College Football — Big Ten Preview: Wisconsin Set Up to Run West

 M.P. King/ Wisconsin State Journal Wisconsin Badgers quarterback Tanner McEvoy is gearing up to lead the Badgers back to the top of the Big Ten.

M.P. King/ Wisconsin State Journal
Wisconsin Badgers quarterback Tanner McEvoy is gearing up to lead the Badgers back to the top of the Big Ten.

WARR writer Kevin Luchansky normally writes about baseball for WARR.com., this college football season he plans on expanding his reach by writing on another passion of his — college football.

Kevin, an alum of Indiana University, will provide coverage on the Big Ten throughout the college football season along with periodic looks at the big games that will help shape the race to the first ever College Football Playoff. In his first post, we got a preview of the Big Ten’s East division, here he gives his takes on the West — gonna be another long, fruitless season for Land of Lincoln Big Ten teams, it seems.

Stay up with WARR.com for Kevin’s continued coverage of the Big Ten and college football at large every Friday.

Preseason Rankings

1. Wisconsin

Surprise, surprise, the ground-and-pound Badgers are back atop prognosticators’ picks for the West predictions, and they’ve got not one, but two amazing running backs to lead their attack in Melvin Gordon and Corey Clement. Gordon is the feature back, but Clement should do a nice job filling the shoes of the departed James White.

The only concerning thing, on paper at least, is that the Badgers lost the majority of their front seven guys on defense, so stopping the run may be a more difficult task for coordinator Dave Aranda and his staff. What could help their case, though, is missing a lot of the top teams from the East — they only play new meat Rutgers and Maryland from the East —  and hosting Nebraska in Madison.

Prediction: 10-2, Big Ten West Champs

2. Nebraska

Wisconsin is more often tabbed as the class of the West division, but I really like this Nebraska team. Problem is, they are locked into a very unforgiving schedule. Could this be the fifth straight 8-4 season for the once-proud Huskers?

If they are to reverse their recent run of 4-loss seasons, they’ll have to find a way to grind out a few victories on the road, with notable contests at Michigan State, Wisconsin and Iowa ahead of them. In addition to those big games, finding a new quarterback to replace Taylor Martinez will be a bit of a tall task. This is an impressive squad, with one of the nation’s best runners in Ameer Abdullah, but coach Bo Pellini and his boys certainly have their work cut out for them.

Prediction: 9-3

3. Iowa

For as long as I’ve been following the Big Ten, it seems as if you could always count on the Hawkeyes to produce an “above-average” season. Then 2012 happened, in which the Hawkeyes finished with a 4-8 record overall, going 2-6 in conference. Kirk Ferentz’s coaching seat got hotter by the day that off-season.

Matters weren’t helped at all by kicking off last season with a loss to Northern Illinois, but the team rebounded fairly well, going 8-5 with a season that culminated in a 21-14 loss to a good LSU team in the Outback Bowl. With a lot of starters back and a favorable schedule ahead of them, the Hawkeyes should make some noise in the West division.

Prediction: 8-4

4. Minnesota

The Gophers are a lot of analysts favorite for a “surprise” or dark-horse team in the West. While I don’t think they can topple more than one of the three teams listed above in the predicted standings, I do think they are much improved in coach Jerry Kill’s fourth season at the helm, one in which he should have a roster full of guys he and his staff have personally recruited.

Minnesota ran a dual quarterback system last year, but with the departure of Phillip Nelson to Rutgers, the offense is now Mitch Leidner’s show to run. Leidner features the more dual threat style of the two, and I think that bodes well for the Gophers this season with the kind of tempo and style of offense they run.

Prediction: 8-4

5. Northwestern

What storyline can I talk about with this team that hasn’t already been beat to death by Chicago sports reporters? I don’t think there’s many, and there are certainly none bigger than losing star running back Venric Mark to transfer recently after being kicked off the team for a violation of team rules.

The Wildcats entered their 2013 campaign with high hopes and expectations and finished with a 5-7 record, winning just one game in conference play. Will Pat Fitzgerald be able to fill the void left by Mark? That’s where the season begins for this team and it’ll likely be where it ends.

Prediction: 5-7

6. Illinois

For some reason, no one seems to be calling for head coach Tim Beckman to be fired. The former Toledo coach, gearing up his third losing season in Champaign, is just 6-18 overall there and has but one conference win in his first two seasons.

Luckily for Beckman, Oklahoma State transfer Wes Lunt is one of the more talented quarterbacks in the conference, and he now wears the Blue & Orange. It’ll be intriguing to see how well Illini coaching caters the offense to Lunt’s talents, as I don’t believe they have a more important or talented player on either side of the ball than he.

Prediction: 4-8

7. Purdue

As my mother always told me, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

Well, I’ll say one thing: Vegas odds-makers put the Over/Under on Purdue’s season win total at only 3.5, and that’s with cupcakes Western Michigan, Central Michigan and Southern Illinois on the schedule. That should tell the story.

Prediction: 3-9

Predicted Order Of Finish

  1. Wisconsin
  2. Nebraska
  3. Iowa
  4. Minnesota
  5. Northwestern
  6. Illinois
  7. Purdue

Follow Regal Radio on Twitter @regalradio1 and on Facebook under Regal Radio; follow Kevin on Twitter @kpLUCH

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2 responses to “College Football — Big Ten Preview: Wisconsin Set Up to Run West

  1. Pingback: College Football — Big Ten Week 2: Marquee Games for Michigan, MSU, OSU | WARR - We Are Regal Radio·

  2. Pingback: College Football — Big Ten Week 3: Conference Pride Left to Illinois, Minnesota | WARR - We Are Regal Radio·

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