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The Big Ten Preview: Crystal Ball Run staff goes on the record


Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller is a favorite for Big Ten MVP honors according to our staff. Photo: USA Today Sports

We have had quite a week covering and previewing the Big Ten this week here at Crystal Ball Run. Now, before we break for the weekend and regroup for our next conference preview next week, it is time for our staff to go on the record with our official predictions. As usual, our staff offered their picks for Big Ten champ and championship game match-up, MVP and coach of the year.

Here are our picks. Feel free to share your picks in the comments. Feel free to bookmark this and hold us accountable at the end of the season as well.

Kevin McGuire's Take: The Urban Meyer era in Columbus was expected to lead to some great results but how many people had a 12-0 season jotted down for Ohio State in 2012? I know I certainly did not, but the bar has been established for Meyer's Buckeyes and it looks to be somewhat familiar for Ohio State. BCS or bust. With a quarterback in Braxton Miller worthy of Heisman consideration heading in to the season, if Ohio State can firm up the defense a little bit then it could be difficult for anyone in the Big Ten to take a swipe at the Bucks. Wisconsin and Penn State are at home and Nebraska is off the schedule. Northwestern probably puts up a fight when they host Ohio State in early October but ultimately won't have enough steam to pull the upset. Ending the regular season in Ann Arbor is always tricky but I'll roll with the Buckeyes as Meyer goes 2-0 against Michigan as Ohio State's head coach.

If Ohio State can avoid an early season slip up, say on the road at Cal for example, then we could once again be talking about the Buckeyes as a possible BCS championship challenger to Alabama in November in to December.

  • Champ: Ohio State over Nebraska
  • MVP: Braxton Miller, Ohio State QB
  • Coach of the Year: Jerry Kill, Minnesota

Allen Kenney's Take: The final year of the Leaders and Legends in the Big Ten, huh? Such a shame.

I see one clear leader in the Leaders Division. Ohio State should put itself firmly in the national title discussion courtesy of a schedule that shouldn't throw too many hurdles in the Buckeyes' path. Maybe OSU slips up on a trip to Northwestern. Michigan could knock off the Buckeyes in their season finale. I guess Wisconsin could sneak out of Columbus with a win. Still,  I'd make OSU the prohibitive favorite on that side of the league.

In the Legends Division, I'm really high on Michigan State. No, quarterback Andrew Maxwell isn't going to remind anyone of Joe Namath. Yes, the loss of leading rusher Le'Veon Bell hurts. Ditto for defensive lineman William Gholston. None of that will sway me away from what should be the best defense in the conference. The Spartans were far better last year than their record indicated, and I suspect they get a few better breaks this season.

In the conference title game, give me Ohio St. over Sparty in a classic Big Ten boxing match.

  • Champ: Ohio State over Michigan State
  • MVP: Braxton Miller, Ohio State
  • Coach of the Year: Kevin Wilson, Indiana

Andy Coppens' Take: So…. Let me get this straight, so far y'all have got OSU winning the Big Ten championship game, yet not rewarding Urban Meyer as Coach of the Year? Curious at best if you ask me because I have a feeling it'll take an undefeated season to get out of the Leaders division ahead of Wisconsin. That means Meyer and the Buckeyes will be 24-0 over the past two regular seasons heading into the Championship game… How is that not Coach of the Year material? I digress…

That said it's hard not to like the fighting Urb's chances of at least winning the division. Their schedule gets vastly easier this season and it appears that Braxton Miller is going to be more of a QB than a glorified running back who can throw the ball insanely far if needed in a pinch. He's got a ton of talent around him on offense. The only hesitation, as I mentioned on the CBR podcast, is the pass defense which could be exacerbated by a youth movement on the line and at linebacker.

As for the Legends division this is really a four team race to say the least. Anyone that thinks Northwestern won't be in it is fooling themselves. It's by far the most talented and deep team Northwestern has put together in the modern era (post WWII). MSU has a great defense, but is going to have to count on a QB who sucked more than he was good last season and a bevy of unproven freshman at running back to make an offense that is at least mediocre at best. Michigan is really good, but I don't like their schedule. So that leaves the Cornhuskers.It's hard to see how Nebraska doesn't fly through this division for me, especially avoiding OSU and Wisconsin out of the Leaders division.

  • Champ: Nebraska over Ohio State
  • MVP: Taylor Martinez, Nebraska
  • Coach of the Year: Urban Meyer (let's remember the awards come out before the championship game)

Jonathan Biles' Take: Is this even a question? Ohio State has possibly the easiest schedule in the country, with a returning Heisman-caliber quarterback, one of the best coaches around and a solid recruiting class. Could they lose to Purdue in West Lafayette, or Illinois in Champaign? Sure. But this isn’t Jim Tressel coaching the Buckeyes, this is Urban Meyer. The sweater vest is gone, and whatever Urban wears is here. The B1G will probably face another year of low scoring games, snow and getting crushed in bowl games by the other conferences, but Ohio State could become the standard-bearer for the cold, dark North of college football.

Ohio State should be fine on the offensive end – Coach Meyer’s strong suit – but will have to find themselves on defense. Losing senior linebacker John Simon to the NFL hurts, and finding a replacement for a team leader like that will be a challenge. Expect Ryan Shazier or Bradley Roby to step into that void and refocus the Buckeyes towards having a defense that can stop the not-so-high-powered offenses of the B1G Ten. Youth in the secondary and linebackers could be a sore-spot for the Scarlet and Gray, but players will step up and their defensive coaches – Luke Fickell and Mike Vrabel, primarily – are some of the best in the conference.

With the schedule as it is, the Buckeyes should have minimal problems navigating through their conference, as well as a treacherous non-conference lineup that includes the likes of Buffalo, San Diego State, Florida A&M and Cal. That Cal game does has “TRAP” written all over it, though.

I feel like I should talk about the other teams in the B1G Ten, but they shouldn’t matter too much if Ohio State does what they should. Let’s see who Urban gets fired or makes leave this year. Bielema was his first victim last year, who inexplicably left the overly-competitive recruiting climate of the B1G Ten to an even more intense area to recruit, the South.

  • Champ: Ohio State over Nebraska
  • MVP: Braxton Miller, Ohio State QB
  • Coach of the Year: Urban Meyer. Boring, I know.
Kevin McGuire

About Kevin McGuire

Managing editor of Crystal Ball Run and contributor to College Football Talk on NBCSports.com. Member of the FWAA and National Football Foundation. College Football Hall of Fame voter. Also managing Bloguin's NittanyLionsDen.com and Macho-Row.com.

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