Big 10 Football Predictions – 2013 Season

Wisconsin has quietly won three straight conference titles, but 2013 is shaping up to be the season in which the traditional powers return to the top of the heap: OSU is an early favorite for a National Championship appearance, and Michigan will be involved in a three-way race in the Legends division. However, there will still be plenty of competition in the final season before division re-alignment. Check out our 2013 Big Ten predictions below.


Legends Division

  • 1. Michigan 9-3 (6-2): A year ago, Denard Robinson’s departure was a scary thought for Wolverines fans, but QB Devin Gardner showed flashes of brilliance down the stretch last fall. Gardner doesn’t have Robinson’s wheels, but he can still run enough when he needs to and is a far more accurate passer than Denard. LT Taylor Lewan will protect Gardner’s blind side, and WR Jeremy Gallon, TE Devin Funchess and RB Fitz Toussaint give Michigan plenty of weapons on offense. DC Greg Mattison has quickly turned the Michigan defense into an intimidating unit, and his expertise will be needed to keep the unit near the top of the conference this season. Several impact performers departed after last season and LB Jake Ryan suffered an injury this spring that will keep him out for most of the season. There are some pieces though, including LB Desmond Morgan, safety Thomas Gordon and DE Frank Clark, who could bust out and earn all-conference honors this fall. The Wolverines get the two biggest games (Notre Dame and Ohio State) at home, but trips to Penn State and Michigan State will be tests. Look for Michigan to improve on last season’s 8-5 mark and fight for a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game.
  • 2. Northwestern 9-3 (5-3): After surprising the conference and winning 10 games in 2012, the Wildcats could be even better this year. The offense returns largely intact, led by do-everything QB Cain Colter, dynamic RB Venric Mark, and a host of talented receivers. Colter is again expected to rotate with QB Trevor Siemian, but the Wildcats are just a steady passing attack away from having one of the deadliest offenses in not just the Big 10, but the entire country. The offensive line is a bit of a question mark, but the Wildcats excel at getting their playmakers in space and doing work in the open field. The defense was only average in 2012, but all-conference talent at each level provides reason for optimism this fall. DE Tyler Scott is a sack machine, LB Damien Proby racks up tackles, and safety Ibraheim Campbell is as productive as any safety in the Big 10. Mix in LB Chi Chi Ariguzo and CB Nick VanHoose, and the Wildcats defense is filled with playmakers. After opening conference play with tough games against Ohio State and Wisconsin, the Wildcats play five straight against Legends competition and will certainly have a say in who represents the division in the Big 10 Championship.
  • 3. Nebraska 9-3 (5-3): The Husker offense will be scary this fall. QB Taylor Martinez showed improved passing ability last fall and is still an ever-present threat to score with his legs. Ameer Abdullah is more than ready for the feature role at RB, and Kenny Bell leads a deep group of receivers that will give the Huskers weapons all over the field. The offensive line will be among the best in the conference, led by potential All-American guard Spencer Long. Nebraska’s Achilles heel may again be the defense, which loses a bunch of starters from a unit that was just average in 2012. CB Ciante Evans and DE Jason Ankrah provide some pieces to build around, but it may be another season of opposing offenses scoring big unless some unknowns emerge in a hurry. The Huskers have eight home games and miss both Wisconsin and Ohio State so the schedule sets up as nicely as it could, but with such a questionable defense it will be difficult for Nebraska to threaten for a conference title.
  • 4. Michigan State 7-5 (4-4): Check out this statistic: each of the Spartans’ first seven Big 10 games last fall were decided by four points or less, an indication of how thin the difference between 4 wins and 10 wins was for MSU last season. The offense, the weak link a year ago, should improve this year despite the loss of workhorse RB Le’Veon Bell. QB Andrew Maxwell (or Connor Cook, if he beats out Maxwell) will have a trio of last season’s top wideouts back, and the line should be strength. The defensive line is in a bit of a re-building mode, but the linebackers will be among the best in the nation. Safety Isaiah Lewis and CB Darqueze Dennard give the Spartans two likely all-conference performers in the secondary. Though it may not live up to last season’s top-five unit, the defense will be just fine. The Spartans should have no trouble going 6-1 at home, with in-state rival Michigan the only team standing between MSU and a perfect home record. MSU may again be an above-average QB away from threatening for 10 wins, but splitting the conference road games would deliver a solid 8-win season and a nice rebound from last season’s disappointment.
  • 5. Minnesota 6-6 (2-6): Sophomore QB Philip Nelson gained significant experience a year ago, and the former highly-touted recruit should be ready to take command of the offense this season. RB Donnell Kirkwood will help the young Nelson settle in, but the lack of a go-to receiver will make it tough on the Gopher offense. DE Ra’Shede Hageman gives Minnesota an intimidating presence up front, and DB Derrick Wells anchors an experience secondary that can provide leadership while an inexperience linebacker group sorts itself out. The Gophers should make another run at a bowl game, but don’t expect a significant leap forward in 2013.
  • 6. Iowa 5-7 (2-6): The Hawkeyes fell flat a season ago and have an unsettled quarterback battle among three guys who have never played a snap at the FBS level. There are also more questions than answers at WR. The good news on offense is the return of healthy RBs Mark Weisman, Damon Bullock and Jordan Canzeri. Weisman and Bullock each showed ability last season and there are high hopes for Canzeri, who missed all of 2012 with a torn ACL. TE C.J. Fiedorowicz provides an excellent threat at TE, and the line should be strength. On defense, three experience linebackers will be the focal point while a young defensive line seeks improvement over last season. The loss of CB Micah Hyde will hurt the defense, but CB B.J. Lowery and SS Nico Law provide some hope for improved secondary play in 2013. The non-conference schedule is tougher than it appears, with non-conference games against star QB Jordan Lynch and his NIU Huskies and a road trip to Ames to battle in-state rival ISU. The Big 10 schedule will be even more difficult, with no obvious win the entire season.


Leaders Division

  • 1. Ohio State 11-1 (7-1): Most people thought it would take Urban Meyer a year or two to get OSU back to the top of the conference, but then the Buckeyes went out and won every game on the schedule in 2012. The scary thing for the rest of the Big 10 is that OSU returns most of its starters this season and will have a full year in Meyer’s system. Still, look at last year’s schedule – the Buckeyes were far from dominant despite going 12-0; there is still plenty of room for improvement. QB Braxton Miller gives the offense a legitimate Heisman candidate, and a dominant line and handful of playmakers will make the OSU offense as potent as any. The defense wasn’t a strength last year and must replace several key starters. Still, LB Ryan Shazier, a fantastic secondary, and two sophomore DEs with big potential provide reason for optimism this fall. The Buckeyes look like a sure bet to represent the Leaders division in the CCG, but can OSU possibly run the table for the 2nd straight season? We don’t see why not.
  • 2. Wisconsin 9-3 (6-2): The Badgers will have a new look under new coach Gary Anderson, but one thing will remain constant: extraordinary RB play. James White and Melvin Gordon will provide one of the nation’s best 1-2 punches in the backfield and should keep the offense humming despite the loss of Montee Ball. However, the offensive line loses several key starters and is no longer a given with a new coaching staff. Inconsistency and uncertainty at QB is also a cause for concern, tough senior Jared Abbrederis provides a reliable target at WR. LB Chris Borland is the leader of the defense and will be the rock on defense as the unit switches from a 4-3 to more of an aggressive 3-4 look. The good news for Badger fans is that the new coaching staff will inherit one of the conference’s easiest schedules – no MSU, Michigan or Nebraska.
  • 3. Penn State 8-4 (4-4): First, the bright spot on offense: WR Allen Robinson and TE Kyle Carter lead a group of receivers that should be the offense’s strength in 2013. However, will the Lions have a quarterback to get them the ball? True freshman QB Christian Hackenberg will compete with JUCO transfer Tyler Ferguson, but neither player has proven a thing at the FBS level. RB Zach Swinak returns after a 1,000 yard season last year, but he lacks Big 10 speed and will find it tough to run without a steady passing attack. On defense, a solid secondary and young but talented line will make life easier for LB Glenn Carson as he breaks in a new pair of starters around him at LB. Penn State should again be a tough out in 2013, but they are still a notch below the elite teams in the conference.
  • 4. Indiana 5-7 (3-5): The Hoosiers are loaded on offense: QB Cam Coffman was solid last season, QB Tre Roberson should be healthy after missing last season, four WRs return after 40 or more catches in 2012, and RB Stephen Houston provides a nice threat on the ground for an otherwise pass-happy offense. Much like last year though, the defense needs help. The good news is help may not be far off, as Indiana welcomes a stacked recruiting class that includes several highly-rated defensive prospects that can make an impact immediately. An improved defense could have the Hoosiers bowling, but they may still be a year away from being serious bowl contenders.
  • 5. Purdue 4-8 (3-5): New coach, same quarterback controversy in West Lafayette. Darrell Hazell begins his first season at Purdue without a clear-cut starter at QB. Expect senior Rob Henry to win the job, at least initially. Henry will have a couple solid WRs but no target that strikes fear in opposing defenses. RB Akeem Hunt has shown flashes in the past, and the Boilermakers are counting on Hunt to be a productive player this fall. The defense, which was among the worst in the conference in 2012, returns a boatload of starters. Still, DT Kawann Short will be tough to replace and his loss may be felt all season long. The non-conference slate is tough, and things won’t be any easier at the start of conference play. However, the schedule becomes easier down the stretch, which can help Purdue build some momentum heading into 2014.
  • 6. Illinois 3-9 (1-7): Illinois has to be better than last year’s 2-10 record, right? Maybe not. Experienced QB Nathan Scheelhaase is back, but he struggled in 2012 and is learning a new system for the third time in his career. There is no reliable threat at WR, and the line was awful last season. One reason for optimism is RB Donovonn Young, a solid RB that actually led the team in rushing and receptions a year ago. On defense, LBs Jonathan Brown and Mason Monheim will need to be terrific in 2013 because there is not much else around them as far as proven players. It seems like just a short time ago the Illini were considered one of the more talented teams in the conference, but now a second straight winless conference season doesn’t seem that far-fetched.

Let’s hear your predictions in the comments!


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One Response to “Big 10 Football Predictions – 2013 Season”

  1. Matt PSU says:

    Your capsules are lacking much substance. As a PSU fan I won’t say you are far off but we now make QB’s and guys in the D front 8. We now play the best at that position, not the guy who “put his time in”. You are looking at a potential…repeat potential superpower that is not going anywhere but up. BTW, who are the losses to?

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