We start our Big Ten preview with the West Division. The teams within this region of the Big Ten include: Wisconsin, Nebraska, Purdue, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, and Northwestern. We will break down the schedules for can’t-miss games, trap games, and must-see offensive players and defensive players for each team to determine a definitive pre-season ranking for the Big Ten West.
[tps_title]1. Wisconsin Badgers 10-2 (7-1) Bowl Projection: Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl[/tps_title]
To the surprise of few, Wisconsin rounds out the top of the Big Ten West this season. New head coach Paul Chryst will have a lot to deal with in his first year in Madison, having lost top playmaker Melvin Gordon to the NFL just as competition has heightened throughout the conference. Games against Alabama, Iowa, Nebraska, and Minnesota will give Chryst the platform to prove he should’ve been hired last time around when former coach Bret Bielema left the program.
On offense, the Badgers again have a terrific running back tandem with Corey Clement and Taiwan Deal. Clement is gaining a lot of attention in Big Ten circles as a darkhorse offensive player of the year candidate. Quarterback Joel Stave and wide receiver Alex Erickson also return to bring some stability to the passing game as well. A typical lineman-heavy recruiting class adds to the already dominant culture of big hogs on the O-line for the Badgers so expect Clement and Deal to once again peak over 3,000 yards together while running through most of their opponents.
Season Defining Game: September 5th vs. Alabama Crimson Tide (at Arlington, TX)
Trap Game: November 28th @ Minnesota Golden Gophers
Offensive Player to Watch: #6 Corey Clement-RB
Defensive Player to Watch: #7 Michael Caputo-S
Predicted Losses: Sept. 5 to Alabama, Oct. 10th at Nebraska