eventually be fine.

2. Michigan State
2011 Record: 11-3, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 9-3

The Spartans should be deep in the mix for a return trip to the Big Ten championship even with a major overhaul to be done on offense. Almost the entire passing game is gone, but four starters return on the offensive front to pave the way for Le’Veon Bell and projected – but already banged up - starting quarterback Andrew Maxwell. The defense loses anchor Jerel Worthy in the middle but should be devastating on the outside with William Gholston leading the fearsome pass rush. The secondary should be the Big Ten’s best and the linebacking corps will be a rock. The first half of the season is rough, but all the big games are at home with Boise State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, and Iowa all coming to East Lansing and with the two road games both layups against Central Michigan and Indiana. And then comes the problem with back-to-back road games at Michigan and Wisconsin followed up by a date with Nebraska.

3. Nebraska
2011 Record: 9-4, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 9-3

Can the Nebraska offense find someone else to help out the cause? QB Taylor Martinez and RB Rex Burkhead will carry the attack once again, but the line has some rebuilding and reworking to do. The defense not only loses heart-and-soul tackler Lavonte David, but key assistant Carl Pelini is off to be the head man at Florida Atlantic. Even so, the front seven gets five starters back and the secondary should be a plus. It’ll have to be unless the offense can be more consistent. The start of the season is tougher than it looks starting out against defending Conference USA champion Southern Miss, going to UCLA, and following it up with defending Sun Belt champion Arkansas State. Four of the first five games might be at home, but the final one in the stretch is against Wisconsin before the real problems kick in. The Huskers have to go on the road three times in four weeks with dates at Ohio State, Northwestern, and Michigan State wrapped around a home game against Michigan. If that wasn’t enough, there’s still Penn State to deal with and the regular season finale at Iowa.

4. Iowa
2011 Record: 7-6, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 7-5

The team might not be that great but the record should be more than fine. The running back situation will be fine, but it won't be great, while the offensive line will be worse and the receiving corps needs some retooling. The defense that was so inconsistent needs even more work and has to come up with a few stunning performances from unlikely sources to come up with a good year. Fortunately, five of the first seven games are at home and one of the other games is a neutral site date with Northern Illinois in Chicago. Even the second half of the year isn't that bad with Northwestern and Indiana manageable road games and with Purdue coming to Iowa City. The team won't be good enough to win the Legends, but it'll be just decent enough to be in the mix.

5. Northwestern
2011 Record: 6-7, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 6-6

The Wildcats will be likely be great early and shaky late with four home games in a row after starting out the year at Syracuse and with winnable dates in Evanston against Boston College, South Dakota, and Indiana. But then comes the payback with four road games in the final six before finishing up with Illinois. The running game needs help from the recruiting class and has to hope for Kain Colter to be a star right away at quarterback. The call has gone out from head coach Pat Fitzgerald for the defense to be more athletic, stronger, and effective up front, and it'll need to be with a new bunch of defensive backs in the mix.

6. Minnesota
2011 Record: 3-9, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 5-7

The defense should be stronger in the back seven and can't be much worse up front, while the offense will work around QB MarQueis Gray and the running game. Jerry Kill is a terrific coach who'll get the ground attack going, but he might need one more year to get the pieces in place he needs to make it all work. After blowing layup games last year the Gophers can't take anything for granted, but getting UNLV, New Hampshire, Western Michigan and Syracuse in the first month should mean a 3-1 start, at worst 2-2, while conference home games against Purdue and Northwestern are winnable. Outside of road games against Wisconsin and Nebraska, and home games against Michigan and Michigan State, there isn't one game on the slate the Gophers can't potentially win.