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Big Ten Football – 2013′s Most Improved & Overrated Teams

Big Ten Football – 2013′s Most Improved & Overrated Teams

Yesterday we took a look at some of the possible Big Ten breakout players for 2013. Today we continue with our Big Ten football Q & A and look at which teams mare most improved and which teams may be overrated.

We are again joined by our panel of Big Ten football experts, including Joe Beale of the Ohio State blog Eleven Warriors, Kevin McGuire of the Nittany Lions Den, and Andrew Coppens of the Wisconsin blog MadTown Badgers.

Question # 3: Which team do you believe will show the greatest improvement over last season? Which team is overrated (not nearly as good as they are being made out to be)?

Joe Beale – Eleven WarriorsGreatest improvement: Minnesota. In his third year at both Southern Illinois and Northern Illinois, Jerry Kill won ten games after mediocre-to-poor second seasons. This is his third year at Minnesota, and the opportunity is there for the Gophers to improve from last season’s 6-7 record. The strong running game and solid defense is a tried and true formula for cold weather teams, and I think it will work well for Kill and his team this year, not to mention that their schedule is favorable with no Ohio State on the list and a soft non-conference slate.

Overrated: Michigan. I think everyone is underestimating the impact of losing Denard Robinson. Devin Gardner is a good quarterback, but not a great one. Without a top-notch running game or an elite passer or runner at quarterback, I think the Wolverine offense will struggle. The defense has a lot of talent, but they lost a great leader in Jordan Kovacs, and it might take some time for the new faces to gel with the veterans.

Big Ten Football – 2013′s Most Improved & Overrated Teams

Michigan QB Devin Gardner (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

Kevin McGuire – Nittany Lions Den: I think going in to the 2013 season the team best suited to show an significant jump in terms of wins and losses might actually be Illinois. The Illini were a train wreck last season in Tim Beckman’s debut season and as comical as it was to watch unfold at times it is important to realize a number of factors went in to the abysmal season. The Illini tried implementing a new system without the proper personnel to execute it. They also suffered some injuries and the coaching staff failed to develop the talents of players on the roster. I’m willing to give Beckman and his staff a mulligan and see if he can turn things around after trudging through a rough 2012 with a young roster.

The schedule for Illinois is not easy and their final record may not illustrate just how much the Illini could be improved, but I would bet they manage to improve on a 2-10 mark in 2012.

Andy Coppens – Madtown BadgersI’ll take the second question first here and this team is one I hinted at in my first answer. I think the most overrated team in the conference this year is Michigan State. The defense is great, no question about that, but this is an offense that lost it’s two most reliable pass catchers in Dion Sims and Le’Veon Bell. Bell also had 382 carries last season and the only returning back with experience has all of 48 yards to his name from last season.

Point being, this team’s offensive success last season hinged on one player and that guy is gone. How exactly is this team better without it’s workhorse when we haven’t seen them prove that last year’s mistakes haven’t been overcome either? No way on paper you can make a legitimate case that they are better off without Le’Veon Bell and Dion Sims in the fold vs. complete youth and just under 100 yards of rushing offense returning to a team that needs to run the ball well to succeed.

As for the team that will show the greatest improvement over last year that’s a tough one because it depends on what you mean by improvement. If you are talking about record only then it’s got to be the Wisconsin Badgers who were just 8-6 last season and have realistic expectations of a 10 win season in the regular season this year.

However, if you mean improvement from where a team was last season in terms of competitiveness I think you’ll see that from Illinois. The hire of Bill Cubbit as OC was a great one by Tim Beckman and watching this team in the spring game it was vastly different and vastly more confident on offense. If they carry that over to this season they’ll win a few more games and be on the right track. Nathan Scheelhaase looks like he should’ve looked over the past few seasons this spring and that’s great news for the Illini.

25 Responses to “Big Ten Football – 2013′s Most Improved & Overrated Teams”

  1. OpeningLine OpeningLine says:

    I wouldn’t classify Minnesota’s conference schedule as favorable. Iowa at home, Indiana on the road (Gophers struggle away from home), and Penn State at home are true 50/50 games for this club. The remaining Big Ten games (@Mich, @NW, Neb, Wisc, @Mich St) all look like losses for Minnesota, at least on the surface.

    I also think that Minnesota will be improved with an experienced (and healthy) offensive line, a more confident second-year QB, and a few potential playmakers (Kirkwood? Harbison?).

    The defense still concerns me. Outside of their two giant DT’s, Minnesota is vastly undersized. Last year, teams like Iowa, Northwestern, Wisconsin, and Michigan State, ran power plays off tackle for 5-6 yards per carry. I’m not sure how much of that will change this season.

    While Minnesota may make strides to improve in Jerry Kill’s third year, I don’t expect them to fully close the talent gap and start stringing together wins in Big Ten play. If they can stay healthy, they could get an upset or two at home, but I think Minnesota will ultimately have a tough time navigating this schedule.

  2. Trentmoney says:

    Michigan offense vs FBS teams in games Denard started: 23ppg
    Michigan offense vs FBS teams in games Devin started: 33 ppg

    Hard to make the argument that they will miss DR…
    And DG was the talk of the Manning Passing camp

    Get the #2 rb recruit in the nation to shore up the run game

    Undefeated at home last year and now get ND/Neb/Oh St, all road losses, at home…were down 7-6 to Neb at half when injury at QB forced them to go with Fr Bellomy who went 3-16 against a Neb defense that blitzed almost every down!! switch out Bama for Uconn ooc which should result in +1 net win…

    In conference during the regular season they had the best ypp diffential in the whole conference, better than Ohio St!! (Wisconsin’s is better if you add in their 9th game B1G champ game)

    I’m high on them, which still doesn’t sound right coming out of my mouth because i’m not a big fan of them in general…but you can’t let your feelings get in the way of sound thinking…already took o8.5 +115 and o8 -140 and feel that this is a legit dark horse national title contender

    • SabertStxVii SabertStxVii says:

      I agree with every single comment here, especially the last one. This team could flat out run the table in a weak B1G and they have enough big games to get votes.

      Also, the news out of Michigan camps as well as professional QB coach George Whitfield is that Devin Gardner looks like an extremely improved passer so far this season…

    • SoonerBS says:

      I couldn’t agree more. DR was a leftover from Rich Rod’s schemes. He didn’t fit anything Brady Hoke wanted do with this team. That is no knock on DR, I think we all know he was a great athlete, but I have often thought he might have had a brighter future as a defensive back than at QB. Again, it might have been alright for Rich Rod’s schemes, but not Hokes.

      Now, Hoke is starting his third year as coach, players know what to do and expect, he has players in the spots that fit his schemes, and most importantly, he has a QB that is going to fit what he wants this team to do. What does he want this team to do? Follow Michigan tradition. Michigan use to be one of the premier programs in college football and it wasn’t too long ago that people could expect every season to come down between Ohio State and Michigan as to who was going to win the conference and have a shot at the National Championship. That is Hoke’s vision of this team and I think he is the right coach to bring that tradition back.Shoot, guys, look what he did with far less at SDSt!

      I agree with Trentmoney, this is a true darkhorse National Championship contender here and I like their chances to win the Big Ten better than I like Ohio State’s.

  3. Joe Beale says:

    Hard to argue that they will miss DR? They won’t miss a guy who had over 1200 yards rushing despite missing 2 games with an injury? The guy who kept them in the game against Ohio State almost single-handedly? I’m not down on Gardner, but Robinson was special.

  4. TrentMoney says:

    BTW- I forgot to add that i’ve already locked in mich +5 vs ohio GOY line

    last year in Columbus oh st was -3.5
    OH ST was 11-0
    Mich was 8-3

    even if the records are the same (which i don’t think they will be) why would they be a bigger favorite in Ann Arbor??

    Now what if Mich is 9-2 or 10-1…
    What if Oh St is 10-1
    Mich will be pk to -3

    Either way this line is wrong and if day of game Oh St is -2.5 or -3 I’ve gotten great value

    • Pezgordo Pezgordo says:

      I got Michigan +6 when those lines first came out …. unfortunately only for a small amount. But definitely agree that Michigan +5 will probably have a lot of value on game day.

  5. TrentMoney says:

    IMO the most over rated teams in this conference are Ohio St and Nebraska…i’ve already taken Neb u9.5 -110

    5 of Oh St’s 8 conference wins were by 7pts or less, including 2 OT wins…certainly doesn’t qualify as dominant to me, yet people are talking about them like they’ve won the conference already…

    Neb had a horrible end to the season, had 4 conference wins by 6pts or less, had miracle wins vs NW and Penn St, barely squeaked by Iowa 13-7, and got W’s vs Wisconsin in Stave’s first career start, and vs Mich when leading 7-6, Mich brought in qb Fr Bellomy after qb injury at half and blitzed him everydown…also, last year was “their year”, with 7 senior defensive starters…they certainly don’t have the look of a 10 win team imo

    • OpeningLine OpeningLine says:

      I agree with everything you said. Nebraska’s defensive front seven was awful last season, and now they have to replace 6 of 7 starting D-Linemen and LB’s.

      However, have you seen Nebraska’s schedule? Wyoming, Southern Miss, UCLA, and South Dakota. UCLA is obviously the toughest, but it helps they will be playing that one in Lincoln.

      Then NU gets to warm up with Illinois, Purdue, and Minnesota in conference play. Remember, for all the faults Nebraska had in the past few years, they like to beat up on bad/lesser talented teams. They could easily be looking at 6-1 or 7-0 to start things off.

      From here, winning 3/5 is very realistic with NW, MSU, and Iowa at home. A road game at Michigan is probably the most likely loss, but @Penn State is a true 50/50 game, IMO.

      Yes, the defense is bad, but they have time to figure it out before they get into the meat of their schedule. I agree Nebraska doesn’t have the “look” or “mold” of a 10 win team, but their schedule suggests otherwise.

      I wouldn’t touch over 9.5 at all, but I could see this one going either way.

      • Trentmoney says:

        I hear you OL…and their sked is one reason why i took me a while to pull the trigger, and for half as much as my Michigan plays…

        But one thing I’ve learned over years of playing season W’s (and quite successfully), is that sometimes the schedule doesn’t matter… don’t get me wrong, if they played the 12 worst teams in the country they would go 12-0… but winning teams will figure out to win and losing teams will figure out a way to lose…so ultimately, it depends on your analysis of the team

        Green Bay was 15-1 in 2011
        The Colts were 2-14

        If you went down the schedule for 2012 counting wins/losses, you marked down GB vs Ind as a win for packers and a loss for colts and didn’t give it another second of thought… well we know how that turned out, unlike anyone would have expected

        Neb had 3 wins where their opponent literally “snatched defeat from the jaws of victory”…hahaha…Wisky/NW/Mich St… I do not expect that to happen again this year…I expect one of those “W’s” that are on the schedule now (@ Min, home to NW/Iowa) to turn into an “L” by the end of the season

        Obviously, I’ll feel much better if UCLA can come away with a victory week 3…

  6. GoSooners GoSooners says:

    I’ve been saying the same things about Michigan over in the RX for the past month, without many takers. I just think Gardner is a better fit for this offense than Denard was. And I think he’ll only improve now that the QB job is all his. The one thing that people are underestimating with Michigan is they have one of the very best coaching staffs in the country. If the defense can hold up their end of the bargain and they can beat ND early in the year, they’ll be off and running. I took Michigan at over 8.5 wins +100. I think that’s a pretty good play.

  7. GoSooners GoSooners says:

    Nebraska’s biggest problems have come from Martinez mistakes. He needs to cut down on his TO’s or they’ll be in the same boat as they were last season. Keep in mind too that this is just NU’s third season in the Big 10. It’s taken them two years to make the league circuit of stadiums and get used to the different styles of play and enviornments. The Huskers schedule is very favorable, so I expect them to be in the thick of it for their division. I think the team that could be a tad overrated in that division is Northwestern. The only team of any substance they beat last season was a 6-6 MSU team that was coming off back to back games vs Michigan, Wisky and Nebraska. Yes, Nebraska barely beat NW last season. But the Huskers did everything they could to lose that game and still came out with a road win. The game wouldn’t have been that close without the 3-0 tunrover ratio. NU still racked up nearly 600 yards on NW and pretty much doubled their first down total yards in that game. I just don’t think NW is quite in the same class as these other teams. Their still a decent team, but I expect NW to come back down to earth this season.

    • SoonerBS says:

      Looking at the Big Ten conference as a whole last season, there were a bunch of games by all the teams that could have gone “either way.” I think that that is the reason why it is ludicrous to bet heavily on Ohio State winning the Big Ten this year because they were the only team that played in some close games that “escaped” (and I use that word strongly) with a flawless record in the Big Ten. I don’t think that happens this year and you don’t either.

      I think every team in the Big Ten will have a loss this season. BUT, if I had to put my money on one team that holds a good chance to make it through undefeated, it would be Michigan. (In fact, I’ve already laid a half a unit on Michigan winning the conference at +500 odds.) GS, unlike a lot of preseason prognosticators who have already practically given the title to Ohio State, I see the Big Ten as being very similar to the Big 12 this season where there are several teams that have a decent chance at winning the Championship.

  8. Trentmoney says:


    here is a comparison of QB stats (not DR rb stats) vs teams from AQ conferences last season, includeing Notre Dame…You wrote that they will miss Denard, and then stated that Devin is good but not great, so it was obvious you were making a comparison between the two qbs

    59/118 50% 820yds 7.0 ypa 4 TD 7 int
    101 rush att 622 yds 3 TD

    75/126 60% 1219 9.68 ypa 11 TD 5 int
    47 rush att 101 yds 7 TD

    Key Stats:
    combined yds/att rushing and passing
    Denard 6.6
    Devin 7.6
    Wow…that’s a 15% upgrade in production!!

    INT rate:
    Denard 1/17 att = 6%
    Devin 1/25 att = 4%
    That’s a 50% increase in ints for Denard over Devin…not good

    TD/INT ratio (I included rush tds since that should help Denard and because it’s more useful to look at total TDs)

    Denard: 7/7 = 1/1
    Devin: 18/5 = 3.6/1
    I don’t even need to use a percentage…

    Denard might have flashy plays…but if everyone time he touches the ball you gain 6.6 yards, and every time Devin touches the ball you gain 7.6 yards, it’s not hard to see who is more productive

    In 219 touches Denard produced 7 TDS = 1/31
    In 173 touches Devin produced 18 TDS = 1/9.6
    Thats more than 3X as many TDs per touch

    And the most important stat linked to wins is turnovers…the TD/int ratio and the int % are heavily in favor of Devin

    And just think…now Devin has a whole spring/fall practice as the QB, instead of playing WR and suddenly getting thrust into the starting QB position in the middle of the season
    DR made for great highlights and exciting plays…but was very inconsistent and the offense was not very efficient with him last year

    I don’t think Michigan is over rated
    and I don’t think they will miss Denard Robinson

  9. wes says:

    Denard racked up a lot of stats against teams like Indiana, Illinois, directional schools, ect…when he played defenses with a pulse he looked very average. Michigan is much better off with dg imo. There’s a reason they shared snaps last year.

  10. Joe Beale says:

    After the last two weeks, does anyone on this comment list wish to revise their comments about Michigan being “a true darkhorse National Championship contender”? Are Akron and UConn also national contenders? 😉

    BTW, despite the cupcakes and Notre Dame’s soft pass defense, UM is currently 79th out of 123 teams in passing offense and 64th in total offense. Do you think it will get easier in conference play?

    • SabertStxVii SabertStxVii says:


      While I think Michigan hasn’t looked like a Natl Championship contender, they have the ability to play much better than we are seeing I think.

      Not making excuses, but alot of this falls on Brady Hoke. GoSooners made some good points in another comment the other day about how Hoke is calling like 65% rushing plays when he has a good QB and a crap OL. He continues to try and pound the ball. I think, if they open up DG and let him throw like they did against ND, they start playing better on offense.

      But I agree, with how they look now, they won’t make it thru the conference schedule unscathed.

    • Trentmoney says:

      Let me ask you a question..??
      Did Notre Dame look like a Nat’l title contender last year after beating Purdue by a fg in the last seconds in September and scoring 20 or less in 3 of their first 4 games last year in September??
      Every team has to go through a close call on their way to a championship…remember 2002 Ohio St..?? I didn’t bet Mich to win the NCG, rather i took them o8.5 wins…but I felt they were a “Darkhorse” national title contender…and until they lose they still are…and as long as they keep putting “W’s” in the left column, they will continue to be…
      Next question…
      If they’re 8-0 in first week in November are you going to come in and revise your comments?


      • Joe Beale says:

        “If they’re 8-0 in first week in November are you going to come in and revise your comments?”

        I might, if they win impressively. It does matter *how* you win, don’t you think? Not only that, but isn’t it true that anyone betting on UM the past two weeks has lost his/her shirt? As the saying goes, once is chance, twice is a coincidence, but three times is a pattern. Let’s see what they do next week.

  11. GoSooners GoSooners says:

    I remember back in 2002 eventual national title winner Ohio State won 6 games by a TD or less. With a couple of those tight games coming as big favorites. So nobody thought they were going anywhere either. Especially when they had to play Miami in the NC game. I’m not comparing OSU and Michigan, but I’m am saying that very few eventual national champions over the history of college football have totally dominated every team on their schedule. Everybody has close calls. Many even lose a game on their way to a NC.

    I’m not saying Michigan is winning any championships this year. But I thought they were a darkhorse NC candidate based on their schedule. They basically had just a three game schedule in the weak Big 10. ND, NW and OSU. Who else besides OSU and NW has impressed anybody in that conference? Wisconsin maybe. But Michigan avoids them and gets OSU and Nebraska at home. If Michigan was in the SEC or Pac-12 they would just be another team to me. But scheduling is everything. Just ask Louisville.

    • Joe Beale says:

      What people seem to forget about 2002 Ohio State is that the close calls came after they had already dominated a good Texas Tech team and a very good (as in top ten) Washington State team. While it is true that they struggled against a mediocre Cincinnati team, that was on the road and that team actually went to a bowl game that year. Anyone see Akron going to a bowl this year? They are 1-3 with their latest loss coming against Louisiana-Lafayette. UConn is 0-3, with one of their losses coming against FCS school Towson.

      2013 Michigan has one quality win, but that’s somewhat shaky considering how Notre Dame has struggled to get past mediocre Purdue and Michigan State teams. I don’t think they’re terrible, but I think it’s questionable to think they have a chance at the Big Ten title this season, much less the BCS championship.

      Maybe I’ll be proven wrong, but I was just wondering if everyone is still as confident as they were before. If this was a team capable of running the table, would they not have put the hammer to Akron and UConn?

  12. GoSooners GoSooners says:

    To tell you the truth, at this point in the season I’m not confident of any particular team winning their conference, with the exception of maybe Louisville. Like I said earlier in the week, Michigan is still trying to find their identity. Hoke has to make the decision to utilize his players to their strengths or they won’t win anything this year. Stop trying to be a power running team, it’s not working.

  13. Joe Beale says:

    I think we can put an end to the debate now: Michigan was clearly overrated. They now have 4 losses and their only remaining game is the one game on the schedule that you would have penciled in as a loss in the pre-season. I think the 8.5 win bet is in serious jeopardy.

    Although my pre-season predictions don’t always hit the mark, the two I made on this thread are looking pretty good. Minnesota truly does look like the most improved team, and Michigan could be the most overrated (their only competition for that title is Northwestern). Two for two.

  14. GoSooners GoSooners says:

    Michigan’s biggest problem right now is their offensive coordinator. They need to can this guy after the season and start over. In the words of Charles Barkley “he’s turrible”

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