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Cappin’ the B1G: Predicting Rutgers Football and Other Big Ten Teams 2016 Regular Season Win Totals

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NCAA Football: Rutgers at Army Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

Hello On The Banks! This is my first article I will be posting on here so I thought I would quickly introduce myself. My name is T.J. Jurkiewicz and I’m a class of 2012 graduate from Rutgers University with my degree in Criminal Justice. I was on track to begin a career in law enforcement until I decided to call an audible and pursue my dream of becoming a professional poker player, which has been my primary source of income for the past three years.

This season I am excited to join On The Banks as a contributor with my focus on analyzing Big Ten matchups from a handicapping perspective. This means that each week I will break down each team in the conference’s matchup and determine which team I think will cover the point spread set by Las Vegas oddsmakers. While I may be a huge Rutgers fan (season ticket holder since 2006), I will not let my fandom influence my picks because my main focus is to accurately predict which side of the line I want to be on if I had my hard earned money at risk based on the outcome. As a matter of fact, I’ve made a decent bit of money betting against Rutgers in certain spots so while I root with my heart, I wager with my brain and that will be reflected in my articles. The fact that I think James Franklin is the worst game day coach in the country will influence my picks but that’s not because I’m a Rutgers fan, it’s because I like making money off of Franklin’s incompetence.

Without further ado, I introduce to you my first article which are my picks for each Big Ten team’s regular season win total (conference championships and bowl game wins do not apply). I will lead off with Rutgers and then do the rest of the conference in alphabetical order with my prediction for which side of the win total (provided by www.5dimes.com) I believe each team will land on at the end of the regular season. If you want to publicly berate me, you can do so on Twitter @TJJurkiewicz.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights

2015 Regular Season Record: 4-8 (1-7 Big Ten)

2016 Over/Under Regular Season Wins: 4.5

In his first year on the job, Head Coach Chris Ash will have his work cut out for him as far as the schedule is concerned. Rutgers faces what could very well be their toughest schedule in school history, with four teams that won 10 or more games last year as well as nine opponents who went to a bowl game a year ago. Even though the Scarlet Knights return 15 starters from last season, the talent gap will be too much to handle this season, especially with Ash installing brand new offensive and defensive schemes. The previous coaching regimes lack of quality recruiting for the past couple of seasons will show itself this upcoming season, especially in the later portion of the season when depth gets thin. The offense, led by experienced QB Chris Laviano should be interesting to watch as they adapt to new OC Drew Mehringer’s spread attack. I’m also very excited to see what all world returner Janarion Grant can do this season at WR in this new wide open system after seeing him in action at the Spring Game. On defense, the strength will definitely be the defensive line, led by senior DT Darius Hamilton who is coming off an injury that ended his 2015 campaign early. The only stone cold lock win I see on the schedule is the home opener versus FCS Howard. Rutgers has what I perceive to be 6 other winnable games (vs. New Mexico, vs. Illinois, @Minnesota, vs. Indiana, vs. Penn State, @Maryland) which if they win half of those, they would still fall short of the 5 wins required to go over the total. I think I speak for a good amount of Rutgers fans when I say that if Rutgers can win 3 of those 6 games while limiting the blowout losses to the big boys, this season would be considered a step forward for the program and have us all very excited for 2017 and beyond. It just seems to me that the cupboard is too bare talent wise this year and it will be a rebuilding year for Rutgers with Ash working on getting the team better each and every day and establishing a brand new culture while adding key recruits that fit his system. I think the Knights go under the 4.5 wins but fans have plenty of enthusiasm for the upcoming seasons with Ash at the helm. There’s no prediction that I hope I’m more wrong about than this one.

T.J.’s Pick: UNDER 4.5 WINS

Illinois Fighting Illini

2015 Regular Season Record: 5-7 (2-4 Big Ten)

2016 Over/Under Regular Season Wins: 4.5

Similar to what Rutgers did by hiring Chris Ash, Illinois did a fantastic job of setting up their future by hiring former Chicago Bears Head Coach Lovie Smith to lead their team. The only thing Smith should have to tell recruits is “I was able to get to a Super Bowl with Rex Grossman as my QB” and they should be able to keep that in-state talent home. I’m concerned about the unusual timing of his hiring in March which led to a very rushed Spring Ball period and that will definitely hurt them as they transition to brand new coaches and schemes. The good news for Illinois on offense is they return one of the conference’s best QB’s in senior Wes Lunt. Lunt should help cover up some growing pains that the offense will surely have to go through, especially with a very run of the mill offensive line up front. Lunt will be able to sling it but the Illini need to establish an identity on the ground as they ranked dead last in the conference last season in rushing. RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn is talented enough to find playing time at any Big Ten school but they need to open up some holes for him to run through. Unfortunately for the Illini, former star WR Mikey Dudek suffered an ACL injury and will miss the entire 2016 campaign. The defense has a lot of talent along the line but the back seven is going to be a huge problem for them this season with the exception of senior FS Taylor Barton. 4.5 wins is a good number set by Vegas and a tough one to predict but I will go with my gut and say that the transitional issues combined with a rough schedule will be too much to overcome in Smith’s first year in Champaign and take the under here.

T.J.’s Pick: UNDER 4.5 WINS

Indiana Hoosiers

2015 Regular Season Record: 6-6 (2-6 Big Ten)

2016 Over/Under Regular Season Wins: 5.5

If there’s one thing that Indiana Head Coach Kevin Wilson can do, it’s score points by the boatload no matter what defense he is facing. Last year Wilson’s offense was able to put 41 points on Michigan and 27 against an Ohio State defense that included 6 NFL draft picks. Unfortunately this season, Wilson has his work cut out for him as Nate Sudfeld, the programs all time leading passer, is no longer on the team. The battle for replacing Sudfeld is ongoing but I’m confident that whoever wins that battle will be able to run Wilson’s offense well enough to keep putting points up in droves. The Hoosiers return a great WR corps led by Simmie Cobbs who had 60 catches and 1,035 yards a year ago. Indiana also boasts one of the more experienced and talented offensive lines in the conference which should help immensely for whoever eventually gets the starting nod at QB. Enough about the offense though because although we all know they will pour on points, the issue in Bloomington is keeping their opponents from putting up even more points. Wilson received a contract extension after his bowl appearance last year and his first order of business was to fire his defensive coordinator and replace him with Tom Allen who was the DC at USF a year ago and led them to the best defense in the AAC. Indiana returns 7 defensive starters and their top 5 tacklers from a year ago so I think they will take a big step forward on defense this year. The schedule is very kind in the early stages of the season for Indiana so I think they likely start 3-0 and that will help the QB and defensive unit build confidence to take Indiana to 6 wins and their second straight bowl appearance.

T.J.’s Pick: OVER 5.5 WINS

Iowa Hawkeyes

2015 Regular Season Record: 12-0 (7-0 Big Ten)

2016 Over/Under Regular Season Wins: 8.5

Last year Iowa was a huge surprise to everyone when they reeled off an undefeated regular season before falling just short of winning the conference and getting a spot in the College Football Playoff. The majority of their wins didn’t impress many people as they squeaked past Pitt, Wisconsin, Indiana, Minnesota, and Nebraska and when they got blown out of the stadium by Stanford in the Rose Bowl, people figured Iowa was just a one hit wonder. Head Coach Kirk Ferentz enters his 18th year at Iowa with a more experienced team this year than he did heading into last season. The offense will be led by CJ Beathard who was great last season with both his arm and his legs, extending drives numerous times throughout the season in key spots and protecting the football (just 5 INT in 362 att). If Beathard didn’t get injured in the second half of last season, Iowa could have definitely defeated Michigan State and earned that spot in the CFP but alas injuries are part of the game. Beathard is expected to be fully healthy this year and needs to lead an inexperienced offense that only has 4 other returning starters. On the other side of the ball, I expect the Iowa defense to be better statistically than they were a year ago. The defense as a whole is very experienced with no glaring weaknesses aside from the fact they need to pressure the QB a little more as nobody with more than 4 sacks returns for them this year. CB/Returner Desmond King is a future top 10 NFL Draft pick who can do it all. King won the Jim Thorpe award last season as the nations top defensive back and is one of the best punt and kick returners in the conference. The Iowa schedule is very favorable this year and have 4 relatively easy games to start the season before they get their first real test at home against Northwestern. I’m big on Iowa this year and think they get to 9+ wins relatively easily to make this one of my stronger over picks in the conference.

T.J.’s Pick: OVER 8.5 WINS

Maryland Terrapins

2015 Regular Season Record: 3-9 (1-7 Big Ten)

2016 Over/Under Regular Season Wins: 5

Maryland got rid of quite possibly the most boring head coach in college football history in Randy Edsall and replaced him with a great defensive mind in D.J. Durkin who was the DC at Michigan last season. The Terps struggled mightily on defense last season, giving up 34.4 points per game. On the surface, that’s a ton of points to give up on D but the offense didn’t do them any favors, throwing a staggering 29 interceptions as a team setting their defense up with bad field position all season long. Durkin should be able to drastically improve the defense but Maryland’s main concern this upcoming season will come on offense. The Terps really need to improve at the quarterback position as they used four last season with none of them showing any long term promise. The favorite to win the starting QB gig is senior Perry Hills who seems to be a better fit for new OC Walt Bell’s fast-paced option offense. If Hills can improve his 50% completion percentage it would go a long way towards helping the Terps because he is a legitimate threat on the ground, picking up 535 rushing yards last season in split duty. The rest of the offense doesn’t return much talent but they have a nice amount of depth at the RB position and if they can perform anywhere close to the last two games of 2015 when they rushed for over 700 yards, this offense might be decent enough to win the Terps some close games. On defense the Terps centerpieces are LB Jermaine Carter who led the team in tackles last season and star CB Will Likely. The main concern on D will be the loss of a combined 20 sacks between two defensive linemen who don’t return for 2016. The schedule for the Terps is very favorable with three very winnable games against Howard, FIU, and UCF before getting a week off before facing Purdue who they should be favored to beat. If the offense can just be middle of the pack statistically, the Terps can easily get to 6 wins and get to the postseason. I’m very confident that they can go over the posted line here, which is why they might be my strongest pick of the conference.

T.J.’s Pick: OVER 5 WINS

Michigan Wolverines

2015 Regular Season Record: 9-3 (6-2 Big Ten)

2016 Over/Under Wins: 10

It seems as if for the past year if you went to look at anything college football related, you had the Jim Harbaugh’s name stuffed down your throat. Harbaugh is definitely a strange dude and a polarizing figure (unless you’re a Wolverine fan) but you can’t deny that he is one of the best game day coaches in all of college football. In their first year under Harbaugh, the Wolverines were better on offense, defense, and special teams and capped off their season with a thrashing of Florida in the Citrus Bowl. They had a three game stretch where they outscored their opponents 97-0 but they still lost to the Buckeyes and found a pretty hilarious way to lose a game to Sparty. Overall however, Michigan fans have to feel good about the upcoming season after such a strong foundation was laid down in Harbaugh’s first season. On offense this year they lose solid starting QB Jake Ruddock but will look to another transfer to help them out in former Houston QB John O’Korn who is favored to win the starting job. If O’Korn can be as good as Ruddock was last season, this offense is going to be very good. Michigan boasts a deep and experienced offensive line to pave the way for a solid stable of RB’s led by De’Veon Smith. The weapons in the passing game are deadly as they return Jehu Chesson, Amara Darboh, and Jake Butt who is one of the top TE’s in the country. On defense, the Wolverines will lose their top three tacklers from 2015 as well as their defensive coordinator but fans are bullish on new DC Dom Brown who led Boston College to the top defense in the country last season with just 254 yards allowed per game. The defense has stars at every level and they are led by Swiss Army knife defender Jabrill Peppers who will play a hybrid LB/S role this season which will create a flurry of problems for opposing offenses. The Wolverines are loaded but everyone and their mechanic knows this which is why they have the highest win total line in the conference. They have a Charmin soft start to the schedule with 3 automatic wins before facing Penn State at home in a game Michigan will be double digit favorites in. If I had to pick a number it would probably be 10 regular season wins for this team but picking a tie isn’t fun so I’m going to go ahead and say that the QB situation holds the team back a little too much this season and they finish 9-3 to go under the total.

T.J.’s Pick: UNDER 10 WINS

Michigan State Spartans

2015 Regular Season Record: 11-1 (7-1 Big Ten)

2016 Over/Under Regular Season Wins: 8

If there are any Spartans fans still alive after the multiple cardiac arrests they suffered through last season, don’t worry too much because you’re still in great hands with your head football coach. In five out of the last six seasons, Head Coach Mark Dantonio has led the Spartans to at least 11 wins but he may face his toughest test yet this season. The Spartans will return just 9 starters on both sides of the ball and will lose 6 All-Big Ten selections. Tyler O’Connor was recently named the starting QB so they finally have their replacement for Connor Cook and he will lean on a solid stable of RB’s, led by L.J. Scott to help him get acclimated. O’Connor did beat Ohio State on the road last season but he doesn’t seem like he’s going to be able to win any games with his superior abilities. Expect O’Connor to be more of a game manager for the Spartans this year which I believe will be good enough to let their running game get ample opportunities to win some ballgames. The Spartans will have to replace a lot of experience on the offensive line which may make it tough to move the chains this season but I feel like Dantonio will make the most of what they have and the offense will do enough to keep them competitive all season. Last season the Spartans defense was actually the worst they’ve been statistically since 2010, giving up 350 yards per game along with 21.7 points per game. The defense returns 6 starters but they have a solid front seven led by DL Malik McDowell and some quality safties deep. MLB Riley Bullough is the team leader of the Spartans and led the team in tackles a year ago. The schedule is pretty favorable for Sparty this year, drawing both Michigan and Ohio State at home and they face Notre Dame after a cupcake game against Furman and a full week of rest. I don’t think the Spartans can reach their win total from last year but I think 8 is entirely too low for a team as well coached as Michigan State so I’m putting my faith in Dantonio to get to 9 wins in what will be considered a rebuilding year. The Spartans perform at their best as the underdog and I expect them to fully embrace that role this coming season.

T.J.’s Pick: OVER 8 WINS

Minnesota Golden Gophers

2015 Regular Season Record: 5-7 (2-6 Big Ten)

2016 Over/Under Regular Season Wins: 6.5

I’m not going to sugarcoat things – I love Minnesota this upcoming season. Last year they lost close games to TCU, Michigan and Iowa but still managed to pick up 5 wins in the regular season before defeating Central Michigan in the Quick Lane bowl. Jerry Kill suddenly retired and Minnesota named long time Kill assistant Tracy Claeys as their new Head Coach who will no doubt improve on their 22.5 points per game last season. The Golden Gophers offense will be much more up tempo this season but they will still lean heavily on their rushing attack as they return their top two rushers from a year ago including RB Shannon Brooks who averaged 6.0 yards per carry in 2015. At QB they have scrappy veteran Mitch Leidner returning after winning the Quick Lane bowl MVP last season. Leidner completed 59.5% of his passes a year ago and will look to improve on that number this year. The WR unit isn’t very explosive but they return enough at the position that they should be able to match last years production. Coach Claeys said that if they get their offensive line straightened out, they will score more points than they did last year so we will see how that pans out for them. On the defensive side of the ball the Gophers return 6 starters to a unit that was ranked 24th in the country in total defense. The defense will be led by S Damarius Travis who missed all but one game last season with hamstring injuries. Minnesota was absolutely blessed this season with a pillow soft schedule and they have a legitimate shot at being 3-0 before playing at Penn State a week after the Nittany Lions play at Michigan. This season the Gophers avoid playing Ohio State, Michigan, and Michigan State from the East and instead get Penn State, Rutgers, and Maryland. Out of all the conference win totals posted by odds makers, this is definitely my favorite and I may have to put my money where my mouth is on this one because I think they easily hit 7 wins in 2016.

T.J.’s Pick: OVER 6.5 WINS

Nebraska Cornhuskers

2015 Regular Season Record: 5-7 (3-5 Big Ten)

2016 Over/Under Regular Season Wins: 8.5

Last season the Cornhuskers went through their first losing season since 2007 under new Head Coach Mike Riley. Looking closer at each game however you can see how much bad turnover luck and close losses played a part in their 7 losses. In fact, four of their seven losses came on the very last play of the game. Riley was able to finish his initial season in Lincoln on a high note, defeating UCLA in their bowl game while rushing for over 300 yards as a team. This season QB Tommy Armstrong is getting one final chance to open the season as the Huskers starting QB. Armstrong makes his fair share of mistakes, as he threw for 16 interceptions last season but he also accounted for 29 total touchdowns. This season the Huskers return one of the best WR corps in the conference led by Jordan Westerkamp. The biggest question mark on the offense has to be the offensive line. They have one of the most inexperienced offensive line units in the country and the Huskers success on offense will be largely dependent on how the big boys up front are able to work together to help out Armstrong and their running game. On defense Riley has to improve the Huskers pass defense as they were a putrid 121st in the country in passing yards allowed. This is the sixth straight season that the Huskers have worsened in their defensive yards allowed per game. They allowed 272 yards per game in 2009 and since have allowed 307, 351, 361, 371, 384, and 400 last season. Defensive line will be the huge weakness of this team in 2016 as they return zero starters. The back seven return six starters but if the defensive line is a liability it will make life hell for S Nate Gerry and the rest of the back seven. This season with the talent Nebraska has on both sides of the ball coupled with this being their second year in Riley’s schemes, they should improve on last years record by several games. However, it seems as if odds makers feel the same way as I do setting a line of 8.5 wins. The schedule isn’t very kind for Nebraska this season with road games against Northwestern, Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Iowa. I envision this team falling just short of the posted line and finishing the regular season at 8-4.

T.J.’s Pick: UNDER 8.5 WINS

Northwestern Wildcats

2015 Regular Season Record: 10-2 (6-2 Big Ten)

2016 Over/Under Regular Season Wins: 6.5

It seems like just yesterday Pat Fitzgerald was being named Northwestern’s head football coach and here we are 10 years later and he’s still around and winning double digit games. The Wildcats won 10 games last season all while averaging just 19.5 points per game which ranked them dead last in the conference as well as the bottom rung of the entire NCAA. Fitzgerald is a very fundamentally sound coach and teaches his players the recipe for success. That recipe is to run the hell out of the ball, play excellent defense, and don’t commit dumb penalties or turn the ball over. Other schools should take note of this because in the day and age of high powered up-tempo offenses, Fitzgerald is winning 10 games in a season with the “boring” strategy of keeping it simple. This year Northwestern knows that they have to put more points on the board however if they hope to duplicate last season success. The offense is returning one of the conference’s best RB’s in Justin Jackson which should help tremendously. QB Clayton Thorson was a freshman last year and led the team to 10 wins which should help boost his confidence and gives him some much needed experience for his upcoming years at the helm. The offensive line returns four starters after averaging 189 yards rushing per game on the ground last season which is always good news. The big weakness on the offense is finding playmakers the catch the football as they have nobody on the roster with over 400 yards receiving last season. On defense the Cats return six starters but one of them is All American LB Anthony Walker who is currently the subject of a promotional campaign by the school to get him more widely known. They lose a lot at defensive end as their two best from last season are gone and they accounted for 12 sacks in 2015. This odds makers have Northwestern’s total pretty low here which might be a trap, but I’m going to fall for the bait and take the over. I think the Cats get to 7 wins exactly this season by being the scrappy, smart team that doesn’t make mistakes and wins a game along the line that they shouldn’t have.

T.J.’s Pick: OVER 6.5 WINS

Ohio State Buckeyes

2015 Regular Season Record: 11-1 (7-1 Big Ten)

2016 Over/Under Regular Season Wins: 9.5

Buckeyes Head Coach Urban Meyer has quite the monumental task this season, returning just 6 starters on both sides of the ball after basically their entire starting lineup was drafted into the 2016 NFL Draft. There’s just one thing that people seem to be forgetting however and that’s just how amazing the Bucks have been in the past four seasons under Meyer. The Buckeyes are 50-4. Fifty wins! They are also 18-0 in road games over that stretch which is just absurd. When you have one of the top 3 coaches in the country to go along with the Big Ten’s best hope for a Heisman Trophy in J.T. Barrett, I don’t care how much other talent was lost, Ohio State can easily find double digit wins this season. On offense, the Buckeyes only return 3 starters but are still jam packed with talent thanks to Meyer’s recruiting prowess. J.T. Barrett was unreal good in 2014 and did well in 2015 in limited time. Replacing Ezekiel Elliot at RB is Mike Weber but the depth behind him is somewhat shallow and I should also mention that their offensive line is going to be relatively inexperienced. The Buckeyes lose their top 3 receivers from a year ago but I have an absolute man crush on Torrence Gibson, a 6’4” 205 lb Redshirt Freshman who is an absolute freak of nature. Look for Gibson to emerge as the Buckeyes top receiving threat by the end of 2016. On the defensive side of the ball they have to reload big time as they return only 3 starters and lose four of their top five tacklers from last year’s team. The defense will be led by stud MLB Raekwon McMillan who was their leading tackler in 2015 and vocal leader of the squad. McMillan is an absolute machine and he will once again likely be the Bucks top tackler in 2016. The Buckeyes schedule isn’t very kind with three tough conference road games versus Wisconsin, Penn State, and Michigan State but they get Michigan at home so I’m hitching my wagon to Urban Meyer and J.T. Barrett this season and picking the Buckeye’s to not only go over the win total, but win the Big Ten outright.

T.J.’s Pick: OVER 9.5 WINS

Penn State Nittany Lions

2015 Regular Season Record: 7-5 (4-4 Big Ten)

2016 Over/Under Regular Season Wins: 7

I’m going to preface this preview by just announcing loud and clear that I despise James Franklin. The guy can recruit but I firmly believe that he is one of the worst game day coaches in the country and his assistants should just unplug his headset every game to give them the best chance to win. As a Rutgers fan, I hope they keep him around in Happy Valley for the rest of time. Anyway, the offense at Penn State might actually improve now that Christian Hackenberg is no longer the QB. He was downright dreadful and it hurt my soul when my New York Jets drafted him in the 2nd round of the 2016 NFL draft. The problems with Penn State’s offense in the recent past has been their offensive line. The big guys up front absolutely have to improve drastically this season if Penn State hopes to get to 7+ wins. In the past two seasons, the offensive line has given up 83 sacks. 83! The good news is that same offensive line now has experience but I’m not sure how much that’s going to help because they were so atrocious last season. The rest of the offense can be deadly if the line can get to a serviceable level because they have 1st team All-American RB Saquon Barkley coming into his sophomore year after carrying the ball for 5.9 yards per carry last season. The WR’s will be setup for success led by Chris Godwin who caught 69 passes for over 1100 yards and 5 TD’s a year ago. The other issue Penn State has is who will be throwing the football. The frontrunner right now is Trace McSorley who had 40 attempts last season but it remains to be seen if he can shoulder the workload of a starter. On the defense, Penn State finished 14th last season in total defense largely due to an amazing pass rush that had 46 sacks a year ago which was good for 1st in the entire country. The issue this year is they lose over half of last season’s sack total including NFL Draft pick Carl Nassib. Expect the defense to take a step back this year after a great first two years under Franklin. Franklin’s seat is starting to get a little warm in Happy Valley as he is just 14-12 over his first two seasons and hasn’t shown that he can compete with the top three teams in the East. The schedule this season is pretty favorable with seven home games and three winnable Big Ten road games but I still think the Nittany Lions fail to get to seven wins just barely and finish the regular season 6-6.

T.J.’s Pick: UNDER 7 WINS

Purdue Boilermakers

2015 Regular Season Record: 2-10 (1-7 Big Ten)

2016 Over/Under Regular Season Wins: 4.5

Purdue Head Coach Darrell Hazell is entering his 4th year in West Lafayette and he’s widely considered to be on one of the hottest seats in the country right now after posting a 6-30 record in his previous 3 seasons. In each of his three seasons at Purdue, Hazell has picked a starting QB for the season opener and then replaced him by midseason. This year Hazell has tabbed David Blough as his starting QB and he played okay in his freshman campaign. If Purdue has bowl game aspirations, Blough needs to take a big step forward and be exceptional. The offense has some weapons at the skill positions as seven of their top eight in receptions from last season are back and RB Markell Jones will lead the ground attack after his 875 yard 10 TD freshman year in 2015. Along with Blough, the Boilermakers are going to need the offensive line to improve significantly as well. The Boilermakers rushing offense and sacks allowed were both 13th in the conference. They return more than half of the offensive line so improvement isn’t too farfetched but the question will be if they are talented enough to make a difference. The defense was absolutely putrid last year and wasn’t able to stop the run or pass so opposing offenses had their way with the Boilermakers defense. Purdue wasn’t able to get much of any pressure on the opposing QB which just makes life hell for the defensive secondary. The defense should be a good bit improved since they return 8 starters but once again we need to see if the talent is there. The schedule isn’t looking too kind for Hazell in this decisive year as they only have 4 Big Ten home games which they will be underdogs for in all four matchups against Iowa, Northwestern, Penn State, and Wisconsin. Their only winnable games are all on the road which is a recipe for disaster and I can’t see them getting to five wins this year. I’m taking the under with a good bit of confidence here.

T.J.’s Pick: UNDER 4.5 WINS

Wisconsin Badgers

2015 Regular Season Record: 9-3 (6-2 Big Ten)

2016 Over/Under Regular Season Wins: 7

After narrowly missing out on winning the Big Ten West last season, things won’t get easier this season for Wisconsin Head Coach Paul Chryst. Wisconsin has one of the most difficult schedules in the country, facing LSU in their out of conference schedule along with Michigan State, Michigan, and Ohio State from the Big Ten East. More bad news for the Badgers is the fact that they lose their second all-time leading passer in Joel Stave. Stave was pretty mediocre however in 2015, throwing the same amount of TD’s as INT’s (11). There is still a QB battle going on over who will replace Stave but whoever ends up winning that battle won’t need to do much other than hand the ball off and take care of the football. At RB the Badgers will have a healthy Corey Clement carrying the rock as Wisconsin looks to get back to its roots of running the ball down defenses throats. The offensive line will be bigger and much more experienced in 2016 than it was a year ago. On the receiving front, the Badgers lost stud WR Alex Erickson and will need to find a couple of playmakers to take his place or opposing defenses will be able to focus all of their attention on the ground attack and make the Badgers lives hell. On defense, the Badgers boast a great front seven that will probably take a step back from their insane numbers last year when they gave up less than 100 yards per game on the ground (Hi Leonard Fournette). They only return one starter in the secondary but looking at their schedule they don’t face too many dominant passing teams this upcoming season so they shouldn’t struggle to adapt too much. Looking at the schedule, it’s easy to envision the Badgers starting the year 2-5 before facing Nebraska at home so I’m going to go ahead and say they don’t get to the 8 wins necessary to win this wager of 7 wins. I feel much safer putting my money on the under here and feel pretty comfortable about it.

T.J.’s Pick: UNDER 7 WINS

Here are the 6 picks in which I am the most confident in and would consider risking my own money on:

1) Minnesota Golden Gophers OVER 6.5 WINS

2) Maryland Terrapins OVER 5 WINS

3) Purdue Boilermakers UNDER 4.5 WINS

4) Iowa Hawkeyes OVER 8.5 WINS

5) Ohio State Buckeyes OVER 9.5 WINS

6) Rutgers Scarlet Knights UNDER 4.5 WINS