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Iowa Football: Projecting the Big Ten

In a shocking turn of events, we think Ohio State might have something this year.

NCAA Football: College Football Playoff Semifinal-Ohio State vs Clemson
Feels like Justin Fields and Ohio State might be OK this year.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

One week from today we will be on the eve of the return of Iowa football. The months of anticipation and waiting will come to a head as we go to sleep one last time without our beloved Hawkeyes on TV the following Saturday.

With the return imminent, we dropped our season-long predictions for the Hawkeyes yesterday. Today, the Pants staff is back to predict how things shape up for the Big Ten as a whole.


We think Ohio State might be good. Good enough that all but one staffer is on the Buckeyes to win the Big Ten Championship. Perhaps the most shocking thing here is that someone actually picked them not to win the whole thing. Nearly as shocking, we’re equally convinced that Justin Fields is walking away with some hardware as the conference’s best offensive player. On the other side of the ball, there’s a lot more discussion to be had as not a one of us picked the same person for defensive player of the year.

Here’s a look at how each of us thinks the Big Ten will shake out in 2020.


Big Ten Champ: OSU
East Winner: OSU
West Winner: Wisconsin
Offensive PoY: Justin Fields
Defensive PoY: Jack Sanborn

I fully expect some craziness this season, but at the end of the day Ohio State is in a class by themselves and I’d look for them to run the table en route to a CFP berth. Despite the loss of Micah Parsons, I still think Penn State is their stiffest competition in the East.

Meanwhile, in the West, I look for yeh road to Indy to again go through Madison. While I’m looking for the Badgers to take a step back, their schedule is predictably Charmin soft. I’m looking for them to edge Iowa for the Championship game berth with Minnesota in Iowa’s heels.


B1G Champ: (the) Ohio State Buckeyes
East winner: OSU
West winner: I-O-W-A
Offensive POY: Justin Fields
Defensive POY: Shaun Wade

Ohio State will waltz through their schedule. It’s getting to the point where I’m starting to feel bad for Michigan (not really). Covid is the only thing that could stop the Buckeyes. I’m hoping (and the B1G is as well) that OSU puts a “hundy” on Nebby to kick things off.

It wouldn’t be 2020 if we don’t see a few crazy things. There are some quality teams in the Big Ten. There also are a few crappy teams. The imbalance in scheduling seems like it will play a bigger role in determining champions more this year than in year’s past. Wisconsin will probably just plug and play their new QB and be fine, but I’m thinking there will be some drop-off there. We all will be excited to watch B1G football. We’ve grown tired of watching teams score 70 points and put up 1000 yards. Let’s watch some teams play defense! Rutgers, thanks for playing; you’ve already been eliminated. And Nebraska, no one likes you. I know you thought people did for a few weeks, but we don’t. Pull out your Starter jackets and queue up your VCRs. You will want to stop the tape after the first quarter of the OSU game.

Ben Ross

Champ: Iowa Hawkeyes
East Winner: tOSU
West Winner: Iowa
Offensive POY: Tyler Goodson
Defensive POY: Chauncey Golston

Alright, look. I’m not going to sit here and pretend I’ve been nosediving into Phil’s Steel and other online outlets nearly as much as I typically do in an offseason. In fact, in the Great Unplugging of 2020, I haven’t so much as even looked at any sort of betting odds for anything, let alone place a wager.

What I DO know is this: this Iowa team has gotten closer, worked harder, and Tweeted better than any other gotdamn squad in the country, and I’m behind them all the way.

I know I know, Justin Fields this, and a bunch of defensive players not named Micah Parsons that, but here’s the deal: this year’s gonna be weird. And Iowa started embracing the strange way back in June and July.

And here’s the deal: the stars are aligned for a sunset season for Kirk Ferentz. I’m sure he’s had enough of this shit by now, and is ready to hand the keys to Brian while he finds a horsehead to put in Gary Barta’s waterbed.


Big Ten Champ: Ohio St
East Winner: Ohio St
West Winner: Wisconsin
Offensive PoY: Justin Fields
Defensive PoY: George Karlaftis

Until I see otherwise, I will not be convinced of two teams outside of Ohio State and Wisconsin leading their divisions. I don’t foresee Penn St or Michigan having enough firepower to compete with OSU, and honestly, there might only be 2-3 teams in the country that can.

The West is a mess of similar teams. No one sticks out as the clear favorite with stars returning at multiple positions. Purdue might have the best offensive and defensive player, Rondale Moore and George Karlaftis, in the division, but do they have enough to go with it? Minnesota returns a dynamic duo of Tanner Morgan and Rashod Bateman along with weapons at running back and tight end, but I’m still not sold on that defense given the loss of Winfield Jr. In a rare turn of events, the Iowa offense looks primed to have a big season, but losses at all 3 levels on defense leave big questions on that side of the ball. With all of the uncertainty in the division, I fall back to Wisconsin who seems to find a way each and every year to be in the division race going into the final week.


Big Ten Champ: OSU
East Winner: OSU
West Winner: Wisconsin via tiebreaker
Offensive PoY: Justin Fields
Defensive PoY: Micah Parsons, Paddy Fisher

I share Mr. tnels20’s skepticism in anointing a team to the championship game without seeing sustained success from the tiers below Ohio State and Wisconsin. This season, however, provides some additional PAIN for Hawkeye fans as a week 8 win against Wisconsin is offset by their week 1 loss to Purdue, which keeps Iowa out of the title game by tiebreakers.

Ohio State, frankly, plays a different sport than the other 13 teams in the Big Ten, with Fields looking unlike any other QB in the league. I’m going a little off the beaten path with Paddy Fisher as DPOY. It won’t be his fault when Northwestern loses every game 10 to 7 despite him racking up a dozen tackles per game with a couple takeaways and sacks on the season.


Big Ten Champ: Ohio St
East Winner: Ohio St
West Winner: Wisconsin
Offensive PoY: Justin Fields
Defensive PoY: Kwity Paye

Surprise surprise, the Buckeyes are the clear favorites to earn the Big Ten crown again this season. Penn State has enough talent to keep the race for the East crown interesting, but the Nittany Lions will be chasing Ohio State from the moment they lose to them on October 31, never quite able to catch up.

The West will keep things more interesting, as the parity in the division will result in several upsets and a tumultuous division title race that comes down to the very end. Wisconsin is my narrow favorite to win the crown, but they are one COVID outbreak away from falling into the middle of the pack and being supplanted by a team like Iowa or Minnesota.

Justin Fields seems to be the consensus pick for Offensive PoY, but don’t sleep on Tanner Morgan who has a shot to put up some wild numbers this year. Meanwhile, Kwity Paye finally puts the entire package together and has a monstrous season for Michigan, emerging as the premiere defensive lineman in a conference full of elite talent at that position group.

So there you have it. Ben has consumed nothing but Kool-Aid since quarantine first started and the rest of us are in on Ohio State. Who you got, Hawkeye fans?