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Big Ten Football 2015: TCR Preseason Roundtable Discussion

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The TCR staff discusses the main storylines throughout the Big Ten.

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Only five days until football! It's going to be a fun one this year in the Big Ten and you don't to look any further than this offseason for proof. The conference is on top of the college world after Ohio State won the first ever College Football Playoff, Michigan hired Jim Harbaugh (and signed with Nike), and the Buckeyes & Spartans are both ranked in the top five to kick off the season. Check out what the TCR staff had to say about the biggest storylines ahead of the 2015 season.

Who will be the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year?

Smith: Ezekiel Elliott. Elliot was a beast at the end of last year, and Michigan State and Penn State may be the only teams who could come close to stopping him this season.

Repplinger: I’m going with Connor Cook out of MSU. He’s the darkhorse QB that plays for the only legitimate threat to the Ohio State Buckeyes this season, and something tells me that the senior could lead Sparty to a B1G Championship. First test is Oregon on the 12th, and we’ll see if he’s the "real deal."

Vallese: I’ll go with Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott. If what he did in last year’s College Football Playoff is any sort of a sign of things to come, look out Heisman hopefuls. Elliott is coming to eat you and your bowl of cereal.

Penn State v Rutgers

PISCATAWAY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 13: Christian Hackenberg #14 of the Penn State Nittany Lions runs around David Milewski #90 of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights during a game at High Point Solutions Stadium on September 13, 2014 in Piscataway, New Jersey.

Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

Who will be the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year?

Smith: Shilique Calhoun. My pick for the second year in a row. I think he’ll be able to edge Joey Bosa in his final year anchoring the MSU defense.

Repplinger: Vonn Bell of Ohio State is another guy to keep your eye on this season in Columbus. Though Joey Bosa is a solid choice here, the Buckeyes will be faced with high powered offenses late in the season during championship play. Strength in the secondary is key to winning games and controlling the turnover battle, and Vonn could be the spark plug their looking for.

Vallese: I’ll go with the obvious selection here in Joey Bosa from OSU. He’s arguably one of the best players in the country on one of the best teams in the country and he’s shown no signs of slowing down. The Buckeyes will face some talented offenses this season to be sure, but Bosa will simply be better.

Who should start at QB for Ohio State?

Smith: Cardale Jones. Don't get me wrong, Barrett was great during the regular season, but Jones was as good, if not better, in the most important games of the year. Jones' big arm opens up Ohio State's entire offense; part of the reason Ezekiel Elliot was so successful in the playoff was because the opposing defenses had the threat of 80-yard cannon looming over them.

Vainisi: Barrett is definitely the better all-around player, but I think Cardale Jones should get the starting nod. Urban Meyer can't go wrong either way.

Vallese: This is a win-win-win-win-win-win-win situation for Meyer. I would start Jones because he displayed everything you want to see out of a quarterback when it counted the most in the postseason. But if he gets hurt, just swap in Barrett. And if Barrett gets hurt, just slide over Braxton Miller. And if Miller gets hurt Joey Bosa would probably line up under center.

National Championship - Oregon v Ohio State

ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 12: Quarterback Cardale Jones #12 of the Ohio State Buckeyes looks to pass during the College Football Playoff National Championship Game at AT&T Stadium on January 12, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.

Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Who is the most overrated team in the B1G?

Smith: Nebraska. Nebraska and Wisconsin both have new coaches, and I think they're both overrated going into the season. I'm going with the Cornhuskers because they lose Ameer Abdullah and Kenny Bell, as well as some studs on defense.

Primiano: Nebraska, which isn’t to say they’re going to be bad. But there will be growing pains with Riley.

Repplinger: Minnesota. David Cobb and Maxx Williams are gone, and they will be relying on their defense to keep them in games all season long. I like coach Kill and the program, but I don’t think they’ll finish in the Top 3 in the B1G West.

Vallese: Hang with me here… Michigan. Don’t get me wrong, Jim Harbaugh is a great coach. He will do great things in Ann Arbor. But this is year one, and there is still an ongoing quarterback battle to determine the starter for next week’s game against Utah. A lot of incoming and redshirt players will be really, really good down the road for the Wolverines, but I believe Harbaugh’s hype will outlive the team’s production on the field in his inaugural season. Something like a 7-5 or 8-4 campaign sounds about right to me.

Who is the most underrated team in the B1G?

Smith: Illinois. For me, it's almost hard not to choose the Illini. The Illini have been getting no respect this offseason and they've been predicted to do worse than Northwestern multiple times. On top of that, they were ranked No. 102 out of 128 teams by USA Today. Illinois is coming off a bowl game, and returns as many starters as just about any team in the conference. I know the schedule is tough, but Illinois is not going 3-9.

Repplinger: Is it possible to call Michigan State underrated? They finished in the Top 5 last season and have key starters returning to the lineup this season. However, they’re overshadowed by OSU, and I really think they are the team that could spoil the Buckeyes’ season.

Vallese: Purdue, believe it or not. That’s not to say I think the Boilermakers will be a powerhouse this season, but the time has finally come where teams shouldn’t just be marking off their game against Purdue as an automatic victory. They have one of the easier non-conference schedules in the Big Ten (facing teams in West Lafayette like Indiana State, Bowling Green, and Marshall). I could see a scenario where they squeak out several conference upsets and make it to five, heck maybe even six, wins.

Goodyear Cotton Bowl - Michigan State v Baylor

ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 01: Jermaine Edmondson #39 of the Michigan State Spartans celebrates a 42-41 win against the Baylor Bears during the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic at AT&T Stadium on January 1, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.

Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

What will be the final standings in each division?

Bryce Smith Mark Primiano Brad Repplinger Jim Vainisi Trevor Vallese
East




1. Michigan State Ohio State Michigan State Ohio State Michigan State
2. Ohio State Michigan State Ohio State Michigan State Ohio State
3. Michigan Michigan Penn State Penn State Penn State
4. Penn State Penn State Michigan Michigan Michigan
5. Rutgers Maryland Maryland Maryland Rutgers
6. Maryland Rutgers Rutgers Rutgers Indiana
7. Indiana Indiana Indiana Indiana Maryland
West
1. Nebraska Wisconsin Wisconsin Wisconsin Wisconsin
2. Minnesota Nebraska Nebraska Nebraska Nebraska
3. Wisconsin Minnesota Iowa Minnesota Iowa
4. Illinois Iowa Minnesota Iowa Illinois
5. Iowa Illinois Illinois Illinois Minnesota
6. Northwestern Northwestern Northwestern Northwestern Purdue
7. Purdue Purdue Purdue Purdue Northwestern