College Football 2016: Big Ten preview

J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State

J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State

Many fans of Big Ten teams other than Michigan may have lamented the return of Jim Harbaugh as head coach, and the resurgence of the Wolverines as a power in the conference. But even they would have to agree – the Big Ten is a lot better off with a healthy Michigan football program.

Face it – Michigan is the historic team of the Big Ten, with 20 appearances in the Rose Bowl. Ohio State is second with 14. Think of the SEC without a healthy Alabama, or the Big 12 without a healthy Oklahoma. The Pac-12 is going through that a bit right now, with USC struggling to get back to its old form. (The Trojans are the all-time leaders in Rose Bowl appearances with 33.)

Rivalries need two competitive rivals to be meaningful, and there are few games any bigger than the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry. It really defines the Big Ten, but since 2001, Ohio State has owned the series 13-2, in spite of the Wolverines having won 54 percent of the games overall. That defining game has instead been an afterthought for many college football fans. Consider that in that same period, Michigan went 11-2 against another of its so-called rivals – Minnesota. And no one is clamoring to see the annual Michigan-Minnesota game (although it might be pretty good this year).

Yes, Jim Harbaugh is a bit pompous. He’s abrasive. He annoys fans of opposing teams. But he also has restored a precious commodity to the Big Ten family – a healthy and competitive Michigan football program. And for that, all of the Big Ten and college football should be very grateful.

Predicted finish

Big Ten East

  1. OhioSt_helmetOhio State (12-1). Other than Nick Saban, there is no other coach alive who defines college football more than Urban Meyer. All the man knows how to do is win. He did it at Bowling Green. He did it at Utah. He really did it at Florida. And now, at Ohio State, has only won – all except for four losses scattered among the 54 games he’s coached in four seasons. That’s a shade under 93 percent. The legendary Woody Hayes only won 76 percent of his games, and he has a street and a facility named after him. Most teams would be in complete rebuild mode if they had an offseason like the Buckeyes did – they practically sent their entire starting roster to the NFL after last season (15 players from last year’s team sent to the NFL through the draft or free agency, 16 starters gone overall). But the players who spent 2015 on the 2nd team would have started for most other programs, so this year’s Buckeyes, while not as loaded as last year’s, will still be good enough to win the East, and maybe the entire conference. Only three starters return on offense, but all three are on our preseason All-Big Ten team. QB J.T. Barrett won’t have to win the job in a competition this year, so the only question at quarterback is if Ohio State will have a solid backup should Barrett get injured. RB Mike Weber is the heir apparent to Ezekiel Elliott, and seems to have the talent to hold his own. There are questions at wide receiver, where all three starters will be replaced. It’s almost the same on the line – three of five starters are gone, but C Pat Elflein is the best in the country, and OG Billy Price should be All-Big Ten by season’s end. Ohio State was hit just as hard on defense, with eight starters departing. DE Tyquan Lewis, MLB Raekwon McMillan and CB Gareon Conley will form a strong base a defensive unit that will have somewhat of a new identity. It’s doubtful the D will be quite as effective as last season, when it was No. 2 in the country in scoring. However, both sides of the ball should be strong enough to carry the Buckeyes to the Big Ten title game. Two big road challenges are on the schedule – early, on Sept. 17 at Oklahoma, and late, on Nov. 19 at Michigan State.
  2. MSU_helmetMichigan State (10-2). The Spartans were hit just as hard by graduation and one early draft declaration. The exits are extensive enough that even Michigan State fans may have a hard time recognizing all of the new faces on the field. All-Big Ten QB Connor Cook? Gone. WR Aaron Burbidge, the Big Ten’s leading receiver? Gone. So are mammoth, All-Big Ten O-linemen Jack Conklin and Jack Conklin, as is OG Donovan Clark. Fortunately for the Spartans, some of the holes aren’t huge question marks. That’s certainly true at QB, where Tyler O’Connor will step up. His big introduction to the nation was during last year’s upset of Ohio State, when he filled in for the injured Cook. Michigan State also brings back all three leading rushers, including L.J. Scott, who figures to get the most carries. The receiving corps was gutted by graduation and figures to feature some very youthful faces as starters. The line is stocked with upperclassmen, though only two starters are back, including C Brian Allen, who is just about as good as Pat Elflein. Defensively, the Spartans lost most of last season’s starters, but this year’s lineup will be stocked with All-Big Ten potential. NT Malik McDowell will anchor a rebuilt line, and LBs Ed Davis and Riley Bullough will provide a strong base in the middle of the field. The secondary returns the most experience and could be the strength of the defense. Demetrious Cox and Montae Nicholson will form one of the best safety tandems in the nation. If the Spartans clear a tough road hurdle at Notre Dame on Sept. 17, they could well be 7-0 when Michigan rolls into East Lansing on Oct. 29. We’re projecting that the home game on Nov. 19 against Nov. 19 will decide the Big Ten East.
  3. Michigan_helmetMichigan (9-3). Jim Harbaugh sent a big message to the Big Ten last season after he took the Wolverines to 10-3 and a win in the Citrus Bowl. Essentially, Michigan is back, and isn’t going to roll over in the conference any more. No one is shocked that Harbaugh has turned around the Wolverines – most are just shocked at how quickly he did it. Harbaugh transformed the San Diego Torreos into a winning program that has continued to win after his exit. He took Stanford from the bottom of the Pac-12 to the top in four years. He turned the San Francisco 49ers into perennial contenders in the NFC. Now, after just one year at his beloved alma mater, he’s just sped up the winning timetable. Eclipsing last season’s result may be difficult, though, in part because of graduations on defense, but mostly because of the schedule. On offense, Michigan may not lose much at quarterback. John O’Korn was the starter at Houston before Greg Ward took the job. After a redshirt year with the Wolverines, O’Korn gets the reins and will have some quality targets, starting with All-Big Ten hopeful Jehu Chesson. The running game will be paced by De’Veon Smith, though he may be the leader of a committee. Both phases of the offense will benefit from a line that is loaded with talent and experience. Even with a change at QB, the offense may see a bit of an improvement. The defense, however, may take a year to rebuild. While the line looks solid with DE Chris Wormsley and NT Ryan Glasgow, the linebacking corps takes a big step backward with only OLB Jabrill Peppers back. The secondary may be the heart of the defense, particularly with strong leadership from CB Jourdan Lewis. Even if the defense is solid, it will not likely match last year, when it ranked 4th in the country in total defense. And while the Wolverines may obliterate nine teams on their schedule, three road games stand out as obstacles to winning their division this season – Oct. 29 at Michigan State, Nov. 12 at Iowa and Nov. 26 at Ohio State.
  4. PSU_helmetPenn State (8-4). Penn State hired James Franklin to take the Nittany Lions back to the football heights. Until now he’s just been treading water, with back-to-back 7-6 seasons. This year may be an improvement – sort-of. Franklin has definitely upgraded the talent level at Penn State, taking their recruiting classes from the ranks of the mid-40s to the top 20. But that will probably take time to pay off, although one of Franklin’s recruits is already making a big splash. RB Saquon Barkley rushed for more than 1,000 yards as a freshman, and is projected as a first-team All-Big Ten player. His legs will set the tone for Penn State’s offensive fortunes, especially while new QB Trace McSorley adjusts to his new role as a starter. WR Chris Godwin leads a talented corps of receivers, and the line returns four starters. Basically, most of the pieces are in place for Penn State to improve on its dismal 23.2 ppg from a year ago. Five starters are back on defense, led by OLB Brandon Bell, who should help the Nittany Lions get solid pressure. However, the line and secondary have some big holes and question marks that aren’t answered as of yet. Again, the talent level is building at Penn State, but we believe it will take Franklin another year or two to develop it to a point where it can contend in the Big Ten. The conference opener Sept. 24 at Michigan will tell a lot about how much Penn State has improved – or not – compared to last season.
  5. Indiana_helmetIndiana (7-5). It’s amazing, but in the 129-year-old history of Indiana football, the Hoosiers have never had a double-digit winning season. They did win nine games one – most recently back in 1967, when they tied Michigan for the Big Ten title and made their only Rose Bowl appearance. Indiana is a basketball school, so they’re having some patience in allowing coach Kevin Wilson to develop the football program. And they should. In a conference filled with football powers, building a winning tradition at a basketball school isn’t easy. It won’t get any easier this season, not with 11 new starters that will result in retooling on both sides of the ball. The biggest holes are on offense, where the Hoosiers lost big-time performers at quarterback and running back. The good news is that there at least a couple of great pieces to build around. JUCO transfer QB Richard Lagow should lead the offensive attack, and will frequently look for all-conference hopeful WR Simmie Cobbs Jr., who is part of a very experienced receiving corps. RB Devine Redding eclipsed 1,000 yards as a backup last year, and should do even better as a starter. The line returns three starters, including OG Dan Feeney, who may be the best in the nation. The big problem may be Indiana’s defense, which was dreadful a year ago. The entire line is gone and has no clear leaders in the rebuilding process. Otherwise, the Hoosiers may improve, with solid play at linebacker and a secondary that returns intact. Of course, that secondary was the worst in the country last year. Our bet is that, while they might not get into the top 100, they’ll be good enough to help the defense give up much less than last season’s 37.6 ppg. We see the season finale at home against Purdue as a good chance to get a winning record.
  6. Maryland_helmetMaryland (5-7). Maryland in the Big Ten. It’s still hard to get used to. It would be like seeing North Carolina in the SEC, or Baylor in the Pac-12. At least not in football. Of course, like Indiana, Maryland is primarily a basketball school, and getting away from North Carolina, Duke and the rest of the ACC has definitely given the Terps a chance to shine on a different stage. But the football program has landed in a sort of purgatory – not really bad, but not good enough to contend with the beasts of the Big Ten. And, with the improved competition, not good enough to satisfy the boosters. Randy Edsall wasn’t the man to right the ship apparently – fired after just six games (even if the last three were blowout losses to much better teams). Interim coach Mike Locksley mostly staved off more blowouts (except for the 16-point loss to Iowa and the 19-point loss to Indiana). A five-point squeaker over Rutgers on the season’s final day gave the team a sliver of redemption. Now, with new coach D.J. Durkin, Maryland faces a new day. But will it come with a different outcome? We don’t think so – at least not in terms of wins and losses. The schedule gods have smiled on the Terps and replaced West Virginia, Iowa and Wisconsin with Purdue, Minnesota and Nebraska – which at least gives them a sporting chance of winning or coming close. But only 12 starters are back, and only two players that have all-conference capabilities. QB Perry Hills was the lowest-rated quarterback in the Big Ten last season. His greatest asset was his running ability, but that didn’t help the Terps score often enough. His entire receiving corps is back, so hopefully he can improve on getting it to them. The line might be solid, and if so, could establish a running game that will help keep Maryland on the field. On defense, CB William Likely is the established leader, particularly in the secondary. Unfortunately, he’s also the only returnee from a secondary that was routinely torched in 2015. Four of the front seven return, and there’s hope that true freshman DT Adam McLean will live up to his potential and help shore up that part of the defense. Even with an improved schedule, there are not enough pieces on the board at Maryland to project a chance at a winning record unless the Terrapins can stage an upset or two.
  7. Rutgers_helmetRutgers (3-9). Every once in a while, Rutgers puts together a team that’s pretty special. The Scarlet Knights went 9-0 in 1961 and 11-0 in 1976. Ironically, neither of those teams were invited to a bowl game, in spite of being ranked in the final AP Top 20. Ten years ago, coach Greg Schiano led Rutgers almost to the top of the Big East with an 11-2 record and a win in the Texas Bowl. It may be a decade or more before that type of season happens again. Incoming coach Chris Ash may be the next guy to rebuild the Scarlet Knights, but it’s definitely not going to happen in 2016. Only 10 starters return from last year’s squad, which finished 4-8 and tied for last in the Big Ten East. Rutgers could barely score on teams with a pulse on defense, and could barely stop teams with a pulse on offense. The Knights scored 27.1 ppg on offense, and allowed 34.9 ppg on defense, but those offensive numbers are particiularly skewed by three high-scoring affairs against Norfolk State, Indiana and Maryland. In the other nine games, Rutgers just 18.4 ppg. Six are back from that offense, including QB Chris Laviano, who was just OK. Playmakers are desperately needed in the backfield and at receiver. The middle of the O-line is experienced, but sophomores are projected to start at both tackles. Outside of the line, the defense is a complete overhaul. Three starters return up front, and Ash might be able to use their experience to get some improvement. The rest of the D, however, will be a youth movement, with sophomores projected to start at most of the linebacker and secondary positions. The brightest spot is the transfer of graduate student Ross Taylor-Douglas, who is projected to start at CB and could add immediate leadership and experience. The addition that means the most to Rutgers, however, is Ash himself. The Scarlet Knights are hoping that he’ll bring some measure of the success he’s had with defenses at major programs like Arkansas, Wisconsin and Ohio State. He might, but only glimpses will probably be seen this season.

Big Ten West

  1. Iowa_helmetIowa (12-1). No team in the country has had more stability at head coach over the past four decades than Iowa. Since 1979, the Hawkeyes have had exactly two coaches – Hayden Fry and Kirk Ferentz. Iowa has shown patience with its coaches, believing that in the lean years they’ll return the school back to glory in the near future. And that patience has paid off with both coaches. Fry missed out on bowls six times during his 20 years with Iowa, but also won the Big Ten three times. (He lost the Rose Bowl all three times.) Ferentz has missed on the postseason four times with Iowa, but has tied for the Big Ten twice and, last year, led the Hawkeyes to the Big Ten Championship Game. (He also lost the Rose Bowl last season.) We believe he’ll get another chance this season. Iowa returns only four starters on offense, but those that return are critical. QB C.J. Beathard is a preseason All-Big Ten selection, and gets back his top receiver, WR Matt VandeBerg. Iowa will use a line that returns three to pave the way for a running attack that will likely feature an effective committee of backs. C Sean Welsh and OT Cole Croston are also All-Big Ten picks. While the offense shouldn’t see much drop-off, the defense returns eight and could improve on last season’s ranking of 19th in scoring. Five of the front seven return, led by DT Jaleel Johnson and LB Josey Jewell. CB Desmond King is as good of a shutdown corner as any in the conference. Playing in the Big Ten West definitely works in Iowa’s favor, as most of the power teams are in the East. Unless the Hawkeyes suffer a major letdown, they should be undefeated when Michigan visits Iowa City on Nov. 12. If Iowa wins that one, it will have a second chance to earn its first spot in the College Football Playoff by winning the Big Ten title game.
  2. NW_helmetNorthwestern (9-3). “Old-timers” can remember a time when Northwestern was known mostly for losing football games. In the six-year period from 1976-1981, the Wildcats won only three games. Their plight was so desperate that when coach Dennis Green eked out a mere three wins in his second season in 1982, he was proclaimed the Big Ten Coach of the Year. Now, with favorite son Pat Fitzgerald at the helm, the Wildcats are in a position for a second strong season in a row, and to attend their seventh bowl game in the past nine years. Again, playing in the Big Ten West helps, but Northwestern does have a fair amount of talent and experience in its starting lineup. Eighteen juniors and seniors are slated to start, which should help offset the Wildcats returning only 10 starters. QB Clayton Thorson had a rough freshman season, and reportedly has made improvements in his mechanics. He will need some receivers to step up, with all of last year’s starters having moved on. RB Justin Jackson is a preseason All-Big Ten first-teamer, and could improve on last season, when he rushed for more than 1,400 yards. That, of course, will depend on the development of the O-line, which brings back just two starters. The defense will be the heart and soul of the Wildcats, particularly with the presence of our pick for Defensive POY, LB Anthony Walker. Walker led the team in tackles last season, and led the Big Ten in TFLs. There are enough pieces remaining in both the front seven and the secondary to expect that the ‘Cats might match last season’s success, when it ranked 12th in scoring and 13th in total defense. Northwestern will be tested early by upstart Western Michigan, but the biggest game on the schedule has to be Oct. 1 at Iowa. Unfortunately, even an upset there might not help the Wildcats win the West, as they also have road games at Michigan State and Ohio State later in the year.
  3. Nebraska_helmetNebraska (7-5). The day may soon come when Mike Riley might wish he was still at Oregon State. It might already be that the ‘Huskers miss Bo Pelini. And while Iowa is the soul of patience with its coaches, Nebraska has shown nothing but impatience. Desiring a return to the old days of Tom Osborne, Nebraska hastily fired Frank Solich after he had four seasons of 10+ wins in six years, but only one conference championship. Then came Bo Pelini, who had an abrasive style, but who also won at least nine games in every season. But without a conference title, Pelini was cut loose. Enter Mike Riley, who had a somewhat successful in 14 seasons at Oregon State. But Riley did something that neither Solich nor Pelini ever did – lead the Cornhuskers to a losing record. With only nine returning starters, getting back to a bowl may be the best Nebraska can hope for. But if history is a guide, that might not be enough for its boosters or administration. In the Cornhuskers’ favor is the return of QB Tommy Armstrong Jr. and RB Terrell Newby, who formed the bulk of Nebraska’s offense in 2015. WR Jordan Westerkamp will be Armstrong’s key target and has all-conference potential. The line may be troublesome, with just two returning starters, and with two sophomores slated to take starting spots. While Nebraska’s offense may score enough to win most of its games, it’s defense will have some issues. Time was that the “Blackshirts” monniker represented vaunted defenses that intimidated opponents. Those days are over. Last year’s defense surrendered 27.8 ppg, and this one’s might not do much better. The ‘Huskers entire D-line is gone, though the bulk of its linebackers and secondary remain. FS Nathan Gerry is the best player on the defensive side, and should help limit the deep ball. However, Nebraska’s passing defense was its weakness a year ago (121st in the nation) while its rushing defense was its strength (9th in the nation). Even with improvement in the secondary, a dropoff in the line won’t help. The schedule is not friendly to the Cornhuskers. Aside from an early home game against Oregon, all of Nebraska’s hardest games (Northwestern, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Iowa) are on the road.
  4. Minnesota_helmetMinnesota (7-5). The Golden Gophers hadn’t intended on starting the Tracy Claeys era quite yet. Former coach Jerry Kill has had ongoing health issues, but was trying to coach in spite of them. However, after a couple of epileptic episodes, Kill resigned midseason last year, and Claeys finished the season in his stead. Now the permanent head coach, Claeys – who followed Kill on each of his five stops since 1995 – is clearly a Kill disciple and shares his mentor’s coaching philosophy. That should work in Minnesota’s favor as the Gophers attempt to stay on a course to reach the top of the Big Ten West. To get there, however, they’ll need to do a lot more on offense in 2016 than they did in 2015. With new offensive coordinator Jay Johnson, they might do just that. He might have enough tools on offense to make a bit of a splash in his first season. QB Mitch Leidner returns from a tough junior season that saw him be even a little effective in spite of some painful injuries. He will have to find some new receiving targets as all of last year’s top receivers are gone. RB Shannon Brooks is the best returning back, and will benefit from a line that returns three starters, plus two beefy juniors in the remaining slots. While Johnson works on the offense, new DC Jay Sawvel will move up to fill Claeys’ old old position. He will try and get the five remaining starters to solidify a defense that was just OK against the run, but fare very well against the pass in 2015. Three are back in the front seven, and two return in the secondary, including CB Jaylen Myrick, who led the team in interceptions. The Gophers were decent at not allowing a lot of yards last season (ranked No. 24 nationally) but still gave up too many points (25.2 ppg). Should the defense at least hold its own, and Johnson and the offense step up their game, there’s no reason why Minnesota shouldn’t at least match last season’s total of six wins. The last three games (at Nebraska, vs. Northwestern and at Wisconsin) will determine both if the Gophers go bowling, and is so, where they go bowling.
  5. Wisconsin_helmetWisconsin (6-6). You may look at the record to the left and think we’ve lost our minds. How could Wisconsin possibly drop to 6-6 after going 10-3 a year ago? Check out Wisconsin’s recent history and you’ll see that it’s not just possible – it’s actually happened four times since 2002. Under both Barry Alvarez and Brett Bielma, Wisconsin lost six games in four different seasons, most recently in 2012 – just a year removed from an 11-3 season that included a Big Ten championship. And with only eight starters returning, it’s highly unlikely that the Badgers get anywhere near double digits in wins. Other than the line, the offense is practically an overhaul. As of this writing, the Badgers still haven’t picked a starting quarterback, and only one proven receiver is projected to start. RB Corey Clement may be the center of the offense, especially if the line – which averages 310 pounds – can open some holes for him. OG Dan Voltz is one of the best in the Big Ten. Last year, Wisconsin led the nation in scoring defense with just 13.7 ppg. While a huge difference in that would be a shock, it is also highly unlikely that the Badgers will get anywhere near that total in 2016. Three-quarters of the defensive front is gone, and the same is true about the secondary. The lynch-pin in the defense will be LB Vince Biegel, who is great at getting behind the line and to the quarterback. The biggest addition to the Badgers is new defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, who replaces Dave Arranda. Two important things to consider about this move – first, that Wilcox’s defense last year at USC was disappointing enough that he was fired by Clay Helton, and second, that Arranda is now with LSU – which is Wisconsin’s opening-day opponent. So we will all get to see the difference between a Justin Wilcox defense and a Dave Arranda defense on the same field. Our guess is that the differences will be stark, and maybe disappointing to Badger fans. Again, Wisconsin won’t be horrible in 2016, but it definitely won’t be up to last year’s standards. The season-ender against Minnesota could well be for bowl eligibility.
  6. Illinois_helmetIllinois (4-8). It’s hard to imagine a football situation more fraught with drama than Illinois. Last year, Bill Cubit took over as interim head coach, and in the midst of a tumultuous season had the Illini one game away from bowl eligibility. The folks at Illinois were impressed enough that they made Cubit the head coach with a two-year contract. But in March, on the day that new AD Josh Whitman was hired, he fired Cubit (A) without warning, (B) without telling his players and (C) while recruits were on campus. Two days later, former Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith was announced as the new head coach of the Illini. The hire makes sense on the surface, as it immediately generated an upswing of interest in the football program and drove up season ticket sales. But the interest will only last as long as the team is winning. And this year’s team probably won’t even be as good as last year’s. The offense’s success will depend mostly on how well QB Wes Lunt adjusts to new OC Garrick McGee’s system. Last year, Lunt completed 56 percent of his passes, compared to 63.5 percent the year before. Only one starting receiver is back, but not even WR Malik Turner is a proven threat. RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn will carry the rushing load, and the three returning starters up front may be effective at helping him pick up decent chunks. Smith’s forte is defense, and he brings former Tampa linebackers coach Hardy Nickerson with him as the new DC. If you scan the Illini roster you’ll notice a familiar name – MLB Hardy Nickerson Jr., a graduate transfer from California who will likely flourish player for his father. Dad Nickerson inherits only the bones from last year’s D, including most of the line and one safety. DE Dawuane Smoot is an all-conference hopeful, but the talent level on that side simply isn’t as strong as the schools at the top of the conference. Still, Last year’s defense was decent enough, allowing just 23.3 ppg, so with Smith and Nickerson on board, it’s possible that it could be as good, or maybe a tad better. But here’s the one thing that Smith and Co. can’t change – the schedule. The Illini play Nebraska, Michigan, Wisconsin and Northwestern on the road, plus North Carolina, Michigan State, Minnesota and Iowa at home. They figure to be an underdog – and likely a sizeable underdog – in most of those games. Unless Smith can work a single-year transformation, it’s doubtful that Illinois fans will be too thrilled with the outcome of his first season.
  7. Purdue_helmetPurdue (1-11). First things first – let’s start with the positives. Purdue brings back 15 starters. Read through the previous 13 team write-ups, and you won’t find another team with more returning experience than the Boilermakers. That should be good news, and head coach Darrell Hazell needs some of that. Hazell was seen as a hot-shot when he came to Purdue from Kent State, where he worked a miracle in taking the Golden Flashes to 11 wins and the MAC Championship Game in his second season. After three years at Purdue, Hazell has yet to win 11 games combined. Actually, it’s just about half of that. Hazell is 6-30 in three years, and just two wins over conference foes. Entering season four, most people (including us) see him right at the top of the list of coaches on the proverbial “hot seat.” So 15 starters is a good thing … unless those starters are a step behind the rest of the conference. Unfortunately, they are. The Boilermakers simply haven’t recruited well enough to compete with the rest of the Big Ten. This year, they ranked 88th in the nation according to one service, whose average star ratings placed Purdue behind Harvard, James Madison and Eastern Kentucky, all of whom play in the FCS side of the game. Oh, and Purdue plays Eastern Kentucky on opening day, so that might not even be the assured win that you might think it would be. Yes, QB David Blough and RB Markell Jones might have flashes of goodness (but not greatness), and Purdue might even approach last season’s output of 25.2 ppg. The problem is that the Boilermakers are not likely to stop most opponents. Last year’s defense surrendered 35 or more points eight times, including a high of 54 points to instate rival Indiana in the season finale. DT Jake Replogle is one of the better linemen in the conference, but even with experience throughout the rest of the lineup, it would be difficult to expect the same players and the same coach who hadn’t slowed opponents for three years to suddenly do it in Year Four.

Bowl teams: Ohio State, Iowa, Michigan State, Michigan, Northwestern, Penn State, Indiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, Wisconsin.

Offensive player of the year: J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State
Defensive player of the year:
 Anthony Walker, LB, Northwestern
Coach of the year:
 Urban Meyer, Ohio State

2016 All-Big Ten Team

Tomorrow: 2016 SEC preview

Copyright © 2016 Doug DeBolt

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About Douglas Blaine

Capnpen is a writer who was a newspaper and magazine journalist in a previous life. A college journalism major, he now works as an administrator, but gets his writing fix by blogging about a variety of topics, including politics, religion, movies and television. When he's not working or blogging, Capnpen spends time with his family, plays a little golf (badly) and loves to learn about virtually anything.
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