Kickoff is fast approaching. To help count down the days to Aug. 28, the BTN.com team is discussing one topic every day. Think of it as our countdown to kickoff. Today’s topic: West bowl teams? See Tom Dienhart, Sean Merriman and Brent Yarina’s picks in this post.
See our other 2014 countdown to kickoff posts:
- Debate it: Can a Big Ten West team win the conference title in 2016?
- Debate it: Who is the Big Ten’s top darkhorse Heisman candidate?
- What if you could start a team with one former Big Ten player?
- Draymond Green is the best Big Ten NBA Draft steal since…
- Debate it: What is the most intriguing QB race in the Big Ten?
Tom Dienhart: 5. I have Iowa, my preseason West favorite, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern and Wisconsin all bowling. Iowa, Nebraska and Wisconsin are easy picks. Minnesota is not, due to its tough schedule, and neither is Northwestern, which recently lost Venric Mark (transfer) and Christian Jones (season-ending injury). Still, these teams have more than enough talent to win six games.
Sean Merriman: 4. Iowa is a lock. Nebraska is a lock. Wisconsin is a lock, as well. After those three, it really gets interesting. I think Minnesota makes a bowl game. The Gophers will feature an outstanding run game with the 1-2 punch of David Cobb and Berkley Edwards, and also return seven quality starters on defense. Northwestern is a bubble team after the transfer of Venric Mark and the injury to leading receiver Christian Jones. If the Wildcats can start the year 3-0, they should make a bowl game.
Brent Yarina: 4. Iowa? Without a doubt. Nebraska? Without a doubt. Wisconsin? Without a doubt. Minnesota? I think so. The Gophers face a grueling schedule, but they have three winnable nonconference games, plus Purdue and Illinois on the docket. If they can win that handful of games, Jerry Kill and company are good for at least one upset. I would have thrown Northwestern in here, too, before Venric Mark’s transfer and Christian Jones’ season-ending injury.