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Odds to win the Big Ten

Ohio State: 5-to-4
Ohio State is not a sure thing but they are probably the safest bet. Their offense will not be as efficient and the defense could be better, but has question marks. Since Urban Meyer has taken over this program they have gone 24-2 and his recruiting has ran circles around the rest of the conference so I am expecting another big season from one of the best coaches in the game. Despite a 24 game win streak they did not accomplish anything last year with zero conference titles and zero bowl wins so this squad should be highly motivated early in the season with the senior QB Braxton Miller coming back.

Challenges: The defense crumbled over the last 3 games can they improve? The offense lost the most efficient running back and 4 starting offensive linemen.

Michigan State: 3-to-1
The Spartans had a magical year last year going 13-1, Big Ten Champions and Rose Bowl Champions in back to back wins as under dogs. I think the offense will take another step forward with the emergence of Connor Cook who really played well a year ago with 22 TD's and 6 interceptions. The offense returns two senior running backs in Jeremy Langford and Nick Hill behind an under rated offensive line that does have to replace 3 starters.

Defensively the Spartans lost a lot, but coaching is the difference. They might have had the best defense in the country 2013 with the perfect mixture of talent, experience and system. Spartans lost 3 of their starting linemen, 2 of their primary linebackers and the best corner in the country Darqueze Dennard, but again I don't expect them to fall too much because the coaching is excellent.

Wisconsin: 3-to-1
Gary Anderson's first year at Wisconsin went extremely well and could have easily been much better if it weren't for some strange one possession losses. Now the coaching really begins because Anderson inherited one of the most experienced front 7's in the country last year. I think he will be fine since defense is what he's known for, but he has to replace 4 of his top 6 linemen and his top 4 linebackers. At least the offense should get better with the return of two stud running backs in Melvin Gordon and Corey Clement. Jared Abbrederis is gone at WR and there really is not a big play receiver. Greatest strength is probably their schedule as they are in the West Division and won't have to face Ohio State and MIchigan State.

Challenges: Rebuilding the front seven that dominated the last two years is going to be their main challenge. How do they keep defenses honest with a one dimensional attack?

Iowa: 9-to-1
Iowa clearly over achieved last year and all 5 of their losses were to against elite teams, LSU, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan State and Northern Illinois. Meaning they were supposed to lose all of those games. Jake Rudock returns for his junior year at QB after completing 59% of his passes for 18 TD's and 13 interceptions he's backed by a couple of senior running backs led by Mark Weisman who nearly rushed for 1,000 hard fought yards. The offensive line returns 3 of 5 starters and has a veteran base of 62 career starts led by All -Conference tackle Brandon Scherff. Running the ball should not be a problem against average rushing defense, but they lack the talent in the backfield to really be explosive and the same is true for the passing game. This offense will be very methodical.
Five of the 6 linemen rotation return in 2014 for a defensive line that ranked in the top 20 in adjustment line yards. They may not get to the QB, but they will be tough to run on, but a big weakness for this defense is the fact that they lost 3 linebackers and 2 starters in the secondary. Overall I see this defense regressing, but the offense improving. Iowa should have a similar season and could be in the mix to scare one of the top 3 teams in the conference.
Michigan: 12-to-1
Michigan's offense fell apart last year and it impacted the entire team. The blame falls to an offensive line that was just beyond bad down the stretch. The offensive line gave up 113 tackles for loss on the year along with 36 sacks and even more QB hurries. Ironically Michigan lost 2 starters and one was an All American in Taylor Lewan so there will be a lot of question marks once they face a solid defensive line. However, they do have plenty of 4 and 5 star recruits where they are capable of a bounce back year when you consider Devin Gardner returns at QB after a decent year when you consider how much pressure he was constantly under.

The defense could make big strides providing the offense can stay on the field for a bit. They were inexperienced a year ago yet they will return 5 of top 6 tacklers on the defensive line, 6 of top 7 linebackers and 5 of top 7 defensive backs.

Northwestern 12-to-1
Northwestern had aspirations of Pasadena last year and I thought they had a decent shot. Either way this was a better than 5 win team last year and I think we will see some value on them early this year despite the unionization drama.

Trevor Siemian gets to finally take over at QB after being the co-starter the last two years as a senior. I believe this is an upgrade that will give the offense more balance that they have not had in previous years as Siemian has the arm strength to make all of the throws. Venric Mark looks to return after missing 2013 and he could easily be the best offensive player in the conference when healthy. Oh and all 5 starters along the offensive line return.

The defense is very competitive in spring especially up front where starting position spots are open for grabs. The leadership at linebacker is intriguing and has the potential for at least one all conference member. With that said Northwestern is going to be an underdog in a lot of these Big Ten games, but they have the potential to win all of them especially since they avoid Ohio State and Michigan State and get Wisconsin at home on October 4th. I'm predicting a bowl season at 9-3.

Nebraska: 12-to-1
Nebraska returns 5 starters along the offense and 7 on defense. They have two next level players in All-American RB Ameer Abdullah and WR Kenny Bell. Defensively they only return 1 All-Conference player in Randy Gregory. The potential is always there at Nebraska and they have a relatively easy start to the season to find their groove. If they can get by Fresno State week 3 and Miami ant home then they'll sit at 5-0 when they head to Michigan State, but the road schedule is brutal this year they play Northwestern who is on their level ont he road and then they play 3 of the top 4 teams in the conference (Iowa, Wisconsin, and Michigan State) all on the road.

THE REST:
• Maryland: 40-to-1
• Indiana: 60-to-1
• Minnesota: 60-to-1
• Illinois: 100-to-1
• Rutgers: 500-to-1
• Purdue: 500-to-1
• Penn State: Ineligible



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