College football fans around the country can all agree on the fact that one of the most, if not the most physical conferences in all of the NCAA is the Big Ten Conference. With teams like Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin amongst other teams, every game in that conference is usually a battle from start to finish. While for all college football odds experts, Ohio State always stands out as the favorites in this conference and with ample reason, there are a few other squads who are also ready to cause some definite waves this upcoming season.
Here’s a look at three of the top Big Ten Conference teams to keep an eye on in the upcoming NCAA football season.
Penn State Nittany Lions
While if you take Penn State’s season as proof of what fans can expect, they should also remember that this is a team that’s coming off winning at least 11 games in three of their last four seasons. Head coach James Franklin knows what it’s like to have a winning team and wishes above all to return to those times of bounty.
Offensively speaking, Penn State are looking great, with a lot of depth especially in their receiving core. QB Sean Clifford has a perfect WR tandem with Jahan Dotson and Parker Washington as his two main weapons on the outside. Add to that an offensive line with three outstanding players in Rasheed Walker, Caedan Wallace and Mike Miranda and Clifford should have plenty of room and protection to get the ball out and about. Expect great things from TE duo Theo Johnson and Brenton Strange to also shine in the Mike Yurcich coached offense.
On defense, the linebacker unit needs to improve greatly if they wish to bring down their already decent yards per play allowed average which was 5.1. One department in which they don’t have much to worry though is in their secondary with true freshman CB Kalen King and CB John Dixon leading the way.
While the Hawkeyes started last season with two losses, they followed that up with an impressive six game winning streak that should be inspiration enough to come out swinging for Big Ten Conference title gold this season. HC Kirk Ferentz’s team has enough great tools to work with in a full offseason to prepare and give Ohio State a true run for their conference title.
On offense the Hawkeyes will surely be relying heavily on the running game prowess of All-America prospect Tyler Goodson. But that’s not all that the Hawkeyes offer, with a wide receiver group featuring Keagan Johnson and Arland Bruce IV, both ready to fill in for gone players Ihmir Smith-Marsette and Brandon Smith and tight end Sam LaPorta who is ready to have a breakout year, quarterback Spencer Petras should have enough to work with and get points on the board, many points. While the offensive line does need some help, having star center Tyler Linderbaum and OL Cody Ince leading the pack will definitely help Iowa.
On defense, one thing you can always expect from Kirk Ferentz’s team is a strong, compact unit always ready for the big plays and moments. Iowa has a linebacker unit led by Jack Campbell that should be considered one of the best in the Conference as well as a secondary that can also brag about being one of the best in the Big Ten. This defense when plugged in can play at scary good levels, so opponents beware.
The Wisconsin Badgers can brag about being one of the best defensive teams in all of the Big Ten. Under the direction of head coach Paul Chryst and with a full offseason to prepare, Wisconsin will be looking to show opposing teams that messing with the Badgers is never a good idea.
If we’re talking Wisconsin offense here, the biggest story here is what can be expected of quarterback Graham Mertz. Mertz is more than ready for 2021 to be his breakout year and with the help of a healthy receiver core led by Danny Davis and Kendrick Pryor as well as having one of the best offensive lines in the conference, Wisconsin’s QB is ready for the heat. Add to that what RB Jalen Berger will bring to the table alongside other RB’s Loyal Crawford, Chez Mellusi and Jackson Acker and this will be an offense to fear.
One thing that makes Wisconsin’s defense so good and will make them be again so good, one of the best in the conference this upcoming season is the fact that eight of their main starters will be returning for another season in 2021. Led by one of the best linebackers in the conference in Jack Sanborn and with one of the best secondary units around, the precise and yet strong playing style of Wisconsin’s defense will shine through once again, making them top contenders in their conference.