Big Ten Conference Preview
The Big Ten conference is always one of the top conferences in the nation, and this year should be no different. The conference is arguably as deep as it has been in years and could make for some great football matchups in 2021. Here are the predictions for the standings in the Big Ten for 2021 as it stands right now.
14. Nebraska Cornhuskers
Scott Frost entered his fourth year at Nebraska with high hopes for his squad, but the team laid an egg in its season opener, falling to Illinois 30-22.
The Cornhuskers looked very poor in the defeat, and all the issues the team has had over the last three years seem to still be there in 2021.
With those issues still there, Nebraska has to be at the bottom of the Big Ten in 2021.
13. Illinois Fighting Illini
Illinois came into the 2021 season looking to rebuild with Bret Bielema, and he is hoping to build the program in the future.
The Illini took a big step forward when they defeated Nebraska in their first game.
Illinois is a long way away from being a good football team, but with time the Illini can be a competitive team in the Big Ten West.
12. Michigan State Spartans
Michigan State is coming off of a tough 2020 where the Spartans went 2-5 in the shortened season.
They are rebuilding under head coach Mel Tucker, but this build will take time in East Lansing.
Tucker has made some good moves, but the Spartans should be looking toward the future and not this year.
11. Rutgers Scarlet Knights
In previous years, Rutgers normally would be last on this list, but head coach Greg Schiano has the Scarlet Knights moving in the right direction.
They won a road game at Michigan State last year and were competitive in games last season against teams that have blown them out in previous years.
The Scarlet Knights are not a great team, but they are moving in the right direction to be competing in the Big Ten East.
10. Purdue Boilermakers
Purdue has a tough job in 2021, as it tries to replace one of the most explosive players in the nation in Rondale Moore, as he moved on to the NFL.
The Boilermakers have been knocking on the door of contending in the Big Ten West for the last three years, but with Moore gone, they might have missed their chance of being a threat.
It could be a long 2021 for the Boilermakers if they cannot find weapons to use this year.
9. Maryland Terrapins
Maryland had some very good moments in 2020, most notably its dominating win against Penn State, but it also had some bad moments.
Quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa is a great talent, and he has a lot of weapons on the Terrapin offense, but he struggled to stay healthy in 2020.
If the Terrapins can stay healthy, they could be a surprise team in the Big Ten in 2021.
8. Northwestern Wildcats
The Northwestern Wildcats are coming off a Big Ten West title and a really successful 2020 year.
Their entire season in 2021 will be on the shoulders of quarterback Hunter Johnson, who transferred to the Wildcats from Clemson.
If Johnson plays well, the Wildcats could shock some people, but if he struggles it could be a long year for Northwestern.
7. Minnesota Golden Gophers
Minnesota has the toughest opener in the Big Ten this year, when it hosts Ohio State on Sep. 2.
That is a tough game to start with, even for a veteran team like Minnesota with a talented quarterback in Tanner Morgan.
PJ Fleck’s squad will have the ability to run the ball with Mohamed Ibrahim, but the big plays will be hard to come by with the lack of an elite receiver out wide.
6. Michigan Wolverines
It feels like everyone has overhyped Michigan every year since 2017, and this year they have learned to keep the expectations low for this team.
Jim Harbaugh has done a great job accumulating talent in Ann Arbor, but for some reason the Wolverines have been unable to win big games against equal teams.
Michigan will win games in 2021, but it will not win the games needed to make them a contender in the Big Ten this year.
5. Indiana Hoosiers
Indiana was unbelievable in 2020 and were led by great plays from quarterback Michael Penix Jr. to get the squad off to a great start.
The Hoosiers also got great play from wide receiver Ty Fryfogle as well, as he played his way onto the national scene as one of the top receivers in the nation.
Tom Allen has done a great job getting players to come to Indiana, and the Hoosiers are going to be near the top of the Big Ten once again this year.
4. Iowa Hawkeyes
Kirk Ferentz has done a great job at Iowa for a very long time, and this year’s team has the ability to be one of his best.
They have an elite offensive line led by center Tyler Linderbaum, and the Hawkeyes have a strong defense to pair with that offensive line.
With a good defense, and the ability to control the ball on offense, this team could be dangerous in 2021.
3. Wisconsin Badgers
Wisconsin and Penn State are right next to each other in the Big Ten race, and we will find out who is better in Week 1 when the two teams square off in Madison.
The Badgers should have an improved Graham Mertz in 2021 with great weapons by his side.
They will also have a great offensive line, like they always do, and will be a threat in the Big Ten West this year.
2. Penn State Nittany Lions
Penn State is a tough team to judge going into 2021.
Looking at the talent, it should be near the top of the conference, but the question remains if James Franklins’ squad will reach its potential.
The Nittany Lions started 0-5 last year but finished with four straight wins to finish the year.
Expect a better Sean Clifford in 2021 with the weapons Penn State has, and it will be back near the top of the Big Ten this year.
1. Ohio State Buckeyes
It is almost impossible to rank anyone ahead of Ohio State in the Big Ten right now.
The Buckeyes have the best one-two punch at receiver in the nation with Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson.
They do need to replace Justin Fields, but C.J. Stroud is a super-talented player that should do great things for the Buckeyes.
Ohio State is the most talented team in the Big Ten, and is going to be a problem all year for the rest of the conference.
Adam Sheetz is a second-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Contributors
Junior / Broadcast Journalism