Wisconsin Badgers Picked To Win Big Ten

By: Don Best Staff | Tuesday, August 7, 2012

For bettors this season, the Big Ten really is a 10-team group to consider with two of the most storied college football teams ineligible this season.  But while Ohio State and Penn State take no part in the college football futures betting, those teams will definitely influence the outcome as far as conference futures odds go.

We begin our preview of the conference with a look at three new head coaches for the coming season, including at both Ohio State and Penn State.  Urban Meyer's retirement ended when he took the Buckeyes job.  Meyer was one of the most successful coaches in the country when he went 65-15 while at the helm of the Florida Gators, including two National Championships.

Tim Beckman enters his first season at Illinois after turning around the Toledo Rockets program the past three seasons.  Beckman's overall record in Toledo was 21-16 and the Rockets managed 7-1 marks in the Mid-American Conference each of the past two years which led to bowl appearances.  His resume also includes serving as Oklahoma State's defensive coordinator, a title he also held under Meyer when they were at Bowling Green.

Perhaps the toughest head coaching job this season and beyond is at Penn State where former New England Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien takes over.  His challenges will be both on and off the field after the Nittany Lions program was devastated by scandal.

Three more coaches will be entering their second seasons at Big Ten schools, led by Brady Hoke at Michigan who went 11-2 in his first year.  Jerry Kill returns to Minnesota after a 3-9 campaign and Kevin Wilson is back with the Indiana Hoosiers following a 1-11 mark in 2011.

Plenty of Dual-Threat Quarterbacks In The Big Ten
Versatility is the name of the game as far as quarterbacks go in the conference, and Michigan's Denard Robinson leads the way.  Robinson should be part of the Heisman Trophy discussion all season after rushing for nearly 1,200 yards and throwing for over 2,100 more in 2011.

James Vandenburg isn't a threat on the ground, but the senior passed for over 3,000 yards last season with 25 touchdowns.

Meyer's first season in Columbus includes a great dual-threat QB in Braxton Miller.  He rushed for seven scores and more than 700 yards as a freshman in 2011, and Don Best analyst Kenny White believes Miller fits Meyer's spread-option offense very well.

Illinois' Nathan Scheelhaase also provides first-year coach Beckman with a solid talent under center.  The junior from Kansas City completed more than 63 percent of his passes in 2011 and has rushed for nearly 1,500 yards the last two seasons combined.

Taylor Martinez from Nebraska rounds out the quarterback discussion.  Now entering his junior season, Martinez has some issues throwing the ball which White attributes to "very bad mechanics," but is a great runner with more than 1,800 yards on the ground the past two years while averaging more than 5.2 yards per carry.

Montee Ball Leads Big Ten Running Backs
Though he's working through concussion symptoms from an off-field incident this summer, Kenny White believes Wisconsin's Montee Ball will be fine for the season opener and is the leading Heisman candidate to begin the season after rushing for 33 TD's last year.

Rex Burkhead combines with Martinez to give the Cornhuskers an even more potent rushing attack.  The senior out of Plano, Texas crossed the 1,000-yard plateau a year ago and is closing in on 3,000 rushing yards for his career.

Top wide receivers in the conference are Iowa's Keenan Davis who White believes could be ready to break out with Vandenburg throwing him the ball, and Jared Abbrederis at Wisconsin who will need to adjust to a new QB after Russell Wilson departed for the NFL with the Seattle Seahawks selecting him in the third round.

That new quarterback is Danny O'Brien who, like Wilson, transferred to Madison from an ACC school.  O'Brien threw for more than 4,000 yards in two seasons with Maryland.

Iowa LB Tandem Leads The Defensive Charge
A couple of junior linebackers are expected to step up to the next level after outstanding 2011 seasons for Iowa.  James Morris and Christian Kirksey each topped the 100-tackle mark a year ago, and they'll be counted on heavily for the Hawkeyes again.

Wisconsin's Chris Borland and Mike Taylor lead all Big Ten defenders in tackles last season to garner first-team Big Ten honors.

SCHOOL BIG TEN ODDS
Illinois

20/1

Indiana

65/1

Iowa

20/1

Michigan

3/1

Michigan State

7/1

Minnesota

90/1

Nebraska

7/2

Northwestern

35/1

Purdue

50/1

Wisconsin

6/5

* Ohio State
* Penn State
  
* Ohio State and Penn State ineligible for Big Ten and BCS titles due to violations of NCAA rules.

Follow Don Best throughout the preseason as we preview each and every football conference: ACC ... Big 12 ... Big East ... Big Ten ...

 
 
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