Big Ten Football 2019 Predictions

Complete Big Ten preview for 2019

The Big Ten tied the SEC for the most teams (seven) in Athlon’s projected top 25 teams, and 10 programs are projected to reach bowl eligibility in Athlon’s Big Ten predictions for 2019. While the teams – Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, Nebraska, Iowa and Wisconsin – atop the Big Ten predictions are familiar, the upcoming season could bring change to which programs represent the divisions for the conference title game in Indianapolis this December.

 

Ohio State has claimed three of the last five East Division titles, but rival Michigan is the pick for 2019. The Wolverines catch two breaks this season: The game is in Ann Arbor and Urban Meyer isn’t roaming the sidelines in Columbus anymore. Michigan’s offense finished second in the conference in scoring (35.2 ppg) last fall, but coach Jim Harbaugh is handing the keys to Josh Gattis to call plays in 2019. Gattis should help the Wolverines take advantage of tempo and more spread looks, which figure to mesh well with a deep receiving corps and quarterback Shea Patterson. Michigan’s offensive line has improved significantly since the start of the 2018 campaign and ranks as the No. 1 unit in the league. With Don Brown leading the way on defense, the Wolverines should be able to minimize the regression from losing linebacker Devin Bush, cornerback David Long and ends Rashan Gary and Chase Winovich. That’s still a lot of talent to replace, but Michigan has a good foundation coming back for 2019. It’s no secret Ryan Day inherits big shoes to fill in replacing Meyer. However, the former play-caller is a rising star in the coaching ranks and should ensure the Buckeyes won’t slip on the national level. The addition of Georgia transfer Justin Fields will ease the loss of Dwayne Haskins under center. The sophomore has plenty of skill talent at his disposal, including one of the nation’s top receiving corps and running back J.K. Dobbins. Ohio State underachieved on defense last season, but new co-coordinators Jeff Hafley and Greg Mattison have plenty of talent to work with.

 

Penn State edged Michigan State in Athlon’s projections for third in the East Division. Coach James Franklin’s team has to replace quarterback Trace McSorley, but a standout defense is in place with six returning starters, and the Nittany Lions return a solid foundation on offense to ease new starter Sean Clifford under center. The Spartans boast one of the Big Ten’s best defenses, but coach Mark Dantonio’s team needs more out of the offense. A healthy Brian Lewerke at quarterback should help. It’s a tossup between Maryland and Indiana for fifth in the East picks, with Rutgers checking in at seventh. 

 

The West Division brought some of the toughest decisions of Athlon’s 2019 Big Ten predictions. On paper, Iowa is best team in the division. The Hawkeyes are strong on the line of scrimmage, and quarterback Nate Stanley will challenge for All-Big Ten honors. However, coach Kirk Ferentz’s team plays at Michigan, Northwestern, Wisconsin and Nebraska and has a home date versus Penn State in crossover play. Similar to Iowa, Wisconsin has a tough slate in its quest to get back to the conference title game. The Badgers catch Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State from the East and have road trips to Nebraska and Minnesota. Running back Jonathan Taylor is a Heisman candidate, but Wisconsin has to rebuild its offensive line and break in a new full-time quarterback.

 

 

With the schedule factor working against Iowa and Wisconsin, Nebraska has a favorable path to the West Division title. The Cornhuskers catch the Hawkeyes, Badgers and Ohio State in Lincoln and won’t have to play Michigan or Michigan State. Coach Scott Frost’s team showed marked improvement over the second half of last season and should carry that momentum into 2019. Quarterback Adrian Martinez is already among the Big Ten’s best and some improvement is expected on a defense that gave up 31.3 points a game last fall.

 

Northwestern – the defending West Division champs – can lean on a solid defense to contend once again. However, the Wildcats will need more out of an offense that averaged only 24.2 points a game last fall. The addition of Clemson transfer Hunter Johnson at quarterback should provide a spark. Minnesota is another team on the rise, as coach P.J. Fleck’s squad has one of the league’s deepest backfields and an All-America candidate (Tyler Johnson) at receiver. If Zack Annexstad or Tanner Morgan provide solid play at quarterback, the Golden Gophers could surprise. Quarterback Elijah Sindelar is back from a redshirt year to pilot a dangerous Purdue offense. All-purpose playmaker Rondale Moore should see plenty of touches, but for the Boilermakers to exceed last year’s six wins, solidifying the offensive line and a taking a step forward on defense is needed. Illinois has shown some signs of progress entering coach Lovie Smith’s fourth year. Reaching a bowl will require a quarterback to emerge, along with marked improvement out of a defense that surrendered 39.4 points a game in 2018.

 

Big Ten 2019 Unit Rankings

Best RB 

Units

Best WR

Units

Best OL

Units

Best DL

Units

Best LB

Units

Best DB

Units

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Big Ten Football 2019 Predictions
       
East Division
Rank   Projected Big Ten Record Projected Overall Record
1 Michigan 8-1 12-1
2 Ohio State 8-1 11-1
3 Penn State 6-3 9-3
4 Michigan State 5-4 8-4
5 Maryland 3-6 5-7
6 Indiana 2-7 5-7
7 Rutgers 0-9 2-10
       
West Division
Rank   Projected Big Ten Record Projected Overall Record
1 Nebraska 6-3 9-4
2 Iowa 6-3 9-3
3 Wisconsin 5-4 8-4
4 Northwestern 5-4 7-5
5 Minnesota 4-5 7-5
6 Purdue 4-5 6-6
7 Illinois 1-8 4-8
       
Big Ten Championship
Michigan over Nebraska

 

 

Big Ten 2019 Superlatives and Season Predictions


Offensive POY

Pick by Steven Lassan: Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin

Pick by Mitch Light: Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin

Pick by Mark Ross: Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin

 

Defensive POY

Pick by Steven Lassan: A.J. Epenesa, DE, Iowa

Pick by Mitch Light: A.J. Epenesa, DE, Iowa

Pick by Mark Ross: Chase Young, DE, Ohio State

 

Coach of the Year

Pick by Steven Lassan: Scott Frost, Nebraska

Pick by Mitch Light: Scott Frost, Nebraska

Pick by Mark Ross: Scott Frost, Nebraska

 

Coach on the Hot Seat

Pick by Steven Lassan: Chris Ash, Rutgers

Pick by Mitch Light: Lovie Smith, Illinois

Pick by Mark Ross: Chris Ash, Rutgers

 

Top Freshman

Pick by Steven Lassan: Wan'Dale Robinson, WR, Nebraska

Pick by Mitch Light: Wan'Dale Robinson, WR, Nebraska

Pick by Mark Ross: Wan'Dale Robinson, WR, Nebraska

 

Top Newcomer

Pick by Steven Lassan: Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State

Pick by Mitch Light: Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State

Pick by Mark Ross: Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State

 

Sleeper Team

Pick by Steven Lassan: Minnesota

Pick by Mitch Light: Minnesota

Pick by Mark Ross: Minnesota

 

Key Position to Watch

Pick by Steven Lassan: Ohio State OL

Pick by Mitch Light: Michigan WRs

Pick by Mark Ross: Michigan DL

 

Best Coordinator Hire

Pick by Steven Lassan: Josh Gattis, OC, Michigan

Pick by Mitch Light: Josh Gattis, OC, Michigan

Pick by Mark Ross: Josh Gattis, OC, Michigan

 

Hardest Team to Evaluate

Pick by Steven Lassan: Michigan State 

Pick by Mitch Light: Penn State

Pick by Mark Ross: Maryland

 

Coach on the Rise

Pick by Steven Lassan: Josh Gattis, OC, Michigan

Pick by Mitch Light: Brent Pry, DC, Penn State

Pick by Mark Ross: Ryan Day, HC, Ohio State

 

Must-See Game

Pick by Steven Lassan: Ohio State at Michigan

Pick by Mitch Light: Ohio State at Michigan

Pick by Mark Ross: Ohio State at Michigan

 

Breakout Player

Pick by Steven Lassan: Cole Van Lanen, OT, Wisconsin

Pick by Mitch Light: Ricky Slade, RB, Penn State

Pick by Mark Ross: Ricky Slade, RB, Penn State

 

Comeback Player

Pick by Steven Lassan: Tarik Black, WR, Michigan

Pick by Mitch Light: Tarik Black, WR, Michigan

Pick by Mark Ross: Brian Lewerke, QB, Michigan State

 

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