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Big Ten Leaders Division Projections

Now just 6 days from the beginning of college football, its time to unveil the 2012 Big Ten-Leaders Conference projections! All six teams from the Leaders Division on Saturday, September 1, starting with a trio of games at noon. The Ohio State Buckeyes being the Urban Meyer era, hosting the Miami University Redhawks on the Big Ten Network. New coach Bill O’Brien leads the Penn State Nittany Lions in their first game after NCAA sanctions were handed down; they host the Ohio University Bobcats on ESPN. The Illinois Fighting Illini, also with a new head coach, Tim Beckman, host the Western Michigan Broncos on ESPNU.

The two of the three remaining Leaders Division teams are in action at 3:30 PM EST, playing FCS opponents. The Wisconsin Badgers open their Big Ten Title defense, facing the always-tough Northern Iowa Panthers on the Big Ten Network (regional game). The Purdue Boilermakers look to improve on their first bowl season under Danny Hope, hosting the Eastern Kentucky Colonials on the Big Ten Network (regional game). The Indiana Hoosiers look to improve on a disappointing 2011 season, playing host to the FCS Indiana State Sycamores at 8:00 PM EST on Big Ten Network.










Ohio State*












Penn State*







Meet the favorites . . .

(1) Wisconsin Badgers

With both Ohio State and Penn State on probation, the Badgers have to be the hands down favorite to win this division. All they have to do is finish ahead of Illinois, Purdue, and Indiana, which shouldn’t be a problem. That said, Wisconsin doesn’t exactly have easy cross-over games, as they host Michigan State and travel to Nebraska. It will be interesting come mid-November, as the Badgers could have the division wrapped up. Assuming Wisconsin has a loss, will they elect to rest players to play for the Big Ten Title?

(2) Illinois Fighting Illini

Because Ohio State is on probation, they are not being included as a contender. It could be a reverse of the PAC-12 South from last year, when UCLA made the PAC-12 Championship game because the best team, USC, was on probation. Here, Ohio State’s probation could create a huge gap between Wisconsin and the other contenders. Still, the greatest beneficiary of the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions probation is likely Illinois. The Illini stumbled to a 6-6 record after starting 6-0 last season. I like the Illini to improve on their two conference wins from last year largely because of their winnable home games (Penn State, Indiana, Minnesota, and Purdue). Be wary of the non-conference slate though, as only Charleston Southern should be considered a lock. Games against Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio State, and Northwestern could leave the Illini winless on the road.

(3) Purdue Boilermakers

Arguably, Penn State would be here if the probation was two years or less. Many of the transfers from Happy Valley were due to the inability of any of the Nittany Lion players being able to see the post-season in any form – bowl game or conference title game. Purdue’s non-conference schedule is pretty manageable, absent a trip to South Bend against Notre Dame. But Purdue could be knocked out of the Big Ten title race early, facing Michigan, Wisconsin, and Ohio State in their first three conference games. The backend of the schedule is much more manageable, and could produce five conference wins. Still, with Wisconsin’s talent, Purdue is going to have to do better than 5-3 in conference.

What are your thoughts on the Big Ten Leaders Division projections? Tweet to us @BVTSB.