(Ed. Note – this is a guest post by Jordan Webb)
One of the most competitive and talent-filled conferences in college football, the Big Ten should be even more compelling than last year (which was still a good season). Heading into 2013, there are a variety of Big Ten stories to watch. Here are five:
1. Will Ohio State Dominate Again?
With the arrival of coach Urban Meyer, Ohio State was one of the BCS front-runners in 2012. However, thanks to a one-year bowl suspension caused by the Jim Tressel regime, Ohio State couldn’t compete for the title. This was horribly inopportune for the Buckeyes, considering they went 12-0 and would have played in the national championship game. Still bitter over its BCS snub, Ohio State should be in contention for the national title this year. An impressive 15 of Ohio State’s 22 starters return from last year. However, it remains to be seen if Meyer can fill the gaps left in the starting rotation, which includes a departed defensive line. Nevertheless, look for Ohio State to make major waves this season.
2. How will Coaching Changes Affect the Big Ten?
Two head coaches will make their Big Ten debuts this season, which will make for great theater. The most notable change is at Wisconsin. After head coach Bret Bielema accepted a position at Arkansas, the school hired Gary Andersen from Utah State. Andersen turned around Utah State’s program in his four seasons thanks to his formidable defense. That type of defensive mindset will strengthen an already-strong Badgers team. In addition, Purdue made a coaching change by hiring Darrell Hazell from Kent State. While Hazell improved Kent State’s winning percentage during his tenure, can Hazell effectively coach against the likes of Ohio State and Michigan Wolverines football?
3. Can the Big Ten Improve Its Bowl Record?
The Big Ten was terrible in bowl games last year—going an anemic 2-5 in the postseason. This has to improve if the Big Ten wants full respect on the national level. Nebraska and Michigan lost to SEC teams (Georgia and South Carolina, respectively), while Wisconsin lost to Stanford of the Pac-12. But this goes deeper than respect. We’re talking about recruiting here. Think about it. When SEC and Pac-12 coaches go into the homes of talented recruits, they can easily disparage the Big Ten’s level of competition by pointing at the postseason. Hey kid, do you want to play in the Big Ten or do you want to play the best college football? Ouch.
4. Can Nebraska Regain Consistency? While Nebraska won the Legends Division last year, the team struggled outside of conference play and on the national stage. This showed in the Huskers’ four losses, where the team gave up an average of 53.5 points. Poor defense ultimately sealed the fate of Nebraska in the Big Ten Championship, where the Huskers allowed 70 points to Wisconsin. With many of last year's defensive starters gone, Nebraska must revitalize its defensive play and reassert itself as the defensive powerhouse it once was. Doing so will put this team on its way to being a national contender and Big Ten champion.
5. Will the Heisman Go to a Big Ten Player?
Always stacked with talent, it’s quite possible that the Heisman Trophy will go to a Big Ten player this year. Key individuals to watch this season include Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller, Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah and Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner. Look for any of these players to shine this season, especially Miller, who has the benefit of a star offensive line and running back to take the pressure off. If the Big Ten wins the award, it will be the first time since Ohio State’s Troy Smith took the title in 2006.