The Big Ten is expected to be particularly competitive in 2014, while two new members have joined the storied football conference. Conference expansion continues this year as Rutgers and Maryland make their way over from the ACC and AAC. While neither team is expected to make a lot of noise this season, several Big Ten schools have a chance to play in bowl games, and a few could even make the playoffs and compete for a national championship.
Eight teams from the conference received votes in the preseason USA Today Coaches Poll. Ohio State leads the way at No.6 overall, and even received one vote for the top spot in the rankings. Michigan State made the top 10 at No.8, while Wisconsin and Nebraska were also voted into the Top 25. Michigan, Iowa, Minnesota and Northwestern also received votes.
At the top of the conference last year, Michigan State and Ohio State proved to be two of the best teams in the country, as the Spartans defeated the Buckeyes in the conference title game. After Michigan State won the Rose Bowl and Ohio State lost in the Orange Bowl, the two teams have, once again, separated themselves from the rest of the league.
With the conference’s top teams from last year being placed in the same division, at least one new club is guaranteed to make an appearance in the Big Ten Championship Game. The Spartans came out on top in 2013, but the Buckeyes might have the advantage a year later. With Urban Meyer at the helm, the program brings back quarterback Braxton Miller, who is a contender for the Heisman Trophy.
Wisconsin and Nebraska have the best odds to represent the West in the title game, while Iowa should also be a contender to win the division. The Hawkeyes might be the least talented of the three teams, but they have the advantage of playing both the Badgers and Cornhuskers at home, with both contests scheduled for the final two weeks of the regular season. Nebraska will be forced to play both teams on the road, in addition to a visit to Michigan State on Oct. 4.
Considering the Big Ten is made up of 14 teams, it's almost certain to feature some of the worst teams that the top conferences in college football have to offer. Purdue and Rutgers could have a lot of trouble maintaining respectability.
In the 2013 season, the Big Ten had the worst bowl record of any BCS conference, with its schools finishing 2-5. Only Michigan State (Rose Bowl) and Nebraska (Gator Bowl) ended the season with a victory.
Below are predictions for the 2014 Big Ten standings, including what two teams will face off in the conference title game.
1) Ohio State
2) Michigan State
4) Penn State
2014 Big Ten Championship Game
Ohio State over Wisconsin