Stephen Cohn: Wisconsin over Michigan, 34-20
Living in Madison now — have I mentioned that before? — everyone is high on the Badgers. And that’s because there are a ton of homers here, but, also, they’re not bad. I’m not picking Jonathan Taylor to win the Heisman, but the RB can certainly be in the conversation, and if Nebraska falters at all, that opens the door for Wisconsin to run the table. Then, I’m assuming Michigan upsets OSU in The Game, and that sets up a championship game appearance. I feel like the Wolverines keep slipping up in these moments though, and that lets Wisconsin win the title en route to a Rose Bowl.
Tristen Kissack: Michigan over Nebraska, 38-31
These predictions are no fun because we’re never in them :(. In my opinion, Michigan has the most favorable schedule in the East. The Wolverines play the majority of their tough games at home, including Ohio State, Michigan St., Notre Dame, and Iowa. They do travel to Wisconsin to start the conference season and then have to play Penn St. on the road, but I think they win at least one of those. I LOVE what Scott Frost is doing over at Nebraska. Adrien Martinez is legit, and if that defense can just be average, they should take the West.
Raul Rodriguez: Michigan State over Minnesota, 27-20
Maybe I am biased because I wrote the Michigan State game preview but the Spartans aren’t far off from contending for the Big Ten title. I also think Dantonio will do what he can to capitalize on the championship caliber defense he will have in 2019. Minor tweaks have been made to MSU’s offense and I think they pay off with a Big Ten title. With respect to Minnesota, I am drinking the Kool Aide after what I saw from the Gophers at the end of 2018. The Gophers also draw Penn State(at home), Maryland(at home) and Rutger( on the road) while other contenders in the Big Ten West have to deal with some combination of Ohio State, Michigan, and Michigan State on their schedule.
Michael Berns: Ohio State over Wisconsin, 42-21
In the wild, wild, wide open West, I feel like people are overlooking Wisconsin a bit because of an unknown quarterback situation and the fact that they have to replace 4 of 5 offensive linemen. No matter. The schedule is a beast, however. Wisconsin gets Michigan, Michigan State and the all-important Iowa game at home. Wisconsin has to travel to Columbus to play Ohio State late in October… not easy that the cross-divisional games are the two Michigan schools + Ohio State.
If you’re Ohio State, you have three games circled each season to win the East: Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State. The Bucks get Sparty and PSU at home and travel to Ann Arbor on Thanksgiving Weekend. Justin Fields’ first three games as a Buckeye are at home against FAU, Cincinnati and Miami-Ohio. He’ll have time to get adjusted to life as a Big Ten starter. OSU’s running backs and receivers are (as usual) elite, and they’ll have a defense as good as any on the conference.
Ryan Day gets it done in Year 1, and the way OSU’s recruiting class is shaping up — this is a program that looks like it won’t falter one bit, at least initially, in the wake of Urban Meyer’s retirement.
Kyle Huisinga: Michigan over Nebraska, 28-17
I’m buying big stock in Nebraska this season. Adrien Martinez is a top two quarterback in the Big Ten. The other: Shea Patterson. These two fantastic players will navigate their teams through some tough waters (not so much for Nebraska, hence the pick) and arrive in Indianapolis ready to vie for a Rose Bowl berth. This will be the year Michigan will finally get over the hump and beat Ohio State to advance from the East. Nebraska takes advantage of an up in the air West to reclaim their position as one of the top 5 programs in the Big Ten under Scott Frost. In the end, Shea Patterson is too talented with improved wideouts and a tough defense behind him, as they eke out the victory.
Jacob Rajlich: Penn State over Wisconsin, 35-24
I don’t follow football too much outside of whoever Illinois’s playing next, so don’t take this prediction with much more than a grain of salt. It’s more of a sense of favoritism than anything, as I don’t want the Buckeyes to do it. As long as whoever wins the B1G makes the playoffs, I’ll be happy.
Drew Pastorek: Michigan over Wisconsin, 30-24
I’m not quite yet ready to drink the Cornhusker Kool-Aid yet. The national media wants Nebraska back soooooooooo badly you’d think it was 1987. Martinez is really good, but pardon me if I want to see more. However, I do agree this is the year Jim Harbaugh finally gets over the hump and defeats Ohio State. Urban Meyer is no longer in Columbus to torment him, and I think the Wolverines have, top-to-bottom, the most talent in the B1G. Wisconsin has Jonathan Taylor, whom you could argue is the best individual talent in the conference. Wisconsin also has the benefit of five consecutive home games; following their opener at South Florida, they won’t play on the road again until they go to Illinois October 19th! Michigan has many of their marquee matchups (Notre Dame, Michigan St, Ohio St, Iowa) at home, but do face Penn State and Wisconsin on the road. The Badgers are big and physical, but ultimately won’t have enough big-play potential in the passing game to upend Shea Patterson and the Maize and Blue.
Steve Braun: Ohio State over Nebraska, 59-17
I really do think the West is wide open because, as every media outlet’s Big Ten preview has boldly claimed, Anyone Can Win The Big Ten West Except Illinois.
Northwestern is going to contend, but they have two tough Big Ten games in September, a month where they generally play their worst football. They’ll be replacing a four-year starter at quarterback, and even though Hunter Johnson is plenty talented, experience is the most important thing in a Pat Fitzgerald football team. They’ll hit their stride just in time to soundly beat Illinois, but it’ll be too late for anything else.
The default winner is Wisconsin usually, but I really think that could change this year. If Graham Mertz doesn’t start the season playing better than any Wisconsin QB since Russell Wilson, I don’t think that long-awaited vertical passing game will materialize. The run game should once again be overpowering, but they’ve graduated three long-time starters at LB and I believe the loss of former DC Dave Aranda to LSU a few years ago is finally starting to show.
Iowa is Iowa, so their 8 to 9 wins might be enough, but I think Nebraska wins the West because of a very important game: Ohio State has an annual tradition of going on the road and completely forgetting how to play football. It won’t happen at Michigan, and it won’t happen at Northwestern. This leaves Nebraska as by far the most likely place where they lose their minds and pick up a baffling road loss. It’ll be enough to squeak the Huskers into the title game, where a pissed off #5 Ohio State will pummel them without mercy to try and get into the Playoff. Michigan lost more defensive talent than they’re given credit for losing, and Harbaugh always coaches that team to the floor of its talent, especially against the Buckeyes. The Ohio State coaching staff is virtually unchanged outside of the figurehead being Ryan Day, but even if that were hurting recruiting, that doesn’t change what they already have for 2019. Shit, Mark Schaer could coach this Ohio State team to at least 10 wins, and he knows so little about college football that he thinks he can simply pivot to being a Wisconsin fan.
News flash: you might honestly think it’s happening for you, you’re enjoying your new team competing every week and you finally understand why people have fun as college football fans, and then Illinois will pull off some upset victory that seems to turn the corner for the program and your heart will skip a beat when you find out. Then you’ll think “THIS IS THE MOMENT I SUFFERED ALL THOSE YEARS FOR!” and be sucked right back in to Illinois, but it’ll be worth it this time because hey, did you see that win? At long last, the program has arrived and it’s going to be fun now!
Two years, 17 losses and a new head coach later, you look in the mirror after throwing up your last 3 homemade Blue Guys that you were compelled to chug at 11:43 AM by Illinois muffing the first punt they’d forced all game right at their own 8 yard line and you don’t recognize yourself anymore.