Now that I have previewed all 12 of our opponents as well as every aspect of our team, it is time to take a look at the season proper. For the first time since 2001 we get guaranteed Big Ten football in December with the new Big Ten Championship game. I already plan to be there as part of the media contingent at least for the Indiana Regional site, but we have a lot of football to play in that time.
With eight guaranteed bowl tie-ins the conference is in line for a successful year. I have even seen some sites call for 10 bowl eligible teams, with the league tacking two BCS spots and Purdue being an at large team squeaking in at 6-6. That is certainly possible. Only Indiana and Minnesota were considered outside in that scenario, and there are a wealth of wins to be found in each team's four non-conference games. I already see five games we should win as it is, meaning we only need to squeeze one more out somewhere.
With that in mind, here is my completely off the cuff prediction of every Big Ten game every week. I am not going to put down scores right now because, well, that would be crazy to do. I am going to call it now and then reference this at the end of the season. Here we go with week 1:
Blowout wins in favor of Big Ten teams: Wisconsin over UNLV, Michigan State over Youngtown State, Ohio State over Akron, Penn State over Indiana State, Iowa over Tennessee Tech, Illinois over Arkansas State, Nebraska over Chattanooga, Michigan over Western Michigan, Indiana over Ball State.
Basically, if any of these games are even close it should be a sign of trouble for the season to come. Expect a lot of scores in the range of 45-10 here.
Big Ten wins: Purdue over Middle Tennessee State, Northwestern over Boston College
The Northwestern-BC match-up is one of two real, live games in week one, but the Wildcats should get things done as long as they are Persa-strong. Our game with MTSU should be an easy win, but after last year I am discounting nothing.
Loss: USC over Minnesota
At least the Golden Gophers will enjoy the Southern California sunshine. Unfortunately, they prevent the conference from having a perfect start.
Blowout wins in favor of Big Ten teams: Michigan State over Florida Atlantic, Illinois over South Dakota State, Northwestern over Eastern Illinois, Ohio State over Toledo, Minnesota over New Mexico State, Nebraska over Fresno State
At least this week has more challenging games with a few rivalries. Also, a few conference teams go out on the road too. These above still shouldn't be much of a challenge, though haven't we learned to never trust Minnesota here?
Big Ten wins: Iowa over Iowa State, Wisconsin over Oregon State, Purdue over Rice, Michigan over Notre Dame
Purdue-Rice has blowout potential, but I still want to see what Purdue has first. The other games are challenging for our conference brethren, highlighted by Notre Dame at Michigan. If the Wolverines drop that game the insufferable ND fandom will emerge. Wisconsin-Oregon State has the potential to be a sneaky good game.
Big Ten losses: Alabama over Penn State, Virginia over Indiana
These will hurt since they are at home, but Alabama is light years better than Penn State and Indiana couldn't even beat a crappy Virginia team a few years ago.
Blowout wins in favor of Big Ten teams: Michigan over Eastern Michigan, Penn State over Temple, Purdue over Southeast Missouri State, Northwestern over Army, Indiana over South Carolina State,
There are some really, really good non-conference games this week, thus getting rid of some of the general cupcake fodder. Only the Hoosiers and boilermakers host I-AA teams. Michigan and Penn State get Mac-licious this week. Northwestern could have a tricky time going to Army, but credit them for going on the road twice in the non-conference.
Big Ten Wins: Iowa over Pittsburgh, Minnesota over Miami (OH), Wisconsin over Northern Illinois, Michigan State over Notre Dame, Nebraska over Washington
Those are some damn good games right there, and this is the week the conference needs to have a strong showing. Washington and Nebraska are playing for the third time in a year, while Northern Illinois could be sneaky good against Wisconsin, especially since it is in Chicago.
Big Ten Losses: Arizona State over Illinois, Miami (FL) over Ohio State
I base my Miami pick on the way things are right now with no players officially suspended for the Hurricanes. If their 15 players under investigation do get suspended I am picking the Buckeyes. As for the Fighting Illini, a win over the Sun Devils could make or break their season.
Blowout wins in favor of Big Ten teams: Indiana over North Texas, Minnesota over North Dakota State, Nebraska over Wyoming, Michigan State over Central Michigan, Penn State over Eastern Michigan, Michigan over San Diego State, Wisconsin over South Dakota, Iowa over Louisiana-Monroe, Illinois over Western Michigan
If the Big Ten is going to have a perfect week this year, this is it. There are a lot of Directional Michigans in here.
Big Ten wins: Ohio State over Colorado
It might be a stretch to call this the only close game of the week. Purdue and Northwestern are each sitting on their bye with non-conference games later on.
Week 5: Northwestern over Illinois, Wisconsin over Nebraska, Notre Dame over Purdue, Michigan State over Ohio State, Michigan over Minnesota, Penn State over Indiana
Conference play starts with a bang as the Wisconsin-Nebraska game could be a preview of the title game at Lucas Oil. Northwestern and Illinois get to battle for the oversized monopoly piece, while the last marquee non-conference game is Purdue-ND. As much as I would like to piss on the Irish parade and make them 0-for-the-Big Ten, I don't see it happening.
Week 6: Northwestern over Michigan, Purdue over Minnesota, Nebraska over Ohio State, Illinois over Indiana, Penn State over Iowa
That's right, I am predicting an 0-2 conference start for OSU, knocking them out of the race before it even really starts. It also gives the Cornhuskers their first official Big Ten victory. Purdue and Iowa become the last teams to start conference play, with Our Most Hated Rivals falling in Happy Valley. Northwestern simply has The Look that they occasionally get. You know the look, when they pull off about four wins that no one expects them to pull off. The first one comes this week against Michigan.
Week 7: Wisconsin over Indiana, Penn State over Purdue, Northwestern over Iowa, Michigan State over Michigan, Ohio State over Illinois
No, Wisconsin does not get to take some of their 83 points from last year's win over IU and use them in this game. It won't matter anyway. The Hawkeyes get foiled again by justNorthwestern. The Spartans make a very strong move forward in their division.
Week 8: Illinois over Purdue, Iowa over Indiana, Nebraska over Minnesota, Northwestern over Penn State, Michigan State over Wisconsin
The MSU-Wisconsin game is one of the better ones this season, but it might be the trickiest game for the Badgers. Our performance against Illinois last season left a lot to be desired, but this is still a winnable game. Would anyone be surprised if Northwestern beat Penn State in Happy Valley on a 98-yard triple reverse as time expired?
Week 9: Northwestern over Indiana, Michigan over Purdue, Wisconsin over Ohio State, Penn State over Illinois, Iowa over Minnesota, Nebraska over Michigan State
A couple of shockers this week. First, Northwestern leading the Legends Division at 4-0 after MSU loses to Nebraska. Second, seeing Ohio State at 1-3 in the conference. The Illinois trip to Happy Valley against the Nittany Lions is their longest road trip of the season. Finally, hurrah to the first day ever with six Big Ten conference games!
Week 10: Ohio State over Indiana, Iowa over Michigan, Michigan State over Minnesota, Nebraska over Northwestern, Wisconsin over Purdue
Alas, the run for the Wildcats cannot go on forever. It ends in Lincoln as the Cornhuskers make a jumbled mess of the Legends Division with three teams at the top, all with one loss against each other. OSU-Indiana and MSU-Minnesota could be two of the ugliest games of the Big Ten calendar. Also, I am still having Nam-like flashbacks of our last trip to Madison, so I am sitting this one out.
Week 11: Illinois over Michigan, Michigan State over Iowa, Nebraska over Penn State, Purdue over Ohio State, Northwestern over Rice, Wisconsin over Minnesota
We're due for a WATFO game, and for some reason we always play OSU tough in Ross-Ade, so why not pick the win here? Northwestern steps out of conference to host Rice, while MSU, and Nebraska keep us on a collision course with Chaos that may result in a three-way tie decided by sack race or a fight to the death in the Legends Division.
Week 12: Michigan State over Indiana, Purdue over Iowa, Northwestern over Minnesota, Nebraska over Michigan, Ohio State over Penn State, Wisconsin over Illinois
Wisconsin wraps up the Leaders Division having suffered their only loss to Michigan State from the Legends. They may even get a rematch in Lucas Oil because of MSU keeping the Old Brass Spittoon. We rise up to defeat Our Most Hated Rival despite the Invasion of the Corn by the BHGP followers. Will a sea of red from Nebraska fans invading Michigan Stadium actually make noise?
Week 13: Nebraska over Iowa, Illinois over Minnesota, Michigan State over Northwestern, Ohio State over Michigan, Wisconsin over Penn State, Purdue over Indiana
Silly people, we could never have a three way tie in the Legends Division (at least let's hope not). Nebraska clinches it though by winning the first Heroes game. Purdue and Indiana exchange the Bucket as it is meant to be over Thanksgiving. Even with a new coach, Ohio State still adds to its win streak over Michigan.
Week 14: Big Ten Championship Game: Wisconsin over Nebraska.
The Badgers liked it so nice they did it twice, knocking off the Cornhuskers in Indy. A BCS at large berth is not a bad consolation prize for Nebraska though.
Wisconsin 12-1, 7-1
Penn State 7-5, 4-4
Ohio State 7-5, 4-4
Illinois 7-5, 4-4
Purdue 7-5, 4-4
Indiana 3-9, 0-8
Nebraska 11-2, 7-1
Michigan State 11-1, 7-1
Northwestern 10-2, 6-2
Iowa 7-5, 3-5
Michigan 6-6, 2-6
Minnesota 3-9, 0-8