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The Pants Predicts: The Big Ten in 2023

Is it time for Hawkeye fans to book their travel plans to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JUL 26 Big Ten Conference Media Days
Who will play for the conference crown this December?
Photo by James Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Did we mention that college football is back? Feels like we haven’t brought that up at all this week. But really, it’s back! We’re now just one week from the first Big Ten conference matchup of the season when Nebraska and Minnesota kick things off next Thursday evening.

With such precious little time remaining until the season begins, it’s time to dive in with our predictions for the conference as a whole. Our friends over at DraftKings Sportsbook have put out all sorts of interesting lines for the season (this is what some might call foreshadowing - be on the lookout for our season best bets). Notably, the Wisconsin Badgers currently have the best odds to win the Big Ten West division at +130. That’s followed by Iowa at +240, Illinois at +550 and Minnesota at +600.

Over in the East, The Ohio State Buckeyes are the odds on favorites at +110, just edging out their foes to the north the Michigan Wolverines at +120. Penn State is a distant third at +450. All three have better odds than anyone in the West to win the Big Ten Championship. In order, Ohio State, Michigan and PSU are +170, +175 and +550 to win the conference. Wisconsin is third at +750 with Iowa at +1200.

Interestingly, only Georgia (-270) has better odds to the make the College Football Playoff than the top two teams in the East. Ohio State is at -170 while Michigan is +100. In case you were thinking of booking travel, Iowa is +1100.

As for The Pants, we’re... optimistic on the season. On average, we’re calling for Iowa to face off with Michigan in a rematch from 2021, except this time WE get Cade McNamara throwing touchdowns. In fact, just one staffer doesn’t have Iowa winning the West and making the return trip to Indy. Meanwhile, only two of us are taking Ohio State to unseat the Wolverines.

Here’s a look at our individual predictions for the Big Ten in 2023.


I really, really want to hedge myself on my Iowa specific prediction and pick the Hawkeyes to redeem themselves from a season ago and get the two Michigan transfers a rematch with their old teammates. However, I’m a believer in one bracket come March Madness, trying to acquire the same fantasy football players no matter how many teams you draft and sticking to your guns come prediction szn.

SO, I’m going to hang with Wisconsin in the West despite being super skeptical of their ability to take a transfer QB, stick him with a new coach and make a brand new system on both sides of the ball work with personnel who have been acquired over 3-4 years to find success. I think the Badgers suffer some growing pains and likely win the West despite at least 3 losses. Because I think lose the right 3 games.

In the East, it really comes down to The Game. I expect Michigan to to pull that out at The Big House, though OSU will be OSU. I think the Buckeyes could push for a playoff spot. Again. But in the end, I think the Wolverines pull out the East and ultimately win the Big Ten, ending the year as the conference’s lone playoff team. This year.

East Winner: Michigan

West Winner: Wisconsin

Offensive PoY: Marvin Harrison, Jr.

Defensive PoY: Cooper DeJean

Specialist of the Year: Tory Taylor

Coach to be Fired: David Braun at NW is low-hanging fruit, throw in Tom Allen at Indiana

Coach of the Year: Luke Fickell because if you go from 7-6 to the title game you win awards

Jerry Scherwin

Let me start with the East because we all know where I’m going in the West. Day-by-day my opinion changes on who I think is going to come out the victor between Michigan, Penn State and Ohio State. It seems like the national college football media is having a blast pumping Michigan as the only team that can unseat Georgia. And when they get bored with that, they turn to James Franklin as the “darkhorse” to come out of the East. I’m not so sure. Yes, Ohio State is going to be fielding a new and unproven quarterback this season but they could field ME as their quarterback for an entire game and I’m probably completing enough passes to Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka to compete.

To top that all off, I’m not so sure J.J. McCarthy is anything more special than whatever Ohio State will be throwing out there as the signal caller.

I’m not here to say that Ohio State is some sort of underdog, but I do feel like they are being slept on. Give me the Buckeyes to make back to Indy after slaying the Michigan beast in last November.

In the West, I’m more scared of Illinois this year than I am of Wisconsin. Sorry, not sorry. But until Luke Fickell gets “his guys” into the program, I’m not sure he’s going to be able to do what he wants to do...YET. Am I scared to death of him in the future. You’re God damn right I am. But this year is the year of the Hawkeye. If Cade McNamara can stay healthy and the offensive line can just be an average Iowa offensive line, this should be a special season for the Hawkeyes. Steal an early win at Penn State and then ride that momentum all the way back to Indy... and then who knows what can happen after that!


The West will go to Iowa this year. They hit the portal harder than they ever have before and look to have struck gold (a year too late on portal adds, but whatever). The talent is there and the schedule is easier than last year - getting Penn State early is the best time to get them, and like Jerry I’m not sold on Wisconsin. So it’s all there for Iowa. But they have to get a return to normalcy on the offensive line, they have to stay healthy, they have to hope the offense finally picks up some of the slack in the event the defense slips, and THEY HAVE TO STAY HEALTHY. Goodness. The thought of losing guys like Mason Richman or Cade McNamara fills me with dread.

East Winner: Michigan

West Winner: Iowa

Offensive PoY: Marvin Harrison, Jr.

Defensive PoY: Cooper DeJean

Specialist of the Year: Tory Taylor

Coach to be Fired: Mike Locksley. That guy is an imposter.

Coach of the Year: Jim Harbaugh, though the league may not take kindly to an early season suspension.


Iowa will be the last B1G West champion, and if they aren’t I think the fans will be calling for more than just a new OC. Ferentz and co. went out and addressed just about every need they had in the portal (I would have loved one more experienced DB just to backstop an injury, but we all know that Iowa in general (and Phil Parker specifically) has a pretty good track record at breaking in DB’s). Wisconsin, as ever, is the key stumbling block and Fickell will have a good 1st year, but I think it’s Iowa’s division to lose.

The East is a little more interesting. Michigan is in the cat bird seat and has proven they are the team to beat. OSU hasn’t settled on a QB yet and hasn’t showed me any reason to think they can stop the law firm of Harbaugh, Abrams & Corum. James Franklin may have an otherworldly defense but if Drew Allar doesn’t live up to the hype, I don’t have much faith in his ability to overtake either UM or OSU. I think it all comes down to The Game yet again, and I think Ryan Day’s seat will be smoking on November 26th.

East Winner: Michigan

West Winner: Iowa

Offensive PoY: Marvin Harrison Jr.

Defensive PoY: Cooper DeJean

Specialist of the Year: Tory Taylor (If not, we riot)

Coach to be Fired: Ryan Day (3 straight losses to the Team Up North is more than the fanbase will allow)

Coach of the Year: Matt Rhule (who will get Nebraska back to a bowl game for the first time in 8 years)


In this last year of the Big Ten as we’ve known it for nearly a decade, Anno Delaney 2023, we can look forward to fascinating races in both divisions. Starting in the East, you’ll never believe that it will come down to the final Saturday between Ohio State and Michigan. The Wolverines are the media darling, coming in #2 in the preseason AP poll and boasting consecutive wins over the Buckeyes. Penn State is a trendy pick to finally break through with a championship but I don’t think they have it in them top both Michigan and Ohio State. If Ryan Day loses three in a row things will start to get a bit toasty for him in Columbus.

Meanwhile, in the best division in football, things get a little more interesting. Wisconsin has gotten the most preseason picks for West champion, and they may indeed come out on top. Luke Fickell was a proven winner at Cincinnati and incoming transfer QB Tanner Mordecai was the same at SMU. The idea of the Badgers running an air raid offense is so unnatural it ought to be condemned by the Vatican. It may work, it may not. But Wisconsin is always tough and regardless of scheme this year should be no different. Illinois made noise last year, and their schedule is as soft as a day old Carver cone. It’s another year of rock, paper, scissors in the West, with the champion still being in doubt come the final weekend.

East Winner: Michigan

West Winner: Iowa

Offensive PoY: Blake Corum

Defensive PoY: Cooper DeJean

Specialist of the Year: Drew Stevens

Coach to be Fired: Whoever is Northwestern’s interim coach (I had to look it up and I’m still not wasting my word count on his name)

Coach of the Year: Jim Harbaugh (a third straight B1G championships appearance tends to help)

Bartt Pierce

Way back when the Big Ten was referred to as the Big 2 and Little 8. Hayden Fry decided the Hawks could bloody the noses of those two powerhouses, and we did, to an extent. However, until a team from the West shows up in Indy, we all are still relegated to the back page. I think that Ohio State beats Michigan this year. There are some good teams who will be tough outs (Hawks, Penn State, Wisconsin, Illinois, Gophs), but it’s going to be either the Buckeyes or Wolverines. All you ask for is a chance, but after the Rose Bowl and the whupping we took the last time we went to Indianapolis, I’m kinda scared with how we fail to show up on the big stage. The Buckeyes will throttle the Hawks after we hang with them the first quarter.

East Winner: Ohio State

West Winner: Iowa Hawkeyes, baby!

Offensive PoY: Marvin Harrison Jr.

Defensive PoY: You know it’s Coop!

Specialist of the Year: The Thunder from Down Under Tory Taylor

Coach to be Fired: Locksley (Maryland) and jNW interim dude

Coach of the Year: Kirk Ferentz

Bizarro Max

The East-West thing just can’t end without the West winning at least one of these, can it? It can, and it will. In the East, cracks are forming in the Buckeye foundation, and the rot will spread. Look for a breakout season for the Penn State offense that won’t be quite enough, as mercurial HC James Franklin continues his penchant for untimely cranial flatulence against the elite of the East, sending the Wolverines to the championship game for the third year in a row. Back in the West, only 3 teams return their head coaches from last year. For Nebraska and Northwestern, that’s addition by subtraction, but the picture for Purdue and Wisconsin is murky and many questions hang over the division. Adrift in a sea of uncertainty, we have little choice but to cling to something solid, reliable, familiar, and within reach. That’s your Iowa Hawkeyes, who will make their third trip to Indianapolis to slug it out against QB Cade McNamara’s former team. Sadly, just as in 2015, they will come up just short of the promised land.

East Winner: Michigan

West Winner: Iowa (but if McNamara can’t play ...)

Offensive PoY: Drew Allar (PSU)

Defensive PoY: Jerzhan Newton (IL)

Specialist of the Year: Tory Taylor (IA)

Coach to be Fired: Ryan Day (you watch what happens in the offseason when the Buckeyes lose 3 straight to Michigan)

Coach of the Year: Matt Rhule*

*Nebraska has talent, legacy, and fan support. They just need to be Not Terrible at the point of attack to become a perennial 8 win team. That a program once famous for its toughness and physicality hasn’t managed to do this in a decade is baffling, but Rhule is seemingly bringing a team-first attitude that will be just the medicine Nebraska needs to go from 4-8 to 8-4.

Alright, those are our predictions for the Big Ten Conference. What say you, Hawkeye fans?

Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See for details.