Welcome to theBRKDWN’s inaugural College Football Cheat Sheet Series! The slowest time of the sports year is winding down with NFL training camp in full swing and college football kicking off in less than three weeks.
Not everyone has the time to research and break down every team in college football before the upcoming season, so we at theBRKDWN wanted to help. These cheat sheets will help every college football fanatic be prepared in knowing the ins and outs of the contenders for each division.
Today, we will roll on to the Big Ten, so sit back, relax, turn on some hype videos and enjoy the cheat sheet series as you prepare for the season.
#5 Ohio State Buckeyes
- Return 13 starters — four on offense, nine on defense.
- The Ryan Day era will now officially begin at Ohio State after Urban Meyer stepped aside with “medical issues” after last season.
- Rank 93rd on the Phil Steele experience chart. Return 32.9 percent of yards and 85.7 percent of tackles from last season. Only 38 combined starts between returning offensive line.
- Justin Fields transfers in from Georgia and is expected to take over the void at quarterback left by the departure of Dwayne Haskins and Tate Martell transferring to Miami. Only problem is, he hasn’t separated himself from Gunnar Hoak, another transfer who couldn’t win the job at Kentucky, but does have an extra year with Ryan Day and this offense.
- Schedule highlights: @Nebraska Sept. 28, Michigan State Oct. 5, @Northwestern Friday, Oct. 18, Wisconsin Oct. 26, Penn State Nov. 23, @Michigan Nov. 30
- Season Projection: I believe Justin Fields will end up securing the quarterback job by the start of the season. Fortunately enough for him and the Buckeyes, they’ll have a few games to create chemistry before they have their first test. This defense is loaded with NFL talent, led by Chase Young who is a sure-fire top-three pick in next years draft. The Big Ten is as loaded as it was last season, but I think this defense and the talent on offense will be enough for the Buckeyes to edge-out the other contenders. 12-1.
#7 Michigan Wolverines
- Return 13 starters — eight on offense, five on defense.
- Shea Patterson is back with another year in Harbaugh’s system. The only question mark is will Michigan open their offense and use Patterson’s full abilities?
- Rank 42nd on the experience chart. Return 76 percent of yards and 51.3 percent of tackles from last season. Returning offensive linemen have 89 combined starts.
- Schedule highlights: Army Sept. 7, @Wisconsin Sept. 21, Iowa Oct. 5, @Penn State Oct. 19, Notre Dame Oct. 26, Michigan State Nov. 16, Ohio State Nov. 30
- Season Projection: Similarly to LSU a few days ago, I simply cannot pick Michigan to beat Ohio State until I see it happen. Unlike LSU with Bama though, Michigan gets the Buckeyes at home and they have the talent to end the streak at seven. I hope we get to see Shea unleashed with the talented receivers and experienced offensive line around him. The talent is there for Michigan, but they have to prove it on the field this year. 10-2 for Wolverines until we see otherwise.
#14 Penn State Nittany Lions
- Return 12 starters — six on each side
- The Trace McSorley era is over in Happy Valley and redshirt sophomore Sean Clifford steps in with big shoes to fill.
- Rank 122nd on the experience chart. Return only 30.6 percent of yards 63.3 percent of tackles from last year. Returning offensive linemen have 62 combined starts.
- Schedule highlights: @Iowa Oct. 12, Michigan Oct. 19, @Michigan State Oct. 26, @Ohio State Nov. 23
- Season Projection: I think Penn State is one of the more overrated teams coming into the season. Losing their quarterback and running back from last year would hurt any team, but the schedule they play won’t give them any breaks. 8-4 wouldn’t be the worst rebuilding year for the Nittany Lions.
#20 Michigan State Spartans
- Return 17 starters — nine on offense, eight on defense.
- Rank eighth on the experience chart. Return 84.3 percent of yards and 62 percent of tackles from last season. Returning offensive linemen have 113 combined starts.
- Have almost their entire offensive side of the ball back this season, but they have to improve on several ugly performances from a season ago.
- Schedule highlights: @Northwestern Sept. 21, @Ohio State Oct. 5, @Wisconsin Oct. 12, Penn State Oct. 26, @Michigan Nov. 16
- Season Projection: The defense, led by redshirt senior defensive end Kenny Willekes, should be the Spartans strength, as it has been for the last few years. The offense will have to improve if they want any chance of competing for the Big Ten East. Their schedule is not a favorable one, having to go to The Shoe, Camp Randall and The Big House. If the offense improves, so will their record, but I’m not sure this team will be in the mix for the East this year. 9-3 year for the Spartans.
#17 Wisconsin Badgers
- Return 11 starters — five on offense, six on defense.
- Rank 94th on the experience chart. Return 88.2 percent of yards and 53.1 percent of tackles from last season. Returning offensive linemen have only 42 combined starts.
- Junior running back Jonathan Taylor is back to add another season of 2,000 plus scrimmage yards and double-digit touchdowns.
- Schedule highlights: @USF Friday, Aug. 30, Michigan Sept. 21, Northwestern Sept. 28, Michigan State Oct. 12, @Ohio State Oct. 26, Iowa Nov. 9, @Nebraska Nov. 16
- Season Projection: Even with an inexperienced offensive line, I believe Taylor still leads this team to a lot of wins, but maybe not as many as Badgers fans are hoping for. The schedule is a brutal one, with three of the “big-four” in the East. An appearance to Indianapolis could be on the line in Lincoln come late November. 8-4 year — but no trip to Indy — for the Badgers.
#19 Iowa Hawkeyes
- Return 10 starters — six on offense, four on defense.
- Rank 89th on the experience chart. Return 75.9 percent of yards and 55.4 percent of tackles from last season. Returning offensive linemen have 54 starts combined.
- Schedule highlights: @Iowa State Sept. 14, @Michigan Oct. 5, Penn State Oct. 12, @Northwestern Oct. 26, @Wisconsin Nov. 9, @Nebraska Friday, Nov. 29
- Season Projection: I believe Nate Stanley will be improved enough to keep the Hawkeyes in most of their games. Like Wisconsin, head coach Kirk Ferentz has to find a way to have his team navigate a tough schedule. I don’t see them finding a way back to Indianapolis with so many critical games away from Kinnick Stadium. 8-4 year for the Hawkeyes.
#25 Northwestern Wildcats
- Return 11 starters — five on offense, six on defense.
- Rank 100th on the experience chart. Return 38 percent of yards and 77.1 percent of tackles from last season. Returning offensive linemen have only 48 combined starts.
- Schedule highlights: @Stanford Aug. 31, Michigan State Sept. 21, @Wisconsin Sept. 28, @Nebraska Oct. 5, Ohio State Friday, Oct. 18, Iowa Oct. 26
- Season Projection: Head coach Pat Fitzgerald is forced to turnover most of the key positions on the offense after a successful 2018-19 campaign which ended in Indianapolis at the hands of Ohio State. Of course, the Wildcats’ goal is to get back in the game this year, but I just don’t see enough wins on the schedule for them to do so. 7-5 year for the Wildcats.
- Return 13 starters — seven on offense, six on defense.
- Rank 73rd on the experience chart. Return 65.2 percent of yards and 54.8 percent of tackles from last season. Returning offensive linemen have only 45 combined starts.
- Schedule highlights: @Colorado Sept. 7, Ohio State Sept. 28, Northwestern Oct. 5, @Purdue Nov. 2, Wisconsin Nov. 16, Iowa Friday, Nov. 29
- Season Projection: I am drinking the Nebraska Kool Aid this year after a rocky 4-8 start to the Scott Frost tenure in Lincoln. Frost is getting starting quarterback Adrian Martinez back for another season and their schedule lines up perfectly for a shot at a trip to Indy. They get the other three contenders in the West at home, as well as Ohio State early in the season. 9-4 year for the Huskers, with a surprise trip to Indianapolis in Frost’s second year.
Big Ten Championship (Indianapolis, IN)
Ohio State 38 vs. Nebraska 17
- I think Nebraska is going to announce themselves to the college football world on Sept. 28 and stun Ohio State in a rockous environment at Memorial Stadium. Fortunately enough for the Buckeyes, they will get an opportunity to avenge their lone loss to the Huskers in Indianapolis. Buckeyes will roll onto the College Football Playoffs after a convincing victory.
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