Ball carries Badgers
Wisconsin's Montee Ball will repeat as Big Ten offensive player of the year and carry the Badgers to a second consecutive conference title-game victory. Playing within a weakened division due to Ohio State and Penn State postseason bans, the Badgers should secure a spot in the championship game, in which they'll edge Michigan.
Nebraska should challenge the Michigan schools in the top half of its division. The Cornhuskers offense will be difficult to stop behind improved quarterback Taylor Martinez and running back Rex Burkhead.
New coach Bill O'Brien might be a strong leader, but Penn State will find it hard to rise above its offseason challenges.
Michigan looks strong
Michigan's march back to prominence in the Big Ten continues in 2012. Quarterback Denard Robinson is one of the most exciting college football players to watch and the hard-nosed coaching style of coach Brady Hoke will have the Wolverines on track to capture another conference title.
Fans outside Big Ten country may have written off Ohio State in 2012 thanks to the team's postseason ban, but don't tell that to Urban Meyer. The former Florida coach has some tricks up his sleeve and the Buckeyes may surprise people this season.
Iowa seems to be light-years away from that magical 2009 season when the Hawkeyes won 11 games and captured the Orange Bowl.
Los Angeles Times
The Wolverines are coming off an 11-win season and quarterback Denard Robinson returns. With a win over Alabama in the season opener, Michigan could give the Big Ten a huge credibility lift.
With Ohio State and Penn State on bowl bans, only four teams can win the Leaders Division. Wisconsin is the heavy favorite, but getting to the title game will never be easier for underdogs Purdue, Illinois and Indiana.
At Iowa, coach Kirk Ferentz is 96-66 in 13 years, but his teams have underperformed in recent seasons. The Hawkeyes are coming off a 7-6 season that ended with a blowout loss to Oklahoma in the Insight Bowl.
Penn State will surprise
As long as running back Montee Ball and his offensive line are healthy, Wisconsin will win its third consecutive Big Ten title — and lose its third consecutive Rose Bowl. The Badgers should run the Legends Division table, with a 2011 title-game rematch with Michigan State poised to be the conference's best game this season.
Penn State will be the surprise, partly because outside expectations are so low. Bill O'Brien's offense has energized quarterback Matt McGloin.
Michigan looms as the disappointment, particularly if it can't shake a potential opening-week loss to Alabama. October, with back-to-back games against Michigan State and Nebraska, will decide the Wolverines' fate.