Big Ten Preview Time is also Big Ten Prediction Time. Here’s how I see the teams stacking up, by division:

WEST DIVISION

Randy Johnson’s predicted order of finish (preseason AP rank included):

1. Wisconsin (No. 4)

Stud RB? Check. Decent QB? Check. Nation’s best O-line? Check. Solid defense? Check. Badgers have ingredients to make the College Football Playoff for the first time.

2. Iowa

Aside from trip to Penn State, schedule sets up nicely for Hawkeyes.

3. Northwestern

Opener at Purdue is tricky, especially if QB Clayton Thorson isn’t fully back. Trips to Iowa and Michigan State are challenging.

4. Nebraska

Scott Frost has injected life into Husker Nation, and that should translate to more success on the field.

5. Gophers

P.J. Fleck’s team must grow up quickly, and the schedule allows for that.

6. Purdue

Boilermakers improved quickly in Jeff Brohm’s first year as coach. It’ll be more difficult to match that.

7. Illinois

The Illini relied on freshmen last year, and they should improve. But it might not show up in their record.

EAST DIVISION

Randy Johnson’s predicted order of finish (preseason AP rank included):

1. Ohio State (No. 5)

Urban Meyer’s reputation is in tatters. His team, though, still is formidable. Big Ten title hopes should come down to the Big Game vs. Michigan.

2. Michigan (No. 14)

Win two of Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin, and the talent-laden Wolverines could rule the East.

3. Penn State (No. 10)

QB Trace McSorley is a difference-maker, but back-to-back November games against Michigan and Wisconsin will determine if Nittany Lions can win the division.

4. Michigan State (No. 11)

Ranking the Spartans fourth in the East is a testament to just how stacked this division is.

5. Indiana

The Hoosiers must replace eight defensive starters, so cracking the East’s top four is too tall a hill to climb.

6. Maryland

Tough times in College Park. The fallout of lineman Jordan McNair’s death likely will cost coach DJ Durkin his job.

7. Rutgers

Matching last year’s 3-6 Big Ten record will be tough for the Scarlet Knights. But at least they get to play Kansas in the nonconference season.

Big Ten Championship Game ...

Wisconsin over Ohio State.

Bowl teams ...

Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, Iowa, Michigan State, Northwestern, Nebraska and the Gophers.

 

 

Star Tribune College Football Preview Week:

• Sunday’s story was a look at how the Gophers’ long and often-disappointing history of quarterback play is running right up against a coach who has proved he can work some quarterback magic: Kirk Ciarrocca, the U’s offensive coordinator. Read the story here. Columnist Chip Scoggins also wrote about quarterbacks, and how the young Gophers will be guessing for quite some time as Zack Annexstad learns on the job.

• Monday’s edition was our small college preview.

• In Tuesday’s paper, columnist Chip Scoggins broke down the national scene with a story about the dominant defensive linemen that could rule the season, and a column on the best story lines.

• Wednesday is Big Ten preview day. Randy Johnson’s full coverage includes five players to watch, these 2018 predictions and the battle between East. vs. West - which hasn't been much of a fight.

• Additionally, declining ticket sales is a big story across the country and for the University of Minnesota. Our Rachel Blount wrote about this issue for the Monday morning front page. One of the many interesting threads of that story: amid the big declines, “nonrevenue” sports, including all Gophers women’s teams, have seen an increase in ticket revenue.