The Big Ten's 12 will be competing in a new way this season, and while nobody likes the names of the divisions (or the set up), we have to deal with a very different Big 10. Wisconsin and Nebraska are the early favorites to compete for the conference championship, but Ohio State, Michigan State, and Michigan would have something else to say about that. Just like every other prediction I've made though, you would see that I have one other team that could compete this year.

12: Indiana (6th in Leaders Division)

New coach. New quarterback. New potential. In a couple of years the Hoosiers may be able to compete against the rest of the Big Ten, but it will take a couple of years to create the arsenal that new coach Kevin Wilson needs.

11: Minnesota (6th in Legends Division)

New coach Jerry Kill will try to create some of the same great things that he did for Northern Illinois, and it will all start out with a pretty good group of offensive and defensive weapons that the team will have to build up.

10: Illinois (5th in Leaders Division)

Ron Zook is on the hotseat this year, and while he has been able to bring some good talent into Champagne he hasn't been able to coach them to their full potential. I unfortunately expect a bad season to shake up the organization.

9: Northwestern (5th in Legends Division)


I love Pat Fitzgerald as a coach, but I just am not sold on a successful 2011 season from him. He has some talent remaining, but he just doesn't seem to have enough in the tank to compete against a very stingy Legends Division. 

8: Purdue (4th in Leaders Division) 

I completely believe that coach Hope is one of the best in the Big Ten when he will be able to have his guys (and when they are healthy). Hope will continue to try and get the best out of his guys, and if the can stay healthy, then I expect for them to pull a few upsets on their way to a bowl birth.

7: Michigan (4th in Legends Division)

This is probably where I start getting some hate mail from Michigan fans, but I just don't believe that getting a "Michigan Man" guarantees success. Coach Hoke will eventually bring the team some success, but I just don't believe that the team (especially in Shoelace Robinson) will be ready to compete in 2011. 

6: Penn State (3rd in Leaders Division) 

After 300 years of coaching, does anyone really expect Joe Paterno to have a down season because he lost a couple of guys? I sure as heck don't. The team needs to solidify their defense, and they need to find out who can lead the team at quarterback. Most Penn State fans have been raving about the potential of runner Silas Redd who has elite potential (although a goofy ability to fall down sometimes when he should break it all the way).


5: Michigan State (3rd in Legends Division)

Kirk Cousins was able to do a lot of great things with Michigan State last season, but I think too many people are overrating a good 2010 start as a sign that they will be great in 2011. The team got obliterated by the Iowa (and Alabama) defenses for a reason, and the team will not be able to compete for the title.

4: Ohio State (2nd in Leaders Division)

New quarterback. New coach. Tons of drama. Lots of suspensions. 4th place seems almost high for them, but I think this is the worst they will finish.

3: Nebraska (2nd in Legends Division)

Sure Nebraska has looked amazing against the Big 12 North and against Pac 10 garbage teams the last two years, but I just don't know if they are ready to destroy the Big Ten yet. They pull Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin from the Leaders division while the (2nd place) Hawkeyes pull Indiana, Purdue and Penn State.

2: Iowa (1st in Legends Division)

Is Iowa the 2nd best team in the Big Ten? Heck no. But as any Hawk fan will tell you, they succeed when there are no expectations. The reason behind that is that the defense plays to the level of the competition (a lot of close games for a reason), and the offense isn't built to blow teams out. I expect the Hawks to be Iowa-stellar (for what they do) on offense if they can stay healthy, and the defense will be good enough to keep the team in every game. 

Overall the schedule is laughably easy (two ranked teams, two other teams that are top-40 quality), and they have Nebraska as their last game of the year which should decide the Legends Division.

1: Wisconsin (1st in Leaders Division) 


I honestly don't think Wisconsin is even half as good as most think they are, but they are the best team on paper in the league. Good coaching, good defense, and good potential on offense is a good setup for the season.

CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: Iowa vs Wisconsin

This is a dream game for both of these teams because they both complained about not being paired for their annual rivalry game. If the Hawks actually sneak into the game then I completely expect them to keep the game close, but I have to take the Badgers here to sneak out the victory and the Rose Bowl bid.

 
Breakout Player Of The Year: Silas Redd, RB, Penn State