It's time to preview the Big Ten Conference for the upcoming season of 2012-2013. Last season was Nebraska's inauguration and they were overhyped and I correctly predicted Wisconsin as a 7/2 choice to win the Big-Ten.
Let's see if we can have a repeat performance as we look at the 2012-2013 Big Ten Conference and make our college football picks
.Significant drop or better price?College footballs odds
aren't currently available for the Big Ten Champion but odds are available for the BCS Champion
. The first thing that's quite noticeable is that the level of play in the Big Ten is expected to drop down significantly with Michigan as a 22/1 selection, Nebraska is listed at 35/1 and Wisconsin is a 40/1 choice. The next closest option is Michigan State at 75/1!. Most of the money is going towards the SEC which is dominated by LSU
Michigan Wolverines (22/1)
In coach Brady Hokes's first season at Michigan, he was very successful, going 11-2 and capturing the Sugar Bowl over Virginia Tech. It was the first BCS bowl game that the Wolverines had won in a decade. Now, through recruiting and returnees, Hoke is looking to take the program further.
Michigan fared well and not one player out of the 65 players that decided to go to the NFL early was a Wolverine.Offense
Quarterback Dennard Robinson made the intelligent decision in returning to Michigan as he wasn't ready for the NFL and needed to fine tune his game to become a true double-threat passer and runner.
Last season. Robinson ran for an amazing 1176 yards and 16 TD's. His passing efficiency needs to improve as he completed just 55% of his passes throwing for 2173 yards and along with 20 touchdown passes, Robinson was prone to the pick with 15 INT's. Robinson still has NFL potential but he needs to focus on this season. He's coming off of a Sugar Bowl win but wasn't impressive overall. Look for improvement from this capable QB. He'll give Michigan a legitimate shot at winning the Big Ten Championship.
The Wolverines had the 13th best rushing attack in the nation last season (mostly because of Robinson) with help from soon to be junior Fitzgerald Toussaint who had a 1000 yard season and he finished off the regular season with 3 consecutive games of 120 or more yards with a season high 192 yards against Illinois.
The receiving game takes a bit of a hit as the Wolverines lose their leading wide receiver and tight end due to graduation. Junior Jimmy Gallon (31 rec, 453 yards, 3 td) and senior Ray Roundtree (19 rec, 355 yards, 2 td) both offer some experience and will have many more opportunities in the upcoming season.Defense
The Wolverines return with one of the top defenses in the country. Last season, they were ranked 6th in the nation in points allowed. Their top 3 leading tacklers return, led by linebacker Kenny Demens (94 tackles, 3 INT), and senior defensive back Jordan Kovacs (75 tackles, 4 INT)
Michigan has 25 committed recruits, four in the top 150. Cornerback Terry Richardson is a four star recruit on a list where five out of the top six recruits are on the defensive side of the ball.
Nebraska Cornhuskers (35/1)
Nebraska comes off a 9-4 season where they lost the Capital One Bowl to South Carolina. This was a good team, as they entered the Big Ten Conference but were obviously overrated and the level of competition was steeper in this conference.Offense
Similar to Michigan, junior quarterback Taylor Martinez provides the threat of either passing or running the ball himself. I'd say that Martinez has to be somewhat disappointed with his performance last season and will look to improve upon it.
He threw for 2089 yards with 13 TD and 8 INT while rushing for 874 yards and 9 TD's. Martinez has lots of help in the backfield with Heisman Trophy contender Rex Burkhead. Burkhead rushed for 1357 yards and 15 TD's and could catch the ball out of the backfield. This is a agile but punishing runner.
Nebraska has a young receiving core and is led by sophomore Kenny Bell (32 rec, 461 yards, 3 td) and junior Quincy Enunwa (21 rec, 293 yards, 2 td's). Senior tight end Kyler Reed also returns. Being that this is a primarily running team Nebraska didn't land any top level recruits at the wide receiver position. It might come back to hurt them.Defense
Nebraska ranked 42nd in points allowed
, not a top level defense but a respectable one and they lose linebacker Lavonte David. Senior Cameron Meredith (58 tackles, 5 sacks, 6 qb hurries, and 1 forced fumble) returns and had a successful season and looks to duplicate it. Senior linebackers Will Compton (82 tackles) and Daimion Stafford (80 tackles and 10 passes broken up) will be key returning players on defense.
Wisconsin Badgers (40/1)
Wisconsin was the team that I picked last year to win the conference and except for coming up short to Oregon in the Rose Bowl, had fairly decent success.A quarterback mess
Sophomore Joe Brennan was the only perspective quarterback to get any snaps in a game last season except for Russell Wilson. 6 of 15 for 48 yards and 1 INT is very little to go by. However, Wisconsin did recruit 4 star quarterback Bart Houston out of California. In all likelihood this high-schooler will be red-shirted but never rule out the possibility. Quite frankly, at this point, I can't tell you who the QB will be whether it be a player from the past that's been injured, Brennan, or Houston. Thank goodness for a running game.
Remember, there's also no Nick Toon at wide receiver in the upcoming season. Montee Ball will have the weight of Wisconsin on his shoulders. Ball rushed for 1923 yards and ran and caught for a total of 39 TD''s!!!. The senior Ball will be the main focus of the offense, I can assure you.
Junior wide receiver Jared Abbrederis junior tight end Jacob Pederson will be returning. These are two very solid targets as Abbrederis was nearly a 1000 yard receiver last year. Wisconsin's issue will be someone to throw them the ball.Defense
Defense will play a key factor for Wisconsin as they were 13th in points allowed last year. Defensive back Shelton Johnson (4 INT, 54 tackles) returns to the secondary while Wisconsin's two top tacklers in linebackers Mike Taylor and Chris Boreland return. Taylor had 150 tackles, 2 INT's, 2 sacks, and 9 tackles for losses while Boreland contributed with 143 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 19 tackles for losses, 5 forced fumbles, and 5 passes broken up. Can anyone smell the under in some of these games? These guy's are a terror on the field.
Michigan State Spartans: 75/1
Quarterback Kirk Cousins has graduated but the Spartans still have a top rated defense. They were 10th in points allowed and this is a team that beat Georgia in the Outback Bowl. The QB position will be tough to replace.
Penn State Nittany Lions: 100/1
This university has been through hell and back but maybe a coaching change is what the Lions need. This is a coach coming from the New England Patriots organization and coached Tom Brady as quarterback. The Penn State offense was lethargic but the defense was ranked 5th in the nation. This is my sleeper team "to win the Big Ten".
Wisconsin "for the time being" is lost at quarterback. This opens up the door for Nebraska to live up to the hype that they didn't last season. Look for Martinez to redeem himself and another big year from Rex Burkhead. The loss of Lavonte David is a killer but the Huskers are still good enough to win.
Nebraska to win the Big Ten Championship
Sleeper pick: Penn State - The coach will have a major influence on this team and they'll be on a mission to change their image.