Predicting the Big Ten West’s season

The Big Ten West is wide open, and only one team can make the trip to Indianapolis.


Nick Rohlman

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz discusses the fine points of officiating with the line judge during Iowa’s game against Nebraska at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Friday, November 23, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Huskers 31-28.

Pete Ruden, Sports Editor

Prediction season is here, and the wide-open Big Ten West makes it even more interesting.

With Iowa aiming to make a trip to Indianapolis (and the Big Ten title game) for the first time since 2015, Nebraska trying to improve on its 4-8 season in 2018, and Northwestern attempting to defend its West Division title, anything could happen.

The Daily Iowan has re-engaged its crystal ball in an effort to solve the mystery.

Iowa — 9-3 (6-3 Big Ten)

With a three-year starter taking snaps behind an offensive line with two potential first-round NFL Draft picks and A.J. Epenesa and Geno Stone holding the fort down on defense, the Hawkeyes boast plenty of talent to be reckoned with.

Iowa’s schedule could hold it back, though. The Hawkeyes face a five-game stretch starting Oct. 5 in which they face Michigan, Penn State, Purdue, Northwestern, and Wisconsin.

Nebraska — 8-4 (5-4)

The Huskers will undoubtedly be better than they were last year. With a quarterback who can be the face of the program in Adrian Martinez leading a solid offense, the Nebraska defense will be its biggest weakness in games against high-powered offenses. The Huskers ranked 11th in the conference in scoring defense last season,giving up 31.3 points per game, ahead only of Illinois and Rutgers.

RELATED: Emerging Big Ten West strengthens conference

Wisconsin — 8-4 (5-4)

Wisconsin’s schedule is brutal. With crossover games against Michigan State, Michigan, and Ohio State, the Badgers will go up against some of the best teams the Big Ten has to offer. Alex Hornibrook will also be gone, so the Badgers need to find a quarterback fast. The Badgers previously held the spot as the go-to pick to win the West, but that’s not the case this time around.

Purdue — 7-5 (5-4)

The Boilermakers’ high-power offense led by head coach Jeff Brohm and electrifying wide receiver Rondale Moore will be fun to watch. Still, Purdue doesn’t boast all the pieces to take the Big Ten by storm — its defense gave up 30.0 points per game last season, which ranked 10th in the conference.

Northwestern — 7-5 (5-4)

Long-time leader at quarterback Clayton Thorson is gone after a lengthy career with the Wildcats. But if former five-star recruit and Clemson transfer Hunter Johnson can come in and make some magic happen, Northwestern has the chance to surprise people. The Wildcats are the defending West champs, so they have experience and confidence on their side.

Minnesota — 6-6 (3-6)

Minnesota’s schedule starts off with the Gophers looking like a legitimate contender for the West title, but a four-game stretch to end the season with Penn State, Iowa, Northwestern, and Wisconsin won’t do the Gophers any favors. While Minnesota’s ground game could impress some people, it won’t be enough to take it to the next level.

Illinois — 2-10 (0-9)

The football schedule on Illinois’ website has the Big Ten Championship at the bottom, but the Illini won’t see Lucas Oil Stadium anytime soon. Every team Illinois plays this season is simply better. With another year of Lovie Smith, the Illini could pick up a Big Ten victory, but it’s unlikely.