Dienhart's 2014 Big Ten football predictions

I’ve spent months (seems like years, some days) analyzing the coming 2014 season. I’ve talked to head coaches. assistant coaches and players. I even asked the greeter at my local Walmart who he likes to win the Big Ten. Hey, he’s a big Ohio State fan. I wanted to at least humor the guy, ya know?

I’ve written and read countless stories, while also visiting with my brothers and sisters in the media.

After all of that, I am ready to unveil my Big Ten predictions for 2014.

See our other 2014 B1G Predictions posts:


1. Michigan State. Look, I liked the Spartans BEFORE Ohio State superstar Braxton Miller was ruled out. Michigan State will have one of the Big Ten’s top offenses. The defense? Well, we know the Spartan brand on that side of the ball. Pay no heed to starters lost. At MSU, it’s plug and play.

2. Ohio State. The loss of Braxton Miller to a season-ending shoulder injury doesn’t mean the sky is falling in Columbus. It only means the ceiling on this season isn’t as high. National championship? Nope. Major bowl bid? Still possible. There is talent, but so many questions: quarterback, running back, o-line, pass defense …

3. Michigan. The scrutiny will be intense on a program that has seen its win total decrease each of the last three seasons under Brady Hoke. The defense looks strong. The offense holds the key. Will the line get a push? This remains a young team. Still, it’s time to stand and deliver in Ann Arbor.

4. Maryland. This is Randy Edsall’s fourth Terps’ squad. And I like it. Lots of veteran talent dots the roster, especially on defense. The offense has some of the best skill in the Big Ten. Label this team a “sleeper.”

5. Penn State. James Franklin has hit State College like a tornado of positivity and energy. Everyone is buying anything he’s selling. Yes, even ketchup popsicles to people wearing white gloves. But depth issues finally may prove to be ruinous to the Nittany Lions, smacking Penn State with an ugly reality: A losing season. Hey, it was bound to happen.

6. Indiana. The Hoosiers were <THISCLOSE> to making a bowl last season, finishing 5-7. Home losses to Navy and Minnesota were killer. Indiana could break through to its first postseason since 2007 if a new defensive coordinator (Brian Knorr) and scheme (3-4) can improve and complement another electric offense.

7. Rutgers. The good news: The Scarlet Knights have found a strong, stable home in the Big Ten. The bad news: Depth issues across the board and an iffy secondary could prove fatal during Rutgers’ maiden voyage. Did I mention the Scarlet Knights have found a strong, stable home?


1. Iowa. I love this team. Yes, there are depth issues on the o-line, the linebackers are new and the offense needs some explosiveness in the passing game. But the Hawkeyes will ride rugged play in the trenches to glory while playing one of the most user-friendly schedules in the Big Ten.

2. Nebraska. This is one of Bo Pelini’s best teams since the Cornhuskers joined the Big Ten in 2011. A promising defense is what’s fueling excitement in Lincoln. Check out the line. If the offense finds some balance by developing a passing game, this could be a special season.

3. Wisconsin. I never want to soft-sell the Badgers. This program has done too much over the last generation to be ignored. But I just can’t ignore the questions at quarterback, receiver and the fact the front seven on defense is being overhauled. Yes, the schedule is nice, but the Badgers have a lot to overcome. Many players need to grow up fast.

4. Minnesota. No staff does more with less than this one. And the talent also is improving. Don’t sleep on this defense, which could be in the upper-half of the Big Ten again. The key to success rests with an offense that needs more big-play explosiveness.

5. Northwestern. Meet last year’s disappointment. A vote to unionize drew unwanted offseason attention. Then, top RB Venric Mark bolted in camp. Still, lots of talent is back. The key: Line play. Is this group tough enough in the trenches on both sides of the ball? And what’s the mental state of mind?

6. Illinois. Tim Beckman made progress last year, thanks to a revived offense. Now, a push for a bowl is on. Wes Lunt may be the best quarterback in the division. Good enough. But will a defense that bleed yards and points be improved? That’s the key. If so, this squad could make a bowl push.

7. Purdue. Last year was rock bottom for the Boilermakers—at least that’s the hope in West Lafayette. There’s enough skill on offense to make points easier to come by—if the line does its job. And the defense has potential—really. A four-win season is possible–really.

Big Ten Championship Game: Michigan State over Iowa

Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year: Iowa OT Brandon Scherff

Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year: Michigan State DE Shilique Calhoun

Big Ten Newcomer of the Year: Michigan DB Jabrill Peppers

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Big Ten Coach of the Year: Kirk Ferentz, Iowa

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.


Your Opinion?
Show Comments (31 Comments)
JP on 8/22/2014 @ 2:22pm EDT Said:

Not sure how Ferentz will be coach of the year. He returns his starting QB, all his RBs, both lines, has what you say is the “Offensive Player of the Year” at LT and probably the easiest schedule in the league. Doesn’t sound like he need to do a ton of great coaching

Blake Beeson on 8/22/2014 @ 3:32pm EDT Said:

Spot on! Go Hawks!

Moonunit on 8/22/2014 @ 4:51pm EDT Said:

Hawk eye faithful…..can you say Northern Iowa or Iowa State

Brian on 8/22/2014 @ 5:06pm EDT Said:


You love the Hawkeyes or you love their schedule?

Luke on 8/22/2014 @ 6:01pm EDT Said:

Never a good idea to pick a team based on their schedule, Tom. Not a single Hawkeye player on the roster played on the last Iowa team to win more than 8 games. Ferentz has stagnated in Iowa City and it’s unlikely he’ll be able to take Iowa to more than a middle tier bowl from here on out.

Jared on 8/22/2014 @ 6:47pm EDT Said:

Great pick. Go Hawks baby!

Bob Gustin on 8/22/2014 @ 9:18pm EDT Said:

While you might have questions about OSU’s O-line, running backs and pass defense – we certainly don’t. It will be easier to show you rather than tell you, so just wait 8 days……

Josh on 8/22/2014 @ 9:45pm EDT Said:

“Northern Iowa or Iowa state”…..there I said it!!! Stupid, Stupid comment with no meaning whatsoever!! Idiot!

Brian on 8/22/2014 @ 10:12pm EDT Said:

Why are so many people picking Calhoun to out-perform Randy Gregory?? Gregory led the league in sacks last year while only being in Pelini’s system for a couple months prior to the season.

Dave Dorn on 8/22/2014 @ 10:23pm EDT Said:

Even with all the question marks I still think Wis ends up 1st in the West, and if not them, than it will be Nebraska. Iowa, loses games it should win, and will struggle with these two mentioned, imo

jason on 8/22/2014 @ 10:30pm EDT Said:

Surprise team this year – Minnesota! We have a solid defense and a solid o-line. Last years playmakers were all fresh/sophs; they have known they need to step it up this year. Heard of berkeley edwards yet? I’ve noticed dienhart has a special place in his heart for the gophers but it’s too much of stretch pick. Go gophs!

Kyle on 8/22/2014 @ 10:55pm EDT Said:

I know IU Football is an afterthought to most at B1G Network, but Indiana played in a bowl game in Tempe in 2007 on New Years Eve in Bill Lynch’s first year as coach. Keep underestimating the Hoosiers, Tom. Everyone else does. 4th place finish in B1G East.

Eric on 8/23/2014 @ 3:39am EDT Said:


Iowa won 6 games in 2006, 2007, and 8 games in 2008. Therefore, in 2009, when Iowa won the Orange Bowl, the only players to have won more than 8 were the few 5th year seniors left around. And Ferentz teams have kinda had this pattern of big seasons every 5 years or so. Iowa is due, and the schedule certainly helps. But will not be the basis in and of itself of Iowa’s success on the field. This is really shaping up much like the 2009 season.

B1Gfan MI on 8/23/2014 @ 9:39am EDT Said:

Michigan will play Wisconsin for the B1G championship and the Blue will win 31-14 !

Jeff on 8/23/2014 @ 10:29am EDT Said:

Your crazy I and think maybe a little drunk. What have the Hawkeyes done lately to earn this? I think Neb or Wis will when it all this year.

Big Ten Fan on 8/23/2014 @ 11:28am EDT Said:

No, a losing season wasn’t bound to happen you know nothing dope. Here’s the deal, anyone that makes a prediction for Penn State football and uses “depth” as generically as he does has not done his homework. He took the easy way out just as so many lazy so-called journalists have done over the years. When you actually examine Penn State’s depth situation, unlike this guy, you are treated to the realization that Penn State actually has depth, and better depth, including on the offensive line than three teams he ranks ahead of them, not to mention generally better starters.

nathan on 8/23/2014 @ 12:57pm EDT Said:


Big Ten Fan on 8/23/2014 @ 5:45pm EDT Said:

Seven days until Ohio State loses to Navy. Bank it.

Big Ten Fan on 8/23/2014 @ 5:48pm EDT Said:

On seven days until Michigan begins is third losing season in six years.

Trent on 8/23/2014 @ 9:06pm EDT Said:

Did Nebraska compete with the Hawks last year in Lincoln?

Bob on 8/23/2014 @ 9:07pm EDT Said:

Jeff, were you sleeping during the Iowa dismantling of Nebraska at Nebraska. Was Iowa suppose to win. They beat Michigan too! Get your facts straight!

Roscoe P. Snubbs on 8/23/2014 @ 11:33pm EDT Said:

Is this the same Dienhart that Michigan State 6th last year?

Richard Barnes on 8/24/2014 @ 3:28am EDT Said:

I more or less agree with Jeff above. Nebraska or Wisconsin in the west makes sense. I’m a bit confused by Toms statement that he expects rugged play by Iowa in the trenches and then states that they lack depth on the OL. To me that means that they will have 2 or 3 weeks where they will be a bit down on the OL. Perhaps they will be rugged on healthy weeks and ragged on the down weeks when 1 or 2 guys have been replaced by backups. Iowa however looks pretty good but I think NU and Wisc look better.

Chaz on 8/24/2014 @ 10:25am EDT Said:

Hey Big Ten Fan, calling someone a dope pretty much sums up your credibility. The misery at Penn State is far from over.

Moonunit on 8/24/2014 @ 3:52pm EDT Said:

JOSH JOSH JOSH. Since, in your inability to understand what was being said, so you turn it personal, which is typical of an Iowa fan, I’ll explain the meaning. I would make book that Iowa loses at least one of those games and possibly both. Over the last 5 years, Iowa has had a terrible time with UNI and Iowa State. Any injuries in those 2 games to key players(STARTERS) and Iowa’s season goes in the crapper. So, I guess that makes me the stupid one

Josh on 8/24/2014 @ 6:12pm EDT Said:

@Big Ten Fan

Penn State’s OL depth was so bad this offseason that they had to move some defensive lineman to that position. The line will struggle against UCF and their 9 returning starters for sure. They face Dienhart’s top two East teams at home and third best on the road, giving them little room for error. The team has enough weaknesses to lose 6or more games. I think they will win 8. You seem to think they are better than every B1G team aside from MSU. Dienhart thinks they are 5th in the East. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. Deal with it…

j on 8/24/2014 @ 7:43pm EDT Said:

Indiana wins the west division. seriously.

butch on 8/25/2014 @ 8:31am EDT Said:

An offensive tackle as big ten Offensive Player of the Year? Says a lot about the offensive prowess of the conference doesn’t it?

J. Dougherty on 8/26/2014 @ 10:39pm EDT Said:

Good Pick Tom!! Gotta love he Hawkeyes. GO HAWKS!!!

Dan on 9/2/2014 @ 3:24pm EDT Said:

If you look at both Wisconsin and Nebraska after this weekend, you’ll see they both are too one dimensional on offense, their defense’s are good but can’t hang in a game, Wisconsin mainly, but I think the best overall team is the hawkeyes

kitchigami on 9/6/2014 @ 4:58pm EDT Said:

The “Golden Rodents will KILL Indiana !