In a conference with some of the most prestigious in the nation, the Big 10 is also one that has been dominated by a single program the last few years. Now, as we near another college football season, the same question from the past still remains: Who can dethrone the Ohio State Buckeyes? Last year, Ohio State handled the games they were able to play pretty easily, going 5-0 in the regular season and only losing in the National Championship. However, some teams could stake their claim of getting into the winner’s circle this year, and possibly knocking off the Buckeyes.
Make sure to check out all of our other College Football Conference Previews.
Top Conference Players
To say the Big 10 is one of the more star-studded conferences in the country would be an understatement. Off the bat, the most notable names have got to be Ohio State’s insane wide receiver duo of Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave. These two are almost surefire first-round picks in next year’s NFL draft and are super exciting to watch. On the defensive side of the ball, we have two top edge rushers in the country in Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson and Purdue’s George Karlaftis. Finally, Minnesota’s running back Mohamed Ibrahim is a top-two back in the country and is in prime position to smash Big 10 records this year.
Coaches on the Hot Seat
The answer to this proverbial question is one of the easiest out of any conference. Jim Harbaugh and James Franklin are the two coaches that are most certainly on the hot seat. Now, did Harbaugh sign an extension this offseason? Yes. However, the buyout on this contract is wildly low and Michigan could be quick to pull the trigger if they continue to disappoint. As for Franklin, his Penn State team started off in the top-10 last year and ended with a 4-5 record. One problem with Franklin, though, is that his buyout is massive. If the Nittany Lions want to fire him, it will cost a pretty penny but is certainly worth it for a coach who has rarely lived up to expectations.
Three Conference Games to Watch
We always get a thrilling slate of games from this conference throughout the season and it’s no different this year. Of course, we have to mention “The Game”. Michigan vs. Ohio State has died out over the last decade or so because of Michigan’s inability to win this one, but the rivalry, the tension, and the bad blood are still prevalent throughout college football. Besides just “The Game”, there are three other thrillers on tap in the Big 10 schedule.
Indiana vs Ohio State
The two top teams in the entire conference go head-to-head on October 23. Last year’s game featured explosive offense and an almost Indiana comeback in Columbus. Now, the two teams square off in Indiana where Indiana’s fans will be out in bunches. Indiana star quarterback Michael Penix Jr. looks to repeat his stellar performance from 2020, and he’ll need to do so if they won’t get this upset. If the Hoosiers do get going offensively, we can expect an epic shootout that should come down to the wire in Bloomington.
Wisconsin vs Minnesota
One of the more underrated rivalries in the sport, this one occurs at the very end of the season in Minnesota. The atmosphere is sure to be a great one, especially with the postseason implications this game may have. If Minnesota can get over their tough schedule then this game will most likely be for the Big Ten Championship game. This game wouldn’t necessarily be a shootout because of the styles of both teams. However, with the intensity it’s sure to have, we’ll have a game that’s worth the watch and then some.
Michigan vs Ohio State
We mentioned this one earlier but it’s too entertaining not to watch. Can’t this finally be the year Michigan knocks off the team from down south? With a turbulent quarterback room for both sides, it’s really a little too close to call as of now, especially when this one is in the Big House. If Harbaugh can actually get this win then he will surely have saved his job, no matter how bad the team is. If Ohio State loses to their bitter rival and gets knocked out of playoff contention, they will have to face nationwide embarrassment, but it would be an awesome sight to see.
Dark Horse Teams
In 2020, the Big Ten was filled with surprises. Both Northwestern and Indiana were not expected to come close to the level at which they played, and several other teams were disappointed. Now in 2021, we look for the new dark-horses of the Big 10.
In the East, we’re going to give this one to the Michigan Wolverines. This team was arguably the most disappointing in the entire country last year, after only going 2-4 and losing to a morbid Michigan State team. This year, however, could be the time to make some moves back up the ladder. They won’t necessarily be a great team, but they’ve got some nice makings of a good one. Their offense has threats all over the board, and in this scenario, it just comes down to how well they can coach these talented guys. Defensively, a new coaching staff should lead the Wolverines to greener pastures in the secondary and assist them back into winning ways.
In the West, the dark horse is Minnesota. The Golden Gophers are returning a bunch of key players for next year. Yes, they did lose star wide receiver Rashod Bateman, but they retain their starting quarterback Tanner Morgan, as well as Ibrahim. These two players returning is already a great start, and then we add on that virtually the entire offensive line is coming back. The only problem is that Minnesota has one of the hardest schedules in the Big Ten West, but they should be able to pull off a couple of upsets this season with all their experience.
Big 10 East
- Ohio State
- Penn State
- Michigan State
Big 10 West
Welp, once again, we see Ohio State winning the East. This has been a common stay in the Big Ten forever now. However, it’s not going to be the easiest year. Yes, the drop-off after the first four is pretty rough, even the drop-off after the first two isn’t great but there are some good challenges to be had. Indiana is Ohio State’s biggest threat. They played the Buckeyes the closest last year, and if they can pull off the upset this year, they’ll be in a great position to win the East. It’s so much easier said than done, and Ohio State should wrap this division up unscathed. Other teams like Michigan and Penn State should bounce back this year but are not ready to compete at a top-level in the East.
In the West, it is pretty much a toss-up. Every year we see a jumble of teams that aren’t necessarily top teams in the country, but still make for a very entertaining race at the table. Wisconsin has the most talented group here, and the best quarterback of the bunch in Graham Mertz. Close behind, though, is Iowa. The Hawkeyes were one of the hottest teams in the nation to end the season last year and are looking to build off that momentum with a bunch of returning guys.
Next up is Minnesota. As mentioned, The Gophers have one of, if not, the most experienced groups in the conference, and that experience should help them get to this spot. After these three, there’s a bit of a drop-off in talent. Last year’s surprise Northwestern shouldn’t really come close to the same season this year, while Purdue, Nebraska, and Illinois are the bottom-feeders of the division.
Arguably the two most consistent teams in this game are Wisconsin and Ohio State. Yet again, they both make the trip to Indianapolis in 2022. Like previous years, Ohio State will be expected to win this won pretty easily, but not in blowout fashion. Wisconsin will most likely come in as a top-15 team in the country with a couple of losses on their ledger. The Buckeyes will come in, most likely, with zero or one loss on their docket and a real shot at getting into the college football playoffs.
The overall game may be a bit boring for the neutral fan, but at the same time, all about the offense. Wisconsin will try to dominate the time of possession with their elite run game, while Ohio State will seek out their quick-hitters with that incredible vertical offensive scheme they have. At the end of the day, this should be a pretty comfortable win for Ohio State who will win their fifth Big Ten Championship in a row.
Check us out on our socials:
Twitter: @PTSTNews and @TalkPrimeTime
Facebook Page: Prime Time Sports Talk
Join our Facebook Group: Prime Time Sports Talk
Follow Charlie Parent on Twitter @Charlie_Parent
Main Image Credit:
Embed from Getty Images