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Home / Big Ten predictions: Iowa in the B1G title game?
Last season, everyone watched Michigan State grow into a Big Ten and Rose Bowl champion. It was a team that really didn't have a quarterback until the Big Ten opener and, when all was said and done, the Spartans had 13 wins and at least that many roses.
This season, everyone will watch the Spartans to see if they can keep it together. In light of Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller's season-ending shoulder injury, a group of 25 Big Ten writers gave the preseason poll thing another chance. The Spartans came out the overwhelming favorite.
Michigan State picked up 22 of the 25 votes to repeat as Big Ten champion. The Spartans lost to Wisconsin in the inaugural Big Ten title game in 2011. Last season, they shocked Ohio State, 34-24. How can they notch a third appearance?
- The Spartans have a lot of pretty great players. Yes, the defense was decimated, but it still has four players in an Athlon preseason poll in which voters were asked to rank the B1G's top 15 players. A fifth Spartan came in at No. 16.
- MSU lost great defenders, but still returns defensive end Shilique Calhoun, who finished second in the Athlon's poll. It also has safety Kurtis Drummond and linebacker Taiwan Jones, two important pieces in what MSU's defense has done the last two seasons. Also, MSU head coach Mark Dantonio has somehow kept defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi in East Lansing. He is the brains behind MSU's aggressive 4-3 over/cover 4 defense.
- Quarterback Connor Cook turned the corner in Iowa City against the Hawkeyes. He was pulled the previous week against Notre Dame, but then led the Spartans to a 26-14 win at Kinnick with a pair of TD passes and 277 yards passing.
- The Spartans play Ohio State at East Lansing. They also get Nebraska at home.
BIG TEN EAST DIVISION
1. Michigan State 10-2, 7-1
2. Ohio State 10-2, 7-1
3. Michigan 9-3, 5-3
4. Penn State 8-4, 5-3
5. Indiana 5-7, 2-6
6. Maryland 5-7, 2-6
7. Rutgers 2-10, 0-8
- I had Michigan State winning this before the Miller injury. Spartans have a lot of players. I still haven't mentioned running back Jeremy Langford or cornerback Trae Waynes. Or center Jack Allen, who should give Iowa OT Brandon Scherff competition for Big Ten O-lineman of the year (especially if the Spartans win the title). Or probably the best kicker/punter duo in the Big Ten in Michael Geiger and Mike Sadler. Ohio State isn't going anywhere, either. Miller's loss will hurt and takes the Buckeyes out of automatic pick for the title game, but it's a strong team. Michigan State might trip somewhere, but it should beat Ohio State and retain the tiebreaker in head-to-head.
BIG TEN WEST DIVISION
1. Iowa 10-2, 7-1
2. Nebraska 9-3, 6-2
3. Wisconsin 8-4, 5-3
3. Northwestern 8-4, 5-3
5. Minnesota 5-7, 2-6
6. Purdue 4-8, 2-6
7. Illinois 3-9, 1-7
- This also was my pick before Miller's injury. Iowa doesn't play Ohio State, so there's that. I think Iowa's default is better than everyone else's. In November, when it's time to run, protect defenses and grind clock, Iowa will be better than the rest at doing that. Wisconsin also will play that game, but the defense is undergoing a makeover and that usually takes a year. Since we've done these picks Northwestern has lost running back Venric Mark and wide receiver Christian Jones. I think the Cats will play great defense, but way too one-dimensional now on offense. It will get clocked, the Big Ten West will be a game of clock. Iowa should be able to play that game well.
BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIP
Michigan State over Iowa
- The Spartans have come through in this same position just last season. Cook should be better. The defense should be stiff. If Iowa wants to win these big-trophy games, it has to come up with a passing game that teams don't necessarily have to fear but at least respect. I need to see that. You need to see that. They need to do that.
RESULTS FROM THE REVOTE
Pick as Big Ten champion
Michigan State 22
Ohio State 1
Michigan State vs. Iowa 9
Michigan State vs. Wisconsin 9
Michigan State vs. Nebraska 5
Ohio State vs. Wisconsin 1
Michigan vs. Iowa 1
Offensive Player of the Year
1. Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin RB (16)
2. Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska RB (7)
3. Connor Cook, Michigan State QB (1)
3. Jeremy Langford, Michigan State RB (1)
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