In the Big 10, the Buckeyes are the early favorite to win the conference after a phenomenal 2020 campaign. They have also won 3 Big 10 titles in a row and look tto continue behind the arm of Justin Fields. In this article we will take a look at the conference and who has the best chance to reach the championship game.
1. Ohio State Buckeyes
OSU brings back the QB, Justin Fields who is one of the most valuable players in college football in this upcoming year. Besides the Heisman favorite, they also have Head Coach Ryan Day in his second year leading the Buckeyes. This especially helps them with experience as Day knows what it is like to reach the CFP and win the Big 10. On offense they also bring back their up and coming receiver in Chris Olave who had 12 touchdowns with 49 receptions. They lost some on defense with some of the more notable names being Jeff Okudah and Chase Young but should be able to reload. Ohio State is stacked with talented players on both sides of the ball and shouldn’t have a problem reloading their talent.
2. Michigan Wolverines
Harbaugh’s biggest question heading into the 2020-2021 season is whether they can get their offense going. They have a second-year coordinator in Josh Gattis and this is the year that we finally see him make a jump. The Michigan offense brings back a load of talent that frankly would be tough to stop if put together. It will be Gattis’s job to do so and when he does this team will be very competitive. On the other side of the ball 6 defenders return which may look like a problem, but their veterans are spread out all over the field helping them a lot. The only question left for this team is whether they can get over the hump and beat the Buckeyes. This year the game is in Ohio.
3. Penn State Nittany Lions
The Nittany Lions bring back most of their offense and some defensive guys back going into next year. While the loss of K.J. Hamler sucks, they still have most of their guys staying. Sean Clifford and Journey Brown will be the two duos to watch out for as the season progresses. They will have to play well in order to keep the offense moving smoothly. On defense, they lost 6 starters which aren’t very exciting, but they bring back a few players including Shaka Toney who had 4 sacks in one game. They play OSU and Michigan both in October so PSU has to be ready early in the year. One positive to their schedule is OSU and MSU are at home leaving them a good chance to grab wins with their hometown crowd.
4. Wisconsin Badgers
Wisconsin is losing 5 offensive starters this year but will be keeping their QB Jack Coan who had a great year last year with 2,727 yards and 18 touchdowns. There is the departure of star running back Jonathon Taylor who was one of the best players in college football last year. It will be the biggest gap the Badgers have to fill and hopefully one that it is figured out soon. On defense they are bringing back 9 defensive players and quite honestly have everything covered on that side of the ball. They will definitely be ready to go and will probably be the favorite to win their division and have a shot at the winner of the east division.
5. Minnesota Golden Gophers
PJ Fleck and screw had one of the more surprising seasons last year after almost reaching the Big 10 championship and being ranked in the top 10 of the CFP rankings at one point. The loss to Wisconsin was heartbreaking for all Gopher fans as they were that close to the College Football Playoffs. They should be able to make another run at it though, with 9 offensive starters returning and 4 defensive. On O they bring back their QB in Tanner Morgan along with their entire o line. On defense they are going to have to be making some big replacements with a lot of threats leaving to the next level including Sam Renner who led the teams in sacks. They have a few options at every position and will be able to see who steps up as the season progresses.
They Need Help
6. Iowa Hawkeyes
The Hawkeyes are just behind the Gophers and Badgers in the fight for the Big 10 West. They will have to replace their starting QB in Nate Stanley which is going to vital for this team to be able to win. They already have a strong offense on the ground and should be able to repeat for the 2020-21 season. Their defense was number one in the Big 10 last year holding teams to 14 points per a game and they should be able to repeat at the top this year too. A few notable guys including A.J Epenesa and Geno Ston have left for the draft and will be the biggest gaps in the defense. Ultimately it will be up to how well this team does on the road with games at OSU, PSU, and Minnesota.
7. Michigan State Spartans
It was just a few years ago when MSU made the climb through the Big 10 and into the CFP. But the last few years make that season feel like a glorified myth. The last two years have just been brutal for the Spartans and they have been just 14-12 in those two years. Many of the blame has to be on the offense who only put up 22.4 points per game. There are some positives to this offense as they have a promising young back in Elijah Collins and a few QBs to chose from for this upcoming year. The defense will also have to regroup after departures all over the field. MSU will have to find themselves early and hopefully have a successful year. They get OSU, Michigan, and Miami all at home, giving the fans a lot of hope.
8. Nebraska Cornhuskers
Last year Nebraska let down the college football world with a letdown season after an expected jump. Nebraska went 5-7 and Adrain Martinex is gonna be the QB for them again. They are returning 10 offense starters so they should be in good shape to start the 2020-2021 season. Scott Frost will have to work on his defense though with only 5 defensive players returning. It is the biggest question remaining on how he can bounce back from a rough season. It will be one interesting ride for Nebraska this year.
9. Indiana Hoosiers
Last year the Hoosiers went 8-5 and had the best finish since 1993 with most of their key players coming back from last year. 8 offensive and 9 defensive players are returning from last year and they should be able to repeat a good year. Their QB even had a season ending injury in Micheal Penix Jr last year and will be returning this year. The Hoosiers are one of my sleepers picks for some upsets this year in the Big 10 after keeping so many players. The depth should add help watch out for Indiana this year.
Not Ready Yet
10. Illinois Fighting Illinois
They are coming off a great 2019 season winning 6 games and making a bowl game this year. They are bringing back 9 offensive starters including QB Brandon Peters who had 18 touchdowns last year. Lovie Smith will have his hands full on defense getting his team to stop some of these powerhouse offenses. They have to get their defensive linemen going in order to win a few extra games. I think with a little help Illinois could have a winning season in 2020 and maybe make a run.
11. Purdue Boilermakers
They were 4-8 last year but had a lot of injuries to key players throughout the year. They also had a lot of bad breaks last year having 4 of those 8 losses came by 7 or fewer points. They look to be much better this year with 9 offensive and 8 defensive starters returning to the team. Rondale Moore was the first true freshman consensus All- American in Big 10 history. He and David Bell have the potential to be very good in 2020. The only spot they have left to make sure that they are good this is year is at the QB position.
12. Maryland Terrapins
Maryland looks super explosive and a potential threat in the Big 10 after their first two games where they put up 142 points. Afterward they put up 161, which is definitely disappointing for all Maryland fans, especially Scott Van Pelt. They were 3-9 but had a top 35 recruiting class this year and look for better things in the future. They are restructuring the team and should be able to grab a few more wins this year. A bowl game may be a push for this team but some wins would be awesome for all Terrapin fans.
13. Northwestern Wildcats
The Wildcats won the Big 10 West in 2018, now they are at the bottom of the Big 10 West. They hopefully will see improvement, but it might be a few years for Coach Pat. The offense averaged 12.7 points per a game in the Big 10. They have a new play caller but the question mark is at the QB spot. They had a total of 6 touchdown passes last year and we will see what happens in 2020. On defense, they have a lot of young players who will slowly come into their positions after they get more and more experienced.
14. Rutgers Scarlet Knights
The Rutgers highlight of the year was when their quarterback smashed helmets with an offensive lineman after a touchdown. 2020 is definitely a rebuild for this team as their main focus will be getting the offense on track, afterwards they will have a shot to climb the standings. It will take a while for this to happen and for know Rutgers is just, rebuilding.
Ohio State beats everyone in their path than in the very end losses to Michigan in their rivalry game. Michigan, unfortunately, lost games throughout the year including one against Minnesota in front of the Golden Gophers fan. So the Buckeyes still come out of the West after a loss to their rivals. Coming out of the West is Minnesota who beat Wisconsin in their final game to get the championship. This time the Golden Gophers pull the miracle beating Ohio State in an OT thriller.
Top Picture by CBS Sports