Big Ten Win Total Projections for 2014

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Will Penn State win more than eight games in 2014?

Big Ten Win Total Projections for 2014

The start of the 2014 college football season is still over 80 days away, but there is no shortage of news to fill the offseason in the Big Ten. Although there’s a long way until kickoff, the preview magazines for 2014 are already on newsstands, and Vegas isn’t far behind with its projections for the upcoming season.
 
CG Technology has released some its win total projections for 2014, and Athlon Sports examined the SEC totals on Thursday. With the early picks for the SEC in the books, it’s time to shift focus and examine the Big Ten.
With the addition of Rutgers and Maryland, the Big Ten is now a 14-team league and has shuffled the divisions once again.
 
The East is stronger than the West in 2014, as Ohio State and Michigan State are both contenders for the college football playoff. There’s also quality depth in the East with Penn State, Michigan and improving teams like Indiana and Maryland. The West Division is headlined by Wisconsin, with Iowa and Nebraska not too far behind.
There is plenty of time to refine predictions over the next few months, but with the release of the win total projections, let’s take a look at the early thoughts on the over/under projections.
 
Athlon’s Braden Gall (@BradenGall) and Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven) give their early thoughts on CG Technology’s projections for 2014.
 

Big Ten Win Total Projections for 2014: Over, Under or Push

 

Big Ten East Division

 

Indiana (Opening Number: 5)

Braden Gall: Push

The Hoosiers draw the much tougher division and non-conference games with Missouri and Bowling Green seem to indicate making a bowl game is a long shot. Push or under for Indiana.
 
Steven Lassan: Push
Indiana is on the right track under Kevin Wilson, but the schedule is brutal in 2014. Non-conference games against Bowling Green, Missouri and North Texas are challenging, and the Hoosiers get Iowa in crossover play. With an explosive offense, Indiana could sneak into an upset somewhere along the way. However, the Hoosiers need new coordinator Brian Knorr to quickly find answers on a defense that allowed 7.4 yards per play in conference games last year.
 
 

Maryland (Opening Number: 6.5)

Braden Gall: Under
Maryland is in much better shape to compete in the new league than Rutgers, but three interesting non-conference games and landing in a brutal division makes a winning season seem far-fetched. This team still gets to a bowl game but does so at .500.
 
Steven Lassan: Under
I think six wins is reasonable for Maryland in 2014. The Terrapins are transitioning to a tougher league, but the offense will be dangerous if receivers Stefon Diggs and Deon Long stay healthy. Getting to seven victories is possible if Maryland picks up a win in a swing game against Syracuse in non-conference play.
 
 

Michigan (Opening Number: 8)

Braden Gall: Push
Vegas knows what it’s doing. This team has talent, and the new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier should be an improvement. But the schedule is still hard enough that challenging for the division is likely out of the conversation.
 
Steven Lassan: Push
Plenty of talent in Ann Arbor, but Michigan’s win total rests on an unsettled offensive line and rushing attack. Hitting the over likely rests on swing games against Notre Dame and Penn State.
 
 

Michigan State (Opening Number: 9.5)

Braden Gall: Over
There are a lot of losses on defense but some serious talent returning as well. The offense is a strength for the first time in years, and Mark Dantonio is still running the show in East Lansing. Getting Ohio State at home makes the over almost a foregone conclusion.
 
Steven Lassan: Over
This pick seems like one of the safest on the board in the Big Ten. I think Michigan State could win at Oregon, but road trips to Penn State and Maryland (one week after playing Ohio State) could be tougher than some may expect. Even though Mark Dantonio needs to replace a few names on defense, the offense will be dangerous with the return of quarterback Connor Cook and running back Jeremy Langford.
 
 

Ohio State (Opening Number: 10.5)

Braden Gall: Over
The Buckeyes have been 12-0 in the last two regular seasons and this defensive line is much better than the previous two teams. With Braxton Miller and Urban Meyer still joined at the hip on offense, there is no reason to think they won win at least 11 games again.
 
Steven Lassan: Over
There are few obstacles standing in the way of a playoff run by Ohio State. The offensive line is a concern, and the defense has to improve, but coach Urban Meyer and quarterback Braxton Miller is still one of the best combinations in the nation. The Buckeyes play at Penn State and Michigan State, but a split of those two games is likely.
 
 

Penn State (Opening Number: 8)

Braden Gall: Over
The offensive line is a major concern but the quarterback is special and the new coaching staff is one of the best in the land. Most importantly, the schedule is a cinch with two, maybe three, tough games all year.
 
Steven Lassan: Over
Perhaps our magazine prediction of 10 wins for Penn State is a bit high, but I think the over is very attainable. The Nittany Lions host both Ohio State and Michigan State this year and catch UCF without Blake Bortles in the opener. Also, new coach James Franklin always maximized the talent on the roster at Vanderbilt.
 
 

Rutgers (Opening Number: 4.5)

Braden Gall: Under
Rutgers got a really bad draw in its first Big Ten season with a tough non-conference game in Seattle against Washington State, as well as Wisconsin and Nebraska in crossover play. More than one Big Ten win is a long shot.
 
Steven Lassan: Under
Expect Ralph Friedgen to help the offense, but Rutgers still has concerns about its secondary and the consistency of quarterback Gary Nova. The schedule is brutal, and after winning six games in the American Athletic Conference, some regression is ahead in the Big Ten in 2014.
 
 

Big Ten West Division

 

Illinois (Opening Number: 5)

Braden Gall: Under
The talent simply isn’t there for Tim Beckman to work with. The offense under Bill Cubit will be solid, but this team has to play at Washington in non-conference action before getting Ohio State and Penn State in crossover matchups. Unlucky Illini win four times in 2014.
 
Steven Lassan: Under
Tempted to take the push here. I have no doubt Illinois is going to score a ton of points this year. Unfortunately, the Fighting Illini still has major concerns on defense. Perhaps Illinois pulls an upset at home against Minnesota or Penn State, but until I see improvement on defense, the under is the better pick.
 
 

Iowa (Opening Number: 8.5)

Braden Gall: Under
The schedule sets up nicely for Iowa, but this team rarely is good when it’s supposed to be. The defense is rebuilding and the offense is still one of the Big Ten’s worst (9th a year ago). The Hawkeyes will slip up once on the road (at Pitt, Maryland, Minnesota, Illinois) and that gives me the under.
 
Steven Lassan: Over
Iowa is the biggest threat to Wisconsin in the West Division this year. Sure, the Hawkeyes need to replace all three linebackers, but that’s usually a strength under Kirk Ferentz. With the Badgers and Nebraska visiting Kinnick Stadium, Iowa will have a chance to surprise in 2014.
 
 

Minnesota (Opening Number: 6.5)

Braden Gall: Under
This program is heading in the right direction but some key pieces are gone from a team that won eight games last year. A non-conference road trip to TCU makes seven wins look very difficult.
 
Steven Lassan: Under
I think it’s likely the Golden Gophers could be a better overall team than they were in 2013, but it may not show in the win column in 2014. A road trip to TCU limits the win total to three in non-conference play, and the November slate is brutal with games against Nebraska, Iowa, Ohio State and Wisconsin. Seems like six is the perfect number for Minnesota.
 
 

Nebraska (Opening Number: 8)

Braden Gall: Push
Death, taxes and four losses for Bo Pelini. Another 8-4 season appears to be in the cards for Nebraska with two tricky non-conference game (at Fresno State, Miami) as well as a really tough road Big Ten slate: at Michigan State, Northwestern, Wisconsin and Iowa.
 
Steven Lassan: Push
This one is tough. I think eight or nine is the right number, and I could probably switch my opinion on that one on a daily basis. With Miami breaking in a new quarterback, the Sept. 20 matchup against the Hurricanes looks very winnable. However, the road slate in the Big Ten is challenging, and Bo Pelini’s team catches Michigan State in crossover play.
 
 

Northwestern (Opening Number: 6)

Braden Gall: Push
There is no way the Wildcats are as unlucky as they were a year ago (See: Hail Mary and injuries). Logic would indicate with a coach as solid as Pat Fitzgerald and just a touch of luck, Northwestern will at least get back to a bowl game.
 
Steven Lassan: Over
Bad luck and injuries hindered Northwestern last season. A healthy Venric Mark makes a big difference at running back, and the defense takes a step forward with seven starters returning.
 
 

Purdue (Opening Number: 3.5)

Braden Gall: Under
This team was so uncompetitive a year ago that winning three more games in 2014 seems highly unlikely. The West Division is easier but Notre Dame and Michigan State are on the slate too. A 3-9 season would be marked improvement (right?).
 
Steven Lassan: Under
Darrell Hazell’s second year at Kent State resulted in a six-game improvement from a 5-7 record in 2011. Don’t expect to see a similar jump in the win total, but I do see Purdue making small progress in 2014. However, small progress is winning only three games and being more competitive against Big Ten opponents.
 
 

Wisconsin (Opening Number: 9.5)

Braden Gall: Over
The schedule is very manageable with the exception of one tough non-conference game (LSU) and two tough divisional bouts. Otherwise, it’s hard to see the Badgers losing very often.
 
Steven Lassan: Over
There’s a ton of new faces stepping into the starting lineup for the Badgers in 2014. However, the schedule is very manageable, with the toughest games against Nebraska and Iowa taking place late in the year – allowing plenty of time for Wisconsin to develop its passing attack.
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