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2023 Big Ten Football Conference Preview

2023 Big Ten Preview
(Photo Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)

2023 Big Ten Football Conference Preview

We have tackled the ACC, the Pac-12 and the SEC, now we are to our 2023 Big Ten Football Conference Preview. The Big Ten plays host to three major powers in college football but has some teams who could sneak up on you and surprise some folks this year. Outside of the SEC, this is the best conference for competitive football you will get in the country. You can make the argument that any of the three top teams (Ohio State, Michigan or Penn State) could win the conference, but I am here to set the record straight. Let’s talk about it.

No. 1: Penn State

That’s right. I am eating all the cheese I can on the Penn State Nittany Lions, and that includes them winning the Big Ten in 2023. This team will be leaning heavily on the development of Drew Allar, who just might have been their missing piece from a year ago. The Penn State offensive line will give him all the time he needs to find his newly revamped set of receivers, and if all else fails he can find potential Heisman candidate Nicholas Singleton. James Franklin will have his guys ready and firing on all cylinders this year and I believe they are the team to beat in the conference this year.

No. 2: Michigan

My apologies to Vendetta’s James Herrick, as I have his Michigan Wolverines finishing behind Penn State in my 2023 Big Ten Football preview. It is fair to say, however, that the Big Ten does run through Ann Arbor, as Michigan has won back-to-back conference titles. I am a big fan of J.J. McCarthy as I believe he will take that next step in his development this year. The dynamic duo of Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards will be hard for opposing defenses to stop. My picking Michigan to finish behind Penn State is by no means a knock on the Wolverines; I believe they will be one of the top teams in the nation this year.

No. 3: Ohio State

I listed Ohio State as a pretender this year, as something just feels off with this team. They don’t carry the same energy as they used to. Don’t get it twisted, I believe Marvin Harrison Jr. should be a Heisman favorite, Emeka Egbuka is another stud and the Buckeyes have very nice pieces on defense. But this offensive line terrifies me, as they will be starting three new guys up front. When you are a school at the level Ohio State is, you cannot afford any mistakes. My concern is this offensive line won’t keep up over the length of the season, and it could cost them a game or two this year.

No. 4: Wisconsin

If new head coach Luke Fickell can fix this offense, Wisconsin could be a sneaky 10-win team this year. Fickell inherits arguably the best situation of all the new hires, as the Wisconsin defense returns eight starters from a year ago and should take another step forward as one of the better defenses in the country. Phil Longo will be bringing his air raid-style offense to Madison, which will be a complete 180 from what the Badgers have been known for for decades now. Transfer Tanner Mordecai is an upgrade from Graham Mertz, but you can’t forget about Braelon Allen. If you do, he will drop 100 yards on you before you know it.

No. 5: Maryland

Here is where the drop-off comes in my 2023 Big Ten preview. The Terrapins are emerging from their most successful season during coach Mike Locksley’s tenure. However, in order to progress further, Locksley and his coaching team face the task of addressing multiple gaps in the team. Notably, there are four new starters on the offensive line who will be responsible for protecting quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa. Additionally, the defensive front is in the midst of a rebuilding process. To bolster its lineup, Maryland has brought in several portal additions, but time will tell how this team gels.

No. 6: Iowa

What on earth is this Iowa team? Yes, you have one of the best defenses in the entire country, led by cornerback Cooper DeJean and one of my favorite safeties in Xavier Nwankpa, but man this offense is dreadful. Cade McNamara transferred in which might help boost this offense along with the other weapons they brought in, but it would need to be a massive change from a year ago to take this Hawkeyes team seriously in 2023.

No. 7: Illinois

Illinois is going to be a thorn in the side of every team they play this year. This defense only allowed 12.8 points per game a year ago, and while it did lose Devon Witherspoon, it returned defensive linemen Keith Randolph Jr. and Jer’Zhan Newton. Ole Miss transfer quarterback Luke Altmyer should pump some life into this offense, and if he does, don’t be shocked if the Fighting Illini pull off a few upsets this year.

No. 8: Minnesota

While Mohamed Ibrahim‘s absence will be felt, Sean Tyler (a transfer from Western Michigan), Zach Evans and true freshman Darius Taylor will maintain a strong ground game for the Golden Gophers. The Minnesota offense may rely on the passing game due to the progress of quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis and nice options at receiver. The offensive line only returns two starters and that should be a major cause for concern.

No. 9: Nebraska

Can Matt Rhule revive the Nebraska Cornhuskers? He will be inheriting an offense that returns eight starters from a year ago and a new transfer Quarterback in Jeff Sims. This offensive line should take a step forward as well, but this team will need to lean on veteran leadership as most of this roster is quite young.

No. 10: Purdue

The defense is in shambles, only returning four starters from a year ago. The Boilermakers lost Aidan O’Connell to the NFL and have question marks surrounding the position. However, they hit the transfer portal hard this offseason and retooled the defense. The only question is was it enough to keep them afloat while the offense finds their feet?

No. 11: Rutgers

Rutgers reminds me a lot of Virginia in the ACC. This is a team that didn’t perform all that well a year ago, but quietly had one of the better defenses and will look to develop the offense. The defense returns seven starters from a year ago and will look to help out an offense that only averaged 17.4 points per game last season. Kirk Ciarrocca coming in to call the offense will likely help their development in 2023.

No. 12: Michigan State

A major faller in this 2023 Big Ten preview, I think Michigan State stinks. Are we sure Mel Tucker is cut out to be a top-end college football head coach? The jury is still out but the Spartans might reach a verdict this season. They lost both Payton Thorne and their best receiver Keon Coleman to the transfer portal and didn’t bring in quality replacements. There are a lot of holes in this roster and not enough pieces to plug them.

No. 13: Indiana

These last two teams in my 2023 Big Ten preview don’t give me a lot to talk about. Indiana has gone 6-18 over the last two years, and there are no real signs of it getting better in 2023. The Hoosiers have a quarterback battle that still feels unresolved and the defense returns just two starters. Not an ideal time to root for Indiana football.

No. 14: Northwestern

Northwestern produced one of my favorite prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft cycle in Adetomiwa Adebawore, and that is all that went right for Northwestern last year. The Wildcats also had a big hazing scandal with Pat Fitzgerald that cost him his job. This roster lacks any real talent and will surely finish as one of the worst teams in the country in 2023.



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