Just because a conference splits doesn't mean the divisions will be equal. The Leaders will be top-heavy, with the showdown game coming Oct.?29 when Ohio State hosts Wisconsin. The Legends will be a dogfight, with perhaps an upstart such as Northwestern playing the spoiler.
TIM MAY'S PREDICTIONS
Just because a conference splits doesn't mean the divisions will be equal. The Leaders will be top-heavy, with the showdown game coming Oct. 29 when Ohio State hosts Wisconsin. The Legends will be a dogfight, with perhaps an upstart such as Northwestern playing the spoiler.Legends Division
1. Michigan State (7-1): Coach Mark Dantonio has been building a contender, and QB Kirk Cousins and the Spartans will rebound from an early loss at OSU.
2. Iowa (6-2): Knocking off Nebraska in the initial match of their new rivalry will make up for falling just short in the division race.
4. Northwestern (5-3): If QB Dan Persa stays healthy, the time-is-right Wildcats and WR Jeremy Ebert (Hilliard Darby) could finish a couple of notches higher and make the first title game.
4. Nebraska (5-3): Call it a hunch, but the Huskers - done no favors by the schedule - are going to find the Big Ten a tough block to walk the first time around.
5. Michigan (2-6): Not to rain on coach Brady Hoke's inaugural parade, but that pitiful RichRod defense will need more than one year to fix.
6. Minnesota (1-7): Coach Jerry Kill is a man with a solid plan, unlike his predecessor, but Kill and his competent staff need more competent players.Leaders Division
1. Ohio State (7-1): If the reloading Buckeyes can avoid a double-stumble start (Michigan State, Nebraska), the homecoming game against Wisconsin will decide the Leaders leader.
2. Wisconsin (6-2): Transfer QB Russell Wilson gives the offense an immediate new look, but the defense might not be quite good enough.
3. Illinois (4-4): Nathan Scheelhaase will be one of the more dangerous QBs in the league, but rebuilding the D will be a yearlong project.
4. Penn State (4-4): The Nittany Lions close the regular season with a brutal three-game stretch, playing host to Nebraska then visiting Ohio State and Wisconsin.
5. Purdue (1-7): The loss of QB Rob Henry (knee) in preseason should make everyone second-guess the Boilermakers' title chances.
6. Indiana (0-8): The Hoosiers have one of the top QBs in the country coming in … next year. New coach Kevin Wilson is building for the future.
Big Ten champion: Ohio StateBILL RABINOWITZ'S PREDICTIONS
Will Nebraska become a bully in its first year in the league? Is Wisconsin ready to build off its win over Ohio State last year and become the dominant team in the Leaders Division? Is the Big Ten really going to continue labeling its divisions Leaders and Legends? Lots of questions. Here are some answers:Legends Division
1. Nebraska (7-1): QB Taylor Martinez figures to be more consistent as a sophomore and a defense led by DT Jared Crick and LB Lavonte David should dominate.
2. Michigan State (5-3): The Spartans no longer are habitual underachievers, but they must rebuild the offensive line and replace star linebackers.
3. Iowa (4-4): The Hawkeyes usually do better when they're under the radar, and that's the case this year.
4. Michigan (4-4): Coach Brady Hoke will have the Wolverines playing with fire, but it will take more than that to get Michigan back among the elite.
5. Northwestern (3-5): The Wildcats will rise or fall with QB Dan Persa, but an Achilles tendon injury is tough to overcome.
6. Minnesota (1-7): Coach Jerry Kill is in serious rebuilding mode after taking over from the overmatched Tim Brewster.Leaders Division
1. Wisconsin (7-1): The Badgers have to fill some big holes, but with transfer QB Russell Wilson and a strong running game, they have to be the favorites.
2. Ohio State (6-2): The Buckeyes will ride an us-against-the-world mentality, but quarterback play likely will determine their fate.
3. Penn State (5-3): Assuming the QB situation is resolved, JoePa's team can make a run. But an impossible closing stretch will doom the Nittany Lions.
4. Illinois (3-5): QB Nathan Scheelhaase can carry the Illini only so far because he won't have a lot of help.
5. Purdue (2-6): The injury hex continues to haunt the Boilermakers, and they just don't have enough talent to overcome that.
6. Indiana (1-7): Kevin Wilson might be able to turn around the Big Ten's doormat eventually, but it won't be this year.
Big Ten champion: WisconsinTODD JONES' PREDICTIONS
OK, who put the Big Ten in a blender? This doesn't look like your daddy's league. Where's the Vest? Pryor is a Raider? Who is a Leader and who is a Legend? A conference championship game - and it will be played indoors? Nebraska? But some things will remain the same in the end: brute, physical strength will win out. Say cheese, Wisconsin.Legends Division
1. Nebraska (6-2): Toughness, especially on a stout defense, will enable the Cornhuskers to navigate a difficult schedule in their inaugural Big Ten season.
2. Northwestern (6-2): The Wildcats will see QB Dan Persa return as good as new from his Achilles tendon injury, but the defense must improve if they are to surprise teams.
3. Michigan State (6-2): There is a lot to like about Sparty, especially the chip on the shoulder from a year ago, but inconsistency haunts East Lansing.
4. Iowa (5-3): The Hawkeyes will run the football better than they did when losing close games last season, and their schedule doesn't include Wisconsin or Ohio State.
5. Michigan (4-4): Brady Hoke is saying all the right things in his first season as coach, but his words can't tackle. Neither can the Wolverines. Not yet.
6. Minnesota (0-8): The low-key approach of new coach Jerry Kill should provide some stability, but there just isn't enough talent.Leaders Division
1. Wisconsin (7-1): Look for the beefy Badgers to make a run, literally, at the national championship behind new QB Russell Wilson.
2. Penn State (5-3): If the Nittany Lions can settle on and get consistent play from a QB, that will give JoePa something to smile about.
3. Ohio State (4-4): Quarterback is an increasingly important position in today's college game, and the Buckeyes don't have enough experience there. 'Tats all, folks.
4. Illinois (3-5): Coach Ron Zook, who amazingly outlasted Jim Tressel in the Big Ten, will find himself on the coaching griddle again after the Illini tease and disappoint.
5. Indiana (1-7): New coach Kevin Wilson has spunk, and his Hoosiers will keep their fans mildly interested, at least until basketball practice begins.
6. Purdue (1-7): Where have you gone, Joe Tiller? Coach Danny Hope had better update his resume as the bowl drought stretches to four seasons.
Big Ten champion: Wisconsin