2011 Big Ten predictions

August, 23, 2011
8/23/11
11:30
AM ET
We hope you've enjoyed our Big Ten preview. The season is just around the corner, so we only have a few more days to make ourselves look bad with predictions. Don't worry, we'll have game predictions every week, but here are five things we see happening this fall around the league.

1. The Big Ten's streak of multiple BCS bowl teams continues: Go ahead and add divisions and a championship game; it won't stop the Big Ten from filling two spots when the BCS bowl selections are made. Yes, we know league title games often kill BCS dreams, but the Big Ten is simply too popular and too attractive for the big bowls to resist. We hear new member Nebraska brings quite the traveling party wherever it goes, so the Big Ten should be even more marketable. This will be seven consecutive season with multiple BCS bowl entries.

[+] EnlargeMontee Ball
Gregory Shamus/Getty ImagesMontee Ball rushed for 996 yards and 18 touchdowns last season.
2. Ohio State's streak of Big Ten championships ends: The title game mercifully eliminates the "co-champion" label in the Big Ten, as one true winner will be crowned Dec. 3 in Indianapolis. Ohio State has won or shared the past six Big Ten titles -- winning three outright (2006, 2007, 2009) and sharing three (2005, 2008, 2010) -- but the Buckeyes' run ends this year. Although it's silly to dismiss Ohio State, which will still be among the league's elite, there are too many tough games and other challenges for Luke Fickell's crew to overcome.

3. Denard Robinson won't lead the league in rushing, but Marcus Coker or Montee Ball will: Robinson will do some special things, but it's unrealistic to expect the Michigan quarterback to duplicate his 2010 production in a new system. Michigan likely won't take as many chances with Robinson, who led the Big Ten and set an NCAA record for quarterback rushing with 1,702 yards in 2010. Who tops the Big Ten's rushing chart? We think it will be one of two backs who came on strong late last season: Iowa's Coker or Wisconsin's Ball. While Coker must continue to mature and Ball must emerge as Wisconsin's featured back, we're expecting big things from both men.

4. Brady Hoke beats one of Michigan's Big Ten rivals: Hoke made news by installing countdown clocks around Schembechler Hall for Michigan's annual rivalry games against Michigan State and Ohio State, or "Ohio," as Hoke calls the Buckeyes. Michigan has dropped three straight to Michigan State and seven straight to Ohio State. One of those streaks ends this fall -- we're not sure which one just yet -- as Hoke's Wolverines begin to climb out of a rough stretch against their top rivals.

5. The Sea of Red invades Indy: Nebraska is ready to make a big splash in Year 1. Though the Huskers have some challenging games on the schedule, including trips to Wisconsin and Penn State and a home game with Ohio State as cross-divisional matchups, we still think Bo Pelini's team is good enough to win the Legends Division. Nebraska must adjust to an entirely new set of opponents, but those opponents also must adjust to what looks like the best defense in the Big Ten. If Taylor Martinez continues to develop as a passer and a leader, this is a legitimate top-10 team.

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