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Way Too Early Big Ten Preview: Part One

We take a look at the conference outlook for next season in a three-part series

Big Ten Championship - Northwestern v Ohio State Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Clemson’s 44-16 thrashing of Alabama in the National Championship Game officially signified the end of this year’s college football season. The Big Ten finished 5-4 in bowl games this year, with the most notable win coming from Ohio State in the Rose Bowl.

As players depart, coaches change and players develop their skills over the offseason, analysts are scrambling to figure out what the Top 25 will look like next season.

Let’s break down the Big Ten going into the 2019 season. We’ll preview part one of this three-part series. Each preview features an overview and brief prediction for the 2019 season. Part one covers the top four teams in the below power rankings.

Way Too Early Power Rankings

  1. Ohio State
  2. Michigan
  3. Penn State
  4. Iowa
  5. Northwestern
  6. Purdue
  7. Michigan State
  8. Minnesota
  9. Wisconsin
  10. Nebraska
  11. Maryland
  12. Indiana
  13. Illinois
  14. Rutgers

Team Breakdowns

OHIO STATE, Big Ten Champs, Conference Record: 8-1, Overall Record: 13-1, Won Rose Bowl: 28-23

The Buckeyes will lose arguably one of, if not, the best quarterback in this year’s draft, Dwayne Haskins Jr. Haskins was a Heisman candidate, finishing the 2018 campaign with a 70 percent completion rating, 4,831 yards, 50 touchdowns and eight interceptions.

Replacing Haskins won’t be an easy task, but Ohio State will have options, between former five-star QBs Tate Martell and transfer Justin Fields. The more important question is how well will Ryan Day fill in as Urban Meyer’s replacement?

Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual - Washington v Ohio State Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Former Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano was relieved of his duties as defensive coordinator. OSU’s defense was ranked 71st in the nation. Replacing Schiano will be a former member Michigan’s coaching staff, Greg Mattison, and San Francisco 49er’s assistant Jeff Hafley. The co-coordinator system is a high risk, high reward approach.

Prediction: 13-1, Repeat Big Ten Champs, Lose in the first round of CFP

Justin Fields is eligible to play after transferring from Georgia to Ohio State. Tate Martell whole heartedly believes this is his team and will do everything in his power to not lose the starting job, but it’s kind of hard to not start Fields. He measures out at six-foot-three, weighs in at 230 pounds and runs a 4.5, 40-yard dash, and has the stamp of approval from Haskins, who called him a “freak.”

With Fields under center, the Buckeyes offense shouldn’t skip a beat. The backfield could look dangerous with Dobbins and other running backs possibly forming a stable of talented playmakers.

Non-conference games aren’t that great, but the matchup against Cincinnati could be interesting. I could see Clemson matching up with OSU in the College Football Playoff, and the Tigers would probably walk out of that game victorious. You can’t bet against Trevor Lawrence and Dabo Swinney after their run this past season.

MICHIGAN, Conference Record: 8-1, Overall Record: 10-3, Lost Peach Bowl: 41-15

The Gators chomped the Wolverines to bits in the Peach Bowl. Yes, the Wolverines were missing key players, like Devin Bush, but still, they showed no life on the field. Jim Harbaugh will walk into his Monday morning staff meeting looking at empty seats. Both Greg Mattison (defensive line coach) and Al Washington (linebackers coach) took jobs at arch enemy Ohio State.

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

There are some bright spots for Michigan. Dax Hill was a huge land for their recruiting program, and could see the field immediately, given his talent and football IQ. Shea Patterson will be back at quarterback, as will his top targets Nico Collins and Donovan Peoples-Jones. Four-star wide receiver Cornelius Johnson will also be a valuable asset for the Wolverine’s offense.

Devin Bush will be heading to the NFL Draft, as will Rashan Gary. Bush was a great field leader for the Wolverines defense, and had top-level instinct you want in linebacker. Chase Winovich and David Long will be big losses as well.

Prediction: 11-2, Lose to Notre Dame, and Ohio State, Win New Year’s Six Bowl Game

A returning quarterback and talented group of receivers will take Michigan a long way. They have one of the tougher schedules in college football next season. Army will prove to be a strong opponent. Home field advantage won’t help in a matchup against Notre Dame, and Jim Harbaugh will be 0-5 against Ohio State after they play each other next year.

Outside of those two games, the rest of the schedule seems to favor the Wolverines and Shea Patterson should cap off his career with some big time bowl game hardware. Having the eighth best recruiting class in the country will help a lot next season, too.

PENN STATE, Conference Record: 6-3, Overall Record: 9-4, Lost Citrus Bowl: 27-24

Penn State’s season was underwhelming. Replacing Saquon Barkley, DaeSean Hamilton and Mike Gesicki wasn’t an easy task, but the Nittany Lions had playmakers in KJ Hamler, Miles Sanders, and a veteran leader in Trace McSorley.

PSU lost a close fought battle to Ohio State and the wind kind of left their sails after that. McSorley will be leaving Penn State with every major statistical quarterback record and the Nittany Lions will most likely lean on Tommy Stevens to take over. A talented recruiting class features two high profile dual-threat quarterbacks: N.J. native Taquan Roberson and Michael Johnson Jr.

Micah Parsons was a bright spot in a Penn State defense that was mediocre at times. He’ll be joined by incoming freshman Brandon Smith, who is the nation’s top inside linebacker recruit.

Prediction: 9-4, Lose to Pitt, Michigan, Ohio State, and SEC Bowl opponent.

Penn State’s 2019 season will mimic their 2018 campaign. Rival Pitt will look to get a big program win at Beaver Stadium, and Michigan and Ohio State will prove to be too much for the Nittany Lions to handle. It won’t help that they’re losing star corner Amani Oruwariye, who many consider to be a late first round NFL Draft talent.

The game against Ohio State won’t be as close as it was this year. If Stevens can effectively step in and own his role as a starter with limited experience, there’s a chance that the record will be 10-3 (They can win their bowl game with an efficient game manager, or preferably a game changer, at QB).

IOWA, Conference Record: 5-5, Overall Record: 9-4, Won Outback Bowl: 27-22

Since 2001, Iowa has only missed bowl eligibility in two seasons. The kings of consistency put together another successful season that ended with an Outback Bowl victory (thank you for the coconut shrimp).

Despite their ability to consistently make bowl games, Iowa is 2-5 in their last seven bowls. The Hawkeyes cracked the final Top 25 and will look to stay in the mix in 2019.

Prediction: 9-4, Lose to Michigan, Penn State, Northwestern , and Nebraska. Citrus or Outback Bowl win.

Shocker. Iowa will make another bowl game. They’ll also extend their bowl winning streak to three straight games. If they face another SEC opponent like Mississippi State, or maybe a new look Tennessee or Kentucky team, the matchup could be favorable for Iowa. The facts are that SEC teams often cannibalize themselves in conference play. If Iowa stays in the hunt and finds a way to replace stars like Amani Hooker and Noah Fant, they’ll have another solid season.