Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE
Michigan was the highest-rated Big Ten team in the AP preseason poll at No. 8, but it was undone by youth, injuries and a brutal schedule. The offense struggled much of the season, getting little production from the tailbacks and an inconsistent effort up front in Brady Hoke’s second season in Ann Arbor.
Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE
Wisconsin isn’t apologizing for being the first five-loss team ever in the Rose Bowl. The Badgers will proudly punch their third ticket in a row to Pasadena, thanks largely to a defense that played well all season.
Andrew Weber-US Presswire
The truth hurts, but here it comes: This is the most disappointing team in the Big Ten. The Spartans were considered legit Big Ten contenders coming off consecutive 11-win seasons. Defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi’s unit did its part, yielding 20 or fewer points eight times.
Bruce Thorson-US PRESSWIRE
In just their second season in the Big Ten, the Cornhuskers won the Legends Division. But that accomplishment was muted a bit by a 70-31 loss to Wisconsin in the league title game. Still, this is Bo Pelini’s best team since arriving in Lincoln in 2008, as it was fueled by the No. 1 total offense (462.2 ypg) and No. 2 scoring offense (35.1 ppg) in the league.
Jesse Johnson-US PRESSWIRE
In just his second season in Minneapolis, Jerry Kill delivered the Golden Gophers to a bowl for the first time since 2009. The team jetted to a 4-0 start, but went just 2-6 to finish the season. The offense struggled down the stretch, as the Gophers finished 10th in total offense (317.5 ypg).
Mike DiNovo-US PRESSWIRE
Purdue is going to a bowl for a second consecutive season but the Boilermakers had to finish with a flurry to get there. More was expected from Danny Hope’s fourth team, and that’s why he was fired and Darrell Hazell was hired from Kent State. The offense struggled much of the season and lacked an identity and consistency. But a defense with several legit NFL prospects was the biggest disappointment, ranking No. 11 overall in the Big Ten (407.3 ypg) and 10th in scoring defense (29.0 ppg).
The Hoosiers still are searching for their first bowl trip since 2007, but they made strides in their second season under Kevin Wilson by winning four games after winning only one game overall and none in Big Ten action in 2011. And Indiana did this despite losing starting quarterback Tre Roberson for the season to a broken leg in the second game.
If not for blowing leads against Nebraska, at Penn State and at Michigan, Northwestern may have gone 12-0. The defense was a big reason for Northwestern pushing its bowl streak to a school-record five seasons in a row. Players like LB David Nwabuisi, E Tyler Scott, LB Chi Chi Ariguzo, LB Damien Proby and S Ibraheim Campbell stood out for a team that showed better toughness.
This is a young Iowa team, so few expected a legit contender. But no one envisioned the Hawkeyes floundering. The offense was the root cause, ranking No. 11 in the Big Ten overall (310.4 ypg) and 11th in scoring (19.3 ppg). QB James Vandenberg took a big step back from a productive junior season, dropping from 25 touchdown passes to seven.
Brace Hemmelgarn-US PRESSWIRE
Tim Beckman’s debut was one to forget, as the Fighting Illini struggled on both sides of the ball. Spotty play along the offensive line hindered an offense that was last in the Big Ten in scoring (16.7 ppg); No. 11 in rushing (127.8 ypg); No. 10 in passing (168.8 ypg).
Evan Habeeb-US PRESSWIRE
The challenges were many for a program rocked by scandal and probation that saw some top players transfer before the season began. But Bill O’Brien and the Nittany Lions never flinched—not even after an 0-2 with losses to Ohio and at Virginia.
Andrew Weber-US PRESSWIRE
I’m rolling out some quick football season reviews during the lull between the end of football’s regular season and the bowl games, and I’m starting with Ohio State. In Urban Meyer’s much-anticipated debut, Ohio State went 12-0 and ranked No. 3 in the AP poll as one of just two FBS unbeatens. It was the sixth unbeaten and untied season in school annals. But, because of NCAA probation, the Buckeyes weren’t eligible to play in the Big Ten title game or a bowl.