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Hoge: 2012 Big Ten Predictions

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By Adam Hoge

(CBS) Over the past three weeks, I’ve taken an in-depth look at every Big Ten team. Now it’s time to deliver a verdict.

Does the Big Ten have a legitimate national championship contender? Who will make it to the Big Ten Championship Game? How many teams will make bowl games?

Below is my prediction for every Big Ten team, including overall record, conference record and bowl game projection:

LISTEN: 670 The Score’s College Football Roundtable

LEGENDS DIVISION

1. Michigan Wolverines

Predicted Regular Season Record: 9-3 (6-2 Big Ten)
2011 Record: 11-2 (6-2)

In-depth Preview

Key Game: Oct. 20 vs Michigan State. The Spartans might be the better team, but Michigan gets the game in Ann Arbor and ends their four-game losing streak against the Spartans.

Trap Game: Oct. 6 at Purdue. The Boilermakers are going to be sneaky this year and they’ll be ready in their Big Ten opener.

Postseason: Big Ten Championship Game, Rose Bowl

2. Michigan State Spartans

Predicted Regular Season Record: 10-2 (6-2)
2011 Record: 11-3 (7-2)

In-depth Preview

Key Game: Oct. 20 at Michigan. If the Spartans win in Ann Arbor, not only will they be in the driver’s seat in the Legends Division, but they will be in the thick of the BCS National Championship Game conversation.

Trap Game: Nov. 24 at Minnesota. The Gophers figure to get better as the season goes on and they gave the Spartans trouble last year in East Lansing.

Postseason: Fiesta Bowl. The Big Ten Championship Game appearance actually kept the Spartans out of a BCS bowl last year. This year, they get the same benefit Michigan did a year ago.

3. Iowa Hawkeyes

Predicted Regular Season Record: 8-4 (4-4)
2011 Record: 7-6 (4-4)

In-depth Preview

Key Game: Oct. 13 at Michigan State. If the Hawkeyes want to compete in the Legends this season, they need to set the tone early with an upset in East Lansing. It won’t be easy.

Trap Game: Oct. 27 at Northwestern. Iowa ended its three-game losing streak against the Wildcats last year, but it won’t be easy to win in Evanston.

Postseason: Gator Bowl.

4. Nebraska Cornhuskers

Predicted Regular Season Record: 8-4 (4-4)
2011 Record: 5-3

In-depth Preview

Key Game: Oct. 27 vs Michigan. It will be nearly impossible for the Cornhuskers to win the Legends if they don’t take care of business at home against the Wolverines.

Trap Game: Oct. 20 at Northwestern. You don’t have to warn the Cornhuskers. They got beat by the Wildcats at home last year.

Postseason: Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.

5. Northwestern Wildcats

Predicted Regular Season Record: 7-5 (4-4)
2011 Record: 6-7 (3-5)

In-depth Preview

Key Game: Oct. 20 vs Nebraska. It’s not inconceivable for Northwestern to be 7-0 going into this game. A win would give the Wildcats a realistic shot at the Big Ten Championship Game.

Trap Game: Oct. 13 at Minnesota. The Gophers will be better this year and if the ‘Cats get caught looking ahead at the Nebraska game, they’ll leave Minneapolis with a loss.

Postseason: Meineke Car Care Bowl.

6. Minnesota Golden Gophers

Predicted Regular Season Record: 5-7 (2-6)
2011 Record: 3-9 (2-6)

In-depth Preview

Key Game: Oct. 13 vs Northwestern. This is the type of game the Gophers should expect to win this season. It would be a confidence booster early in the Big Ten schedule.

Trap Game: Sept. 15 vs Western Michigan. The Broncos might be the best team in the MAC and QB Alex Carder will give the Gophers’ secondary a test.

Postseason: None.

LEADERS DIVISION

1. Wisconsin Badgers

Predicted Regular Season Record: 10-2 (6-2)
2011 Record: 11-3 (6-2)

In-depth Preview

Key Game: Oct. 13 at Purdue. Most would expect this to be the trap game, but with Ohio State ineligible for the postseason, the Badgers can afford to lose a couple as long as they take care of the Boilermakers on the road.

Trap Game: Nov. 24 at Penn State. The Badgers’ last two trips to Happy Valley were awful and they might still need this one to clinch another trip to Indy.

Postseason: Big Ten Championship Game, Capital One Bowl.

2. Ohio State Buckeyes

Predicted Regular Season Record: 10-2 (6-2)
2011 Record: 6-7 (3-5)

In-depth Preview

Key Game: Nov. 24 vs Michigan. With no postseason to play for, Urban Meyer has made it clear: this is their bowl game this year.

Trap Game: Nov. 3 vs Illinois. This will be Ohio State’s ninth game in nine weeks and with a bye week before a big close against Wisconsin and Michigan, this could be one of those sleepy games that results in upset.

Postseason: Not eligible.

3. Purdue Boilermakers

Predicted Regular Season Record: 9-3 (5-3)
2011 Record: 7-6 (3-5)

In-depth Preview

Key Game: Oct. 13 vs Wisconsin. This is a must-win if the Boilermakers want to seriously challenge the Badgers for the Leaders title.

Trap Game: Nov. 24 vs Indiana. The home team has lost three straight in this series and the Hoosiers should improve as the season goes on.

Postseason: Outback Bowl

4. Illinois Fighting Illini

Predicted Regular Season Record: 6-6 (3-5)
2011 Record: 7-6 (2-6)

In-depth Preview

Key Game: Oct. 6 at Wisconsin. Like Purdue, Illinois has to beat Wisconsin head-to-head if they want to challenge the Badgers for the Leaders title.

Trap Game: Nov. 10 vs Minnesota. The Gophers will improve as the year goes on and it seems like the Illini drop a game like this every season.

Postseason: TicketCity Bowl.

5. Penn State Nittany Lions

Predicted Regular Season Record: 4-8 (1-7)
2011 Record: 9-4 (6-2)

In-depth Preview

Key Game: Sept. 29 at Illinois. If Penn State is going a perform a miracle this season, it needs to set the tone in its first Big Ten game.

Trap Game: Sept. 1 vs Ohio. The optimism Bill O’Brien has brought to State College could disappear Week 1 against a pretty good Ohio team.

Postseason: Not eligible.

6. Indiana Hoosiers

Predicted Regular Season Record: 4-8 (1-7)
2011 Record: 1-11 (0-8)

In-depth Preview

Key Game: Sept. 29 at Northwestern. Getting Kevin Wilson’s first Big Ten win in Week 1 of the conference schedule would be a pretty big step for this program.

Trap Game: Sept. 8 at Massachusetts. UMass isn’t a great team, but considering IU didn’t beat an FBS school in 2011, this is no gimmie on the road.

Postseason: None.

adam hoge 2012 small1 Hoge: 2012 Big Ten Predictions

Adam Hoge

Adam is the Sports Editor for CBSChicago.com and specializes in coverage of the Bears, White Sox and college sports. He was born and raised in Lincoln Park and attended St. Ignatius College Prep before going off to the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he earned a Journalism degree. Follow him on Twitter @AdamHogeCBS and read more of his columns here.