The 2020 Big Ten football season was filled with chaos, but it still had a familiar ending. The Ohio State Buckeyes won the conference and went to the college football playoff title game. Indiana had a defining season out of nowhere, as other traditional Big Ten powers slipped in the standings.
This year should allow a return to normal. Non-conference games are back and the stadiums should be full this fall. Everyone also went through an almost normal off-season schedule.
Here’s who you should buy and sell when the offseason ends.
Big Ten – East
Ohio State (2020 record: 7-1, 5-0 B1G): Stock slightly down
The Buckeyes lost a lot of star power to the NFL after an appearance in the National Championship game. It’s worth narrowing down on its own, but we know OSU football has a blood pact with Satan himself. Lucifer and the rest of his minions will do what they can to make sure the OSU stays on top of the leaderboards.
Indiana (2020 record: 6-2, 6-1 B1G): inventory decline
Indiana has just had the best season in program history, but was it a fluke of the COVID year or something lasting? Given the Hoosiers’ background, I anticipate some sort of downhill, but they’ll be in the mix to compete in the East.
Penn State (2020 record: 4-5): refuel
Penn State was atrocious last season before winning its last four games. They managed to get things back on track at the end of the year and should be a better football team. Vegas agrees, as the over / under is slated for nine wins this coming season.
Maryland (2020 record: 2-3): refuel
The Terrapins were a strange team in an odd year. They suffered a blitz in Week 1 against Northwestern, then snatched 80 points in their next two games. Three of their last five games of the season have been called off due to COVID and they lost to Rutgers in overtime. But I buy the shares of Taulia Tagavailoa and Rakim Jarrett. I can see them being a huge pain in 2021.
Rutgers (2020 record: 3-6): inventory drop
Do I think Rutgers is an improved program under Greg Schiano? Probably. But to keep their stock stable or increase, I think they’ll win more than three conference games this year. I have to see it in a year that isn’t massively chaotic to believe it.
Michigan (2020 record: 2-4): refuel
Michigan will be better. People who predict they could win as little as four or five games are exaggerating a bit which distresses them a bit. I think 2021 will be a return to normal as they will probably win 8-9 games and drive the fans crazy with their poor performances against the best teams on the calendar.
Michigan State (2020 record: 2-5): refuel
MSU was another weird team in 2020. They had victories over Michigan and Northwestern last year, but looked terrible in every other game they’ve played. It was essentially year zero for Mel Tucker, but progress is being made. They have a fair amount of momentum in roster building and the vibes that come out of East Lansing. They also have the Paul Bunyan Trophy, which means the state of Michigan is currently theirs.
Big Ten – West
North-West (2020 record: 7-2, 6-1 B1G): decrease in stocks
Northwestern loves going through periods where they will play one year for a Big Ten Championship and the next will look like one of the worst teams in the conference. I expect a regression here after losing talent like Greg Newsome and Rashawn Slater.
Iowa (2020 record: 6-2): Stable stock
Iowa lost its first two games, then blew up almost everyone the rest of the year. They still factor in the West Division race and I would expect the 2021 season to be no different.
Wisconsin (2020 record: 4-3, 3-3 B1G): refuel
The Badgers blew up Illinois in Game 1, and then three of their next five games were called off due to COVID. Unfortunately, the Michigan game was not one of them and they demolished the Wolverines in Ann Arbor. They were pretty bad for a month after that, but ended the year with a pair of wins over Minnesota and Wake Forest. They are my first choice to go west.
Minnesota (2020 record: 3-4): refuel
The past year has been a big disappointment for Minnesota. That said, they are hugely loaded with senior attackers and have such a good QB / RB duo in the conference with Tanner Morgan and Mohamed Ibrahim. We’ve never seen PJ Fleck’s programs go downhill before, so this will be an interesting test for him.
Nebraska (2020 record: 3-5): Stable stock
At one point, “wait until next year” has to be now for Scott Frost. I really don’t see it here, however. They’ll be fighting in the middle of the pack, which could make things nuclear for people who lack patience with Frost.
Purdue (2020 record: 2-4): Stable stock
I have October 2 against Minnesota and October 16 in Iowa as the series of games that will define Purdue. Jeff Brohm is 19-25 at Purdue and we’re still looking forward to this breakout season. That still hasn’t happened and I’m not convinced we’ll see it this year.
Illinois (2020 record: 2-6): Stock cratering
Illinois is starting again with a rental of retreaded tires from Bret Bielema’s head coach. The wins they rack up in the non-conference game might be all she’s written for them this season.