Nick Baumgardner, Graham Couch, Mark Emmert, Chad Leistikow, Josh Newman, Zach Osterman, Chris Solari, Shawn Windsor and Jeff Potrykus Detroit Free Press
Published 6:00 AM EDT Jul 17, 2019
Michigan football finally will win the Big Ten East.
Scott Frost will begin Nebraska’s renaissance in earnest.
Iowa will get back to Indianapolis.
And Ryan Day’s first full season as Ohio State’s head coach will be good — but not great.
That’s the early forecast for the 2019 Big Ten season, according to college football writers who cover the conference in the USA TODAY Sports Network.
Each writer predicted this season’s final standings and conference champion ahead of Big Ten media days in Chicago, with teams receiving seven points for a first-place vote, six for a second-place vote, five for a third-place vote, etc.
Here’s how the nine writers voted:
[ 2019 Big Ten media days: TV schedule, how to watch ]
Rank. Team. Points (first-place votes)
1. Michigan 61 (7)
2. Ohio State 54 (2)
3. Michigan State 43.5
4. Penn State 39.5
5. Indiana 23
6. Maryland 21
7. Rutgers 10
Rank. Team. Points (first-place votes)
1. Iowa 56 (4)
2. Nebraska 51 (4)
3. Wisconsin 40
4. Northwestern 39 (1)
T-5. Purdue 28
T-5. Minnesota 28
7. Illinois 10
Nick Baumgardner, Detroit Free Press
Michigan over Iowa: Michigan has everything it needs to finally win a Big Ten title under Jim Harbaugh: A senior quarterback, a solid offensive line, top-tier receivers, quality defensive talent and a home game against an Ohio State team not coached by Urban Meyer. It’s hard to trust U-M given its history vs. the Buckeyes. But if it doesn’t happen now, when will it?
Graham Couch, Lansing State Journal
Michigan over Iowa: U-M has the most proven offensive talent returning of any of the upper-tier teams, including up front. I don’t trust the Wolverines’ defense or the U-M program under Jim Harbaugh in big games. But I like that Harbaugh didn’t let his ego get in the way of offensive innovation in hiring Josh Gattis as OC.
Mark Emmert, Des Moines Register
Northwestern over Michigan: The Wildcats have been overachieving for years under Pat Fitzgerald, and now they have a legitimate big-play quarterback in Clemson transfer Hunter Johnson, plus a sneaky good running back in Isaiah Bowser and a rugged defense led by Paddy Fisher. It feels like the balance of power may be shifting to the west in the Big Ten. Fitzgerald and Co. finally break through in Indianapolis.
Chad Leistikow, Des Moines Register
Ohio State over Iowa: It seems like Michigan is the team to beat in the East, but Ohio State remains the king until proven otherwise. I like how the Buckeyes’ schedule sets up for the finish, and with the combo of Justin Fields and JK Dobbins they’ll be tough to stop as always — even without Urban Meyer. Ohio State will win in Ann Arbor again, then avenge a 2017 blowout loss to Iowa in the Big Ten title game.
Josh Newman, Asbury Park Press
Michigan over Nebraska: The Wolverines, who get Michigan State and Ohio State in Ann Arbor this season, are out of excuses. Shea Patterson’s A-game is elite, there are pros at multiple positions across the field, oh, and Michigan gets Michigan State and Ohio State at home. Time for Jim Harbaugh to do what he came home to do, win the Big Ten at a minimum.
Zach Osterman, Indianapolis Star
Nebraska over Michigan: This feels a little like the NCAA bracket picker who falls in love with upsets until he realizes he has a 7-seed winning it all, but there’s just so much about the league I don’t know with any confidence right now, so I’m going with something a little weird.
Jeff Potrykus, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Michigan over Nebraska: Urban Meyer’s departure from the Ohio State sidelines should open the door for the other East Division powers. Michigan is best equipped to take advantage, particularly if it can reload on defense. The Wolverines will prove too talented for the West’s best team, which has too many questions on defense.
Chris Solari, Detroit Free Press
Ohio State over Iowa: The Hawkeyes have the veteran presence at QB to win what should be a muddled and mediocre West Division. But the Buckeyes’ talent, good enough to survive the gauntlet East Division slate again, is too much for Iowa and the rest of the league.
Shawn Windsor, Detroit Free Press
Michigan over Nebraska: It’s hard to pick against Ohio State winning the East. But it won’t be easy without Urban Meyer. And his replacement, Ryan Day, will have a new quarterback to work into the system. Meanwhile, the Wolverines have experience, speed, talent and a new coordinator. Besides, it’s time. It has to happen at some point for Jim Harbaugh.
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