staff, staff, June 3, 2013

Good news, Big Ten offensive players: Montee Ball is gone, meaning the conference's scoring title is wide open. Ball, the 2011 Heisman Trophy finalist and 2012 Doak Walker Award Winner, ruled the category the last two seasons, scoring a combined 368 points. Now that Ball is in the NFL, who will assume the Big Ten scoring title? Tom Dienhart and Brent Yarina offer their picks in this post.

2012 leader: Montee Ball, Wisconsin - 132
2013 returning leader: Jeff Budzien, Northwestern – 107

Tom: Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State – This is Miller?s title to lose. Last year, the Buckeyes led the Big Ten with a scoring average of 37.2 points. And, the offense may be even more prolific this season with every key cog back for the Big Ten favorite. Yes, burly running back Carlos Hyde returns after leading the Big Ten in scoring per game last season, with a 10.2-point average. And he surely will get his share of touchdowns when the Buckeyes are in goal-line situations in 2013. But I think Miller will take his game to another level with a year in coordinator Tom Herman?s offense under his belt. Miller scored  13 touchdowns last season  to rank 10th in the Big Ten in scoring (6.8 ppg). Yes, staffers want Miller to rely more on his arm than feet-but I?ll believe it when I see it. It?s Miller?s feet and athletic ability that make him special. And they are why he will increase his TD total in 2013 and pace the Big Ten in scoring.
Dark horse: James White, RB, Wisconsin

[ RELATED: View all of our preseason stat predictions ]

Brent: Jeff Budzien, K, Northwestern – Boring pick, I know. But with touchdown machine Montee Ball out of the league and last year's points per game leader, Carlos Hyde, sharing looks with Braxton Miller and Jordan Hall, the scoring title race just may come down to a kicker. Budzien is as good of an option as any special teamer, both because of his accurate foot and his team's solid offense. A season ago, the Wildcat hit 19 of 20 field goals (95 percent) and all 50 of his extra points en route to finishing with 107 points, the most of any Big Ten returner. This season, assuming his accuracy doesn't all of the sudden leave him, the scoring opportunities should only increase now that Kain Colter and Venric Mark have another year of experience and star for a highly underrated offense.
Dark horse: Stephen Houston, RB, Indiana

Here are a few reader predictions: