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How They’ll Finish: The OTE Staff Projects the Final Big Ten Standings

Our Big Ten preseason predictions and rankings, along with key games in the Big Ten schedule.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 01 Big Ten Championship Game - Northwestern v Ohio State Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

We’ve finally made it.

Tomorrow, under the lights in Minneapolis, the unranked Minnesota Golden Gophers kick off against the #4 South Dakota State Jackrabbits*, and the 2019 Big Ten college football season begins. Every prediction, every pick, every bold take falls by the wayside until it becomes astonishingly prescient or laughably wrong, at which point someone will be sure to remind you of how foolish you’ve looked.

In that spirit, with the conclusion of B1G 2019, we bring you our final projections and standings for the Big Ten in 2019, by division, along with the key game on each team’s schedule.

For all these previews and our non-conference previews, check out our B1G 2019 and Closing Arguments streams and all our writing from this summer!

A note: You might notice that your team’s record predictions do not match the ones given in their B1G 2019 weeks or Closing Arguments. In the case of the former, writers were allowed to consider the long arc of the summer (injuries, transfers, eligibility, suspensions, etc.) and revise. In the case of the latter, some record predictions were from this summer, had not been updated, and threw off the overall math of attempting (!) to have all records equal out to 63-63. Thanks for understanding.

West Division

1. Iowa Hawkeyes

8.1-3.9 (5.4-3.6 B1G)

High: 11-1 (8-1 B1G)
Low: 7-5 (5-4 B1G)
StdDev: 1.06 (.98 B1G)

Key Game: at Purdue (Oct. 19)

Stew: First game against a West opponent (ed. note: really? that’s so late) and the a push for the division.

2: Wisconsin Badgers

8.1-3.9 (5.3-3.7 B1G)

High: 12-0 (9-0 B1G)
Low: 5-7 (2-7 B1G)
StdDev: 1.64 (1.56 B1G)

Key Game: hosting Iowa (Nov. 9)

Beez: Iowa at Wisconsin. It’s the first of four games against the top 4 competitors for the West division title in 2019, it comes the week after Wisconsin plays at OSU (final crossover of the year), and it comes in the middle of Wisconsin’s streak of 10 games without a bye.

T-3. Nebraska Cornhuskers

7.7-4.3 (5.2-3.8 B1G)

High: 9-3 (7-2 B1G)
Low: 4-8 (2-7 B1G)
StdDev: 1.24 (1.22 B1G)

T-3. Purdue Boilermakers

7.3-4.7 (5.2-3.8 B1G)

High: 9-3 (7-2 B1G)
Low: 6-6 (4-5 B1G)
StdDev: 1.02 (1.00 B1G)

Key Game: hosting Minnesota (Sept. 28)

Boilerman31: Purdue forgot to get off the bus last year in Minneapolis. Coming off a bye week entering B1G play, the Boilers need to establish themselves as contenders in a very balanced B1G West. A win over the Fightin’ Flecks will be key to doing just that.

5. Northwestern Wildcats

6.9-5.1 (5.0-4.0 B1G)

High: 9-3 (7-2 B1G)
Low: 4-8 (2-7 B1G)
StdDev: 1.30 (1.28 B1G)

Key Game: at wisconsin (Sept. 28)

MNW: The 2018 season showed us that the non-conference isn’t necessarily the biggest predictor, so while Stanford is a huge game for showing us who the ‘Cats might use as their starting QB, I’d opt for a game against a West contender in the middle of a bruising three-game slate against Top 25 teams and start of a two-game stretch on the road.

6. Minnesota Golden Gophers

7.3-4.7 (4.5-4.5 B1G)

High: 10-2 (7-2 B1G)
Low: 5-7 (3-6 B1G)
StdDev: 1.18 (1.04 B1G)

Key Game: against Iowa

WSR: Coming off the Penn State game, we get our first test against a rival that’ll also be competing for the B1G West title in Iowa City before facing Northwestern the following week and will need to take care of business while staying healthy.

7. Illinois Fighting Illini

3.4-8.6 (0.9-8.1 B1G)

High: 4-8 (2-7 B1G)
Low: 2-10 (0-9 B1G)
StdDev: .70 (.54 B1G)

Lots of confidence in our #ACWTBTWEI mantra, and the numbers bear it out—the other six teams in the West have a standard deviation of at least 1 win/loss, and they’re also the only six Big Ten teams with that distinction in our rankings.

Other fun West notes:

  • Only one writer (Stew) has Iowa finishing better than 6-3 in the West. But none has them finishing worse than 4-5, and that average is enough to limp them over the finish line.
  • When it comes to wisconsin, the insanity of BrianB2’s 12-0 (9-0) pick is leveled out by more of the same from WhiteSpeedReceiver (5-7, 2-7). As such, the badgers top the conference in standard deviation.
  • Nebraska and Purdue both received two predictions of 7-2 in the Big Ten (Ray and Thump for the former, Townie and Brian for the latter), more 7-win seasons than predicted for Iowa, but general caution made 5-4 the mode for the Huskers.
  • Following wisconsin as the ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ team, meet Northwestern. They’ve got a standard deviation of 1.28, two predictions of 7-2 (Townie and LPW), but a lot of 4-5 calls and even BrianB2 predicting a big deviation at 4-8 (2-7).


Who wins the Big Ten West?

This poll is closed

  • 14%
    (87 votes)
  • 25%
    (149 votes)
  • 29%
    (172 votes)
  • 10%
    (59 votes)
  • 7%
    (46 votes)
  • 12%
    (73 votes)
586 votes total Vote Now

East Division

1. Ohio State Buckeyes

10.6-1.4 (7.7-1.3 B1G)

High: 12-0 (9-0)
Low: 9-3 (7-2)
StdDev: .78 (.69)

2. Michigan Wolverines

9.8-2.2 (7.3-1.7 B1G)

High: 11-1 (8-1)
Low: 8-4 (6-3)
StdDev: .86 (.59)

3. Penn State Nittany Lions

8.8-3.2 (5.8-3.2 B1G)

High: 11-1 (8-1)
Low: 7-5 (4-5)
StdDev: .92 (.92)

Key Game: vs. Michigan (Oct. 19)

Aaron Yorke: The Lions lost four games last year. Three of them came down to the wire and one was a blowout in Ann Arbor. In recent years, Penn State has played Michigan much better at home than on the road, but this season’s matchup should still serve as a good measuring stick given the Wolverines’ high expectations. The defense can’t get pushed around early by Michigan’s front, and the offense has to move the ball enough to give the defense a break. Neither side of the ball accomplished its goal in 2018, hence the blowout.

If Penn State proves itself physically able to keep up with Michigan this time around, maybe the White Out crowd can push the Lions over the top with a big play late.

4. Michigan State Spartans

7.9-4.1 (5.3-3.7 B1G)

High: 9-3 (6-3)
Low: 6-6 (4-5)
StdDev: .87 (.75)

5. Indiana Hoosiers

5.3-6.7 (2.4-6.6 B1G)

High: 7-5 (4-5)
Low: 4-8 (1-8)
StdDev: .67 (.70)

Key Game: at Maryland (Oct. 19)

Candystripes for Breakfast: Not the most important game for many of the reasons you’d expect, just the one that seems the most likely: if Indiana is going to a bowl game, this will be the win that gets them there, or the loss that holds them out.

If Indiana beats Maryland, they have 5 games to find (probably) one more win to (probably) be bowl eligible. If Indiana loses to Maryland, they have to pull two wins out of @Nebraska, hosting Northwestern, @Penn State, hosting Michigan, and @Purdue for the Bucket.

6. Maryland Terrapins

3.9-8.1 (1.7-7.3 B1G)

High: 5-7 (3-6)
Low: 2-10 (0-9)
StdDev: 1.00 (.84)

7. Rutgers Scarlet Knights

3.0-9.0 (0.9-8.1 B1G)

High: 6-6 (3-6)
Low: 2-10 (0-9)
StdDev: 1.19 (.87)

Key Game: against Penn State

RR: Penn State. We hates them, precious. They steals our croots and beats us and teases ussssss. But we have a secret weapon now yesss yesss. Mortel Watch List Holder Cole Murphy. The Colt Murphy will help us win and defeat the evil, nasty, tricksy hobbitses from the happy valley. Yesssssss.

Meanwhile, things are much more cut-and-dry in the East, where the only uncertainty of note is whether Indiana will make a bowl and which of Michigan and Ohio State will win the division (it’s Ohio State).

Other things you might find interesting, though?

  • Only two people (Candystripes and Boilerman) have Michigan winning the East outright—and no one has the Wolverines escaping the gauntlet unscathed.
  • Meanwhile, the Buckeyes—our odds-on favorites to win the East—are projected at 9-0 by two writers (Stew and BRT), and win the division outright in six of our eighteen projections.
  • Of the other ten picks, one (WSR) has Penn State in a three-way tie at 8-1, while Townie has them in a three-way tie at 7-2. The other eight have OSU and Michigan tied for the division at varying flavors of 8-1/7-2.
  • Oh, and as Aaron alluded to in the Penn State Closing Argument, the Nittany Lions are the only Big Ten team projected to go 3-0 in the non-conference (against Idaho, Buffalo, and Pitt) by every OTE writer.
  • Michigan State will make a bowl, says everyone, but there doesn’t look like much beyond settling into a nice 5-4/6-3 rut.
  • Only five of eighteen writers say Indiana bowls. Sorry :(
  • As for the rest, all sane people have Maryland and Rutgers bringing up the rear of the East. Great work, Delany.


Who wins the Big Ten East?

This poll is closed

  • 45%
    Ohio State
    (189 votes)
  • 26%
    (110 votes)
  • 16%
    Penn State
    (69 votes)
  • 12%
    Michigan State
    (51 votes)
419 votes total Vote Now

There you have it! Our full and infallible predictions. Feel free to leave your in the comments, and let us know where we went horribly wrong—or horribly right!

My thanks, as well, for making Off Tackle Empire one of your stops for Big Ten football coverage, banter, shit-talk, or anything else. We appreciate each and every one of you being a part of this community in whatever form that may take, and we hope that you’ll invite your friends to join in, follow us on Twitter @offtackleempire, and keep coming back for more Big Ten football commentary this fall!


Who wins the Big Ten Championship?

This poll is closed

  • 31%
    Ohio State
    (126 votes)
  • 16%
    (66 votes)
  • 6%
    (26 votes)
  • 4%
    (19 votes)
  • 41%
    Someone else
    (165 votes)
402 votes total Vote Now