Predicting Big Ten football standings

Christopher Bean, Assistant Sport Editor

The Big Ten announced last week that they will play football in the fall, starting in late October. This conference was under pressure by the students of the players of all teams who wanted their kids to play the sport they have played their whole life. Especially when three of the power five conferences have/are starting this month. The only other power five conference not playing is the Pac 12. The Big Ten released their eight game schedule on Saturday  and will start on October 24th, playing their last regular season game on December 12th, with the Conference Championship on December 19th. With that being said, let’s take a look at what I think the 2020 Big Ten standings will look like, and predict the record of
each team. 

No. 14 Rutgers University Scarlet Knights (0-8): Yes, Greg Schiano may be back to start his second stint as the Scarlet Knights head coach, but he still has a lot of work to do before he gets them back to winning football. The Scarlet Knights play Michigan State first on their schedule, who they have played well in the last couple of years, and have favorable crossover games against Illinois and Purdue (who they beat in 2017), but with a tough division that has OSU, Penn State and Michigan, there’s not a lot of opportunity for wins for this team. Plus, it doesn’t help when they haven’t won a Big Ten game since 2017 when they won three games: Illinois, Purdue and Maryland. This time it will be under a
new regime.

No. 13 University of Illinois Fighting Illini (1-7): I know Lovie Smith led the Illini to a bowl game appearance last year, but they scuffled at the end of the season, losing three straight including a disappointing blowout loss to California. An eight game schedule that only consists of Big 10 games, doesn’t boat well for a team that struggles in Big Ten play.

No. 12 University of Maryland Terrapins (2-6): Over the past several years, Maryland is a team that starts the season great. Not only do they look great, but everyone talks about how good they look, and how their offense is clicking on all cylinders. However, they get to the Big Ten And in the second year of Mike Locksley, it won’t be any different. I think they come out strong and look good against Northwestern, but then lose six straight before beating Rutgers to end the year.

No. 11 Michigan State University Spartans (2-6): It was an unjust ending to Mark Dantonio’s tenure, who is the best head coach the Spartans have ever had. After an unsuccessful 7-6 season last year, a season that started with high hopes, and a ton of eternal problems the University is dealing with, Dantonio and MSU parted ways. Now, it is the Mel Tucker era in East Lansing. Tucker went 5-7 in his first season at Colorado, and took the MSU job once it opened up. Not only did MSU lose their head coach, but they lost a lot of seniors and players who went to the draft. And they also don’t know who is going to start at quarterback come opening week. So it is a complete rebuild for Tucker and his staff. 

No. 10 Purdue University Boilermakers (2-6): The Boilermakers are hoping their best player, junior wide receiver Rondale Moore chooses to come back and play after opting out after the season was moved to the fall. If he plays they could be around .500, but if he doesn’t, the Boilermakers aren’t as effective without him. 

No. 9 Northwestern University Wildcats (3-5): It was a very disappointing 4-8 season for NU in 2019, after winning the Big Ten West and playing in the Big 10 Championship Game a year before. Don’t be mistaken by where I have Northwestern. Yes, I have them at 3-5, but it could easily be 5-3. They will be in a lot of close games, but unfortunately, I think they lose most of those games. One thing we do know is that Pat Fitzgerald will get his players ready for the season no matter how many games they play.

No. 8 University of Nebraska Cornhuskers (3-5): A program that has struggled to meet expectations since Scott Frost decided to come back to his alma mater, after leading UCF to a perfect 13-0 season. However, it’s been everything but perfect heading into year three. Junior Adrian Martinez, who also had high expectations heading into last year, is entering his third year as the signal caller for the Cornhuskers. I brought into the hype of the program from the transition from year one to year two, but I’m not buying the from year two to year three. In a division where they already have to play, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa, add Penn State and Ohio State to their crossover games. I don’t think Frost will come close to the expectations set in front of him in year three.

No. 7 Indiana University Hoosiers (4-4): The Hoosiers are set up for their best finish in the Big Ten East. They have had some good teams and players under Tom Allen, but being in one of the best divisions in college football, Allen has never had a better finish in the Big ten East than fifth. With MSU rebuilding this year, Allen and the Hoosiers are in prime position to have their best finish in the Big Ten East, since the Big Ten moved to the East and West divisions in 2014.

No. 6 University of Iowa Hawkeyes (4-4): The Hawkeyes seem to be right in the middle of the Big Ten every year. Head coach Kirk Ferentz is the longest tenured head coach in FBS football and has held the position since 1999. Ferentz and the Hawkeyes continue to fight the battle of mediocrity since he took over.

No. 5 Penn State University Nittany Lions (6-2): Penn State has one of the more favorable schedules in the Big Ten. Their crossover games aren’t overly difficult, going against Nebraska and Iowa. QB Sean Clifford should improve in his second year as their play caller. However, I think they lose to Michigan and OSU, they’re two biggest games on their schedule.

No. 4 University of Wisconsin Badgers (6-2): Wisconsin has been the best team in the West, winning the division three of the last four years. Paul Cryst has done a great job in his tenure but has still yet to win a Big 10 Championship. I think their season comes down to their game against arch rival Minnesota. Last year the Badgers won the Big Ten West over Minnesota in the last game of the year to win the West. This year I think they lose that match up, as well as going on the road to play Michigan, a place they haven’t won in almost two decades.

No. 3 University of Michigan Wolverines (6-2): Entering year six of Jim Harbaugh, yes I said that right, year six. The Wolverines have still yet to beat arch rival Ohio State. I don’t think anything changes this year, especially having to replace four of their five starters on the offensive line, and more than half of their starters. This will affect them the most in week 1 against Minnesota. They will settle in after that, but lose to OSU to end the year, just like it’s been over the last two decades.

No. 2 University of Minnesota Golden Gophers (8-1): The Golden Gophers are coming off their best season in program in almost sixty years. They went 11-2 in the third year of PJ Fleck, beating Auburn in the Outback Bowl. Like I said earlier, this team was one win away from the Big Ten Championship, and I think they run the table and get there this year. However, I think they lose to the beast that is Ohio State.

No. 1 Ohio State University Buckeyes (9-0): The New England Patriots of the Big 10. Since Urban Meyer took over the program just under a decade ago. Now, Ryan Day is in his second year after taking over for Meyer, and the Buckeyes didn’t skip a beat. They went 13-1 last year, winning in the Big 10 and losing to Clemson in the College Football Playoff. They did lose defensive end Chase Young, who was the best defensive player in the country last year. But they bring back junior Justin Fields and will be primed for not just another Big Ten title but another national championship.