Every Friday, our staff at The Comeback will share our conference predictions for the 2017 season. This week, we go on the record with our picks for the Big Ten.
Big Ten East Division
- Ohio State (5 first-place votes)
- Penn State
- Michigan (1)
- Michigan State
It should not be much of a shock to see the Buckeyes on top of our preseason poll. Ohio State is widely considered a top playoff contender in 2017 and gets two huge games on their schedule on their field (Oklahoma and Penn State).
Penn State may be the defending Big Ten champion, but the Nittany Lions failed to receive any first-place votes from our staff. While the Buckeyes gobbled up most of them, Michigan did receive one first-place vote from our crew.
The rest of the division may or may not shock you too much. It looks like it could be another rough season in East Lansing following a tumultuous offseason for Mark Dantonio. Maryland may be heading in a good direction, but our staff thinks it will be tough to pick up many wins this season. Indiana could be dangerous, while Rutgers was placed last on all but one of our ballots (they were picked sixth on one ballot).
Big Ten West Division
- Wisconsin (6 first-place votes)
Three ballots placed for the Big Ten West had the exact same order, and that just so happened to be the order you see above. The Badgers, defending division champions, swept our first-place ballots this season, while Nebraska managed to stay just ahead of Northwestern in our ballots (one point separated the two).
Before you go picking on Purdue, know that the Boilermakers were picked to finish fifth place in the West Division by two of our staff members, but last on every other ballot.
Big Ten Championship Game Predictions
While everybody on our staff is calling for Wisconsin to win the Big Ten West, everyone is also calling for the Badgers to lose in the Big Ten championship game. Ohio State is the clear overall favorite here, while one writer is calling for Jim Harbaugh’s Wolverines to be celebrating in Indianapolis this season.
- Matt: Ohio State over Wisconsin
- Terry: Ohio State over Wisconsin
- Phil: Ohio State over Wisconsin
- Kevin M: Ohio State over Wisconsin
- Bart: Michigan over Wisconsin
Offensive Player of the Year
- Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State (2)
- J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State (2)
- Trace McSorley, QB, Penn State (1)
Having three different players receive nominations for Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year shows there are some good talented players in the conference to look forward to. Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett and Penn State running back Saquon Barkley each received two votes, while Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley picked up the lone remaining nomination.
“Trace McSorley’s continued development will keep defenses from stacking things up to stop Barkley,” says Phil. “He’ll benefit with more running room to showcase his vision, power and breakaway abilities.”
Defensive Player of the Year
- Rashan Gary, DE, Michigan (2)
- Tegray Scales, LB, Indiana (2)
- Sam Hubbard, DE, Ohio State (1)
The defensive side of the football also had some mixed reactions. This could suggest there is some good talent to be found in the Big Ten as well. Michigan defensive end Rashan Gary and Indiana linebacker Tegray Scales each picked up two nominations, while Ohio State defensive end Sam Hubbard picked up one vote.
“If you don’t know him, you should,” Phil says. “Scales led the Big Ten in total tackles and tackles for loss in 2016. They actually do play defense at Indiana now that Tom Allen has arrived on campus.”
Coach of the Year
- Paul Chryst, Wisconsin (1)
- Jeff Brohm, Purdue (1)
- P.J. Fleck, Minnesota (1)
- Mike Riley, Nebraska (1)
- Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern (1)
Well, how about that? If you thought our player of the year picks were diversified, check out our coach of the year picks. Not one coach received two nominations from our staff. And notice the names that are missing from the conversation; Urban Meyer, Jim Harbaugh, and James Franklin.
“The Badgers are set up for a run with a favorable schedule and enough returning talent to pile up wins,” said Phil.
In fact, every coach receiving a vote coaches in the West Division. Newcomers P.J. Fleck and Jeff Brohm should be fun to watch as they make their Big Ten debuts, and a good run from Nebraska should keep Mike Riley in the mix.
Phil: After finishing third again in the Big Ten East, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh will take his satellite camps to Siberia to draw from the untapped potential of the Russian wilderness. It’ll all be funded by an anonymous donor and have the blessings of Vladimir Putin.
Matt: Maryland finishes the best of the rest in the B1G East and Mark Dantonio is fired after another season without a bowl in East Lansing. Yes, I am a Maryland alum and this prediction is entirely homerish, but no one behind the East’s big three is really that set apart from the field, so anyone outside of Rutgers could easily finish fourth. But with the amount of attrition and negative off-the-field headlines plaguing Michigan State, a missed bowl game despite past recruiting successes could be curtains for Dantonio, despite his success. The heat will be turned up even more if there are any more negative headlines swirling around the program off the field, too.
Kevin: Penn State’s offense is one of the most entertaining to watch in the Big Ten again and fuels revenge wins at home against both Pittsburgh and Michigan. Barkley gets an invite to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony and offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead leaves Penn State at the end of the season to become Boston College’s new head coach.
Terry: Kevin Wilson edges out Clemson’s Brent Venables for the Broyles Award.
Yesh: Indiana finishes third in the Big Ten East with an 9-3 record, due to Michigan losing cross-divisional games to Wisconsin and Minnesota. Ohio State is never challenged in a game and is a unanimous No. 1 heading into the College Football Playoff. Minnesota starts off 11-0.
Bart: Michigan wins the conference. Maryland finishes in the top four in the East. Big Ten puts 12 teams in bowl games.