2013 Big Ten Football Simulated Preview From WhatIfSports.com image

2013 Big Ten Football Simulated Preview

We simulate the Big Ten football season

August 23, 2012

Using our college football simulation engine, WhatIfSports.com simulated thousands of college football games to create the 2013 Big Ten Preview. Team ratings, player ratings and depth charts are accurate as of August 19th. What you see in the Big Ten Predictions table is the most likely outcome based on the computer simulations. The team-by-team schedules use Absolute Records, which you can learn more about below. Those same game-by-game simulations also generate average points per game for both teams.

Big Ten Predictions
LeadersWLOverall Record
Ohio State629-3
Penn State447-5
LegendsWLOverall Record
Michigan State447-5

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For this analysis, thousands of college football games are simulated, with the sum of the winning percentages of those games being our final predicted record. As can be noted, sometimes a team is "favored" (wins more than 50% of the time) in a different number of our games than the expected record shows. We list this record as the Absolute Record. The assumption of the Absolute Record is that the more likely scenario always happens. Since we know that it does not, our expected record (in the table above) is far more accurate. Also, especially since we are rounding, it is possible for a team to win a game more often, yet score the same or fewer points on average. In those cases, for Absolute Records, we always take higher winning percentage and are not predicting a tie or a win by an underdog. This is another reason why the expected records are more accurate, as the teams are so evenly matched, the game could easily go either way.

Ohio State

Braxton Miller

The phenomenal recruiting classes should ensure superpower status over the next several seasons, but everything has to go right for a team with more question marks and concerns than most starry-eyed Buckeye fans want to admit.

If superstar quarterback Braxton Miller takes one big shot and gets knocked out and he takes a lot of big shots as good as Kenny Guiton is, the Buckeyes won't go undefeated, it won't win the national title, and the season will be over. If the defensive front seven that has to replace six starters isn't better as last season's very good, but inconsistent front seven, the Buckeyes won't go undefeated, it won't win the national title, and the season will be over. If the pass protection isn't better, if the veteran secondary isn't a bit tighter, if the freshmen class doesn't live up to its billing right away, if teams play a wee bit harder now that Ohio State games matter, if Ohio State doesn't play a wee bit better now that its games matter, the Buckeyes won't go undefeated, it won't win the national title, and the season will be over.

But this is Urban Meyer and this is Ohio State, so don't be shocked if the Buckeyes go undefeated, win the national title, and the season will be over.

- Pete Fiutak, College Football News

Absolute Schedule/Records

2013 Ohio State Buckeyes
WeekOpponentWin%Avg Score
1Buffalo Bulls9231-15
2San Diego State Aztecs7728-17
3@California Golden Bears8028-19
4Florida A&M Rattlers9552-8
5Wisconsin Badgers6726-22
6@Northwestern Wildcats6126-22
8Iowa Hawkeyes8128-17
9Penn State Nittany Lions6326-22
10@Purdue Boilermakers7225-18
12@Illinois Fighting Illini8228-18
13Indiana Hoosiers7430-23
14@Michigan Wolverines5826-23


Jared Abbrederis

This year's Badger team could and should be better and more consistent under Gary Andersen and his smart staff, and it needs to be. There's no grace period and there's time to adjust either Wisconsin wins at least ten games and is in the thick of the Big Ten title chase, or the season is a failure. That's the level the program got to under Bielema, and with a veteran team returning and shockingly light schedule, there's no reason to take a step back.

The quarterback situation might be jumbled, but it's in far better shape than it appeared to be last year at this time. The O line is fine as long as the starting five stays healthy, Jared Abbrederis and tight end Jacob Pedersen are all-stars to work the passing game around, and the combination of James White and Melvin Gordon should make up for the loss of Montee Ball.

The defense that was so underappreciated last season comes back stronger with a few key changes and the healthy return of a few key young playmakers. Chris Borland leads a deep and strong linebacking corps, while the front three should be a rock against the run. The secondary has to find some key replacements, but there's talent and athleticism to build on.

Andersen has been in tight spots, taking a moribund Utah State program and making it special, but now it's Big Ten championship or bust.

- Pete Fiutak, College Football News

Absolute Schedule/Records

2013 Wisconsin Badgers
WeekOpponentWin%Avg Score
1Massachusetts Minutemen9131-14
2Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles9551-8
3@Arizona State Sun Devils3222-27
4Purdue Boilermakers6627-22
5@Ohio State Buckeyes3322-26
7Northwestern Wildcats5823-22
8@Illinois Fighting Illini7027-19
10@Iowa Hawkeyes6926-19
11BYU Cougars5122-21
12Indiana Hoosiers6327-23
13@Minnesota Golden Gophers5425-21
14Penn State Nittany Lions5124-24

Penn State

Bill O'Brien

This year's team will have a major fight on its hands to try and put together a winning season with some major holes to fill and little to no depth, but the biggest problem could be the unquantifiable emotional angle. For good and bad, last year's team put its collective head down and tried to rally around the awful situation they were put in, and the fortitude showed by going 8-2 after the draining losses to Ohio and Virginia to open the season. Now, there won't be that us-against-the-world attitude, because unlike last season, the emotions just aren't as high and the rhetoric and spotlight have toned down.

So, yeah, for Bill O'Brien and his team, it really is just about playing football games. They can't control anything else.

The starting 22 will be fine, and Penn State will end up having a few good moments against a bad schedule on the way to a 9-3 season at best, 5-7 at worst, and then the season will be over.

- Pete Fiutak, College Football News

Absolute Schedule/Records

2013 Penn State Nittany Lions
WeekOpponentWin%Avg Score
1@Syracuse Orange6125-21
2Eastern Michigan Eagles8831-16
3UCF Knights6328-21
4Kent State Golden Flashes7628-18
6@Indiana Hoosiers6626-22
7Michigan Wolverines5325-23
9@Ohio State Buckeyes3622-26
10Illinois Fighting Illini6726-20
11@Minnesota Golden Gophers5924-21
12Purdue Boilermakers5424-22
13Nebraska Cornhuskers4224-27
14@Wisconsin Badgers4924-24


Stephen Houston

The Hoosiers get 21 of 24 starters back, but just as important is the depth returning to add more pop and options to the mix. A rash of injuries shouldn't be a problem anywhere, with the possible exception of the offensive line, and there are good, young prospects to keep developing and actual fights for jobs.

The offense has the potential to be devastating with ten starters returning and several nice players to work with at the skill spots, and while the defense continues to be a work in progress, there's a young base of prospects in place helped by some of the better recruiting classes the program has come up with in years. Kevin Wilson isn't shy about going big-game hunting for talent, and while he might not be getting the five-star guys Michigan and Ohio State are hauling in, he's getting more Big Ten players.

Indiana and Wilson are starting to get just enough talent be more than just competitive in the Big Ten. Wilson is putting the pieces together to actually start winning big games on a regular basis.

Yes, at Indiana.

- Pete Fiutak, College Football News

Absolute Schedule/Records

2013 Indiana Hoosiers
WeekOpponentWin%Avg Score
1Indiana State Sycamores9549-9
2Navy Midshipmen7128-23
3Bowling Green Falcons6927-21
4Missouri Tigers5325-23
6Penn State Nittany Lions3422-26
7@Michigan State Spartans4521-22
8@Michigan Wolverines4924-25
10Minnesota Golden Gophers5426-24
11Illinois Fighting Illini7027-20
12@Wisconsin Badgers3723-27
13@Ohio State Buckeyes2623-30
14Purdue Boilermakers5125-24


Rob Henry

Darrell Hazell already did the impossible and made Kent State a winner coming painfully close to crashing the BCS party in a phenomenal 11-3 season but making Purdue a perennial player will be even tougher.

Kent State wasn't used to winning on a regular basis and the 1972 Tangerine Bowl was the only post-season game in the school's history before last season, but 2012 was lightning in a bottle. Hazell made Kent State a winner despite a slew of problems and issues on both sides of the ball, and now his job will be to take a Purdue program that's stuck in the mud and get the engines rolling.

The Boilermakers are in the Leaders for one more season before diving into the new world of Big Ten realignment, getting a big break by being in the West with Nebraska and Wisconsin the kingpins instead of the brutal East with Michigan and Ohio State. Hazell needed one year at Kent State to go 5-7 and set the foundation for his stepping-stone campaign, but the focus at Purdue might be more on trying to win right away.

Ohio State might be nasty, but last year Purdue had the game in Columbus won before collapsing late. Wisconsin is undergoing a coaching change, Penn State is irrelevant, and Indiana and Illinois, while improved, are still Indiana and Illinois. Former head coach Danny Hope knew that last season was the time to strike, and it didn't happen. This year, the window might still be open a bit, and with a team full of experience returning, Hazell has to bust through.

- Pete Fiutak, College Football News

Absolute Schedule/Records

2013 Purdue Boilermakers
WeekOpponentWin%Avg Score
1@Cincinnati Bearcats4723-23
2Indiana State Sycamores9549-8
3Notre Dame Fighting Irish4622-25
4@Wisconsin Badgers3322-27
5Northern Illinois Huskies5526-24
7Nebraska Cornhuskers4323-26
8@Michigan State Spartans5721-20
10Ohio State Buckeyes2618-25
11Iowa Hawkeyes6025-21
12@Penn State Nittany Lions4622-24
13Illinois Fighting Illini5724-21
14@Indiana Hoosiers4924-25


Nathan Scheelhaase

Tim Beckman's 2012 team was a disaster in every way possible, doing nothing with a good group of talents left over by the Ron Zook regime. There were rumors that this was Dave Doeren's job for the taking this offseason, and there are even more rumblings about this being a make-or-break year for Beckman after hanging on by the skin of his teeth, but the one major positive he has going for him is that one big problem with Illinois football: no expectations.

Considering Indiana is supposed to be much, much stronger this year, don't be stunned to see the Illini coming into the season ranked last in the Leaders, but that might be the biggest break Beckman has received so far.

The miserable offense of last season can't be any worse, and as long as the O line is better, there should be more pop and explosion. The defense of underachievers should be hungry, with the youth replacing the Zookers who hung around just long enough to go on to the next level.

There are positives. Nathan Scheelhaase is going into his fourth year as the starting quarterback for an attack loaded with veterans, and Jonathan Brown leads a promising linebacking corps that should be as active and athletic as any in the division. There's athleticism and upside across the board, and again, there's no expectation of anything big happening this could be the team that sneaks up on everyone.

Illinois is due for a positive turnaround and a run of sustained success. This year will show whether or not Beckman will be the one who leads the charge when it finally happens.

- Pete Fiutak, College Football News

Absolute Schedule/Records

2013 Illinois Fighting Illini
WeekOpponentWin%Avg Score
1Southern Illinois Salukis9545-9
2Cincinnati Bearcats3020-25
3Washington Huskies4220-24
5Miami (OH) RedHawks7328-20
6@Nebraska Cornhuskers1818-29
8Wisconsin Badgers3019-27
9Michigan State Spartans3419-25
10@Penn State Nittany Lions3320-26
11@Indiana Hoosiers3020-27
12Ohio State Buckeyes1718-28
13@Purdue Boilermakers4221-24
14Northwestern Wildcats3319-26


Taylor Martinez.jpg

It has been a while a long, long while since Nebraska was a dominant force in the national title picture, but that's still where the program thinks it can and should be. Sleeping powerhouses bounce back, and while it's asking a lot of anyone to do what Alabama has grown into under Nick Saban, Brian Kelly showed that Notre Dame could get into the national title picture again while Michigan appears ready to get rolling again in a big way over the next few seasons. It takes a special mix of talent and luck to be national championship-worthy, and this year's Nebraska team might have both.

No, this isn't one of the five best teams in college football this year, and it might barely be hanging around the top 20, but the offense has some tremendous pieces to work around.

It only seems like Taylor Martinez started off his career throwing the option pitch to Jarvis Redwine, but he's a seasoned veteran who has worked hard on the little things to improve his passing skills while managing to keep his body in one piece despite all the big shots he takes. It's not crazy to think he could take his game from very good to Heisman-worthy with a strong line in front of him, a nice group of backs to take the pressure off and a fantastic trio of receivers to stretch the field. With Ameer Abdullah proving to be a top-shelf all-around playmaking back, and with Kenny Bell an NFL-caliber receiver to make defenses worry, all of a sudden, the offense that led the Big Ten in total yards and finished second in scoring could be unstoppable.

- Pete Fiutak, College Football News

Absolute Schedule/Records

2013 Nebraska Cornhuskers
WeekOpponentWin%Avg Score
1Wyoming Cowboys7833-20
2Southern Miss Golden Eagles9434-14
3UCLA Bruins5727-25
4South Dakota State Jackrabbits9553-7
6Illinois Fighting Illini8229-18
7@Purdue Boilermakers5726-23
9@Minnesota Golden Gophers5124-24
10Northwestern Wildcats5826-23
11@Michigan Wolverines6026-23
12Michigan State Spartans6024-21
13@Penn State Nittany Lions5827-24
14Iowa Hawkeyes7327-20


Brady Hoke

When is Michigan finally going to start winning championships on a regular basis and not use RichRod, or Lloyd Carr, or Greg Robinson, or Jim Tressel, or Ed Martin, or recruiting restrictions, or academics, or anything as a reason why the richest of rich football programs can't be among the true leaders and best in college football every single year?

Notre Dame has academic restrictions and it went 12-0 before losing in the BCS championship.

Yes, Brady Hoke really is doing a phenomenal job and the talent is coming in to ensure a whopper of a run in the very near future, but Penn State had every possible excuse in the book to stink last season and it went 8-4 in the regular season, just like Michigan. Wisconsin couldn't play dead for the first half of the season and it managed to fight back to win eight games and a second straight Big Ten championship.

And, yeah, Ohio State, barriers and all, went 12-0.

The 2013 Wolverines are rock-solid across the board. Some might complain about the lack of developed depth, and there might not be any elite receivers, and star pass rusher Jake Ryan might have torn his ACL, and the superstar recruits might need time to mature, and the offensive line needs to revamp the interior, and Devin Gardner might need a full season to show he really is a franchise quarterback, and running back Fitzgerald Toussaint might be coming off a broken leg, and...and...and...

There's no excuse. With a relatively light and breezy schedule with no Wisconsin and with Notre Dame, Nebraska and Ohio State at home, no, there really is no reason why this rising team with a terrific coaching staff and a world of upside can't win big and win big now.

- Pete Fiutak, College Football News

Absolute Schedule/Records

2013 Michigan Wolverines
WeekOpponentWin%Avg Score
1Central Michigan Chippewas7229-19
2Notre Dame Fighting Irish3921-24
3Akron Zips8633-16
4@Connecticut Huskies6725-19
6Minnesota Golden Gophers5823-20
7@Penn State Nittany Lions4723-25
8Indiana Hoosiers5125-24
10@Michigan State Spartans5121-21
11Nebraska Cornhuskers3923-26
12@Northwestern Wildcats4522-23
13@Iowa Hawkeyes5824-21
14Ohio State Buckeyes4223-26


Venric Mark

Northwestern will never bring in the five-star talents like an Ohio State or a Michigan, but Pat Fitzgerald has built and then rebuilt his team around speed, athleticism and aggressiveness, adapting and adjusting along the way to get to a point where the starting 22 can match up well with anyone in the conference. He has also done it with a bit of patience and a lot of learning.

The 2011 team suffered through some major growing pains with massive inconsistencies across the board, but it was a necessary step. The rebuilt receiving corps improved, and now the payoff should come with almost all of the top targets returning. The secondary was an issue for years, but Fitzgerald improved the speed by leaps and bounds, and it showed with a decent year. The pass rush kicked in, the offensive backfield was deadly, and the special teams were peerless as area after area that was a question mark going into 2012 suddenly turned into a plus. And now the momentum should continue.

Coming up with the right facilities and generating a big buzz have been a problem, but even with all the barriers and restrictions, the program is working and things are changing for the better. There might have been a few gag games last season, and there weren't enough giant wins over big-name teams, but with Fitzgerald maturing into the gig and with the players he's getting, there's a reason to believe. There's a reason to think that going 10-3 might be just the beginning and not just a fun anomaly. There's a reason to hope that Northwestern can continue to be really good.

- Pete Fiutak, College Football News

Absolute Schedule/Records

2013 Northwestern Wildcats
WeekOpponentWin%Avg Score
1@California Golden Bears6424-20
2Syracuse Orange6026-21
3Western Michigan Broncos7428-17
4Maine Black Bears9550-7
6Ohio State Buckeyes3922-26
7@Wisconsin Badgers4222-23
8Minnesota Golden Gophers6825-21
9@Iowa Hawkeyes6125-20
10@Nebraska Cornhuskers4123-26
12Michigan Wolverines5523-22
13Michigan State Spartans4521-22
14@Illinois Fighting Illini6726-19

Michigan State

Max Bullough

The program was achingly close to pulling off a trip to Pasadena two years ago with the tough loss to Wisconsin in the inaugural Big Ten championship game, and while last year might not have seemed like a gem going 7-6 and needing a win over Minnesota in the regular season finale just to get bowl eligible five of the losses came by a grand total of 13 points and could've gone either way, while the one relative blowout was a 20-3 defensive battle against a Notre Dame team that ended up in the BCS championship.

So again, in an attempt to make a pick happen, Michigan State should have everything it needs to win the Big Ten title, starting with a defense that gets almost all the key parts back and should be the best in the conference by far. There isn't going to be much of a pass rush, but it shouldn't matter too much there aren't any big bombing teams on the schedule other than Indiana. The secondary is loaded and fabulous, and Max Bullough and Denicos Allen form a fantastic base for a great linebacking corps. The defensive line might lose William Gholston, but it could turn out to be addition by subtraction with several good options waiting to step up and shine.

The offense is a different story without Bell to carry the load, but the line will be terrific again and there's speed, depth and options at all the skill spots more on that in a moment. As long as the offense isn't a total liability, with a defense that finished first in the Big Ten in most of the major categories, and with most of the talent back, everything should finally be there to get to California.

- Pete Fiutak, College Football News

Absolute Schedule/Records

2013 Michigan State Spartans
WeekOpponentWin%Avg Score
1Western Michigan Broncos8128-16
2South Florida Bulls7526-16
3Youngstown State Penguins9546-7
4@Notre Dame Fighting Irish4718-20
6@Iowa Hawkeyes5521-18
7Indiana Hoosiers5522-21
8Purdue Boilermakers4220-21
9@Illinois Fighting Illini6625-19
10Michigan Wolverines4921-21
12@Nebraska Cornhuskers4021-24
13@Northwestern Wildcats5522-21
14Minnesota Golden Gophers4920-20


Donnell Kirkwood

The Gophers have the same regional recruiting restrictions as the Hawkeyes and Badgers, and they have to fight the same uphill battle against the uber-talented big boys in the conference, but now it's time for Kill to show why he was such a solid hire to pull the program up out of the Tim Brewster era nosedive. Now it's time for Minnesota to be a player.

Glen Mason made Minnesota interesting with a terrific ground game, and Brewster had the salesman thing down cold as he tried to bring in strong recruits from a national base for his spread offense. Kill is going back to what he knows running the football and after a few years of recruiting and tweaking, he has his guys in place to do it.

The O line might not be Wisconsin's in terms of bulk, but it should be a technically sound unit with the upside to continue to grow. All five starters are back with just one senior. The receivers are big and physical, and the backs are bigger and more physical. The quarterbacks simply have to be efficient, mistake-free and effective, and let everyone else do the work and hope Minnesota's run-first/run-often identity works.

The defense has to be even more aggressive than it was in its surprisingly strong 2012 season, and the special teams have to be razor-sharp and far better than they've been, but again, Kill has been building things up and now the depth and the options are in place.

It's not time to start booking tickets to Pasadena, but the Gophers are loaded with returning starters who should know what they're doing. Kill needs to have a Year Three like he did a SIU and NIU going from 4-8 to 10-2 with the Salukis and 7-6 to 10-3 with the Huskies to show the rest of the Big Ten that things really are starting to change.

- Pete Fiutak, College Football News

Absolute Schedule/Records

2013 Minnesota Golden Gophers
WeekOpponentWin%Avg Score
1UNLV Rebels7127-19
2@New Mexico State Aggies8327-16
3Western Illinois Leathernecks9548-8
4San Jose State Spartans5524-22
5Iowa Hawkeyes6225-19
6@Michigan Wolverines3920-23
8@Northwestern Wildcats3121-25
9Nebraska Cornhuskers4924-24
10@Indiana Hoosiers4624-26
11Penn State Nittany Lions4121-24
13Wisconsin Badgers4621-25
14@Michigan State Spartans5120-20


Kirk Ferentz

There are two ways to look at last year's 4-8 disaster. On the one hand, Iowa should've beaten Central Michigan and had its chances against Iowa State, Purdue, Indiana and Nebraska, losing all five games by a combined total of 16 points. A few breaks here and there, and 4-8 is 8-4 or 9-3 and all is right with the Hawkeye world. Of course, that's not how it works, and on the flip side, last year's team was closer to 2-10 needing a minor miracle late to slip past Northern Illinois 18-17 and two overtimes to beat Michigan State than it was to flirting with ten wins and a bowl game.

The downfield passing game didn't show up for an offense that finished 114th in the nation, and the pass rush was a disaster finishing last in the Big Ten and 113th in college football. The ground attack was the worst in the conference, and it was a struggle to get to 19.33 points per game with the only two games scoring over 27 coming against Central Michigan and Minnesota.

Fortunately, it might not take a massive change to right the ship even though Kirk Ferentz brought in a few new assistants. If the pass rush can start to be more aggressive, and if there are a few deep balls now and then to stretch out opposing defenses, all of a sudden, this could look like a far different team.

The offensive line should be fine, the running backs are shockingly healthy for a program that's used to disasters in the backfield, and there's just enough talent at quarterback and in the receiving corps to get things moving.

The linebacking corps should be among the best in the Big Ten at least statistically and eight starters return overall. There's size up front, speed in the secondary and huge hitters at linebacker. Defense wasn't necessarily a problem last year, and it should be better this season, while the special teams should be a plus.

No, Iowa won't finally end its Rose Bowl drought, but it'll be better. It has to be, or the program will take on a whole new look going into the 2014 season.

- Pete Fiutak, College Football News

Absolute Schedule/Records

2013 Iowa Hawkeyes
WeekOpponentWin%Avg Score
1Northern Illinois Huskies4123-25
2Missouri State Bears9543-8
3@Iowa State Cyclones5023-21
4Western Michigan Broncos6627-20
5@Minnesota Golden Gophers3819-25
6Michigan State Spartans4518-21
8@Ohio State Buckeyes1917-28
9Northwestern Wildcats3920-25
10Wisconsin Badgers3119-26
11@Purdue Boilermakers4021-25
13Michigan Wolverines4221-24
14@Nebraska Cornhuskers2620-27

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Jake Westrich is the Digital Content Coordinator for WhatIfSports.com. He can be reached at jwestrich@whatifsports.com.

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