College Football Predictions 2011: Wisconsin Edges Newcomer Nebraska in Big Ten

Joe PetruloCorrespondent IIIJune 17, 2011

College Football Predictions 2011: Wisconsin Edges Newcomer Nebraska in Big Ten

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    ANN ARBOR, MI - NOVEMBER 20:  James White #20 of the Wisconsin Badgers treies to get around the tackle of Jordan Kovacs #32 of the Michigan Wolverines at Michigan Stadium on November 20, 2010 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Wisconson won the game 48-28.  (Photo b
    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    The Big 10 has a newcomer for the 2011 NCAA Football season. The Nebraska Cornhuskers will join the prominent Midwestern conference.

    Some believe they will do well, but struggle to adjust to the Big 10 brand of football.

    Others feel that they will dominate immediately, after playing in a superior (in their eyes) conference for all of these years.

    With the dominant force in the Big 10 struggling through controversy, Nebraska will look to contend for a conference title.

    Let's take a look at how the Big 10 will shake out in 2011.

12. Purdue Boilermakers

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    SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 04: Robert Marve #9 of the Purdue Boilermakers turns to roll out against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Notre Dame Stadium on September 4, 2010 in South Bend, Indiana. Notre Dame defated Purdue 23-12. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    2010 Overall Record:  4-8

    2010 Big 10 Record:  2-6

    Purdue actually has some pretty good returning talent for 2011, including injured quarterback Robert Marve.

    If their quarterback is healthy, the offense could be a fairly consistent point-producer.

    The problem is that their schedule is tough. They have Iowa, Ohio State, and Notre Dame at home, which might put a dent into the home record.

    2011 Overall Prediction:  5-7

    2011 Big 10 Prediction: 2-6 

11. Minnesota Golden Gophers

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    2010 Overall Record:  3-9

    2010 Big 10 Record:  2-6

    The Gophers played very well after the departure of Tim Brewster last season, and will look to build on that momentum.

    Junior quarterback MarQueis Gray will have the keys to the offense. New head coach Jerry Kill has fans very excited in Minnesota.

    They have quite a few winnable road games in the conference, but play most of the top-end teams including newcomer Nebraska.

    The Gophers will struggle in Kill's first year, but things are slowly turning around in Minnesota.

    2011 Overall Prediction:  5-7

    2011 Big 10 Prediction:  2-6

10. Indiana Hoosiers

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    http://cdn.cloudfiles.mosso.com/c1910342/media_center/images/rendered/blog/wysiwyg/Darius-Willis.jpg
    http://cdn.cloudfiles.mosso.com/c1910342/media_center/images/rendered/blog/wysiwyg/Darius-Willis.jpg

    2010 Overall Record:  5-7

    2010 Big 10 Record:  1-7

    Indiana has a new leader this season. They named Kevin Wilson head coach, and he definitely brings a jolt of energy to the program.

    He comes from Oklahoma, where he ran fast-paced offenses for the Sooners as their offensive coordinator.

    Wilson looks like the best candidate to bring this program back to relevance in some time, but it won't happen quite yet.

    They need a year to adjust his style to the program.

    2011 Overall Prediction:  5-7

    2011 Big 10 Prediction:  2-6

9. Illinois Fighting Illini

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    CHAMPAIGN, IL - OCTOBER 02: Head coach Ron Zook of the Illinois Fighting Illini watches as his team takes on the Ohio State Buckeyes at Memorial Stadium on October 2, 2010 in Champaign, Illinois. Ohio State defeated Illinois 24-13. (Photo by Jonathan Dani
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    2010 Overall Record:  7-6

    2010 Big 10 Record:  4-4

    Ron Zook's program has been on a bit of a decline over the past few years.

    Illinois has struggled to move back up toward the top of the Big 10 since getting trounced in the 2008 rose Bowl.

    This year, they will continue to slide in the Big 10 with a fairly tough schedule. Most of their games against the lower half of the Big 10 are on the road, which may lead to some bad losses.

    2011 Overall Prediction:  6-6

    2011 Big 10 Prediction:  2-6

8. Michigan Wolverines

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    ANN ARBOR, MI - APRIL 16: Denard Robinson #16 of the Michigan Wolverines drops back to pass during the annual Spring Game at Michigan Stadium on April 16, 2011 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
    Leon Halip/Getty Images

    2010 Overall Record:  7-6

    2010 Big 10 Record:  3-5

    Denard Robinson was one of the most exciting players to watch in college football last season.

    "Shoelace" made a run at the Heisman Trophy but faltered toward the end of the season.

    This year, the Wolverines face yet another tough schedule, and it appears they do not have the talent (yet) to take the next step.

    2011 Overall Prediction:  6-6

    2011 Big 10 Prediction:  3-5

7. Penn State Nittany Lions

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    TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 1:  Coach Joe Paterno of the Penn State Nittany Lions directs play against the Florida Gators January 1, 2011 in the 25th Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
    Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    2010 Overall Record:  7-6

    2010 Big 10 Record:  4-4

    Joe Paterno's program is slowly losing its relevance as a BCS contender year-in and year-out.

    They are still able to compete within the Big 10, but are no longer feared by opponents like they used to be.

    Quarterback Matt McGloin needs to be better this year, but even if he is, the Nittany Lions will struggle through a tough Big 10 schedule.

    2011 Overall Prediction:  6-6

    2011 Big 10 Prediction:  3-5 

6. Northwestern Wildcats

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    EVANSTON, IL - OCTOBER 23: Head coach Pat Fitzgerald of the Northwestern Wildcats encourages his team as they take on the Michigan State Spartans at Ryan Field on October 23, 2010 in Evanston, Illinois. Michigan State defeated Northwestern 35-27.  (Photo
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    2010 Overall Record:  7-6

    2010 Big 10 Record:  3-5

    Northwestern had a normal Northwestern type of year last season. They trudged through the Big 10, won their nonconference games, and made it to a bowl game.

    This year, they will look to jump up into the top half of the conference.

    Their schedule is one of the easier ones in the conference, and coach Pat Fitzgerald is making sure he fields the 11 hardest workers on each side of the ball.

    2011 Overall Prediction:  7-5

    2011 Big 10 Prediction:  4-4

5. Iowa Hawkeyes

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    IOWA CITY, IA - NOVEMBER 20: University of Iowa Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz looks on from the sideline during pre game warm ups before game action against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Kinnick Stadium on November 20, 2010 in Iowa City, Iowa. Ohio State
    David Purdy/Getty Images

    2010 Overall Record:  8-5

    2010 Big 10 Record:  4-4

    Kirk Ferentz has had to deal with a lot in the past year.

    The controversy from the Derrell Johnson-Koulianos and Adam Robinson incidents shortly scarred the program.

    This only added on to the late-season struggles on the field. They will look to rebound this season through a Big 10 schedule that excludes Ohio State and Wisconsin.

    The key is finding a replacement for veteran leader Ricky Stanzi, who was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs.

    2010 Overall Prediction:  8-4

    2010 Big 10 Prediction:  4-4

4. Michigan State

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    ORLANDO, FL - JANUARY 01: Kirk Cousins #8  of the Michigan State Spartans warms up during the Capitol One Bowl against the Alabama Crimson Tide at the Florida Citrus Bowl on January 1, 2011 in Orlando, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    2010 Overall Record:  11-2

    2010 Big 10 Record:  7-1

    Michigan State had a phenomenal season in 2010.

    They found a great leader in quarterback Kirk Cousins, and enjoyed continued success throughout the Big 10 season.

    Then, they got demolished by Alabama in the Capital One Bowl, and all of their success turned into a distant memory.

    This year, they will look to get back near the top of the Big 10, but will find it difficult with Ohio State, Nebraska, Wisconsin, and Iowa all on the schedule.

    2011 Overall Prediction:  8-4

    2011 Big 10 Prediction:  5-3

3. Ohio State Buckeyes

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    NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 04:  Terrelle Pryor #2 of the Ohio State Buckeyes celebrates the Buckeyes 31-26 victory against the Arkansas Razorbacks during the Allstate Sugar Bowl at the Louisiana Superdome on January 4, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Pho
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    2010 Overall Record:  12-1

    2010 Big 10 Record:  7-1

    The Jim Tressel era is over in Columbus, and so is the Terrelle Pryor era.

    Ohio State is turning a new leaf, and the drama surrounding the program will affect them more than people think.

    Yes, this team is very talented, but the distractions will hold them short of another Big 10 title.

    2011 Overall Prediction:  10-2

    2011 Big 10 Prediction:  6-2

2. Nebraska Cornhuskers

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    ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 04:  Head coach Bo Pelini of the Nebraska Cornhuskers leads his team against the Oklahoma Sooners at Cowboys Stadium on December 4, 2010 in Arlington, Texas. The Sooners beat the Cornhuskers 23-20.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty
    Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    2010 Overall Record:  10-4

    2010 Big 12 Record:  6-2

    2011 marks the year that a Big 12 team moves to the Big 10, making the Big 10 the real conference with 12 teams.

    Nebraska has had a slow return to relevance over the past few years. Bo Pelini, despite being a bit of a controversial character has done a nice job of getting the program back in the national spotlight.

    Taylor Martinez returns this year, and his speed will be too much for Big 10 defenses, or at least enough to gain a near title shot in the Big 10.

    2011 Overall Prediction:  10-2

    2011 Big 10 Prediction:  6-2

1. Wisconsin Badgers

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    ANN ARBOR, MI - NOVEMBER 20:  James White #20 of the Wisconsin Badgers looks for running room while playing the Michigan Wolverines at Michigan Stadium on November 20, 2010 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Wisconson won the game 48-28.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Ge
    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    2010 Overall Record:  11-2

    2010 Big 10 Record:  7-1

    Last season, the Badgers put on a running game clinic. They had one of the most impressive statistical seasons in the running game ever displayed by a team.

    James White finished with 1,052 yards, John Clay with 1,012, and Montee Ball finished four yards short of 1,000 with 996 yards.

    This year, they will continue to tear into Big 10 defenses behind White and Ball.

    The Badgers get the edge over Nebraska because they get the Huskers at home.

    2011 Overall Prediction:  11-1

    2011 Big 10 Prediction:  7-1