2020 Big Ten Preview


(image courtesy of Brian Spurlock - USA Today Sports)

Written By: Joseph Yun

Twitter: 2Yoon2ZeroBlitz


The fourth conference of the power five conferences in FBS is slated to kick off this weekend. After much self-induced controversy and the historically correct whinging of the masses as a result of gross negligence and incompetence of its leadership (Kevin Warren and his direct superiors, university presidents), the Big Ten will finally debut in these turbulent times. In case you missed the previous editions in the preview series, they are linked as below


ACC

Big 12

SEC


How will each Big Ten program fare in the sprint to become playoff relevant when they are so behind the other Power 5 conferences? Will they be in lockstep with their perceived servile peers on the West Coast? Can Michigan or Penn State, or nay Wisconsin, dethrone the eternally imperious Buckeyes?


EAST


Indiana


Sat. Oct 24 HOME vs. Penn State (L)

Sat. Oct 31 AWAY @ Rutgers (W)

Sat. Nov 7 HOME vs. Michigan (L)

Sat. Nov 14 AWAY @ Michigan State (L)

Sat. Nov 21 AWAY @ Ohio State (L)

Sat. Nov 28 HOME vs. Maryland (W)

Sat. Dec 5 AWAY @ Wisconsin (L)

Sat. Dec 12 HOME vs. Purdue (L)


Projected Record: 2-6


- Indiana is the upstart program that always loves to play spoiler and may have the assets to do that this year on occasion. The schedule is brutal, however with three consecutive dates against the powers of the conference. Promising quarterback Michael Penix, Jr returns to health along with a draftable receiver prospect in Whop Philyor. In a normal year, they could’ve battled for bowl eligibility but with the schedule, as it is, it will be a long year for the Hoosiers. Basketball season awaits.


Maryland


Sat. Oct 24 AWAY @ Northwestern (L)

Fri. Oct 30 HOME vs. Minnesota (L)

Sat. Nov 7 AWAY @ Penn State (L)

Sat. Nov 14 HOME vs. Ohio State (L)

Sat. Nov 21 HOME vs. Michigan State (L)

Sat. Nov 28 AWAY @ Indiana (L)

Sat. Dec 5 AWAY @ Michigan (L)

Sat. Dec 12 HOME vs. Rutgers (W)


Projected Record: 1-7


- Mike Locksley’s second year in College Park will be a testing one with a young team and an unkind schedule. The quarterback battle will be an interesting one between Taulia Tagovailoa (you know who’s younger brother) and redshirt freshman Lance LeGendre. The Terrapins will have to somehow replace Anthony McFarland Jr. and Javon Leake on offense, both of whom declared for the draft in 2019. Defensively, they don’t have much returning from one of the worst units in all of FBS. S Antoine Brooks is in the NFL but they do have a local product in Nick Cross who’s poised to make a mark. The DMV is loaded with star recruits on an annual basis, can the Terps take advantage and keep some of them home? Also, be on the lookout for five-star receiver Rakim Jarrett.


Michigan


Sat. Oct 24 AWAY @ Minnesota (W)

Sat. Oct 31 HOME vs. Michigan State (W)

Sat. Nov 7 AWAY @ Indiana (W)

Sat. Nov 14 HOME vs. Wisconsin (W)

Sat. Nov 21 AWAY @ Rutgers (W)

Sat. Nov 28 HOME vs. Penn State (W)

Sat. Dec 5 HOME vs. Maryland (W)

Sat. Dec 12 AWAY @ Ohio State (L)


Projected Record: 7-1


- The Wolverines are in an interesting spot of retooling and contending for the conference title. They have chosen Joe Milton as the starting quarterback and as a result, projected starter Dylan McCaffery decided to enter the portal. Also, top receiver Nico Collins and cornerback Ambry Thomas opted out due to COVID19 along with projected right tackle Jalen Mayfield but Mayfield opted back in. However, the skill positions aren’t completely bare with Ronnie Bell and Zach Charbonnet returning to lead the way. Defensively, they have potential star linebacker Cameron McGrone and defensive back Daxton Hill waiting even though they lost Khaleke Hudson, Josh Metellus, Josh Uche off the team. Can they gel the OL together quickly and get over the Ohio State curse?


Michigan State


Sat. Oct 24 HOME vs. Rutgers (W)

Sat. Oct 31 AWAY @ Michigan (L)

Sat. Nov 7 AWAY @ Iowa (L)

Sat. Nov 14 HOME vs. Indiana (W)

Sat. Nov 21 AWAY @ Maryland (W)

Sat. Nov 28 HOME vs. Northwestern (W)

Sat. Dec 5 HOME vs. Ohio State (L)

Sat. Dec 12 AWAY @ Penn State (L)


Projected Record: 4-4


- A true year 0 for new coach Mel Tucker (who unexpectedly bolted Colorado) as he rebuilds the program in his image after years of the Dantonio regime. What won’t help matters is that star tackle Jordan Reid opted out. Gone are six All-Big Ten contributors defensively and the replacements are experienced but raw. Offensively, it has been poor and doesn’t expect to get any better with so much gone. Expect a ton of old school Spartan football, pound the rock and play defense. Going to be some trying times in East Lansing in 2020 but year two should be interesting.


Ohio State


Sat. Oct 24 HOME vs. Nebraska (W)

Sat. Oct 31 AWAY @ Penn State (L)

Sat. Nov 7 HOME vs. Rutgers (W)

Sat. Nov 14 AWAY @ Maryland (W)

Sat. Nov 21 HOME vs. Indiana (W)

Sat. Nov 28 AWAY @ Illinois (W)

Sat. Dec 5 AWAY @ Michigan State (W)

Sat. Dec 12 HOME vs. Michigan (W)


Projected Record: 7-1


- Even with all the losses to the draft, Ohio State is still OHIO STATE under Ryan Day and company. They return Heisman contender Justin Fields and a veteran offensive line (that includes an opt-in Wyatt Davis) but have to replace a few receivers. The Buckeyes also returned Shaun Wade who opted back in as well. Wade is considered to be one of the best corner prospects in the 2020 draft class and was a surprising returnee in the 2020 offseason (i.e. January). Defensive front wise, they lost all world EDGE Chase Young but do return Baron Browning, Tuf Borland, Pete Werner, Young heir apparent Zach Harrison, and Johnathan Cooper to fill the void. Offensively, they return Chris Olave to prop up a young receiver room alongside Master Teague and Trey Sermon (graduate transfer from Oklahoma) RB duo. The key swing game will be the Halloween affair against the Nittany Lions on the road.


Penn State


Sat. Oct 24 AWAY @ Indiana (W)

Sat. Oct 31 HOME vs. Ohio State (W)

Sat. Nov 7 HOME vs. Maryland (W)

Sat. Nov 14 AWAY @ Nebraska (W)

Sat. Nov 21 HOME vs. Iowa (L)

Sat. Nov 28 AWAY @ Michigan (L)

Sat. Dec 5 AWAY @ Rutgers (W)

Sat. Dec 12 HOME vs. Michigan State (W)


Projected Record: 6-2


- PSU returns a lot of talent but are youthful in key junctures such as receiver and in the front seven. Gone is all-star linebacker Micah Parsons (opt-out) but they do return QB Sean Clifford alongside a great offensive line. RB Journey Brown was projected as the lead rusher but he was just declared out for the season with an undisclosed medical issue. Tight end Pat Freiermuth returns as a potential TE1 in the 2021 class (before Kyle Pitts shook the world) so it’s not all bad. Defensively, they don’t return a lot but have key contributors like Shaka Toney, Antonio Shelton, and Lamont Wade. The defense will have to grow up quickly with James Franklin’s excellent recruiting giving them a head start. The Nittany Lions will have a manageable schedule but the Iowa and Michigan double looms. Penn State should contend for the Big Ten East crown after finally getting over the Ohio State bugaboo.


Rutgers


Sat. Oct 24 AWAY @ Michigan State (L)

Sat. Oct 31 HOME vs. Indiana (L)

Sat. Nov 7 AWAY @ Ohio State (L)

Sat. Nov 14 HOME vs. Illinois (L)

Sat. Nov 21 HOME vs. Michigan (L)

Sat. Nov 28 AWAY @ Purdue (L)

Sat. Dec 5 HOME vs. Penn State (L)

Sat. Dec 12 AWAY @ Maryland (L)


Projected Record: 0-8


- Rough times in Piscataway. Prodigal son Greg Schiano has his work cut out for him to get Rutgers back to respectable competitiveness. They do have a little talent such as receiver/returner Aron Cruickshank, defensive tackle Michael Dwumfour (Michigan transfer), and safety Brendon White (Ohio State transfer). Rutgers might not get a win until 2021 with the schedule they were given and the subpar talent on hand. A long road awaits Mr. Schiano.


West


Illinois


Fri. Oct 23 AWAY @ Wisconsin (L)

Sat. Oct 31 HOME vs. Purdue (W)

Sat. Nov 7 HOME vs. Minnesota (L)

Sat. Nov 14 AWAY @ Rutgers (W)

Sat. Nov 21 AWAY @ Nebraska (L)

Sat. Nov 28 HOME vs. Ohio State (L)

Sat. Dec 5 HOME vs. Iowa (L)

Sat. Dec 12 AWAY @ Northwestern (L)


Projected Record: 2-6


- Lovie Smith’s majestic and awe-inspiring beard is in his fifth year at Champaign. This year’s roster may be the most talented he’s had there. Defensively, they have to replace star Oluwole Betiku, Jr but there’s a ton of youth that will need to grow up in a hurry. Illinois has hit the transfer market and got some upgrades like QB Brandon Peters (Michigan), the Imatorbhebhe brothers (USC), and TE Luke Ford all in the last calendar year. The Illini have a decent amount of talent to play spoiler once again. While they won’t compete for a B1G title any time soon, they will remain competitive at the least. The schedule isn’t too bad either.


Iowa


Sat. Oct 24 AWAY @ Purdue (W)

Sat. Oct 31 HOME vs. Northwestern (W)

Sat. Nov 7 HOME vs. Michigan State (W)

Fri. Nov 13 AWAY @ Minnesota (L)

Sat. Nov 21 AWAY @ Penn State (W)

Fri. Nov 27 HOME vs. Nebraska (W)

Sat. Dec 5 AWAY @ Illinois (W)

Sat. Dec 12 AWAY @ Wisconsin (L)


Projected Record: 6-2


- Iowa is going to Iowa as usual. Nothing flashy, just consistent ground and pound and play defense that we are all accustomed to. The Hawkeyes do have some replacing on both fronts as star EDGE A.J. Epenesa and offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs are gone to the NFL. However, it’s beyond tradition that they capably fill along the trenches and 2020 is no different. The man who kept Wirfs from being a franchise left tackle returns in the form of Alaric Jackson (he should be a high draft pick next draft). Defensively, can EDGE Chauncey Golston be the lone war horse with Epenesa plying his trade in Buffalo? Inconsistently consistent QB Nate Stanley is gone. In steps Spencer Petras. To guide Petras along, receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette returns as a highly draftable prospect. Although the Hawkeyes are primed to make a run at it in the West, the specter of the allegations of racial mistreatment by the staff looms large.


Minnesota


Sat. Oct 24 HOME vs. Michigan (L)

Fri. Oct 30 AWAY @ Maryland (W)

Sat. Nov 7 AWAY @ Illinois (W)

Fri. Nov 13 HOME vs. Iowa (W)

Fri. Nov 20 HOME vs. Purdue (W)

Sat. Nov 28 AWAY @ Wisconsin (L)

Sat. Dec 5 HOME vs. Northwestern (W)

Sat. Dec 12 AWAY @ Nebraska (W)


Projected Record: 6-2


- Can the Golden Gophers keep on rowing the boat to a West title? They return a large majority of their starters including a recently opted back in potential 2021 WR3 candidate Rashod Bateman. Quarterback Tanner Morgan is back at the controls and he could be QB2 behind Justin Fields alongside an unproven but veteran offensive line. Tyler Johnson declared for the draft and is catching balls from the GOAT but Bateman could possibly be better. Joining Bateman in the receiver room is the underrated Chris Autman-Bell. Star safety Antoine Winfield, Jr will need replacing as he’s gone to the NFL as well. Could Coney Durr, Sr be the next Golden Gopher defensive back to break out? Mohamed Ibrahim returns to anchor the run game. Expect a lot of shootouts until the defense is fully broken in. The West crown will be settled in Madtown during Thanksgiving weekend.


Nebraska


Sat. Oct 24 AWAY @ Ohio State (L)

Sat. Oct 31 HOME vs. Wisconsin (L)

Sat. Nov 7 AWAY @ Northwestern (W)

Sat. Nov 14 HOME vs. Penn State (L)

Sat. Nov 21 HOME vs. Illinois (W)

Sat. Nov 28 AWAY @ Iowa (L)

Sat. Dec 5 AWAY @ Purdue (L)

Sat. Dec 12 HOME vs. Minnesota (L)


Projected Record: 2-6


- Much will be expected of a native son of the corn Scott Frost in year three. Much will fail him as the roster is hugely young and needs seasoning in the rough and tumble Big Ten West. QB Adrian Martinez returns but who knows how healthy he is and how much longer he can hold up. Gone are the defensive line Davis twins. Also gone is wide receiver JD Spielman who transferred to TCU. The Blackshirts will once again be a sieve and basically a colander against the better rushing teams. Frost’s seat could get awfully heated up with another substandard season.


Northwestern


Sat. Oct 24 HOME vs. Maryland (W)

Sat. Oct 31 AWAY @ Iowa (L)

Sat. Nov 7 HOME vs. Nebraska (L)

Sat. Nov 14 AWAY @ Purdue (L)

Sat. Nov 21 HOME vs. Wisconsin (L)

Sat. Nov 28 AWAY @ Michigan State (L)

Sat. Dec 5 AWAY @ Minnesota (L)

Sat. Dec 12 HOME vs. Illinois (W)


Projected Record: 2-6


- Could another #struggleszn cast a wandering eye to the cold and dank embraces of the NFL for head coach Pat Fitzgerald? He’s been leading Chicago’s team for a very long time now and the NFL rumor mill keeps on having his name out there every year. The Wildcats are going to struggle mightily even by their standards with star offensive tackle Rashawn Slater opting out with a host of other key players. Graduate transfer QB Peyton Ramsey switches divisions from Indiana. CB JR Pace is an interesting draft prospect at least.


Purdue


Sat. Oct 24 HOME vs. Iowa (L)

Sat. Oct 31 AWAY @ Illinois (L)

Sat. Nov 7 AWAY @ Wisconsin (L)

Sat. Nov 14 HOME vs. Northwestern (W)

Sat. Nov 21 AWAY @ Minnesota (L)

Sat. Nov 28 HOME vs. Rutgers (W)

Sat. Dec 5 HOME vs. Nebraska (W)

Sat. Dec 12 AWAY vs. Indiana (W)


Projected Record: 4-4


- Boiler Up or Boiler Down? I think it will be Boiler Somewhere in the Middle of .500. Star receiver Rondale Moore opted out but opted back in after the conference returned to football. Assisting Moore will be David Bell who got a turn at being the star after Moore got hurt last season. Reports indicate that sophomore quarterback Jack Plummer will be the starter. The defense wasn’t that bad when you consider the Boilers offense plays a quick strike style. Lorenzo Neal, Jr returns after an injury-filled 2019 campaign.


Wisconsin


Fri. Oct 23 HOME vs. Illinois (W)

Sat. Oct 31 AWAY @ Nebraska (W)

Sat. Nov 7 HOME vs. Purdue (W)

Sat. Nov 14 AWAY @ Michigan (L)

Sat. Nov 21 AWAY @ Northwestern (W)

Sat. Nov 28 HOME vs. Minnesota (W)

Sat. Dec 5 HOME vs. Indiana (W)

Sat. Dec 12 AWAY @ Iowa (W)


Projected Record: 7-1


- Wisconsin and record-setting running backs. An iconic duo that will probably last until the end of time. They will have some issues replacing the legendary Jonathan Taylor (now plying his trade for the Colts) but do have some assets there. The receivers are loaded to the gills with reliable if not flashy veterans but they will miss Aron Cruickshank (transfer). The offensive line is led by future draft pick Cole Van Lanen but they will need a center to step up after Tyler Biadsz graduated. The unit isn’t all bad as most of the depth got reps last year due to injuries. Defensively, the Badgers remain relatively loaded and kept DC Jim Leonhard. Gone are Zack Baun and Chris Orr but Jack Sanborn and Isaiah Loudermilk return to a bullish looking stop unit. They get the Golden Gophers at home that will likely decide the division.


EAST Champion: Ohio State


WEST Champion: Wisconsin


Conference Champion: OHIO STATE


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