- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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We're rolling out lots of Big Ten predictions this week, from our expected order of finish in the league to our winners and losers for Week 1. But now it's time to really go out on a limb and offer five bold predictions for the season ahead:
1. The Big Ten's Heisman Trophy drought will end: Not since Ohio State's Troy Smith hoisted the Heisman in 2006 has a player from the conference claimed the sport's most prestigious hardware. Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon and Montee Ball both got close, but this is the year that a Big Ten star takes it home. My money is on Ohio State's Ezekiel Elliott, but it could be another guy from his own offensive backfield. If the Buckeyes siphon votes from one another, then look out for Michigan State's Connor Cook.
2. Ohio State will break the FBS scoring record: Florida State set the mark for most points in an FBS season with 732 back in its 2013 championship season. Given all the offensive weapons the Buckeyes have, plus a fairly manageable schedule and the possibility of a 15th game, that record should fall. Ohio State would need to average nearly 49 points per game over 15 contests to break it. The Buckeyes averaged 44.8 last year with an inexperienced quarterback. They could challenge the 50 point barrier if Urban Meyer keeps the pedal down.
3. Penn State will win at least nine games: The Nittany Lions will be much improved this year, with a functional offensive line, good young receivers for Christian Hackenberg and the same stout defense. But the biggest reason for this bold call? The schedule. Penn State has a dream slate and should be 6-0 as it doesn't leave Pennsylvania until playing Ohio State on Oct. 17. After that, the next three games are: at Maryland, Illinois and at Northwestern. That will lead to a New Year's Day bowl game.
4. Indiana will make a bowl; Maryland won't: The Hoosiers could very well start 4-0 with a favorable nonconference slate, though Western Kentucky in Week 3 will be difficult test for their defense. A revived passing game behind Nate Sudfeld and just enough defense will be good enough for Indiana to win two Big Ten games and make its first postseason appearance since 2007. Maryland won't be so lucky. The Terrapins lost a ton from last year, especially up front on defense and at receiver, and its quarterback picture looks underwhelming. Combine that with a schedule full of potholes, and Maryland will finish last in the Big Ten East, though much brighter days are ahead for Randy Edsall's team.
5. Michigan State will finish in the top 5 for the third straight year: The Spartans will beat Oregon in Week 2. But a 10-point loss to Ohio State and the selection committee's preference to reward conference champions mean that they will just miss the playoff. Still, the consolation prize -- a second trip to the Rose Bowl in three years, this time to play USC -- is not too shabby.
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