Top to bottom, the Legends Division is a little deeper, but the Leaders Division is no slouch. Ohio State and Penn State finished 1-2 but were both ineligible for postseason play. That allowed Wisconsin to go to the Big Ten title game where they throttled Nebraska. The Buckeyes are clearly the cream of the crop in this division but there are potential pitfalls.
Today, I’m breaking down the Leaders in the Big Ten.
Illinois 3.5 (-115 over/-115 under) – The Illini were a dreadful 2-10 last season and did not post a conference win going 0-8. Coach Tim Beckman enters his 2nd year with hope for a better offense under former Western Michigan Head Coach Bill Cubit. Illinois will be better, but they are not going bowling. The non-conference schedule has Cincinnati, Washington and Miami, OH which could be three losses right there. About the only good news is that they get Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin at home. Take the under.
Indiana 5.5 (-175 over/+145 under) – The Hoosiers will field a pretty good offense again in Bloomington but the defense doesn’t look to be that much improved and that’s not good. They were in a lot of games last year and nearly had upsets of both Michigan State and Ohio State but couldn’t close the deal. The non-conference schedule features Navy, who they had a shootout with last year, Missouri and one of the MAC favorites Bowling Green. They also have to travel to Ann Arbor, Madison, Columbus and East Lansing and I see 0-4 right there. Take the under with the Hoosiers.
Ohio State 11 (+145 over/-175 under) – The Buckeyes have huge expectations for 2013 following a 12-0 season in Urban Meyer’s first year in Columbus. The schedule sets up perfectly for them to make a run at the BCS Title game too. The non-conference schedule poses one road trip which is to rebuilding Cal. The conference road games of importance are at Purdue (where OSU has laid an egg in the past), at Northwestern and the finale in Ann Arbor. I think 11 is the right number although I’m lacking some confidence.
Penn State 8 (-110 over/+120 under) – The Nittany Lions recorded an 8-4 record in the first season after the Sandusky Scandal and after the long tenure of Joe Paterno. Will the faithful rally as they did last season? PSU opens in New Jersey against a good Syracuse team, but then has three straight winnable games before conference play begins. They get Michigan and Nebraska at Beaver Stadium but go on the road to Ohio State and Wisconsin. PSU will again have no chance for postseason play and I think they take a small step back with seven wins.
Purdue 5.5 (+200 over/-260 under) – The Boilers welcome new Head Coach Darrell Hazell who comes in with loads of coaching experience and a plan that he can ‘win with what he has.’ Purdue should be able to score, but can they play defense? The non-conference slate is not easy. They have Cincinnati, Notre Dame and MAC champ Northern Illinois. They get Ohio State and Nebraska at home but go on the road to Michigan State, Penn State and Wisconsin. I don’t see six wins just yet, but the program is going in the right direction under Hazell.
Wisconsin 9 (-125 over/-105 under) – Gary Anderson takes over after the surprising departure of Bret Bielema to Arkansas. You might be interested to know that Badgers’ fans weren’t as sad to see Bielema go as you might expect for numerous reasons. I think Anderson is a great fit here coming from Utah State. He’ll need to replace Montee Ball, but the depth is there. The Badgers only road non-conference game is at Arizona State which could be tougher than you think. The conference schedule has the Badgers hosting Northwestern, Penn State and Purdue while they hit the road for Ohio State. Overall I like the schedule and I like the over.