Do you think these Big Ten teams will be better or worse than they were in 2020?

Tuco Salamanca

Head Coach
Aug 18, 2016
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I see improvement from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Illinois. Iowa should hold steady and be around the 8-9 win mark. Start 2-0 and 10 wins would be the floor.

NW will take a step back. Someone else pointed it out but they have down years before their surprise seasons.

The loser of the Illinois/Purdue game Sept 25 with finish the division in last.

Nebraska is on the verge of being good. The season hinges on Adrian Martinez’ health, IMO.

I’m not on the Wisconsin hype train. They will be better than last year but they aren’t unbeatable by anyone in the division. They don’t have that stud RB that beats teams on his own.
I like Berger at Wisconsin. His carries will be up this year. Where they will be short is in the depth behind Berger. I am sure someone will step into the role, but going into the season, there isn’t the known commodity that will be the back up and take the carries.
 
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nu2u

Sophomore
Aug 10, 2006
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This is my reaction every time I read comments from someone who thinks Brett Bielema is an offensive coach "instilling an offense":

c0PvpF.gif



Illinois will be running the Pistol.
LOL
 

scarletred

Nebraska Legend
Jun 17, 2001
38,646
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Mertz is the biggest question mark for Wisconsin how he improves from his Freshman year to his Sophomore year will determine their success..

Ioway relatively new defensive line with little depth and the fact that they lost some good receivers last year I don’t see them being better than last year especially on that defensive front..

How Martinez performs with not making key turnovers and the ability to pass down the seems with better receivers in Manning, Toures, Nixon and Betts could make Nebraska a very tough win for anyone in the West..

Minnesota offense could be very stellar if they find a couple of receivers questions. Questions on defense with new acquired transfers on the defensive line will be the key for them challenging in the West.. Gophers are my dark horse winning the West..

Purdue will be better on offense not losing Rondale Moore will really be noticed….
 
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BoilerN

Walk On
May 12, 2017
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Mertz is the biggest question mark for Wisconsin how he improves from his Freshman year to his Sophomore year will determine their success..

Ioway relatively new defensive line with little depth and the fact that they lost some good receivers last year I don’t see them being better than last year especially on that defensive front..

How Martinez performs with not making key turnovers and the ability to pass down the seems with better receivers in Manning, Toures, Nixon and Betts could make Nebraska a very tough win for anyone in the West..

Minnesota offense could be very stellar if they find a couple of receivers questions. Questions on defense with new acquired transfers on the defensive line will be the key for them challenging in the West.. Gophers are my dark horse winning the West..

Purdue will be better on offense not losing Rondale Moore will really be noticed….
Hard to miss rondale when he doesn't play or doesn't go 100%.....
 

PogeyKahn

Redshirt Freshman
Apr 28, 2006
901
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Mertz is the biggest question mark for Wisconsin how he improves from his Freshman year to his Sophomore year will determine their success..

Ioway relatively new defensive line with little depth and the fact that they lost some good receivers last year I don’t see them being better than last year especially on that defensive front..

How Martinez performs with not making key turnovers and the ability to pass down the seems with better receivers in Manning, Toures, Nixon and Betts could make Nebraska a very tough win for anyone in the West..

Minnesota offense could be very stellar if they find a couple of receivers questions. Questions on defense with new acquired transfers on the defensive line will be the key for them challenging in the West.. Gophers are my dark horse winning the West..

Purdue will be better on offense not losing Rondale Moore will really be noticed….


I think you are correct about Minnesota needing a few good WRs to plug in. The former #3 guy behind Bateman and Johnson back in 2019 is back (#7 - Chris Autman-Bell) and he is pretty solid. They have #9 Jackson, who is a tall RS Soph who played down the stretch last year, and then they have a former 4 star transfer from Texas A&M. Maybe they will start using the TE more, who knows. There are a couple others with potential.

As noted by others, Minnesota looked pretty awful last year, especially early on Defense. They looked a lot better at the end of the year. The problem last year was mainly LB play and LB depth, and poor Safety play.

They have two very large OL (G, RT) players back who missed all of 2020 as well, to go with what was a decent line by year end.

I am not sure about the Safety position, but the LB position should be better. There are two not very athletic LBs that looked awful early but got better. A very athletic LB with a knee problem, Oliver is back at 100 percent for this year, and there are a couple of higher rated RS Sophs that might finally produce.

If the LB position gets a lot better, and the DL depth is real as we have heard, then Minnesota will look more like 2019 than 2020 on Defense. (when they played like crap for the first Quarter, then toughened up for the rest of the game at Iowa City to cost them the game, and got destroyed at home vs. Wisconsin to deny them a likely Rose Bowl birth, the first in 60 years.
 

PogeyKahn

Redshirt Freshman
Apr 28, 2006
901
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The consensus seems to be that Illinois will be worse this year, I disagree.

As sure as the Earth revolves around the Sun, you can count on Bret Bielema to install a power run, ball control offense at Illinois. The key here is that Lovey Smith left Bielema with the talent and raw ingredients to probably make it work reasonably well this year. Will it work right away? I expect that there will be a learning curve and adjustments early.

Four OL starters return - this could be the best unit on the team. Running behind them will be Chase Brown, the single biggest beneficiary of the coaching change IMO. Bielema likes work horse RBs; Brown will be that player. If he stays healthy, do not be surprised if Brown challenges for B10 rushing leader this year. Mike Epstein is a capable back up but is injury prone. Both players averaged more than 5 ypc last year. Reggie Love was a 4-star recruit that didn't see much action as a freshman last year.

6th year ex-Michigan QB Brandon Peters returns. WR unit is almost a build from scratch with a couple of transfers (from ND and Miami) and 5-star QB recruit moving to WR all competing to start. They also have a couple of decent TEs. Bret like to use his TEs. Peters is serviceable QB, nothing more. Expect more play-action pass plays to compliment the run first offense.

Don't know much about their defense other than they return a couple All-Big Ten players and that Bielema was impressed with DL play MLB performance this Spring.

Looking at their schedule, I see 5-7 as the most probable finish.
I was always pretty impressed with Wisconsin when Bret B. was HC there, and to his credit, Wisconsin trended upwards from the last few Barry Alvarez years after the change. Barry sort of hit a wall at the end,

The 0-3 Rose Bowl record (all very close losses to TCU, Oregon, Stanford?) under BB did diminish that success. Of course having Russell Wilson did not hurt either, but he was not just riding Barry's coattails as some suggest.

The Arkansas job is not an easy one in the SEC, so I do not hold that against him. Arkansas back with the Big 12 would be much more formidable, but it is a really hard job now. Bielma had some challenges, the SEC was especially brutal, when Ol' Miss and Miss. St were at almost historical highs, Kentucky was competitive, and no one other than Vanderbilt was a milk can. (edit- Tennessee pretty much sucked those years despite having 4 star players) The current Big Ten will give him a few more wins if he runs the ball, plays some defense and does not turn over the ball; which back in the SEC was not nearly enough.

I will be very curious to see what Bret B. can get done at Illinois. I think a good OL, a solid game manager QB, and not too awful defense could lead to more wins than expected.

My view was that Michigan State would have been well served by hiring Bret the year before, or even Iowa had they "retired" Captain Kirk a couple of years ago.
 
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SWIowahawks

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Sep 2, 2006
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I like Berger at Wisconsin. His carries will be up this year. Where they will be short is in the depth behind Berger. I am sure someone will step into the role, but going into the season, there isn’t the known commodity that will be the back up and take the carries.
He isn’t bad but he isn’t on Melvin Gordon or Johnathan Taylor’s level. Wisconsin has been fortunate to have those game changers almost back to back. Those two backs made Wisconsin kings of the west for most of the decade.
 

Cornicator

Nebraska Legend
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Feb 27, 2009
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I like Berger at Wisconsin. His carries will be up this year. Where they will be short is in the depth behind Berger. I am sure someone will step into the role, but going into the season, there isn’t the known commodity that will be the back up and take the carries.

He isn’t bad but he isn’t on Melvin Gordon or Johnathan Taylor’s level. Wisconsin has been fortunate to have those game changers almost back to back. Those two backs made Wisconsin kings of the west for most of the decade.

I think the Chez Mellusi, the transfer RB from Clemson, is going to be the #1 guy from day one. He's a one cut and go tailback with sprinter speed, and those dudes excel in Wisconsin's offense.
 
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drubendall

All-American
Apr 18, 2004
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He isn’t bad but he isn’t on Melvin Gordon or Johnathan Taylor’s level. Wisconsin has been fortunate to have those game changers almost back to back. Those two backs made Wisconsin kings of the west for most of the decade.
Well, that and their ability to run block. Neither were all that special on their own
 
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SWIowahawks

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I think the Chez Mellusi, the transfer RB from Clemson, is going to be the #1 guy from day one. He's a one cut and go tailback with sprinter speed, and those dudes excel in Wisconsin's offense.
Damn, hadn’t realized they added to their RB room.
 
Illinois - I just don't see them getting better. I don't think Bielema is that good of a coach and he like basically everyone at Wisconsin just inherited a well running machine that was guided by Barry. The fact that Gary Anderson and others did well here is all you need to know. Yes, they could still beat us because we have sucked royally, but they will still be Illinois.

Michigan State - They will have some players, but they have the same issue as us. Haven't had a good QB for awhile now. Once they shore that up, they will probably be decent because they will always get some good athletes on D to keep them in the game.

Michigan - It'll be interesting to see what they look like. They have a lot of really good players and will be interested to see how the D looks without Don Brown. Could be a blessing to move on. They have players and if they get on a roll early, they could be decent, but same as a lot of teams needs a lot better QB play.

Northwestern - They will always surprise you, but I see regression. Just don't see them being at the top of the West.

Minnesota - As much as I hate Fleck, I think they could be better this year. Should have a solid line and if Morgan plays good, they can be a tough team to beat. I think they get a little better this year.

Purdue - Probably will be worse..... Again... I'm not sure how Brohm's head isn't on the chopping block. Rotating D Coordinators and regression each year. If he was at NU he'd probably be gone because his W-L record has gone down every year. Our resident Boiler fan will come on and make excuses, but outside of some individual players, I just don't see anything with Purdue and until you can run the ball in the B1G you aren't doing anything and they suck at that.

Ohio State - Will just reload.

Wisconsin - Interesting team. They are the Wisconsin machine and will probably win a lot of close ugly games, but I wasn't that impressed with Mertz. Decent runner, but not great in the passing game. Their stable of RB's also doesn't seem to be what it is and I think they will probably be about the same. Definitely beatable.

Iowa - I think they regress a little, but a lot like Wisconsin, they will just be a solid football team that wins a lot of ugly games. Won't be flashy, but will just have the next guy step up and will probably be 7-5 to 8-4 like every year under Ferentz.

The last time Iowa went 7-6 is the last time Nebraska beat Iowa. Not quite like every year under Kirk Ferentz @leodisflowers
 

Katatonic

Newbie
Oct 23, 2004
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They lose just as regularly

10-6 vs Iowa since 2005.

Their fan base has gone from denial to anger to acceptance.

That being said, they are the favorite in the match-up this season, but wouldn't be surprised if the Cats win.


There seems to be a narrative out there about Northwestern as if they compete for the division championship every year. Fitz is indeed a great coach, but the way they recruit means they have to develop their teams to compete around experienced 3rd, 4th, and even 5th year upperclassmen.

Last season was a prime example as the ESPN SP+ had Northwestern as the most experienced team in the Big Ten and one of top 5 oldest teams in all of college football. 17 of those starters are gone from that team including 6 players on the defensive front 7 who started more than 150 combined games.

REAL history illustrates that Northwestern often has a sub .500 to .500 season anytime they have to rebuild their roster like the present.

See 2019, 2016, 2014, and 2013.

2019 was pretty much due to the mess at the QB position

Hunter Johnson was not ready (confused by the crappy scheme the previous OC ran) and the guy who should have been the starter - TJ Green got hurt in the 1st game and was lost for the season.

The defense was still very good, so with just an average QB, would have finished at least .500.

The 2013 and 2014 teams were riddled by injuries.

That 2014 team still beat Penn State, Wisky and ND, and should've beat Michigan if not for the inept OC.

Would have beaten Illinois (despite a depleted roster) and made it to a bowl game if Siemian hadn't torn his ACL against Purdue (due to a stupid call by said OC).

While the Cats have lost a good amount of experience, it has been said that many of their most physically talented players are the younger ones on the team.

They do get back one of their best edge rushers who had opted out last season (last season, lost 4 of their best players - 3 opted out and 1 transferred).

Biggest ? on D is at LB; have talent, but only 1 returning starter/player with a good bit of experience.

The biggest ? on O that many will point out is at QB, but think between the SC transfer (11 starts as a frosh) and HJ possibly getting it together, the drop off won't be as big.

Bigger ? is the TE position.

Should finally see the young talent at WR and for once in what seems like ages, the Cats are building what should be an above O-line (more 2022 than 2021).

Even if the Cats lose against Wisky and Iowa, should still be a battle.

Should have the pieces in place for 2022.

For the next stretch, may finally see an O that can carry its own weight.
 
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