Entering the 2019 season, the Ohio State Buckeyes and Michigan Wolverines are once again looking like the top two teams in the Big Ten. However, there’s plenty more to see here. This conference is deep and loaded with talent. Let’s take a look at what all 14 programs bring to the table for 2019.
You can also find here the breakdown for the 2019 Big 12 and our champion prediction for this conference.
*Betting odds provided by MyBookie.ag
Illinois Fighting Illini (+15000)
2018 Record: 4-8 | Standings: 7-B10 West | Playoffs: NA
Head coach Lovie Smith made a little bit of progress in his third year on the sidelines in Illinois. Unfortunately, that only translated into four wins. The Fighting Illini haven’t had a winning record since 2011, so there remains plenty of work to do.
There are lots of questions on offense, but star tailback Reggie Corbin will have room to work behind an experienced offensive line which returns four starters. Smith will handle defensive coordinator responsibilities as well, and he has what looks to be a decent amount of talent to work with.
An additional improvement is possible for Illinois, but it’s hard to see this team earning bowl eligibility.
Iowa Hawkeyes (+2500)
2018 Record: 9-4 | Standings: 4-B10 West | Playoffs: Won Outback Bowl
While the end result was only a 4th place finish in the Big Ten West, the Hawkeyes were competitive in conference play with a mark of 5-4. The team also ended the year on a high note with a victory over Mississippi State in the Outback Bowl.
Experience is the name of the game for Iowa in 2019. Senior QB Nate Stanley leads the way for a bunch of returning talent on offense. There are also a number of returning players on the defensive side of the ball, but the team will have a tough schedule to navigate.
Iowa is looking like a team that will be a big factor in the Big Ten West.
Maryland Terrapins (+8000)
2018 Record: 5-7 | Standings: 5-B10 East | Playoffs: NA
Head coach Mike Locksley has his work cut out for him, but Maryland was actually competitive last year in spite of dealing with scandal on the coaching staff. It’s a new day for the Terrapins, but it may take awhile for the program to bear fruit.
RB Anthony McFarland Jr. is the brightest spot on offense after a solid freshman season. There’s returning talent elsewhere, but we’ll still consider the offense a work in progress. Only three starters are returning on defense, but that’s not the worst thing for a transition season.
Maryland may pull out some surprises here and there, but it’s tough to see the team winning more games than it did a season ago.
Michigan State Spartans (+1400)
2018 Record: 7-6 | Standings: 4-B10 East | Playoffs: Lost RedBox Bowl
While the final record may not reflect it, the Spartans were a team no one wanted to face in 2018. It’ll be more of the same this season. Michigan State boasts a stout defense, and there may even be improvement coming on offense.
There’s a lot of returning talent on offense, and new offensive coordinator Brad Salem is expected to implement a faster scheme. A lot of familiar faces will be back on defense as well, and that’s bad news for opponents on the schedule.
The Spartans probably don’t have the horses to win the Big Ten East, but they’ll still have a huge bearing on how it plays out.
Michigan Wolverines (+180)
2018 Record: 10-3 | Standings: 2-B10 East | Playoffs: Lost Peach Bowl
The Wolverines have had an entire offseason to stew over how last season turned. After being shellacked by Ohio State in the final game of the regular season, the team turned around and got hammered by Florida in the Peach Bowl.
As always, Michigan is chock full of talent. The pressure is mounting on head coach Jim Harbaugh as a result. There are no major weaknesses on either side of the ball, but there is a good amount of attrition to deal with on defense. This being Michigan, restocking the coffers hasn’t been an issue.
Once again, the season for Michigan will come down to whether or not they can get past Ohio State.
Minnesota Golden Gophers (+3300)
2018 Record: 7-6 | Standings: 6-B10 West | Playoffs: Won Quick Lane Bowl
A 6-6 regular season was good enough for a bowl invite. The Golden Gophers would go on to pound Georgia Tech in the Quick Lane Bowl to close out the year on a high note. Things could be looking up in Minnesota, as lots of talent returns.
Outside of two starters on the offensive line, all of the major pieces on offense will be back. An in-season firing at defensive coordinator sparked improvement. Joe Rossi handled the job on an interim basis, and he has earned the permanent gig.
Winning the Big Ten West may be too much to ask, but Minnesota has a chance to notch more wins in 2019.
Nebraska Cornhuskers (+1200)
2018 Record: 4-8 | Standings: 5-B10 West | Playoffs: NA
The Scott Frost era started off flat in Nebraska, but the Cornhuskers turned it around over the second half. There is a ton of optimism that this team will get better in a hurry, and the pollsters and pundits have taken notice.
Sophomore QB Adrian Martinez leads the way on offense, and his name is being bandied about in Heisman Trophy conversations. He has a good amount of supporting talent around, but questions abound on the line. A lot of experience is back on defense, so this unit could get better too.
Nebraska should be a big factor in the West division, but it may take another year for a legitimate shot at the conference.
Northwestern Wildcats (+2200)
2018 Record: 9-5 | Standings: 1-B10 West | Playoffs: Won Holiday Bowl
After a surprising win of the Big Ten West a year ago, expectations are somewhat muted for the Wildcats. Head coach Pat Fitzgerald has done a solid job with this program, but he enters the year needing to replace departing QB Clayton Thorson.
He has talent to choose from, but the QB battle remains unsettled as of this writing. There’s a good amount of returning talent at the skill positions, but improvement is needed out of the line. Depth on defense is a strength of the team, and the unit should once again be solid.
It’s going to be tough to repeat as West division champs, but Northwestern is in the conversation.
Ohio State Buckeyes (+140)
2018 Record: 13-1 | Standings: 1-B10 East | Playoffs: Won Rose Bowl
The Buckeyes enter 2019 after some major changes. Ryan Day is the new head coach, while Justin Fields lines up behind center. The coffers are plenty full at Ohio State as the program has zero problems recruiting, but these are still big changes to deal with.
The skill positions are stacked, but questions abound on the offensive line. The defense is dealing with attrition, and it’s also a unit that needs a good deal of improvement over last year’s performance. How that turns out may prove to be the biggest factor for the Buckeyes.
All goes well, Ohio State is back in the national title picture. If not, a couple of regular-season losses wouldn’t be surprising.
Penn State Nittany Lions (+900)
2018 Record: 9-4 | Standings: 3-B10 East | Playoffs: Lost Citrus Bowl
Penn State is another club which will have a new look in 2019 due to attrition. The Nittany Lions put together a solid regular season which included a 6-3 mark in conference play, but they came out on the wrong side of a three-point decision to Kentucky in the Citrus Bowl.
The offensive line returns three starters, but youth will rule the day elsewhere. That said, it looks like a talented group overall. It’s a different story on defense, as there’s a good amount of returning talent for a unit which was stout a season ago.
The Nittany Lions should be a factor in the Big Ten East, but a small step backwards wouldn’t be stunning either.
Purdue Boilermakers (+2800)
2018 Record: 6-7 | Standings: 3-B10 East | Playoffs: Lost Music City Bowl
The Boilermakers scored one of the biggest upsets of 2018 when they took down Ohio State, and the team was better than its final record suggests. As part of a 6-6 regular season, Purdue was a perfect 3-0 versus ranked teams.
The team was taken to the woodshed by Auburn in the Music City Bowl, so expectations are slightly tempered. Stud wideout Rondale Moore is the engine that makes the offense go, while there’s a lot of returning talent on defense.
Like last year, Purdue doesn’t have enough to compete for the division, but they will be a dangerous team to face in the regular season.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights (+10000)
2018 Record: 1-11 | Standings: 7-B10 East | Playoffs: NA
After a 1-11 regular season, there’s nowhere to go but up. Head coach Chris Ash has lots of work to do, and the pressure is mounting on him to at least return the program to a level in which it can put a competitive product on the field.
There are plenty of question marks to be answered on both sides of the ball. On offense, the team’s biggest strength appears to be in the run game. As for the defense, Andy Buh has been tapped as defensive coordinator to see what he can do.
Another win or two is possible, but it looks like another long season is coming for the Scarlet Knights.
Wisconsin Badgers (+1400)
2018 Record: 8-5 | Standings: 2-B10 West | Playoffs: Won Pinstripe Bowl
The Big Ten West looks really competitive this year, as six of the seven teams are at least in the conversation for a division crown. Wisconsin is one of those squads, and they have a convincing case to be made.
Stud RB Jonathan Taylor could receive Heisman consideration with another stellar year. However, he’ll be working behind an inexperienced line. There are also lots of questions on defense, but there is a good amount of young talent to build around.
The Badgers will be in the mix for the division, but question marks may prevent a leap to the next level.
Our Pick to Win the Big Ten in 2019
The West division is pretty much wide open. We like Iowa and its experience to edge out Northwestern by a nose.
As for the East, the time is now for Michigan to overtake Ohio State if they’re ever going to. The Wolverines are our pick to do just that and win the conference.