May 10, 2012

Maize N' View: Forecasting the Big Ten in 2012

We're a little more than 15 weeks out from the first Big Ten football game - Minnesota at UNLV Aug. 30 - but it's never too early to peek ahead to the 2012 season. Here is one opinion on how every team will perform next season ...



Legends Division




1. Michigan: The Wolverines may not have the Big Ten's best offense or the best defense or the best special teams, but they have the best combination of the three, and will enter the final weekend of the regular season in control of their own destiny. Regardless of what happens at Ohio State, Michigan's win over in-state rival Michigan State will propel U-M to the Big Ten Championship in Indianapolis.




2. Michigan State: Make no mistake, the Spartans aren't going anywhere. They will feature the conference's best defense for the second year in a row, but no matter how convinced the Green and White faithful are, MSU will miss quarterback Kirk Cousins some. Andrew Maxwell and his supporting cast will emerge eventually but not after a few early-season losses, and one to Michigan that tilts the Legends Division in U-M's favor.




3. Nebraska: Quarterback Taylor Martinez is the biggest enigma in the Big Ten. Great athlete, sure, but one of the worst passers the league has seen in years. And the defense won't be good enough to win games 17-14, especially against a murderous conference schedule that is easily the Big Ten's most difficult. But relief is coming - the schedule gets easier in 2013.




4. Northwestern: Kain Colter did a little bit of everything for the Wildcats a year ago, rushing for 654 yards and nine touchdowns, throwing for 673 yards and six scores, and catching 43 balls for 466 yards and three TDs. If not for Denard Robinson, Colter would be considered the best athlete in the Big Ten. This year, he'll focus more on his quarterback responsibilities, and will help Northwestern avoid the letdown many assume is on the way with the departure of QB Dan Persa.




5. Iowa: James Vandenberg is likely the second-best quarterback in the Big Ten and, perhaps, the best traditional pocket passer, which says ... the conference's QB crop is pretty weak and has a lot to prove this season. Vandenberg really isn't that bad, but with the loss of top receiver Marvin McNutt and tailback Marcus Coker, he'll have to be extra special. And he's not.




6. Minnesota: It was a roller coaster first season for Jerry Kill, who missed multiple games due to complications from seizures, but even with all that he was going through, he instilled some standards at Minnesota that will start to have an impact. Maybe not in 2012, but the Gophers will be a much tougher out than they have been the past few years and could be a team to watch in 2013.




Leaders Division:




1. Ohio State: The Buckeyes were too talented a year ago to go 6-7, and they'll play to their potential in Urban Meyer's first season in Columbus. While Braxton Miller is far from the polished QB he needs to be, and the pieces around him are still finding their way, the Ohio State defense might prove to be the conference's most ferocious (watch for OSU and MSU to jockey for the title), and a dominant defense will carry the Scarlet and Gray in a Leaders Division lacking the depth of the Legends.




2. Wisconsin: If it worked, why not return to the well. Or so that's the mantra in Madison, where the Badgers will turn to transfer Danny O'Brien to lead the offense. But anyone expecting O'Brien to have a Russell Wilson-like impact are ignoring the fact that O'Brien is not quite the talent Wilson was and also wasn't with UW in the spring. The good news is Wisconsin returns a top defense, and the best running back, receiver and tight end in the Big Ten.




3. Purdue: Danny Hope may not be the most respected coach in the Big Ten, but he's slowly been building something in West Lafayette, and it could come to fruition this fall. The Boilermakers finally have some stability at quarterback after two seasons in which injuries plagued the position, and they return 18 total starters. Purdue is not yet ready to crack the upper-echelon so look out for a tough October, but it will finish strong in November against a lot of middle-tier foes.




4. Illinois: The good news for Tim Beckman, who takes over for Ron Zook, is that the Fighting Illini return eight starters from a defense that ranked among the top 20 in the nation a year ago. He also has a veteran QB, junior Nathan Scheelhaase, to build around. The bad news is there is a dearth of talented position players offensively and Scheelhaase regressed a year ago. Illinois will have to take a step back to take two forward.




5. Penn State: Props to Bill O'Brien, who hasn't let the muck that has swamped State College since the Jerry Sanduskey child sex-abuse scandal broke last fall overwhelm his mission and the program. But the Nittany Lions were a team no where near as good as their 9-4 record of last year would indicate. The fact is, quarterback is still a mess with no solution in sight, and the defense, with only four starters back, can't be expected to pick up the slack for the second year in a row.




6. Indiana: The good news for Hoosier fans is that with quarterback Tre Roberson and tailback Stephen Houston, they'll be fun to watch. The bad news is it's still Indiana.






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LEGENDS DIVISION



LEADERS DIVISION

Date

Iowa

Michigan

MSU

Minn.

Nebraska

Nwestern

Illinois

Indiana

OSU

PSU

Purdue

Wisc.

Sept.
1

vs.
Northern

Illinois

L

vs.
Alabama

L

Boise
State

W

at
UNLV

W

So.
Mississippi

W

at
Syracuse

L

Western

Michigan

W

Indiana


State

W

Miami
(Ohio)

W

Ohio

W

Eastern

Kentucky

W

Northern


Iowa

W

Sept.
8

Iowa
State

W

Air
Force

W

at
Central

Michigan

W

New


Hampshire

W

at
UCLA

W

Vanderbilt

W

at
Arizona

State

W

at
Massachusetts

W

Central
Florida

W

at
Virginia

L

at
Notre Dame

L

at
Oregon State

W

Sept.
15

Northern


Iowa

W

Massachusetts

W

Notre
Dame

L

Western


Michigan

W

Arkansas


State

W

Boston


College

W

Charleston

Southern

W

Ball
State

W

California

W

Navy

W

Eastern

Michigan

W

Utah
State

W

Sept.
22

Central


Michigan

W

at
Notre Dame

L

Eastern

Michigan

W

Syracuse

L

Idaho
State

W

South
Dakota

W

Louisiana

Tech

W



UAB

W

Temple

W



Texas
El-Paso

W

Sept.
29

Minnesota

W



Ohio
State

L

at
Iowa

L

Wisconsin

L

Indiana

W

Penn
State

W

at
Northwestern

L

at
Michigan State

W

at
Illinois

L

Marshall

W

at
Nebraska

W

Oct.
6



at
Purdue

W

at
Indiana

W



at
Ohio State

L

at
Penn State

W

at
Wisconsin

L

Michigan
State

L

Nebraska

W

Northwestern

L

Michigan

L

Illinois

W

Oct.
13

at
Michigan

State

L

Illinois

W

Iowa

W

Northwestern

W



at
Minnesota

L

at
Michigan

L

Ohio
State

L

at
Indiana

W



Wisconsin

L

at
Purdue

W

Oct.
20

Penn
State

W

Michigan


State

W

at
Michigan

L

at
Wisconsin

L

Northwestern

W

Nebraska

L



at
Navy

L

Purdue

W

at
Iowa

L

at
Ohio State

L

Minnesota

W

Oct.
27

at
Northwestern

L

at
Nebraska

L

at
Wisconsin

W

Purdue

L

Michigan

W

Iowa

W

Indiana

W

at
Illinois

L

at
Penn State

W

Ohio
State

L

at
Minnesota

W

Michigan
State

L

Nov.
3

at
Indiana

W

at
Minnesota

W

Nebraska

W

Michigan

L

at
Michigan

State

L



at
Ohio State

L

Iowa

L

Illinois

W

at
Purdue

L

Penn
State

W



Nov.
10

Purdue

W

Northwestern

W



at
Illinois

W

Penn
State

W

at
Michigan

L

Minnesota

L

Wisconsin

L



at
Nebraska

L

at
Iowa

L

at
Indiana

W

Nov.
17

at
Michigan

L

Iowa

W

Northwestern

W

at
Nebraska

L

Minnesota

W

at
Michigan

State

L

Purdue

L

at
Penn State

L

at
Wisconsin

L

Indiana

W

at
Illinois

W

Ohio
State

W

Nov.
24

Nebraska

L

at
Ohio State

L

at
Minnesota

W

Michigan

State

L

at
Iowa

W

Illinois

W

at
Northwestern

L

at
Purdue

L

Michigan

W

Wisconsin

W

Indiana

W

at
Penn State

L

Big 10

4-4

6-2

6-2

2-6

5-3

4-4

2-6

0-8

7-1

2-6

4-4

6-2

Overall

7-5

8-4

9-3

5-7

9-3

7-5

6-6

3-9

10-2

4-8

7-5

10-2








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