Big Ten football: Five B1G questions for 2018
Five questions surrounding Big Ten football at the onset of the 2018 season
1. Could this be Wisconsin’s year?
The Badgers have accomplished plenty in Paul Chryst’s three seasons, winning three bowls and winning the Big Ten West the past two seasons. They’ve run the table in the Big Ten regular season, but Wisconsin hasn’t won the conference championship during his tenure. This team is capable, but it will take a different path. With just four returning defensive starters, an offense led by running back Jonathan Taylor and four returning starters on the offensive line will be counted on to dominate this season.
2. What’s realistic for Scott Frost in his first season at Nebraska?
The Cornhuskers’ new coach went 24-2 as a starting quarterback for Nebraska in 1996 and 1997, but he will be coaching quarterbacks and not playing the position now. He arrives following an unbeaten season at UCF looking to rebuild a program which last won a league title since 1999. That work begins with strengthening line play, improving a rushing attack that ranked 120th in the nation and a defense which finished 116th nationally in allowing 36.4 points per game. It will take time.
3. Which coach is feeling a little heat in the seat?
If you coach at Michigan, your record is 1-5 against rivals Ohio State and Michigan State and your program hasn’t won a Big Ten title in 13 seasons, you’re feeling some heat. That’s the situation Jim Harbaugh finds himself in as the Wolverines put the ball in the hands of quarterback Shea Patterson, a transfer from Ole Miss. Harbaugh replaced his offensive coordinator and totally rebuilt the Michigan strength and conditioning staff and nutrition staff during the offseason.
4. Does inexperience on defense make Ohio State vulnerable?
The Buckeyes return just four starters on defense, which would raise an eyebrow or two at most places. In Columbus — even with coach Urban Meyer watching from afar early on — it’s reload as usual. Ohio State will rely on the strength of a line built around all-American defensive end Nick Bosa and tackle Dre’Mont Jones to lead the way early as a young group of linebackers adjusts to starting roles. With Dwayne Hopkins settling in at quarterback, an effective defense is big.
5. What team has the potential to surprise in 2018?
Michigan State. After a dismal three-win 2016 season, the Spartans rebounded to go 10-3 last season and may be positioned to challenge in the East sooner rather than later. Quarterback Brian Lewerke and running back LJ Scott are among 10 returning players with starting experience on offense, a group that will be complemented by nine returning defensive starters. The schedule is manageable with Michigan and Ohio State both visiting East Lansing this season.