Hawkeye Insider Big Ten Predictions

Hawkeye Insider Big Ten Predictions

Hawkeye Insider Publisher Rob Howe begins his 18th season covering Big Ten football later this month. He offers up his predictions for each conference team in this league preview.

With the Big Ten season kicking off in eight days, it's time to take a look at how the conference might play out. Below we break down each team and predict all of the games.

If you missed it, you can see my game-by-game prognostications for the upcoming Iowa football season here.

Now, it's time to break down the rest of the Big Ten:

Illinois

2013 record: 4-8 overall, 1-7 Big Ten

'14 Prediction: 4-8, 1-7

Wins: Youngstown State, Western Kentucky, Texas State, Purdue.

Losses: at Washington, at Nebraska, at Wisconsin, Minnesota, at Ohio State, Iowa, Penn State, at Northwestern.

Closest Loss: Penn State.

Skinny: I see some analysts tabbing Illinois as a team on the rise. Not sure what's that based on other than it being Year 3 of the Tim Beckman Era. Talent is lacking and the conference schedule is brutal.

Indiana

2013 record: 5-7 overall, 3-5 Big Ten

'14 Prediction: 6-6, 3-5 (before bowl)

Wins: Indiana State, Bowling Green, Maryland, North Texas, Penn State, Purdue.

Losses: at Missouri, at Iowa, Michigan State, at Michigan, at Rutgers, at Ohio State.

Closest Loss: at Rutgers.

Skinny: The Hoosiers might have the most explosive offense in the league. The question comes on defense where 10 of 12 opponents last season scored 35 or more points. Until I witness improvement in that area, I'm skeptical Indiana will be much better than a year ago.

IOWA

2013 record: 8-5 overall, 5-3 Big Ten

'14 Prediction: 8-4, 5-3 (before bowl).

Wins: Northern Iowa, Ball State, Iowa State, at Purdue, Indiana, Northwestern, at Illinois, Wisconsin.

Losses: at Pittsburgh, at Maryland, at Minnesota, Nebraska.

Closest Loss: at Minnesota.

Skinny: As I wrote in my game-by-game breakdown, opinions on Iowa vary greatly. There's a lot to like here and there are some real concerns. If it all comes together and they suffer no key injuries, the Hawkeyes could reach 10 wins. I don't see them falling below seven victories.

MARYLAND

2013 record: 7-6 overall, 3-5 ACC

'14 Prediction: 6-6, 3-5 (before bowl).

Wins: James Madison, at S. Florida, West Virginia, Iowa, at Penn State, Rutgers.

Losses: at Syracuse, at Indiana, Ohio State, at Wisconsin, Michigan State, at Michigan.

Closest Loss: at Syracuse.

Skinny: The Terrapins are stacked at the skill positions. It will be a matter of their lines developing to deal with the Big Ten grind. They also may have the league's toughest non-conference schedule with games at Syracuse and South Florida and a home date with West Virginia. In the conference, they play Ohio State, Iowa, Wisconsin, Penn State, Michigan State and Michigan. It's a dangerous team that might be better than its final record shows.

MICHIGAN

2013 record: 7-6 overall, 3-5 Big Ten

'14 Prediction: 9-3, 5-3 (before bowl).

Wins: Appalachian State, at Notre Dame, Miami (Ohio), Utah, Minnesota, at Rutgers, Penn State, Indiana, Maryland.

Losses: at Michigan State, at Northwestern, at Ohio State.

Closest Loss: at Northwestern.

Skinny: Brady Hoke has to be coaching for his job, right? This outcome would be interesting. The Wolverines would win nine games but lose to two of its top three rivals. That surely would elicit mixed reviews from the fans and, potentially, the administration. They should head into East Lansing with a 3-0 mark in the Big Ten and a win at Notre Dame would have them unbeaten. That'd be fun.

MICHIGAN STATE

2013 record: 13-1 overall, 8-0 Big Ten

'14 Prediction: 10-2, 7-1 (before bowl).

Wins: Jacksonville State, Eastern Michigan, Wyoming, Nebraska, at Purdue, at Indiana, Michigan, Ohio State, at Maryland, Rutgers.

Losses: at Oregon, at Penn State.

Closest Loss: at Penn State.

Skinny: The clear class of the conference with Ohio State star Braxton Miller going down, Michigan State could run the table. Those seasons are very rare and tough to predict for a team with a very difficult road game in the Pacific Northwest early in the campaign. If the Spartans escape Eugene with a win, however, look out. Going to State College unbeaten on the final week would be crazy.

MINNESOTA

2013 record: 8-5 overall, 4-4 Big Ten

'14 Prediction: 7-5, 4-4 (before bowl).

Wins: Eastern Illinois, Middle Tennessee State, San Jose State, Northwestern, Purdue, at Illinois, Iowa.

Losses: TCU, at Michigan, Ohio State, at Nebraska, at Wisconsin.

Closest Loss: at TCU.

Skinny: Jerry Kill has built the Golden Gophers into a no frills outfit in the mold of Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan State. They rely on strong line play, running the football and playing stingy defense. Somebody in the Big Ten office must not like Minnesota, pitting them against Iowa, Ohio State, Nebraska and Wisconsin to finish the season.

NEBRASKA

2013 record: 9-4 overall, 5-3 Big Ten

'14 Prediction: 9-3, 5-3 (before bowl).

Wins: Florida Atlantic, McNeese State, at Fresno State, Miami (FL), Illinois, Rutgers, Purdue, Minnesota, at Iowa.

Losses: at Michigan State, at Northwestern, at Wisconsin.

Closest Loss: at TCU.

Skinny: The heat under Bo Pellini's chair turned up last season and it's likely to remain hot in '14. Nine-win campaigns are acceptable in a lot of places, but Husker fans still are living in the '90s, expecting a national championship contender annually. While that's not happening in Lincoln this fall, Nebraska looks like it can make a run at a conference title.

NORTHWESTERN

2013 record: 5-7 overall, 1-7 Big Ten

'14 Prediction: 8-4, 5-3 (before bowl).

Wins: California, Northern Illinois, Western Illinois, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Michigan, Purdue, Illinois.

Losses: at Penn State, at Minnesota, at Iowa, at Notre Dame.

Closest Loss: at Iowa.

Skinny: Northwestern's nightmarish '13 was followed by the Kain Colter led players union movement in Evanston. The Wildcats bottomed out. Pat Fitzgerald is a good coach and he's recruited well in recent years. Northwestern lost heartbreakers to Iowa, Michigan and Nebraska last season. With a mix of proven performers and hungry young players, a turnaround this fall is quite conceivable.

OHIO STATE

2013 record: 12-2 overall, 8-0 Big Ten

'14 Prediction: 10-2, 6-2 (before bowl).

Wins: at Navy, Virginia Tech, Kent State, Cincinnati, at Maryland, Rutgers, Illinois, at Minnesota, Indiana, Michigan.

Losses: at Penn State, at Michigan State.

Closest Loss: at Penn State.

Skinny: Braxton Miller's season-ending shoulder injury hit Ohio State hard. It also robbed the conference of its leading Heisman Trophy Candidate. Don't cry for the Buckeyes, however. There's enough star power throughout the roster to make this a special season in Columbus. It starts in the trenches, where OSU will be good.

PENN STATE

2013 record: 7-5 overall, 4-4 Big Ten

'14 Prediction: 8-4, 4-4

Wins: Central Florida, Akron, Massachusetts, Northwestern, Ohio State, Temple, at Illinois. Michigan State.

Losses: at Rutgers, at Michigan, Maryland, at Indiana.

Closest Loss: Maryland.

Skinny: The James Franklin Era begins in State College with high expectations. The talented coach may return the Nittany Lions to their glory days in time but the scholarship limitations following the Jerry Sandusky punishment could compromise the roster more this season than any previous one. PSU must avoid injuries and rely on role players more this fall than when its back to full strength upon the expiration of sanctions.

PURDUE

2013 record: 1-11 overall, 0-8 Big Ten

'14 Prediction: 2-10, 0-8

Wins: Central Michigan, Southern Illinois.

Losses: Western Michigan, Notre Dame, Iowa, at Illinois, Michigan State, at Minnesota, at Nebraska, Wisconsin, Northwestern, at Indiana.

Closest Loss: Western Michigan.

Skinny: Somebody has to be the worst team in the Big Ten and it is, once again, Purdue. It's tough to imagine the Boilermakers being worse than last year, but expecting them to be much better is pie in the sky. Like most Power 5 conference schools, there's talent on the roster, but not enough to compete regularly with other high level programs.

RUTGERS

2013 record: 6-7 overall, 3-5 AAC

'14 Prediction: 5-7, 2-6

Wins: Howard, Penn State, at Navy, Tulane, Indiana.

Losses: at Washington State, Michigan, at Ohio State, at Nebraska, Wisconsin, at Michigan State, at Maryland.

Closest Loss: at Maryland.

Skinny: The Scarlet Knights graduated a lot of talent from last year's team and will rely on unproven players in Year 1 of the Big Ten. Quarterback Gary Nova plays incredibly inconsistent football. Rutgers is hoping new offensive coordinator Ralph Friedgen can work magic with the senior. He'll need to.

WISCONSIN

2013 record: 9-4 overall, 6-2 Big Ten

'14 Prediction: 9-3, 6-2 (before bowl)

Wins: Western Illinois, Bowling Green, South Florida, Illinois, Maryland, at Rutgers, at Purdue, Nebraska, Minnesota.

Losses: LSU, at Northwestern, at Iowa.

Closest Loss: at Maryland.

Skinny: The Badgers didn't miss a beat last season in the transition from Bret Bielema to Gary Anderson. That's a good sign in Madison that they're watching a very stable program. Wisconsin must replace some lost firepower in the form of James White, Chris Borland and Jared Abbrederis, among others. Melvin Gordon is one of the top running backs in the country and the Badgers will boast another solid O-Line.

Division Winners

East - Michigan State

West - Wisconsin

Overall Champion: Michigan State

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