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Projecting the field

The start of the college football season for Big Ten teams is less than three weeks away. With that in mind, Sports Editor MATT DANIELS puts forth his best effort on trying to predict how all 14 programs will fare in 2019 (feel free to let him know how bad he did in December via email at mdaniels@news-gazette.com):

Illinois

Predicted record: 5-7 (2-7 Big Ten)

UIFB21

Illinois' head coach Lovie Smith during football training camp at campus rec fields in Urbana on Monday, August 5, 2019.

DATE OPPONENT PICK

Aug. 31 vs. Akron Illinois

Sept. 7 at UConn Illinois

Sept. 14 vs. Eastern Michigan Illinois

Sept. 21 vs. Nebraska Nebraska

Oct. 5 at Minnesota Minnesota

Oct. 12 vs. Michigan Michigan

Oct. 19 vs. Wisconsin Wisconsin

Oct. 26 at Purdue Illinois

Nov. 2 vs. Rutgers Illinois

Nov. 9 at Michigan State Michigan State

Nov. 23 at Iowa Iowa

Nov. 30 vs. Northwestern Northwestern

Breaking it down

➜Any bowl hopes for Lovie Smith and his program rests on a 3-0 nonconference record. The Illini do just enough to achieve that early goal.

➜A close loss at Minnesota on the Gophers’ homecoming leaves the Illini at 3-2 heading into two difficult home games (Michigan, Wisconsin).

➜Surprising win at Purdue is followed up by a home win against lowly Rutgers, but no bowl trip after three straight losses to end season.

Indiana

Predicted record: 4-8 (1-8 Big Ten)

Peyton Ramsey

Indiana quarterback Peyton Ramsey (12) throws a pass in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game against Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich., Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018.

DATE OPPONENT PICK

Aug. 31 vs. Ball State, at Indianapolis Indiana

Sept. 7 vs. Eastern Illinois Indiana

Sept. 14 vs. Ohio State Ohio State

Sept. 21 vs. UConn Indiana

Sept. 28 at Michigan State Michigan State

Oct. 12 vs. Rutgers Indiana

Oct. 19 at Maryland Maryland

Oct. 26 at Nebraska Nebraska

Nov. 2 vs. Northwestern Northwestern

Nov. 16 at Penn State Penn State

Nov. 23 vs. Michigan Michigan

Nov. 30 at Purdue Purdue

Breaking it down

➜It’s very possible the Hoosiers go 3-0 in nonconference play. But other than that, it’s hard to write in confident wins the rest of the way.

➜Quarterback Peyton Ramsey returns after throwing for 2,875 yards, but he’ll need to trim his 13 interceptions thrown from a year ago.

➜If the Big Ten ever realigns its divisions, chances are the Hoosiers would opt for different foes. Just look at their November slate. Yikes.

Iowa

Predicted record: 8-4 (6-3 Big Ten)

Kirk Ferentz

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz walks on the field before an NCAA college football game against Nebraska, Friday, Nov. 23, 2018, in Iowa City, Iowa.

DATE OPPONENT PICK

Aug. 31 vs. Miami (Ohio) Iowa

Sept. 7 vs. Rutgers Iowa

Sept. 14 at Iowa State Iowa State

Sept. 28 vs. Middle Tennessee Iowa

Oct. 5 at Michigan Michigan

Oct. 12 vs. Penn State Iowa

Oct. 19 vs. Purdue Iowa

Oct. 26 at Northwestern Northwestern

Nov. 9 at Wisconsin Wisconsin

Nov. 16 vs. Minnesota Iowa

Nov. 23 vs. Illinois Iowa

Nov. 29 at Nebraska Iowa

Breaking it down

➜If the Hawkeyes beat Iowa State in Ames for the annual Cy-Hawk Trophy, then that would make for a doozy of a matchup on Oct. 5 at Michigan.

➜The Big Ten road slate isn’t easy at all for Kirk Ferentz and his program. At all. But the Hawkeyes win in Nebraska, you heard it here first.

➜Overall, this seems like a typical Iowa season during the Ferentz regime. Nothing great. Nothing subpar. Just consistent. Hello, Outback Bowl.

Maryland

Predicted record: 4-8 (2-7 Big Ten)

Anthony McFarland Maryland foo

Maryland running back Anthony McFarland (5) runs the ball against Ohio State defensive tackle Haskell Garrett (92) during the first half of an NCAA football game, Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, in College Park, Md. Also seen is Maryland offensive lineman Sean Christie (70).

DATE OPPONENT PICK

Aug. 31 vs. Howard Maryland

Sept. 7 vs. Syracuse Syracuse

Sept. 14 at Temple Maryland

Sept. 27 vs. Penn State Penn State

Oct. 5 at Rutgers Maryland

Oct. 12 at Purdue Purdue

Oct. 19 vs. Indiana Maryland

Oct. 26 at Minnesota Minnesota

Nov. 2 vs. Michigan Michigan

Nov. 9 at Ohio State Ohio State

Nov. 23 vs. Nebraska Nebraska

Nov. 30 at Michigan State Michigan State

Breaking it down

➜The Mike Locksley era begins with a win. Albeit against an FCS school that went 4-6 last season. Syracuse, though, poses a different test in Week 2.

➜The seesaw of a new coaching staff mirrors the first seven games for the Terrapins, who offer their fans a glimmer of bowl hope by late October.

➜Even with running back Anthony McFarland back, the final stretch of games is difficult, to say the least, denying Maryland a shot at a bowl.

Michigan

Predicted record: 11-1 (8-1 Big Ten)

Shea Patterson Michigan footb

Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson (2) looks to throw a pass against Penn State in the first half of an NCAA college football game in Ann Arbor, Mich., Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018.

DATE OPPONENT PICK

Aug. 31 vs. Middle Tennessee Michigan

Sept. 7 vs. Army Michigan

Sept. 21 at Wisconsin Michigan

Sept. 28 vs. Rutgers Michigan

Oct. 5 vs. Iowa Michigan

Oct. 12 at Illinois Michigan

Oct. 19 at Penn State Michigan

Oct. 26 vs. Notre Dame Michigan

Nov. 2 at Maryland Michigan

Nov. 16 vs. Michigan State Michigan

Nov. 23 at Indiana Michigan

Nov. 30 vs. Ohio State Ohio State

Breaking it down

➜So close to a perfect regular season. Until new Ohio State coach Ryan Day keeps the Buckeyes’ recent dominance in the series intact.

➜The win that vaults Michigan into the College Football Playoff picture — and potentially Shea Patterson into the Heisman discussion — happens against Notre Dame in late October.

➜Don’t sleep on Army, though, in the second game. The Black Knights’ triple option could cause some frustration.

Michigan State

Predicted record: 10-2 (7-2 Big Ten)

Kenny Willekes Michigan State

Michigan State's Kenny Willekes reacts against Ohio State during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018, in East Lansing, Mich.

DATE OPPONENT PICK

Aug. 30 vs. Tulsa Michigan St.

Sept. 7 vs. W. Michigan Michigan St.

Sept. 14 vs. Arizona St. Michigan St.

Sept. 21 at Northwestern Michigan St.

Sept. 28 vs. Indiana Michigan St.

Oct. 5 at Ohio State Ohio State

Oct. 12 at Wisconsin Michigan St.

Oct. 26 vs. Penn State Michigan St.

Nov. 9 vs. Illinois Michigan St.

Nov. 16 at Michigan Michigan

Nov. 23 at Rutgers Michigan St.

Nov. 30 vs. Maryland Michigan St.

Breaking it down

➜No shame for Mark Dantonio’s program in losing to the two best teams in the Big Ten this season — Ohio State and Michigan — on the road.

➜How can the Spartans reach their sixth season with at least 10 wins this decade? Their defense, led by stud defensive end Kenny Willekes.

➜By routing Rutgers and Maryland after letdown loss at Michigan, Sparty secures spot in notable New Year’s Day bowl game.

Minnesota

Predicted record: 6-6 (4-5 Big Ten)

Tyler Johnson Minnesota footba

Minnesota's Tyler Johnson against Purdue in the second half of a NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018, in Minneapolis.

DATE OPPONENT PICK

Aug. 29 vs. S. Dakota State Minnesota

Sept. 7 at Fresno State Fresno State

Sept. 14 vs. Ga. Southern Minnesota

Sept. 28 at Purdue Purdue

Oct. 5 vs. Illinois Minnesota

Oct. 12 vs. Nebraska Nebraska

Oct. 19 at Rutgers Minnesota

Oct. 26 vs. Maryland Minnesota

Nov. 9 vs. Penn State Penn State

Nov. 16 at Iowa Iowa

Nov. 23 at Northwestern Minnesota

Nov. 30 vs. Wisconsin Wisconsin

Breaking it down

➜Tyler Johnson is arguably the Big Ten’s most underrated receiver, especially with guys like Tanner Morgan and Zack Annexstad throwing to him.

➜The nonconference schedule isn’t overwhelming, but a win at Fresno State is no lock. Neither is a home game against Georgia Southern.

➜Despite slipping up against the better Big Ten teams on their schedule, P.J. Fleck rows the boat just enough to get the Gophers back into a bowl game.

Nebraska

Predicted record: 7-5 (4-5 Big Ten)

Adrian Martinez Nebraska footb

Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez (2) runs with the ball during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Michigan State in Lincoln, Neb., Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018.

DATE OPPONENT PICK

Aug. 31 vs. South Alabama Nebraska

Sept. 7 at Colorado Nebraska

Sept. 14 vs. Northern Illinois Nebraska

Sept. 21 at Illinois Nebraska

Sept. 28 vs. Ohio State Ohio State

Oct. 5 vs. Northwestern Northwestern

Oct. 12 at Minnesota Nebraska

Oct. 26 vs. Indiana Nebraska

Nov. 2 at Purdue Purdue

Nov. 16 vs. Wisconsin Wisconsin

Nov. 23 at Maryland Nebraska

Nov. 29 vs. Iowa Iowa

Breaking it down

➜Pump the brakes just a bit on the Cornhuskers winning the Big Ten West. Quarterback Adrian Martinez is talented, but the defense is suspect.

➜Can’t imagine a more jacked-up atmosphere than if Nebraska is still unbeaten when Ohio State visits Lincoln on the final Saturday in September.

➜Purdue, under Jeff Brohm, always seems to pull out a win at Ross-Ade Stadium when it’s least expected. Count on the Boilermakers winning Nov. 2.

Northwestern

Predicted record: 7-5 (5-4 Big Ten)

Hunter Johnson Northwestern fo

Clemson quarterback Hunter Johnson drops back to pass during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Citadel Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017, in Clemson, S.C. Clemson won 61-3.

DATE OPPONENT PICK

Aug. 31 at Stanford Stanford

Sept. 14 vs. UNLV Northwestern

Sept. 21 vs. Michigan St. Michigan St.

Sept. 28 at Wisconsin Wisconsin

Oct. 5 at Nebraska Northwestern

Oct. 18 vs. Ohio State Ohio State

Oct. 26 vs. Iowa Northwestern

Nov. 2 at Indiana Northwestern

Nov. 9 vs. Purdue Northwestern

Nov. 16 vs. UMass Northwestern

Nov. 23 vs. Minnesota Minnesota

Nov. 30 at Illinois Northwestern

Breaking it down

➜Tough, tough opener for the Wildcats. Good to see a Power 5 team on the nonconference docket, but winning at Stanford will be difficult.

➜Have a feeling quarterback Hunter Johnson, formerly of Clemson, eventually finds his stride. Hence, the four-game win streak late in the season.

➜These Wildcats won’t play again in the Big Ten title game in Indianapolis, but after a brutal schedule to start the season, they garner another bowl bid.

Ohio State

Predicted record: 12-0 (9-0 Big Ten)

Justin Fields Ohio State footb

In this March 6, 2019, file photo, Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields runs through a drill during an NCAA college football practice, in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio State is ready to unveil its new quarterback at the BuckeyesþÄô spring game. On the latest AP Top 25 College Football Podcast, Bill Bender of the Sporting News joins APþÄôs Ralph Russo to chat about the new-look Buckeyes.

DATE OPPONENT PICK

Aug. 31 vs. Florida Atlantic Ohio State

Sept. 7 vs. Cincinnati Ohio State

Sept. 14 at Indiana Ohio State

Sept. 21 vs. Miami (Ohio) Ohio State

Sept. 28 at Nebraska Ohio State

Oct. 5 vs. Michigan State Ohio State

Oct. 18 at Northwestern Ohio State

Oct. 26 vs. Wisconsin Ohio State

Nov. 9 vs. Maryland Ohio State

Nov. 16 at Rutgers Ohio State

Nov. 23 vs. Penn State Ohio State

Nov. 30 at Michigan Ohio State

Breaking it down

➜Jim Delany heads into retirement with a Big Ten team back in the College Football Playoff. No way the committee can deny an unbeaten Ohio State team.

➜Georgia transfer Justin Fields has yet to play a game with the Buckeyes, but the former five-star quarterback fits well in their offense.

➜What team has the best chance to knock Ohio State from its perch atop the Big Ten? Try Penn State on Nov. 23, potentially a trap game before The Game.

Penn State

Predicted record: 8-4 (5-4 Big Ten)

Sean Clifford

Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford (14) warms up on the field before the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018, in Bloomington, Ind.

DATE OPPONENT PICK

Aug. 31 vs. Idaho Penn State

Sept. 7 vs. Buffalo Penn State

Sept. 14 vs. Pittsburgh Penn State

Sept. 27 at Maryland Penn State

Oct. 5 vs. Purdue Penn State

Oct. 12 at Iowa Iowa

Oct. 19 vs. Michigan Michigan

Oct. 26 at Michigan St. Michigan St.

Nov. 9 at Minnesota Penn State

Nov. 16 vs. Indiana Penn State

Nov. 23 at Ohio State Ohio State

Nov. 30 vs. Rutgers Penn State

Breaking it down

➜Not too difficult a schedule through the first five games for either Sean Clifford or Will Levis to get used to being the starting quarterback.

➜But then it ramps up. Big time. The Nittany Lions might not get that sixth win needed for bowl eligibility until the calendar hits November.

➜Playing at Beaver Stadium is never easy. Just ask Ohio State, circa 2016. Penn State has a chance to ruin both Michigan and Michigan State’s season.

Purdue

Predicted record: 6-6 (4-5 Big Ten)

Rondale Moore Purdue football.

Purdue wide receiver Rondale Moore (4) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against Ohio State during the first half of an NCAA college football game in West Lafayette, Ind., Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018.

DATE OPPONENT PICK

Aug. 30 at Nevada Purdue

Sept. 7 vs. Vanderbilt Purdue

Sept. 14 vs. TCU TCU

Sept. 28 vs. Minnesota Purdue

Oct. 5 at Penn State Penn State

Oct. 12 vs. Maryland Purdue

Oct. 19 at Iowa Iowa

Oct. 26 vs. Illinois Illinois

Nov. 2 vs. Nebraska Purdue

Nov. 9 at Northwestern Northwestern

Nov. 23 at Wisconsin Wisconsin

Nov. 30 vs. Indiana Purdue

Breaking it down

➜Kudos for the nonconference schedule the Boilermakers put together. But don’t be surprised if Jeff Brohm’s team is 0-3 entering Big Ten play.

➜Expect a thrill-a-minute game when Nebraska visits Ross-Ade Stadium. And plenty of touchdowns from dynamic receiver Rondale Moore.

➜For the third straight season, Purdue’s bowl fates will rest on a win against rival Indiana in the Old Oaken Bucket Game. Go with the Boilermakers.

Rutgers

Predicted record: 2-10 (0-9 Big Ten)

Chris Ash Rutgers football

Rutgers head coach Chris Ash directs his team during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Northwestern, Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018, in Piscataway, N.J.

DATE OPPONENT PICK

Aug. 30 vs. UMass Rutgers

Sept. 7 at Iowa Iowa

Sept. 21 vs. Boston College BC

Sept. 28 at Michigan Michigan

Oct. 5 vs. Maryland Maryland

Oct. 12 at Indiana Indiana

Oct. 19 vs. Minnesota Minnesota

Oct. 26 vs. Liberty Rutgers

Nov. 2 at Illinois Illinois

Nov. 16 vs. Ohio State Ohio State

Nov. 23 vs. Michigan St. Michigan St.

Nov. 30 at Penn State Penn State

Breaking it down

➜Chris Ash is likely coaching for his job. The fourth-year Rutgers coach is only 7-29 with the Scarlet Knights, and this year looks bleak.

➜Pencil in wins against UMass and Liberty, and that is actually an improvement from last year’s 1-11 ledger that Rutgers sported.

➜If the struggles ensue like many are predicting, have to wonder if Ash will be Rutgers’ coach when the Scarlet Knights visit Champaign on Nov. 2.

Wisconsin

Predicted record: 9-3 (6-3 Big Ten)

Rutgers Wisconsin Football

Wisconsin's Jonathan Taylor runs during the first half of an NCAA college football game against RutgersSaturday, Nov. 3, 2018, in Madison, Wis.

DATE OPPONENT PICK

Aug. 30 at South Florida Wisconsin

Sept. 7 vs. C. Michigan Wisconsin

Sept. 21 vs. Michigan Michigan

Sept. 28 vs. Northwestern Wisconsin

Oct. 5 vs. Kent State Wisconsin

Oct. 12 vs. Michigan St. Michigan St.

Oct. 19 at Illinois Wisconsin

Oct. 26 at Ohio State Ohio State

Nov. 9 vs. Iowa Wisconsin

Nov. 16 at Nebraska Wisconsin

Nov. 23 vs. Purdue Wisconsin

Nov. 30 at Minnesota Wisconsin

Breaking it down

➜What do Big Ten fans do on Dec. 7? Root for a Wisconsin upset of Ohio State in the Big Ten title game or root for Ohio State to clinch a playoff spot? Ponder.

➜No one has a tougher crossover schedule with the Big Ten East than the Badgers. If Jonathan Taylor gets going, though, Bucky could pull an upset.

➜The schedule is daunting and the starting quarterback is uncertain, but Wisconsin will rely on its offensive line to pave the way come November.

Sports Editor

Matt Daniels is sports editor at The News-Gazette. His email is mdaniels@news-gazette.com.