Last fall Ohio State helped bring the Big Ten back into the national discussion with its unexpected undefeated season.
This year the conference will battle to stay on top of the college football world with a number of teams looking to steal some of the national spotlight. Other programs are looking to pull themselves up out of mediocrity and become a part of the conference rise.
There is a lot at stake for these teams heading into the new year, as some look to challenge for titles and others try and become a part of the discussion.
The Fighting Illini are heading into the second season under Tim Beckman hoping for a major change of direction for the program in year two.
The Illini fired Ron Zook after six seasons that produced three bowl games, a nine win season and three winning years. The coaching change has yet to pay off on the field, and entering year two, things need to begin to take off.
Beckman took over a Toledo program and turned it around in just three years, but this is a major conference team that is traditionally a bottom dweller.
This season is the turning point for the Illini. Beckman needs a winning season to pull the Illini away from the bottom of college football. Without one, recruiting will take another hit, and Beckman will be stuck in the vicious cycle of mediocre football.
The Purdue Boilermakers are heading into the 2013 season with new faces on the sideline.
Darrell Hazell takes over the Purdue program this year after Danny Hope walked away with a losing record.
The Boilermakers have the talent to challenge for wins in the Big Ten, and the new coaching staff has brought a lot of excitement to the program, but anything less than a bowl year would be a disappointment for this team.
There is a lot on the line in Hazell’s first year with the program, and this season will be a proving ground for the Boilermakers head coach.
Ohio State is one of the best programs in the country heading into 2013.
Urban Meyer has worked his magic in Columbus, and he has taken the talent on hand and created a championship worthy squad. The country is looking for Ohio State to challenge for a national title, and falling short of that would be a major disappointment.
Meyer took this team and pushed them to the top of the Big Ten in just one season showing how good of a hire he was for the Buckeyes.
This year the stakes are much higher as the Buckeyes roll off of NCAA restrictions and can now battle for titles. If Ohio State doesn’t finish in the Big Ten title game, it will be a disappointing season.
This team has the most at stake heading into the new year.
The Wolverines have steadily risen under Brady Hoke over the past few years, and heading into year three, the expectations have never been higher.
This team is finally hitting stride inside the Hoke offense and defense, with the Wolverines preparing to field one of the best defenses in the Big Ten this fall. This is a huge turning point for this program under Hoke.
A mediocre season in 2013 would not only be disappointing, but it would put it a step behind bitter rival Ohio State. The Wolverines have a lot on the line as the conference and country are watching the progression of this team with curiosity.
Will this be the team that was blasted by Alabama to start the year in 2012, or will the Wolverines make the next step to become a championship contender?
In only a few short months that question will be answered.
Michigan State walked away from the 2012 season with a middle-of-the-pack 7-6 record and 17-16 win over TCU in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.
It wasn’t the end to the season that Mark Dantonio and Co. wanted, but a winning year and bowl win are always cherished.
Heading into 2013, the Spartans are at a tipping point. The Wolverines are getting better with each passing day, and Ohio State is running away with the conference.
This has to be a big year for a program that was skyrocketing just two seasons ago.
A lot is at stake for this program in 2013. If the Spartans have another mediocre effort on the field they will be locked into the middle of the pack inside the Big Ten.
Kirk Ferentz is staring at a roster full of playmakers trying to figure out what went wrong in 2012. Heading into the new year this program has to have a resurgence, or the talent that surrounds Iowa inside the Big Ten will leave this program in the dust.
The Hawkeyes were once a consistent challenger in the conference and outside challenger for BCS games, but over the past two years the wheels have come off.
This team needs a winning season badly.
If things don’t get a lot better this fall, head coach Kirk Ferentz may be looking for new employment.