It was supposed to be a “down year” for the SEC, leaving the door wide open for the Big Ten to assert themselves as the top conference. But after a wild, unpredictable season, the Big Ten wasn’t exactly putting it’s best foot forward come bowl season. After a championship game that saw the somewhat surprising Michigan State Spartans play the outright shocking Iowa Hawkeyes, the conference was unceremoniously dispatched in both the National semi-final and the Rose Bowl.
Ohio State managed to regain some respect with a Fiesta Bowl beatdown of Notre Dame, but it was little consolation for a team that expected to be playing on New Year’s Eve and beyond. If only they hadn’t (figuratively) dropped the ball against the Spartans at home late in the year. Or if only Michigan hadn’t (literally) dropped the ball against Michigan State month earlier.
But that is the beauty of college football, a single, crazy moment can make or break your season. Looking ahead to next year, who will get the right breaks?
Well, you have to start with the Wolverines and Jim Harbaugh. His first season was an unmitigated success, rallying a 5-7 program to a 10-3 record and its first bowl win since 2012 (an absolute pummeling of Florida, 41-7). Michigan will return most of their key contributors from last year, including their top two receivers and top rusher, De’Veon Smith. But they can’t be the true champs until they shoo away the former regime of Michigan State and Ohio State.
Speaking of the Buckeyes, they’ll head into next season with a ton of holes to fill. Nine underclassmen joined the massive senior exodus to the NFL Draft. But Ohio St. will have J.T. Barrett back to lead the squad and Urban Meyer at the helm, meaning they are at the top of the contender board.
Iowa won’t be sneaking up on anybody this year, but they’re still a strong program that should contend in the weaker West division. The big goal for the Hawkeyes should just be a good showing in a bowl game though: they haven’t won one since 2010.
The Spartans are less intimidating without Connor Cook, but the reigning champs still need to be respected.
After Michigan State, there’s a medley of teams with strengths, but also flaws holding them back. (For example: Wisconsin and its daunting schedule in 2016.)
Yes, it’s super early to speculate on next year’s season, but the Big Ten needs some good news. So here are our odds for how the conference will shake out next year.
Big Ten 2016-17 Odds
Odds a Big Ten team wins the 2017 National Championship: 4/1
Odds the Big Ten wins the 2017 Rose Bowl: 10/13
Over/Under on 2016-17 bowl wins for the Big Ten: 4.5
Odds to win Big Ten in 2016-17:
- Michigan: 5/2
- Ohio St.: 5/2
- Iowa: 6/1
- Michigan St.: 8/1
- Nebraska: 12/1
- Wisconsin: 12/1
- Penn St.: 18/1
- Minnesota: 25/1
- Northwestern: 25/1
- Maryland: 50/1
- Indiana: 100/1
- Purdue: 150/1
- Rutgers: 200/1
- Illinois: 200/1
(Photo credit: IIP Photo Archive (Originally uploaded to Flickr)[https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/])