Bret Who? Exactly. By most measures, Gary Andersen’s debut was a rousing success in Madison, as he guided Wisconsin to the precipice of a BCS bowl after Bret Bielema unceremoniously dumped the Badgers for … Arkansas? That’s in the past. The future in Badger Town is bright.
First-year coach Darrell Hazell surely had no idea about the size and scope of the mess he was inheriting from the ruinous Danny Hope era. Hazell and Co., tried. They really did. But the talent level never has been lower in the history of the program. And, it showed in what was arguably the worst season in school history.
Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports
Bill O’Brien continued to deliver results in his second season in State College, Pa., despite being hampered with severe NCAA sanctions. O’Brien debuted with an 8-4 mark (6-2 Big Ten) in 2012 and followed with a 7-5 record (4-4 Big Ten) this season.
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
Urban Meyer has set the bar high in Columbus since arriving prior to 2012, winning his first 24 games. But he didn’t get win No. 25 in succession, as Ohio State lost in the Big Ten championship game which cost OSU a trip to the BCS title game.
Northwestern experienced one of the most bizarre descents in the nation, watching a 4-0 start melt into a 5-7 record and last-place finish in the Legends Division. The low-light was a numbing seven-game losing skid that followed the 4-0 start. The pain finally ended with a season-ending win at rival Illinois.
Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports
Weird. No other word better describes this season. The campaign dawned amid great promise, as Nebraska was coming off a Legends Division title. Much of that same talent was back, fueling hopes for the program’s first league title since 1999. Alas, the defense often looked a lot like it did in 2012, getting gashed for big yards/points after the staff made myriad vows to “fix things.”
Minnesota was one of the best stories in the nation in 2013, showing resiliency in the face of adversity as the team dealt with health issues to Jerry Kill that forced him to leave the program at one point. The reins were handed to defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys, who thrived as the acting head coach in keeping the team on course with Kill tending to the seizures that are brought on by his epilepsy.
No one needed to remind Mark Dantonio of the pain of 2012, when Michigan State finished 7-6 and lost five games by a combined 13 points coming off consecutive 11-win seasons. The Spartans embarked on a redemption tour of sorts in 2013, marching through an 8-0 Big Ten season that saw them win every game by double-figures.
“Disappointing” is the only label to put on this season. Yes, this largely is a young roster under construction for a program that probably is still a year away from blossoming.
Byron Hetzler-USA TODAY Sports
This was a season of redemption for Iowa and coach Kirk Ferentz. Coming off a 4-8 record in 2012 that featured a moribund offense and no bowl for the first time since 2007, some fans were restless. Had Ferentz lost his touch? Would the Hawkeyes miss a bowl for a second season in a row for the first time since a three-season dry spell from 1998-2000?
This looked like it would be the season Indiana finally ended a bowl drought that stretched to the 2007 season. There were eight home games, with the first five at home. And there was loads of veteran talent on offense and promising youngsters on defense for a program that was maturing in its third year under ultra-intense Kevin Wilson.
Year Two under Tim Beckman brought hope in the form of an improved won-loss record, as Illinois went from two victories to four. The credit goes to a revived offense, as new coordinator Bill Cubit altered the scheme and maxed out the skills of senior quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase. Illinois averaged 29.7 points and 426.7 yards in 2013 after averaging 16.7 points and 296.7 yards in 2012.