Dienhart reacts to 2014 football preview mags

Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Dienhart reacts to 2014 football preview mags

I finally have had a chance to closely check out my three favorite college football preview mags: Athlon, Lindy’s and Sporting News. It’s fun to compare and contrast the predicted order of finish in the various publications. After considering the three publications’ picks, I decided to offer some reactions.

Here goes:

  • Ohio State is the consensus pick to win the East. But, I gotta tell ya, I’m liking Michigan State. Yes, the Buckeyes have lots of talent, but the jury remains out on a defense that struggled last season in ranking No. 7 overall and No. 11 vs. the pass in the Big Ten. The Spartans have fewer questions on defense, have as much talent returning on offense as the Buckeyes and play OSU in East Lansing. Bottom line: It’s gonna be a fun race in the East.
  • I am a bit surprised that Wisconsin is picked to win the West by two of the three magazines. Yes, the Badgers have been the best program in recent seasons among the schools in the new Big Ten West. Talent remains and the coaching is good. But I think the attrition that Wisconsin has suffered on defense will prove to be too much, even though the Badgers play one of the most user-friendly schedules in the Big Ten. For the record, Wisconsin has no returning starters in its defensive front seven. Key losses included NT Beau Allen and LBs Chris Borland, Brendan Kelly and Ethan Armstrong. Couple that with an offense that lost its best receiver from what already was a pedestrian passing game, and my concerns seem legit.
  • What to make of Northwestern? The Wildcats were picked to finish fourth (Athlon), fifth (SN) and sixth (Lindy’s). NU is coming off a highly disappointing season, seeing a 4-0 start melt into a 5-7 finish. At one point, the Wildcats lost seven in a row in 2013. Lots of talent is back in Evanston. The key: line play, which wasn’t up to par last season. And can RB Venric Mark stay healthy?
  • No denying this is a big season for Brady Hoke and Michigan. Hoke has seen his win total drop in each of this three seasons—from 11 to 8 to 7. Last year’s 7-6 mark was a huge disappointment, as the Wolverines teased with a 5-0 start only to go 2-6 the rest of the season. And the two victories came vs. non-bowl teams in Indiana and Northwestern. The three mags I looked at have Michigan finishing third or fourth in the East. Will that satisfy fans? How the Wolverines do vs. Michigan State and Ohio State figures to be very important. Hoke is 1-2 vs. Ohio State and 1-2 vs. Michigan State. The Spartans have won five of the last six vs. the Wolverines. The Buckeyes have won 11 of the last 13 vs. Michigan.
  • The Big Ten West could be a fun race. It figures to come down to Iowa, Nebraska and Wisconsin. Sporting News picked the Cornhuskers, while Athlon and Lindy’s tabbed the Badgers. The team I like, Iowa, is picked as low as fourth by Sporting News. Athlon has the Hawkeyes second, while Lindy’s has them third. I really like this Iowa team, which has a great combination of personnel and schedule. Can Iowa avoid the one pratfall that seemingly befuddles it on an annual basis?
  • Two teams that I think could surprise are Maryland and Indiana. No, neither figures to win the uber-tough Big Ten East. But each squad has a nice collection of talent and will have an impact on the division race. And I wouldn’t be shocked if both the Terps and Hoosiers make the postseason. Don’t sleep on Maryland and Indiana.
  • It’s official: Rutgers and Purdue are supposed to bring up the rear in their respective divisions. It’s just too bad these teams don’t play in 2014. Who will finish with more wins?
  • Minnesota is a team on the rise as it enters Year Four of the Jerry Kill era. Sporting News loves the Golden Gophers, tabbing them third in the West. I could see that, especially if the defense continues to shine and the offense can develop a passing game. I was shocked to see Athlon have Minnesota tabbed fifth in the West. Really? No way the Gophers finish lower than fourth.

Here’s a rundown of the orders of finish:

ATHLON

East
1. Ohio State
2. Michigan State
3. Penn State
4. Michigan
5. Maryland
6. Indiana
7. Rutgers

West
1. Wisconsin
2. Iowa
3. Nebraska
4. Northwestern
5. Minnesota
6. Illinois
7. Purdue

LINDY’S

East
1.Ohio State
2. Michigan State
3. Michigan
4. Penn State
5. Maryland
6. Indiana
7. Rutgers

West
1.Wisconsin
2. Nebraska
3. Iowa
4. Minnesota
5. Illinois
6. Northwestern
7. Purdue

SPORTING NEWS

East
1. Ohio State
2. Michigan State
3. Michigan
4, Penn State
5. Indiana
6. Maryland
7. Rutgers

West
1. Nebraska
2. Wisconsin
3. Minnesota
4. Iowa
5. Northwestern
6. Illinois
7. Purdue

About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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