Published August 21, 2019

By William Whisler

As we hit the halfway point of the final week without college football, the Whiteboard has gone over all of the Power 5 conferences in college football with the exception of the Big Ten.

The Big Ten has been run by Ohio State in recent years and Penn State and Michigan have made some serious strides in closing the gap. The Big Ten West still has yet to win a Big Ten title since the championship game was instituted.

Will a West team finally end the drought? Will the Big Ten have representation in the College Football Playoff?

Here’s a look at the Big Ten.

2018 Order of Finish (Conference, Overall)
East Division

Ohio State 8-1, 13-1

Michigan 8-1, 10-3

Penn State 6-3, 9-4

Michigan State 5-4, 7-6

Maryland 3-6, 5-7

Indiana 2-7, 5-7

Rutgers 0-9, 1-11

West Division

Northwestern 8-1, 9-5

Wisconsin 5-4, 8-5

Purdue 5-4, 6-7

Iowa 5-4, 9-4

Minnesota 3-6, 7-6

Nebraska 3-6, 4-8

Illinois 2-7, 4-8

2018 Championship Game: Ohio State 45, Northwestern 24

2018 Bowl Results

2018 Big Ten Bowl Record: 5-4

Quick Lane Bowl: Minnesota 34, Georgia Tech 10

Pinstripe Bowl: Wisconsin 35, Miami 3

Redbox Bowl: Oregon 7, Michigan State 6

Music City Bowl: Auburn 63, Purdue 14

Holiday Bowl: Northwestern 31, Utah 20

Outback Bowl: Iowa 27, Mississippi State 24

Citrus Bowl: Kentucky 27, Penn State 24

Peach Bowl: Florida 41, Michigan 15

Rose Bowl: Ohio State 28, Washington 23

East Division

Ohio State

2018 Record: 8-1, 13-1

2018 Offensive Ranks: 42.4 PPG (1st in the Big Ten), 171.3 Rushing Yards Per Game (7th in the Big Ten), 364.3 Passing Yards Per Game (1st in the Big Ten).

2018 Defensive Ranks: 25.5 PPG Allowed (7th in the Big Ten), 158.2 Rushing Yards Per Game (6th in the Big Ten), 245.2 Passing Yards Per Game (11th in the Big Ten).

Offensive Key Returners: RB J.K. Dobbins, QB Justin Fields (Transfer)

Defensive Key Returners: S Jordan Fuller, DE Chase Young

Toughest Games: Sept. 28 at Nebraska, Oct. 5 vs Michigan State, Nov. 23 vs Penn State, Nov. 30 at Michigan

Ohio State enters 2019 with all of the talent that Urban Meyer brought in, but after retiring following a scandal involving a wide receiver coach, the Buckeyes will be led by Ryan Day in 2019.

The Buckeyes have been at the top of the Big Ten for years and depth wise, may have one of the Top 5 rosters in the country. Ohio State may struggle at times this year but the Buckeyes also have the highest ceiling of any other team in the conference. I expect huge things from Ohio State.

Prediction: 9-0, 12-0 Overall

Michigan 

2018 Record: 8-1, 10-3

2018 Offensive Ranks: 35.2 PPG (2nd in the Big Ten), 203.8 Rushing Yards Per Game (6th in the Big Ten), 215.7 Passing Yards Per Game (9th in the Big Ten).

2018 Defensive Ranks: 19.4 PPG Allowed (3rd in the Big Ten), 127.4 Rushing Yards Per Game (3rd in the Big Ten), 147.8 Passing Yards Per Game (1st in the Big Ten).

Offensive Key Returners: QB Shea Patterson, WR Donovan Peoples-Jones

Defensive Key Returners: CB Lavert Hill, LB Josh Uche

Toughest Games: Sept. 21 vs Wisconsin, Oct. 5 vs Iowa, Oct. 19 at Penn State, Nov. 30 vs Ohio State

Michigan enters the 2019 season coming off perhaps the best season under coach Jim Harbaugh and will rightfully have high expectations, with many people picking the Wolverines to reach the College Football Playoff.

The Wolverines were strong and Shea Patterson was solid in his first year with the offense. The defense has been the calling card for Michigan in the past few years and it should be a stout unit again despite some key losses including Devin Bush, Rashan Gary and Chase Winovich. Expect Michigan to be good but not great.

Prediction: 7-2, 10-2 Overall (Losses to Michigan State and Ohio State)

Penn State

2018 Record: 6-3, 9-4

2018 Offensive Ranks: 33.8 PPG (3rd in the Big Ten), 204.9 Rushing Yards Per Game (5th in the Big Ten), 218.1 Passing Yards Per Game (7th in the Big Ten).

2018 Defensive Ranks: 20.5 PPG Allowed (4th in the Big Ten), 169.0 Rushing Yards Per Game (8th in the Big Ten), 181.5 Passing Yards Per Game (2nd in the Big Ten).

Offensive Key Returners: WR KJ Hamler, RB Ricky Slade

Defensive Key Returners: LB Micah Parsons, DE Yetur Gross-Matos

Toughest Games: Oct. 12 at Iowa, Oct. 19 vs Michigan, Oct. 26 at Michigan State, Nov. 23 at Ohio State

 Penn State enters a crucial year under head coach James Franklin. The Nittany Lions have been trying to change the program’s status from great to elite as Franklin so famously said following the latest loss to Ohio State.

The Nittany Lions have a lot of hurdles in 2019 to become elite, including replacing the school’s all-time leader in virtually every passing category in Trace McSorley, along with an immensely talented running back in Miles Sanders. The same gremlins exist (Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State) and those tough games aren’t going anywhere any time soon.

Prediction: 7-2, 10-2 Overall (Losses to Ohio State and Michigan)

Michigan State

2018 Record: 5-4, 7-6

2018 Offensive Ranks: 18.7 PPG (13th in the Big Ten), 124.8 Rushing Yards Per Game (13th in the Big Ten), 217.2 Passing Yards Per Game (8th in the Big Ten).

2018 Defensive Ranks: 17.2 PPG Allowed (1st in the Big Ten), 77.9 Rushing Yards Per Game (1st in the Big Ten), 225.2 Passing Yards Per Game (8th in the Big Ten).

Offensive Key Returners: QB Brian Lewerke, RB Connor Heyward

Defensive Key Returners: LB Joe Bachie, DE Kenny Willekes

Toughest Games: Oct. 5 at Ohio State, Oct. 26 vs Penn State, Nov. 16 at Michigan

Michigan State had a rather anemic offense last season that if it had performed slightly better, the Spartans may have had a much different season than the 7-6 season last year.

The Spartans were extremely good on the defensive end and the good news for Michigan State is that it returns 17 starters from last year. If Michigan State can survive against the Big 3 in the Big Ten East it can have a solid 2019.

Prediction: 5-4, 8-4 Overall (Losses to Ohio State, Wisconsin, Penn State and Michigan)

Maryland 

2018 Record: 3-6, 5-7

2018 Offensive Ranks: 28.5 PPG (9th in the Big Ten), 230.2 Rushing Yards Per Game (3rd in the Big Ten), 141.3 Passing Yards Per Game (13th in the Big Ten).

2018 Defensive Ranks: 28.7 PPG Allowed (9th in the Big Ten), 183.9 Rushing Yards Per Game (11th in the Big Ten), 206.5 Passing Yards Per Game (6th in the Big Ten).

Offensive Key Returners: QB Josh Jackson, RB Anthony McFarland Jr.

Defensive Key Returners: LB Isaiah Davis

Toughest Games: Sept. 27 vs Penn State, Nov. 2 vs Michigan, Nov. 9 at Ohio State, Nov. 30 at Michigan State

Maryland enters 2019 after closing last year with four straight losses including a blowout loss at Penn State and a classic against Ohio State that the Terrapins lost in overtime. Now former Alabama assistant Mike Locksley returns home to coach Maryland.

The Terrapins have had a few rough seasons in a row and are now locking to change the course of the program behind quarterback Josh Jackson who is a Virginia Tech transfer and star running back Anthony McFarland. Maryland will look for bowl eligibility as a realistic goal.

Prediction: 4-5, 5-7 (Losses to Syracuse, Penn State, Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio State, Nebraska, Michigan State).

Indiana 

2018 Record: 2-7, 5-7

2018 Offensive Ranks: 26.4 PPG (10th in the Big Ten), 157.3 Rushing Yards Per Game (9th in the Big Ten), 257.8 Passing Yards Per Game (3rd in the Big Ten).

2018 Defensive Ranks: 29.9 PPG Allowed (10th in the Big Ten), 183.2 Rushing Yards Per Game (10th in the Big Ten), 240.6 Passing Yards Per Game (10th in the Big Ten).

Offensive Key Returners: RB Stevie Scott, QB Peyton Ramsey

Defensive Key Returners: LB Marcelino Ball, DT, Jerome Johnson

Toughest Games: Sept. 14 vs Ohio State, Sept. 28 at Michigan State, Nov. 16 at Penn State, Nov. 23 vs. Michigan

Indiana returns a lot of experience from last year’s 5-7 season, but the team needs to do a lot of work to make up ground in the Big Ten. The Hoosiers struggled significantly and only posted conference wins against the lowly Rutgers and Maryland.

Indiana needs a bounce back season under Tom Allen and without an overhaul on defense and more points scored on offense, it will be hard to improve.

Prediction: 2-7, 4-8 (wins over Ball State, Eastern Illinois, Rutgers and Purdue)

Rutgers 

2018 Record: 0-9, 1-11

2018 Offensive Ranks: 13.5 PPG (14th in the Big Ten), 134.1 Rushing Yards Per Game (12th in the Big Ten), 132.2 Passing Yards Per Game (14th in the Big Ten).

2018 Defensive Ranks: 31.4 PPG Allowed (13th in the Big Ten), 214.8 Rushing Yards Per Game (13th in the Big Ten), 186.7 Passing Yards Per Game (4th in the Big Ten)

Offensive Key Returners: RB Raheem Blackshear

Defensive Key Returners: CB Avery Young

Toughest Games: Nov. 16 vs Ohio State, Nov. 23 vs. Michigan State, Nov. 30 at Penn State

Rutgers had a terrible year in 2018 and the future does not look much better. Returning starting quarterback Arthur Sitkowski had an awful season, throwing for four TDs and 18 interceptions in 2019. The team finished last in almost every offensive category and struggled mightly.

The Scarlet Knights were not much better defensively, although they did finish fourth against the pass in the conference. Still, the Scarlet Knights would be elated to reach a bowl game.

Prediction: 0-9, 2-10 Overall (wins over Massachusetts and Liberty)

West Division 

Northwestern

 2018 Record: 8-1, 9-5

2018 Offensive Ranks: 24.2 PPG (12th in the Big Ten), 114.9 Rushing Yards Per Game (14th in the Big Ten), 239.4 Passing Yards Per Game (5th in the Big Ten).

2018 Defensive Ranks: 23.2 PPG Allowed (6th in the Big Ten), 129.6 Rushing Yards Per Game (4th in the Big Ten), 261.2 Passing Yards Per Game (12th in the Big Ten).

Offensive Key Returners: RB Isaiah Bowser, QB TJ Green

Defensive Key Returners: DE Joe Gaziano, LB Paddy Fisher

Toughest Games: Oct. 18 vs. Ohio State, Oct. 26 vs Iowa, Nov. 23 vs Minnesota

 Northwestern has overachieved in each of its past few seasons and even played for the Big Ten championship a season ago. Led by Pat Fitzgerald, the Wildcats have been consistently reaching bowl games and have established themselves as a solid team.

A lot of Northwestern’s success comes against a weak Big Ten West, however. With most of the talent in the East, it’s possible that Northwestern could be good again. I don’t see them being great though, especially having to replace 12 starters including quarterback Clayton Thorson.

Prediction: 5-4, 7-5 Overall (Losses to Stanford, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Ohio State).

Wisconsin 

2018 Record: 5-4, 8-5

2018 Offensive Rankings: 29.7 PPG (7th), 273.4 Rushing Yards Per Game (1st), 157.7 Passing Yards Per Game (12th)

2018 Defensive Rankings: 22.6 PPG Allowed (5th), 155.1 Rushing Yards Per Game (5th), 189.1 Passing Yards Per Game (5th).

Offensive Key Returners: RB Jonathan Taylor

Defensive Key Returners: LB Zack Baun

Toughest Games: Sept. 21 vs Michigan, Oct. 12 vs Michigan State, Oct. 26 at Ohio State, Nov. 9 vs Iowa 

Wisconsin enters 2019 with a lot of question marks on the offensive side of the ball not named Jonathan Taylor. Taylor is a beast and the star back rushed for 2,194 yards a season ago, averaging over seven yards per carry. Taylor had 16 TDs and could help carry an offense that will look to pound the ball once again.

Defensively, the Badgers were a solid team. Their defense ranked in the Top 30 as far as yards per game and holding opponents in the low 20s can lead to some victories. Paul Chryst is looking to build on his 42-12 record at Wisconsin.

Prediction: 7-2, 10-2 (Losses to Michigan and Ohio State)

Purdue

 2018 Record: 5-4, 6-7

2018 Offensive Rankings: 30.5 PPG (5th), 136.4 Rushing Yards Per Game (11th), 307.5 Passing Yards Per Game (2nd)

2018 Defensive Rankings: 30 PPG Allowed (11th), 167.9 Rushing Yards Per Game (7th), 284.7 Passing Yards Per Game (14th)

Offensive Key Returners: WR Rondale Moore, QB Elijah Sindelar

Defensive Key Returners: LB Markus Bailey

Toughest Games: Sept. 14 vs TCU, Oct. 5 at Penn State, Oct. 19 at Iowa, Nov. 23 at Wisconsin

Purdue enters 2019 coming off a huge upset of Ohio State last season and the Boilermakers were a tough out, knocking off three nationally ranked opponents. Purdue has star WR Rondale Moore who has become one of the best players in the nation and will once again be an electric presence.

The Boilermakers will have to navigate a tough non-conference schedule on top of Penn State in crossover action that will make for what could be another trying year in West Lafayette.

Prediction: 1-8, 2-10

Iowa

2018 Record: 5-4, 9-4

2018 Offensive Rankings: 31.2 PPG (4th), 148.4 Rushing Yards Per Game (10th), 226.6 Passing Yards Per Game (6th)

2018 Defensive Rankings: 17.8 PPG (2nd), 109.5 Rushing Yards Per Game (2nd), 184.1 Passing Yards Per Game (3rd).

Offensive Key Returners: QB Nate Stanley, WR Brandon Smith

Defensive Key Returners:DE A.J. Epenesa

Toughest Games: Oct. 5 at Michigan, Oct. 12 vs. Penn State, Nov. 9 at Wisconsin, Nov. 29 at Nebraska

Iowa enters 2019 with Kirk Ferentz entering his 21st season as the coach of the Hawkeyes. The Hawkeyes return quarterback Nate Stanley who was great a season ago, but the team does lose two star tight ends to the draft.

Iowa will have to replace a lot of starters on both sides of the ball and I’m not sure what their season will look like.

Prediction: 5-4, 7-5 Overall (Losses to Iowa State, Michigan, Penn State, Northwestern and Wisconsin)

Minnesota

2018 Record: 3-6, 7-6

2018 Offensive Rankings: 28.9 PPG (8th), 170.8 Rushing Yards Per Game (8th), 208.8 Passing Yards Per Game (10th)

2018 Defensive Rankings: 26.5 PPG Allowed (8th), 173.4 Rushing Yards Per Game (9th), 212.4 Passing Yards Per Game (7th).

Offensive Key Returners: RB Mohamed Ibrahim, WR Tyler Johnson

Defensive Key Returners: DE Carter Coughlin, S Antoine Winfield Jr

Toughest Games: Nov. 9 vs Penn State, Nov. 16 at Iowa, Nov. 30 vs. Wisconsin

Minnesota enters year three of P.J. Fleck and the Gophers won the Quick Lane Bowl over Georgia Tech to ride into the new season. This season will bring new expectations.

Despite a cupcake non-conference schedule, Minnesota will have its work cut out for it if it’s going to be a force in the Big Ten West.

Prediction: 4-5, 7-5 overall (Losses to Nebraska, Penn State, Iowa, Northwestern, Wisconsin)

Nebraska

 2018 Record: 3-6, 4-8 Overall

2018 Offensive Rankings: 30 PPG (6th), 209 Rushing Yards Per Game (4th), 247.2 Passing Yards Per Game (4th)

2018 Defensive Rankings: 31.3 PPG Allowed (12th), 195.8 Rushing Yards Per Game (12th), 237.8 Passing Yards Per Game (9th)

Offensive Key Returners: QB Adrian Martinez, WR JD Spielman

Defensive Key Returners: LB Mohamed Barry

Toughest Games: Sept. 28 vs Ohio State, Nov. 16 vs Wisconsin, Nov. 29 vs Iowa 

Nebraska is perhaps one of the teams that most people are predicting to have a huge turnaround under coach Scott Frost, who helped propel Central Florida to new heights while in Orlando.

The Cornhuskers did play some great games down the stretch and Frost is hoping to develop quarterback Adrian Martinez into an other-wordly talent. I’ll believe the results when they come but Nebraska has been a popular pick to rule the West in 2019.

Prediction: 6-3, 9-3 overall (Losses to Ohio State, Wisconsin and Iowa)

Illinois 

2018 Record: 2-7, 4-8 Overall

2018 Offensive Rankings: 26 PPG (11th), 243 Rushing Yards Per Game (2nd), 165.7 Passing Yards Per Game (11th)

2018 Defensive Rankings: 39.4 PPG Allowed (14th), 245.3 Rushing Yards Per Game (14th), 263.1 Passing Yards Per Game (13th)

Offensive Key Returners: RB Reggie Corbin, WR Ricky Smalling

Defensive Key Returners: DE Bobby Roundtree

Toughest Games: Sept. 21 vs Nebraska, Oct. 12 vs Michigan, Oct. 19 vs. Wisconsin, Nov. 9 at Michigan State

 Illinois is fully committed to a full-time rebuild under coach Lovie Smith. The Illini haven’t had a winning season since 2011 and it surely won’t come in 2019.

The Illini return 15 starters from last year but have been outmatched at numerous positions, making it hard to play in the Big Ten West. Illinois has a QB battle and it’s unclear what will happen, aside from the fact that they will run the ball well and lose often.

Prediction: 1-8, 3-9 Overall (Wins over Akron, Eastern Michigan and Rutgers)

2019 Big Ten Championship Game: Ohio State 45, Wisconsin 34