2013 Big Ten Preview - Leaders Team Breakdown
Illinois QB Nathan Scheelhaase
Preview 2013 - CFN Big Ten Team By Team Quick Looks and Predicted Finish
Big Ten Leaders Team By Team
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Predicted Big Ten Championship: Wisconsin over Nebraska
Note: Predictions based on team talent and
2013 CFN Prediction: 10-2
2013 Big Ten Prediction: 7-1
Offense: No, Wisconsin isn't going to start running the Utah State read-option attack, and no, it's not going to go into five-wide formations are start winging the ball all over the yard. New offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig knows how to run a pro-style offense from his time at San Diego State, and he has a good base of players to do what Wisconsin normally does. It all starts up front with yet another massive line that should be fine in time, but was a disappointment last year despite pacing the way for over 3,300 yards of rushing offense. Montee Ball is gone, but the combination of James White and Melvin Gordon should pick up the rushing slack, while the return of Jared Abbrederis and tight end Jacob Pedersen provides two veteran targets for one of the five quarterback options to throw to. Joel Stave is the likely No. 1, but Curt Phillips and JUCO transfer Tanner McEvoy will be deep in the hunt for the starting gig.
Defense: The six-loss season dimmed the strong season by a Badger defense that finished 15th in the nation, was great against the run, and 18th against the pass. It's not like the D faced a who's who of offensive juggernauts, but overall it was still a great year allowing more than 21 points just four times. It was good, but the new coaching staff is going to tinker to try making it better with defensive coordinator Dave Aranda switching things up to a 3-4. The result should be a brick wall of a front three with nose tackle Beau Allen anchoring a big, strong front. Chris Borland is back as part of a deep and talented linebacking corps that will get by just fine without Mike Taylor, while several great new replacements appear ready to step in and shine with three starters gone from the secondary.
2. Ohio State
2013 CFN Prediction: 10-2
2013 Big Ten Prediction: 6-2
Offense: It seems crazy that the Ohio State offense was 107th in the nation two years ago. More effective than dangerous, even after leading the Big Ten in scoring offense, the Buckeye attack should be far more explosive with so much firepower returning led by Heisman-favorite quarterback Braxton Miller. The backfield has a deep stable of running backs that should do even more behind a veteran line with four starters returning, with the goal being to take some of the rushing workload away from Miller to keep him fresh. The experience receiving corps has pop and explosion with Corey Brown and Devin Smith forming a potentially deadly tandem. But it all comes down to Miller, and offensive coordinator Tom Herman knows how to get big things out of a mobile quarterback.
Defense: The defense will be more than fine. Inconsistent last year, it has to undergo a major overhaul losing six starters in the front seven, but Ohio State being Ohio State has more than enough top talents waiting in the wings. However, the real stars are in the recruiting class with linebacker Mike Mitchell, end Joey Bosa and safety Vonn Bell among the best in the nation in their respective positions. Ryan Shazier is a special linebacker who'll earn all-star honors, and the safety combination of C.J. Barnett and Christian Bryant will be fine helping out top corner Bradley Roby, but the line has to perform with the spotlight on and Curtis Grant has to finally pay off at middle linebacker.
2013 CFN Prediction: 6-6
2013 Big Ten Prediction: 3-5
Offense: The work in progress is starting to come together. Yes, Indiana led the Big Ten in passing partly because the defense was so bad that the O had to keep bombing away, but the attack worked whether it was Cameron Coffman or Tre Roberson under center. Now the Hoosiers have all their quarterbacks back along with a deep and talented stable of running backs and a deeper group of receivers. The young line did a nice job in pass protection, and now it's maturing into something potentially special with five young, good blockers growing into their own. But it'll still be the passing game that shines, and with ten of the top 11 pass catchers from last year back, it should be bombs away.
Defense: Everything is starting to come around and improve. There will still be problems against the Wisconsin-like power running teams, and the high-octane passing offenses will still do whatever they please, but the defense showed improvement despite finishing dead last in the Big Ten in yards and scoring allowed. It's been a process to upgrade the overall athleticism and get tougher up front, and while the front seven will hardly be a rock, there's better quickness up front and a good group of linebackers to work around David Cooper in the middle. The secondary has a nice array of hitters at safety with Greg Heban and Mark Murphy returning, but overall the D needs to come up with more big picks and game-changing plays. There's depth and potential, but even if they're coming at a glacier's pace, the steps forward will come.
T3. Penn State
2013 CFN Prediction: 6-6
2013 Big Ten Prediction: 3-5
Offense: Head coach Bill O'Brien did wonders for the passing game and made it shine – and now he has better pieces to work with. It might take a little while, but superstar recruit Christian Hackenberg is going to be an elite quarterback who'll eventually make the passing game explode. The loaded group of tight ends might be the best in college football, and wideout Allen Robinson could be the best in the Big Ten – they all have to make the new starting quarterback better. Zach Zwiniak is a dependable workhorse to revolve the running game around, and the line is loaded with enough experience to expect a big overall improvement. It might not be the most efficient or explosive offense, but it should be solid as the season goes on.
Defense: New defensive coordinator John Butler welcomes in plenty of starting experience, but he's missing stars and doesn't have much depth to play around with. Linebackers Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges are gone along with tackle Jordan Hill, and now the hope is for Glenn Carson and Mike Hull go become stars in the linebacking corps and for DaQuan Jones to be an all-star anchor up front. On the positive side, the pass rush that led the Big Ten last season should be fantastic with Deion Barnes a rising star on one side and the athletic C.J. Olaniyan and Anthony Zettel two specialists combining forces on the other. The secondary welcomes back three starters, but there's no depth and it's a mediocre unit that doesn't do enough to take the ball away.
2013 CFN Prediction: 5-7
2013 Big Ten Prediction: 2-6
Offense: New offensive coordinator John Shoop will look to install more of a pro-style attack that gets the passing game moving, but can the big downfield plays start coming? The offense bogged down way too often last season, and now any hope of getting things moving starts at quarterback. Rob Henry might be an experienced veteran, but freshman Danny Etling is a better fit for the new attack. Akeem Hunt beefed up and should be ready to handle the rushing workload, while a decent receiving corps has upside with a nice mix of reliable veterans and big young reserves. The line needs some shuffling, but there are enough good pieces in place to hope for a decent starting five with a little bit of time.
Defense: Defensive coordinator Greg Hudson was a part of the Florida State defensive staff before signing on with Darrell Hazell, and he has a decent group of starters to build around. The defense finished 11th in the Big Ten and had major problems against any offense with a pulse, but there's good tacklers in the secondary and decent athletes in the front seven. Hudson will play around with a combination of a 3-4 and 4-3 depending on the situation, but he'll want to work around a good line led by tackle Bruce Gaston and rising pass rusher Ryan Russell on the end. The secondary is loaded with veterans, but they have to start coming up with stops and more big plays.
2013 CFN Prediction: 2-10
2013 Big Ten Prediction: 0-8
Offense: Offensive coordinator Bill Cubit inherits a wealth of experience, but will there be any production? Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase regressed behind a leaky line that didn't give him any time to operate, and the backfield didn't provide enough help for an offense that finished second-to-last in the nation in both scoring and yards. The first step will be to get more out of the line that was the worst in the Big Ten in pass protection and did nothing for the ground game. However, it was a young line that should settle in now. More time for Scheelhaase has to translate into more pop and explosion for a passing game that went absolutely nowhere. Fortunately, three starters are back in the receiving corps, while Donovonn Young leads a quick and young group of running backs.
Defense: Can defensive coordinator Tim Banks get more with less talent? He got ten-cent production out of million-dollar prospects last season, and despite giving up a not-that-bad 388 yards per game, there weren't enough key stops against any offense that tried hard. The strength will be a linebacking corps that welcomes back a healthy Jonathan Brown and an improving Mason Monheim, but they'll have to do even more with a questionable line that loses Michael Buchanan, Glenn Foster and Akeem Spence. The secondary will be fantastic – in 2014. It's a young but talented group full of underclassmen with a world of upside, but it'll be a rough season as everyone tries to figure out their roles.