Big Ten East & West Previews


It’s always dangerous to make bold predictions in the middle of July about the coming college football season. But we are VERY confident when we say that there will NOT be a replay this year in the Big 10 Championship game between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Michigan State Spartans. There’s just NO way both of those teams will return to the title tilt.

How can we be so confident? They both play in the new EAST Division of the Big 10. No more “Legends” and “Leaders.” The newly expanded Big 10 (which now includes Maryland and Rutgers) is now split geographically in a way that will have Ohio State linked up with potent Michigan State, eternal rival Michigan, and storied Penn State. Only one of those traditional powers can make it to the Big 10 championship game each season…where they will likely face the survivor of Wisconsin, Iowa, and Nebraska (more on that group in tomorrow’s NOTEBOOK).

Who’s going to make it in December of 2014? Let’s run some numbers and see how the race might play out.

Big 10 East Division

Ohio State
2013 Record: 12-2
2013 Rankings: 7 on offense, 46 on defense
Returning Starters: 5 on offense, 6 on defense
Head Coach: Urban Meyer
Notebook: The Buckeyes are the heavy favorites because Heisman Trophy candidate Braxton Miller returns at quarterback. They surely would like to have returned more experience on both sides of the ball in terms of a championship chase. But, these guys are the clear frontrunners because Michigan State returns less talent and has a shakier offense. OSU doesn’t have quite the gift schedule they usually enjoy in September, with Navy, Virginia Tech, and Cincinnati on the slate. They’re still decisive favorites to reach November undefeated. The big game with MSU will be on November 8 in East Lansing.

Michigan State
2013 Record: 13-1
2013 Rankings: 80 on offense, 2 on defense
Returning Starters: 5 on offense, 5 on defense
Head Coach: Mark Dantonio
Notebook: You can make a very good case that Michigan State was superior to Ohio State late last season, which means they should technically be the favorites in the East. MSU beat the Buckeyes 34-24 in Indianapolis to win a Rose Bowl bid…then best Stanford 24-20 in the Rose Bowl. Why won’t the media and the market give them more respect? It’s a blind spot that goes back years, even decades in terms of big game football. We have these teams very close in the NETWORK internal Power Ratings entering the season because we respect defense. Don’t miss MSU at Oregon on September 6!

2013 Record: 7-6
2013 Rankings: 86 on offense, 41 on defense
Returning Starters: 7 on offense, 8 on defense
Head Coach: Brady Hoke
Notebook: The Wolverines have been a disappointment that’s now trending in the wrong direction under Coach Hoke. He was a breath of fresh air when he first arrived. Now it’s clear that he doesn’t know how to run a big time offense other than hoping that a scampering quarterback breaks a big play. The defense played worse when it mattered than that yardage ranking would suggest. Good amount returning talent, and Devin Gardner can still make things happen at quarterback. The bad news is that games with MSU and OSU are both on the road.

Penn State
2013 Record: 7-5
2013 Rankings: 43 on offense, 48 on defense
Returning Starters: 3 on offense, 6 on defense
Head Coach: James Franklin
Notebook: Coach Franklin comes over from Vanderbilt after his predecessor helped settle a sinking ship. But, this isn’t a group that seems ready to compete. You can see that graduation killed the offense. And, we’re talking about an inconsistent team that got routed by Indiana last year and had to go overtime to beat helpless Illinois. We will be looking to fade the Nittany Lions in league play unless the new offensive starters show us something in September. Note that quarterback Christian Hackenburg is one of the three returning starters on that side of the ball, which could smooth the transition.

2013 Record: 7-6 (in the ACC)
2013 Rankings: 75 on offense, 44 on defense
Returning Starters: 7 on offense, 9 on defense
Head Coach: Randy Edsall
Notebook: The Terps did manage a winning record last year. But, that was padded by victories over Florida International and Old Dominion. Maryland had a losing record in the mediocre ACC, then lost their bowl game to Marshall of Conference USA, 31-20. Very tough to see them mattering in their Big 10 debut. An unlucky schedule break has them facing both Wisconsin and Iowa from the “West” division too. At least the team is experienced (including quarterback CJ Brown). The kids will get the thrill of playing Big 10 football before they graduate.

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2013 Record: 5-7
2013 Rankings: 9 on offense, 120 on defense
Returning Starters: 7 on offense, 9 on defense
Head Coach: Kevin Wilson
Notebook: The Hoosiers are definitely moving in the right direction. That 5-7 record generally consisted of impressive wins vs. bad Big 10 teams, but losses to the powers because Indiana just doesn’t have the horses to hang tough for 60 minute vs. quality. They are no longer a doormat, which is important. We expect good things to continue this season, and are very interested to see how Indiana handles early road tests at Bowling Green and Missouri. We have them higher than Maryland in our own Power Ratings, and those two will open Big 10 play against each other on the last Saturday of September.

2013 Record: 6-7 (in the American Athletic Conference)
2013 Rankings: 95 on offense, 73 on defense
Returning Starters: 9 on offense, 5 on defense
Head Coach: Kyle Food
Notebook: Like Maryland, Rutgers at least brings a lot of returning starters over to the new conference. But, also like Maryland, Rutgers was only bowl eligible last year because of wins over bad teams (Norfolk State and Eastern Michigan), went 3-5 in a sub-par conference, and lost its bowl game by double digits (29-16 to disinterested Notre Dame). Gary Nova returns at quarterback, making it a full clean sweep for returning experience at QB in the Big 10 East. That’s amazing considering what we just went through in our ACC previews with hardly anyone returning at the position. Big 10 play starts early with a home game vs. Penn State on September 13.

Back with your tomorrow to look at the other half of the Big 10. The most important thing about this weekend is that NETWORK clients can go back to making money! The All-Star Break is over, and we now have BIG, JUICY WINNERS up every day in baseball.

You can purchase those right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about baseball or football service, call us in the office 1-800-323-4453.

Ahead in the NOTEBOOK…

Sunday: College Football…Big 10 “West” Preview
Monday: MLB Series Preview…LA Dodgers at Pittsburgh Pirates
Tuesday: MLB Series Preview…Tampa Bay at St. Louis
Wednesday: College Football…Pac 12 “North” Preview
Thursday: College Football…Pac 12 “South” Preview

Enjoy the great summer weekend…and be sure you GET ALL THE MONEY with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK®!



As the Big 10 begins its first season as a 14-team league split into Eastern and Western halves, it looks like the West will be the weaker of the two halves out of the gate. There’s no guarantee it will stay that way because college football is always in a state of flux. But, THIS YEAR, Wisconsin may be at least a touchdown better than everyone else even after getting hit hard by graduation.

Yesterday we studied Ohio State, Michigan State, and the rest of the East. Today, it’s Westward Ho as Wisconsin, Iowa, and Nebraska move into the spotlight…

Big 10 West

2013 Record: 9-4
2013 Rankings: 18 on offense, 7 on defense
Returning Starters: 5 on offense, 3 on defense
Head Coach: Gary Anderson
Notebook: Joel Stave is back at quarterback, but the team as a whole lost a lot of talent to graduation. You can see that on the defensive side in particular. Can that unit get ready for the season opener against LSU in Houston? If the Badgers impress vs. the Tigers, then the Western race could be a piece of cake. If not, then the door is open for a spoiler to rise up and make things interesting. A gift schedule has Wisconsin missing Ohio State, Michigan State, and Michigan from the other half of the league…though in the division the Badgers must visit Iowa and Northwestern.

2013 Record: 8-5
2013 Rankings: 84 on offense, 6 on defense
Returning Starters: 6 on offense, 5 on defense
Head Coach: Kirk Frerentz
Notebook: The Hawkeyes also return their starting quarterback, but Jake Rudock only led the #84 offense in the nation. And, this is a team that got to play a lot of soft defenses in 2013. The team will still have to win with defense, which means winning “ugly” even when things are going well. This year’s schedule is very soft, and the potential divisional decider will be in Iowa City on November 22 when Wisconsin comes to visit. We’re likely to have Iowa lower this season in our Power Ratings than the media will in the poll rankings. 

2013 Record: 9-4
2013 Rankings: 58 on offense, 40 on defense
Returning Starters: 3 on offense, 5 on defense
Head Coach: Bo Pelini
Notebook: The program has seemed on the verge of implosion of late. A New Year’s bowl win over shorthanded Georgia helped erase the bad vibes that had been brewing from a bad September home loss to UCLA through a bad November home loss to Iowa. Quarterback Tommy Armstrong saw some action last season, but was turnover prone. The returning starter tally is low, tying Wisconsin for lowest in the whole conference. September games at Fresno State and vs. Miami should provide decent testers for league play. For now, you have to assume Nebraska is still a go-against” team against good teams in games that matter.

2013 Record: 5-7
2013 Rankings: 73 on offense, 88 on defense
Returning Starters: 9 on offense, 7 on defense
Head Coach: Pat Fitzgerald
Notebook: The Wildcats are always a potential sleeper…and always a potential disaster. They play smart, and bring peak intensity. But, talent depth isn’t there…and the defenses usually wears down over the course of the season. We like their chances to make a run this year because they return more starters than anyone else in the division…and likely quarterback Trevor Siemian is a good match for the planned system. We’ll watch the openers with California and Northern Illinois closely before making any bold predictions about the league race. The Cats do get Wisconsin in Evanston on October 4, and also host Iowa. Our initial Power Ratings have NW second in this division, though most of the media has them further off the pace.

2013 Record: 8-5
2013 Rankings: 105 on offense, 43 on defense
Returning Starters: 7 on offense, 7 on defense
Head Coach: Jerry Kill
Notebook: Minnesota had one of those offenses that bullied soft defenses with a run game, but couldn’t do anything against teams who knew how to stop the run. That’s very likely to continue this season because preferred quarterback Philip Nelson transferred to Rutgers (because he didn’t want to spend his career handing off!). Simple handicapping approach with this group, take them at value prices vs. soft run defenses, fade them or take the Under vs. good run defenses.

2013 Record: 4-8
2013 Rankings: 46 on offense, 110 on defense
Returning Starters: 6 on offense, 8 on defense
Head Coach: Tim Beckman
Notebook: That 4-8 record overstates the Illini’s quality last year. Among their victims were Southern Illinois, horrible Miami of Ohio, and horrible Purdue. The defense was atrocious even against a soft schedule. The good news is that promising quarterback Wes Lunt has transferred in from Oklahoma State. That and a good number of returning starters shows the potential for legitimate improvement. A road game at Washington on September 13 will be the best test for what’s ahead in league play. Road games at Wisconsin and Ohio State will probably prevent any sort of true breakthrough season.

2013 Record: 1-11
2013 Rankings: 119 on offense, 104 on defense
Returning Starters: 6 on offense, 6 on defense
Head Coach: Darrell Hazell
Notebook: Last season was horrendous, with the only win coming over Indiana State (and it was close!). Young quarterback Danny Etling was hyped coming out of high school. He was given the starting job midway through last season so he could learn how to swim in the deep end right away. Young quarterbacks often do make big leaps forward in this scenario…but it’s less likely to happen in doormat programs. Reasonable tests (class-wise) come right out of the gate against Western and Central Michigan. Week three against Notre Dame in Indianapolis (home field of the Colts) will tell us what we need to know about hopes for competitiveness in the Big 10.

That wraps up the Big 10. Don’t forget that the best way to prepare for the coming football season is to build your bankroll with BIG, JUICY BASEBALL WINNERS from JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK! You can purchase BEST BETS right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about baseball or football service, call us in the office 1-800-323-4453. Representatives are available during normal business hours on weekdays, and before first pitch on Saturdays and Sundays.

We’ll spend a couple of days with baseball before resuming our college football conference previews on Wednesday. Here’s the coming schedule…

Monday: MLB Series Preview…LA Dodgers at Pittsburgh Pirates
Tuesday: MLB Series Preview…Tampa Bay at St. Louis
Wednesday: College Football…Pac 12 “North” Preview
Thursday: College Football…Pac 12 “South” Preview
Friday: MLB Series Preview…LA Dodgers at San Francisco
Saturday: College Football…Big 12 Preview
Sunday: College Football…American Athletic Conference Preview

Hope you’re having a great summer weekend. You can always TURN UP THE HEAT on Vegas sportsbooks with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!



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