- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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We're turning the page toward the 2013 season, and our never-ending quest to embarrass ourselves with proclamations nearly eight months before the season marches on with bold predictions. If you recall, our predictions for the 2012 season didn't work out too well, but we'll always keep trying.
Here are three bold predictions for 2013:
1. Ohio State and Michigan will meet in a rematch in Indy: The new division alignments should be revealed this spring, and when they are, I predict rivals Ohio State and Michigan will be placed in the same division. It leaves only one more opportunity for the Buckeyes and Wolverines to face one another in consecutive weeks, first in their traditional game (Nov. 30 at Michigan) and then in the Big Ten championship game in Indianapolis. It'll happen this season. Ohio State waltzes through a mostly weak Leaders Division, and Michigan survives the Legends Division gauntlet thanks to the Devin Gardner-led offense and a more favorable schedule that includes Nebraska at home.
2. The Big Ten produces seven 1,200-yard rushers: The Big Ten will be the nation's premier rushing conference in 2013 as five players who recorded 1,000 rushing yards this past season return to the field. The league produced five 1,200-yard rushers in 2012 and four in 2011, but the number will swell to seven in 2013. Several teams have multiple 1,200-yard candidates, including Ohio State (QB Braxton Miller and RB Carlos Hyde), Nebraska (QB Taylor Martinez and RB Ameer Abdullah) and Wisconsin (RBs James White and Melvin Gordon). Expect big seasons from Northwestern's Venric Mark, Penn State's Zach Zwinak, Iowa's Mark Weisman and others.
3. Indiana makes a bowl game: OK, this isn't the boldest of predictions, but remember Indiana has gone bowling just once in the past 19 seasons. Even when things look promising at IU, the end result usually isn't. But the Hoosiers took a step in Year 2 under Kevin Wilson, and Year 3 should bring more progress. We know the offense can pile up yards and points, and improved recruiting on defense should begin to pay dividends this coming season. Indiana has eight home games on tap, which definitely helps its cause, and it competes in the weaker division (Leaders). Indiana capitalizes and wins six or seven games in Bloomington to punch its ticket to the postseason.
1. Nebraska plays Ohio State for the Big Ten title: The game we should have gotten for the Big Ten championship in 2012 -- the Huskers versus the Buckeyes -- becomes a reality a year later. Nebraska uses an advantageous schedule and its experienced offense to begin the season 8-0. The first loss comes in the Big House on Nov. 9, but Michigan loses at Michigan State and in its finale to Ohio State to give the Cornhuskers the Legends crown. Senior quarterback Taylor Martinez edges out Braxton Miller and Devin Gardner for Big Ten offensive player of the year honors.
2. Minnesota, Michigan State are most improved teams: Jerry Kill's teams have typically made big jumps in his third year, and the same happens with the Gophers in 2013. They showed a glimpse of the type of power running team they could be in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas loss to Texas Tech, and some receivers emerge to give young quarterback Philip Nelson some options. Minnesota surprises either Wisconsin or Penn State at home and wins eight games. Michigan State left itself a lot of room for improvement by going only 7-6 in 2012. The Spartans benefit from a much easier schedule in '13, more experience at wide receiver and better health on the offensive line to also win at least eight games. The progress by both Minnesota and Michigan State make the Legends Division one of the most rugged divisions in college football.
3. The Big Ten adds two more teams: Just when we least expect it, the Big Ten will shock us again with expansion news. On July 4, news breaks that the league has decided to add two more teams to eventually get to 16. Both teams will be current ACC members who decide to flee once Maryland's exit fee is settled out of court. The Big Ten announces it will compete with four four-team pods in 2015.
1hSharon Katz, ESPN Stats & Information
1dTom VanHaaren and Erik McKinney