The Big Ten begins their final season of Legends and Leaders play and I think I speak for most when I say, “It’s about time.” When Rutgers and Maryland enter the conference in 2014, the divisions will change to the more appropriate ‘East and West.’ There will also be some changes among current division teams as well but we’ll worry about that next year.
The focus today is the Legends Division where I can see four of the six teams with a very reasonable opportunity to represent the division in the Big 10 Title game. Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska and Northwestern all have legitimate chances to be the final Legends’ champ while I see Minnesota and Iowa as bottom-dwellers.
Let’s break’em down.
Iowa 5.5 (-150 over/+120 over) – The Hawkeyes enter 2013 coming off an uncharacteristic 4-8 season. I’m not sure it’s going to get much better in Iowa City this year. They open with defending MAC champ Northern Illinois who went to the Orange Bowl last season. They also have road games at Iowa State, Ohio State and Nebraska. Michigan and Michigan State come to Kinnick Stadium and will be favored. With question marks at key positions like QB, I’m going with the under.
Michigan 8.5 (+110 over/-140 under) – Brady Hoke’s Wolverines were just 8-5 last year but have more stability at QB with Devin Gardner who runs well and passes well. Michigan opens with three straight at home including the night game against Notre Dame. They have road games at UConn, Iowa, Michigan State, Penn State and Northwestern. I see at least six wins for sure with several toss-ups on the road. I’ll go with the over.
Michigan State 8.5 (-130 over/EVEN under) – The Spartans were far better than their 7-6 record last year. They lost several games by less than five points even with a poor passing attack. That should be better, but a replacement for Le’Veon Bell will be hard to find. That said, I love the schedule for MSU. They should open 3-0 before heading to Notre Dame. They also have road games at Nebraska and Northwestern but I see lots of wins for this team too. Take the over.
Minnesota 5.5 (-105 over/-125 under) – The Gophers were winless in the division last year and that could happen again in 2013. The non-conference schedule is weak with the exception of San Jose State who will cause the Gophers trouble at home. Minnesota has road games at Michigan, Northwestern and Michigan State. Head Coach Jerry Kill is a good coach, but his health issues could be a problem if they persist. I’m leaning towards the over but it will be barely at six.
Nebraska 9.5 (-115 over/-115 under) – The Huskers are the defending division champs and will battle to repeat that honor. Their schedule is very favorable with an easy non-conference schedule with only UCLA coming to Lincoln as a potential challenge. They get Michigan State and Northwestern at home, but must go to Ann Arbor where that game could decide the division. Taylor Martinez is back for his final season at QB and I believe he leads them to 10 wins.
Northwestern 8.5 (+160 over/-200 under) – The Wildcats enter 2013 coming off a 10-3 record with all three losses coming in conference play. I’ve seen several publications that like the Wildcats to win the Legends Division behind Kain Colter. The non-conference schedule is not difficult although the opener at Cal could be troublesome as the Bears have a new coach. The Wildcats get Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State at home but must travel to Wisconsin and Nebraska. I’m not sure they get to 10 wins again but I like them for the over.