B1G Football Division Projections

By Joe Beale on May 9, 2013 at 11:30a

It's good to be back. After football season ended in 2012, I went into an unofficial "retirement" from writing, due to an exhausted muse (or something like that). But as I am turning 49 today, it seems like a good time to get back into the ring, so to speak. And what better subject could there be than the 2013 season?

Me, in one of my more thoughtful moments.Sophisticated methods require much contemplation.

Over at ESPN, Brian Fremeau has a post where he uses his mysterious FEI to project the standings for the two Big Ten divisions in 2013. Since his analysis is behind the pay curtain, I thought maybe I could come up with my own fantastic formula that would reveal the blueprint for the next B1G season.

One of the factors that fearless prognosticators frequently use to predict success on the football field for an upcoming season is the number of starters returning. Now, this carries some inherent inaccuracy, as Adam Rittenberg points out. After all, the logic goes, if the team stunk last season, how much of a benefit is it that all the starters return?

To deal with this, I've added a success factor by multiplying the number of returning starters by the number of wins the team accumulated in the previous season. A returning starter from Ohio State's 12-0 team carries more value than one from a 2-10 Illinois team, I humbly suggest.

Then there is the potential impact of incoming recruits. To account for this, I have added in a factor for the total number of stars given to the school's class of 2013. I used Rivals for this analysis but you could pick one of the others if you wanted to try this at home.

The result of all this head scratching, soul searching, and naval gazing, is after the jump. Feel free to add your thoughts and criticisms in the comments. Don't worry, my feelings won't be hurt. Much.


Ohio State (248)
Wisconsin (171)
Penn State (155)
Indiana (145)
Purdue (141)
Illinois (92)

The rich get richer, eh? No surprise to see the Buckeyes at the top, followed by the Badgers (coming off a probation-assisted Big Ten championship). After that, it's a bit of a scrum but isn't it interesting to see the Hoosiers edge out the Boilers? Both teams gave OSU fits last year, but Indiana has 19 returning starters to Purdue's 13.

Could Indiana be a dark horse contender this season? It seems to go against all tradition and reason, but let's look a little more closely at their performance against Ohio State last season: 481 total yards in only 23 minutes of possession with no turnovers. Impressive, even with the loss.

Leading the charge against Ohio State in 2012Cameron Coffman gives IU hope for 2013.

As for Purdue, losing the top two QBs will hurt even though Rob Henry has some experience. They return 8 starters on defense, but this is deceptive. The key player on their defense last year was Kawann Short, and he will be plying his trade for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2013.

For the so-called Fighting Illini, things look pretty gloomy. On the one hand, they return 9 starters on offense. On the other hand, this is from an offense that was 122nd in the NCAA last season in scoring. Beckman has his work cut out for him.


Nebraska (209)
Northwestern (205)
Michigan (194)
Michigan State (161)
Minnesota (148)
Iowa (115)

As you can see, things are much more competitive in the Legends (I really can't wait to jettison that name). The big surprise is Northwestern just behind Nebraska in the projections. But we forget that the Wildcats won 10 games last season, and they are returning 15 starters from that team.

It appears that Dantonio's troops might take a step back this season, at least in relation to that-other-school-in-the-same-state. Another thing that jumps out is that Minnesota looks like they are ready to take a step up. Relatively speaking, they still are projected to 5th in the division, but their point total compares favorably with the 3-5 projected teams from the Leaders Division, and so it might be more hopeful in Minneapolis this season than it has been in a while.

The last thing to note is how bad it looks for Iowa. Coming off a 4-win season and with a recruiting class that ranks 8th out of the 12 teams, the heat should increase under Kirk Ferentz's seat. Up to this point, he's been pure teflon, but how long can that continue? Sooner or later, unmet expectations and mediocre performances must catch up with him.


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BuckeyeSki's picture

Happy Birthday Joe

Banned from BlackShoeDiaries since 2008. Crime: Slander/Defamation of Character Judgement: Guilty

Joe Beale's picture

Thanks, I had a nice birthday evening with the family.


German Buckeye's picture

Surprised no one is picking scUm to win the Legends this year.  Hoke has recruited well and my pick would be them.  I'd love to do back to back games this year vs. TSUN to close out the old before bringing in the new. 

USMC11917's picture

I think TTUN is the team to beat this year in that division. Northwestern will be tough but I haven't seen the defensive toughness in that team to be consistent over a long period. Nebraska is a crap shoot for the defensive reasons too and I still am not truly impressed with taylor Martinez regardless of his stats. For curiosities sake, I wonder what Michigan State will look like this year. (Bollmaned) 

Run_Fido_Run's picture

If schedule strength were equal, Michigan should be a slight favorite, but the schedules aren't.
I see Michigan, NW, Nebraska, and Michigan State as being fairly interchangeable "on paper," but I give better odds to Nebraska and MSU because they have more favorable schedules.
To favor Michigan's chances, you have to believe that they are at least a few notches above their rivals in the Legends division.

USMC11917's picture

There are some merits to returning starters but like you mention for Purdue, that entirely depends  on who those starters are. You can discount the incoming recruits because they are just Freshman and realistically, how many Freshman actually make a difference on a team? Yes, you can point to the most recent Heisman recipient but he was a RS Freshman at that. Ultimately what I think the greatest gage for improvement from one year to the next is your key players development and how long have they been in the system, have they made the playbook and the schemes with adjustments second nature? Have they physically put in the work to be the type of player that supports their role on the team? Not you per se, Joe, but others are guilty of looking at a team and seeing what they lost and automatically discount that loss as a weakness for said team. Having that mentality, the quality of football played will always get worse. With that mindset nobody steps up and improves their game to be better than the guy before him.
When I look at a team, I like to look at the trends of that team and how they played their games. Where has their focus been in recruiting and coaching? Wisconsin will be very hard to predict, just like we were because they have almost an entirely new coaching regime. We look at what they have in current players but what will they be asked to do? Northwestern has made great strides and I think they will be dangerous in any game that they set their hearts to win in. They haven't focused on any specific position or seemed to change a lot on the defensive side of the ball. The team I see making the greatest strides in the B1G is Indiana. I don't necessarily think they will be an immediate threat but Wilson has been recruiting the defensive side of the ball hard and made some aggressive hires recently. It is really a wait and see but a lot can be said for a team and their recruiting strategies and hiring as to what direction they are climbing.

Run_Fido_Run's picture

Good points.
To do the type of analysis and predictions you suggest, though, we'd have to be very familiar with the developmental "arc" of all the key players in the various programs. Even then, it can be difficult to predict if that soph/junior who has been working hard the last few years is ready for a "break out," is a true gamer or more of a practice field star, etc.
I agree that the returning starter stat, by itself, is pretty limited, but if used in combination with other factors, ca be useful. Given the respective state of the programs, if Bama were returning only, say, 11 starters, that'd be much different than if, say, Kansas St. were returning 11. So, we'd look at past recruiting classes, whether the programs have tended to rebuild or reload after years with big graduation (or losses to NFL) numbers, etc.
Phil Steele's predictions are among the best in the business, but he still misses the mark on many of his predictions.
As for Indiana, I'll be curious to see how they do when they get a bit of a target on their backs. If they start the season 5-0 after playing all home games against Ind St, Navy, BG, Mizz, and PSU, they will get other the attention of other teams. Then, in the final 7 games, they play @MSU, @Michigan, @Wisc, and @Ohio State. I could easily see them getting ground down during the second half of the season and then falling apart.    

Hovenaut's picture

Can see Brasky ahead of Hoke and Co, but Nerdwestern ahead of them is surprising.

This will be an even more intriguing read next year, with Rutgers and Maryland aboard and Penn State mired down.

toledobuckeyefanjim's picture

The Nerds from Evanston should have beaten that school up north last year. They will do it this time. The Evanston Nerds are far smarter than the ones in a-squared, anyway.

bukyze's picture

It's too bad the divisions aren't sticking with the same teams, with either Maryland or Rutgers going to the East or West division respectively.  As it's currently set up, all we really have to worry about is Wisconsin.  With the new realignment, our division is going to be much tougher sledding.

GlueFingers Lavelli's picture

I think playing in a tough division will seriously help us, and the conference.  In terms of recruiting I can see a team in the west division rising out of mediorcity to become a solid #3 behind Nebraska and Wisconsin. Northwestern is the concensus pick, but I seriously think Darrel Hazell at Purdue is going to be a great fit and a success. He will do what Hope couldn't.... recruit. I feel sort of bad for Indiana, just when it seems they are turning a corner, the get put in the east lol.  It will def be tough sledding playing Michigan, PSU, Sparty, and a possible dark horse power program in Rutgers (fertile recruiting ground). I'm excited as ever for the conference moving forward. Maybe someday when we add Texas and Notre Dame the west division will be better.

Dustin Fox was our leading tackler as a corner.... because his guy always caught the ball.

dr green's picture

+1 for the Linus pic
-1 because he went to the wrong OSU

Joe Beale's picture

Nice catch; I was wondering if anyone would recognize him.