By Erin Sorensen
Having looked at the entire Leaders division and the bottom half of the Legends, only three programs remain. Who will head to Indianapolis to take part in the first ever Big Ten Championship game?
The Wolverines' past few seasons have been nothing short of disappointing. Rich Rodriguez put a fair amount of tarnish on the Michigan culture that many have come to know and appreciate. Thankfully for the Wolverines, first-year head coach Brady Hoke understands what it means to be a “Michigan Man.”
That tradition starts with the “Beat Ohio” mentality and Hoke will make sure that players understand the significance of their annual match up with the Buckeyes. The Wolverines return the most starters in the conference with 20. Don’t mistake that bevy of familiarity with instant star power, though.
While quarterback Denard Robinson will be a strong leader, Michigan will have to have to do a much better job of protecting him. Many defenses were able to contain Robinson in 2010, but the entire offensive unit's productivity could be far better under new coordinator Al Borges. Don’t expect a Big Ten championship just yet, but the future could be very bright for the Wolverines.
Odds of winning the Big Ten Championship: 20/1
2. Michigan State
The 2010 season was a good one for the Spartans though with a not-so-pleasant ending. After finishing the season 11-2 (7-1 in the Big Ten), Michigan State may not skip a beat in 2011 thanks to quality returning athletes and Sparty's own brand of luck.
Senior quarterback Kirk Cousins threw for more than 2,800 yards and 20 touchdowns last season while running back Edwin Baker appears ready to make a statement. If these two can get into a groove, the Spartans could have a truly versatile attack.
Unfortunately, Michigan State has one of the toughest conference schedules in the Big Ten. With road games at Ohio State, Iowa, Notre Dame and Nebraska, the Spartans will be challenged early and often. Expect a strong showing from Michigan State thanks to Cousins and the Spartans’ offense, but a Big Ten Championship win might be just out of reach.
Odds of winning the Big Ten Championship: 10/1
Saying that 2011 is a big year for Nebraska is an understatement. The Cornhuskers are looking at a season where they have the talent necessary to win the Big Ten Championship Game during their first year in the conference.
With quarterback Taylor Martinez looking to improve from 2010, the offense could be a force to be reckoned with under new offensive coordinator Tim Beck. If Martinez can replicate his attitude from last season’s early contests, Nebraska might have its most explosive offense in years.
The defense returns seven starters who will be strong leaders for both the incoming class and team as a whole. The Cornhuskers will need to rely on some new blood, so pressure will be on the upperclassmen to guide them along quickly. In the end, head coach Bo Pelini knows how to run a defense and Nebraska’s shouldn’t disappoint.
The Cornhuskers’ schedule won’t be an easy one. Traveling to Wisconsin on October 1, the Big Red could easily be facing its first loss of the season. While Nebraska may lose to the Badgers in Madison, they'll get a chance for revenge as the two will meet again in the Big Ten Championship Game.
Odds of winning the Big Ten Championship: 2/1
Leaders 4-6, Leaders 1-3, Legends 4-6
Follow Erin on Twitter: @helloerinmarie
Follow Husker Locker on Twitter: @huskerlocker
Like us on Facebook: Official Husker Locker Page
Permanent Link to this Blog Post