Here is Campus Confidential's Big Ten preview.
Opening kickoff: The key word in the Big Ten this season is “change.” Nebraska joins as the 12th member, which means divisions (Leaders and Legends) and the inaugural Big Ten championship game in Indianapolis on Dec. 3. The scandal at Ohio State forced longtime head coach Jim Tressel to resign and prompted quarterback Terrelle Pryor to leave school early for the NFL. Another key change is at Michigan where Brady Hoke takes over for Rich Rodriguez as the Wolverines’ head coach. The two favorites should be Wisconsin in the Leaders division and Nebraska in the Legends division. Wisconsin added quarterback Russell Wilson, who transferred from North Carolina State. Wilson started three seasons for North Carolina State. The Badgers also return the running back duo of Montee Ball and James White, who both rushed for more 1,000 yards last year and combined for 32 touchdowns. Linebacker Chris Borland, the 2009 Big Ten freshman of the year, is back after sitting out last season with an injury. Nebraska returns quarterback Tyler Martinez and running back Rex Burkhead. But it’s the defense that will be scary good with defensive tackle Jared Crick, linebacker Lavonte David and cornerback Alfonzo Dennard. Nebraska, however, has a tough schedule with a road game against Wisconsin on Oct. 1 and then this stretch to finish the season: home against Michigan State and Northwestern, at Penn State and Michigan, and home against Iowa. Michigan State is a team to watch. The Spartans have quarterback Kirk Cousins, running backs Edwin Baker and Le’Veon Bell, and wide receiver B.J. Cunningham returning. Defense will be the key for the Spartans.
CC’s predicted order of finish
- Ohio State
- Penn State
- Michigan State
CC’s preseason offensive player of the year: Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan
CC’s preseason defensive player of the year: Jared Crick, DT, Nebraska
Best game: Nebraska at Wisconsin, Oct. 1
Why Wisconsin will beat Nebraska in the Big Ten title game: The teams meet in the regular season at Wisconsin, but it’s early in the season (Oct. 1). That game won’t be a good indicator because it’s probably going to take some time to figure out how Wilson’s quarterback skills fit into Wisconsin’s running game with Ball and White. By early December, I expect Wilson to be settled in and a key part of the offense. Nebraska’s defense should be one of the best in the nation, but the Badgers should have enough offense to win. Nebraska’s Martinez is a concern with his running ability, but I can’t see him tearing up the Wisconsin defense. My prediction is Wisconsin winning a low-scoring game, something in the 20-17 range.