By Stewart Mandel
August 20, 2013
After going 12-0 last season, Braxton Miller and Ohio State will look to emerge from the Big Ten in '13.
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Big Ten Conference Report
 
How They'll Finish
 
LEADERS Conference Overall
Ohio State 7-1 11-1
Wisconsin 6-2 9-3
Indiana 4-4 7-5
Penn State 3-5 6-6
Purdue 2-6 3-9
Illinois 0-8 2-10
 
LEGENDS Conference Overall
Michigan 6-2 10-2
Nebraska 6-2 10-2
Michigan State 6-2 9-3
Northwestern 5-3 9-3
Minnesota 2-6 6-6
Iowa 1-7 4-8
Conference championship: Ohio State def. Michigan
 
Offensive MVP
 
QB
Braxton Miller
2012 stats: 2,039 pass yards, 15 TD, 6 INT; 1,271 rush yards, 13 TD
2013 projection: 2,870 pass yards, 22 TD, 8 INT; 1,020 rush yards, 16 TD
Entering his second year in Urban Meyer's offense, Miller should become a more complete quarterback. With a better supporting cast, the Buckeyes won't be so dependent on him as a runner, while Miller should have increased confidence in his talented receiving corps. "He's comfortable in distributing the football and getting the ball out of his hands, better now than he's ever been," said offensive coordinator Tom Herman.
MANDEL: Ohio State ranks No. 4 in SI's preseason Top 25
 
Defensive MVP
 
LB
Ryan Shazier
2012 stats: 115 tackles, 17 TFL, 11 pass breakups, three forced fumbles
2013 projection: 124 tackles, 19 TFL, three INT, two forced fumbles
Longtime Meyer strength coach Mickey Marotti recently called Shazier "the fastest linebacker I've ever coached, and it's not even close." That's scary, considering Shazier didn't truly come on until about halfway through last season. Now the undisputed leader of the Buckeyes' front seven, Shazier will help break in the starters around him while continuing to make game-changing plays like last year's pick-six at Penn State.
Staff: Ryan Shazier on SI.com's 2013 Preseason All-America Team
 
Breakout Star
 
RB
Melvin Gordon
2012 stats: 62 carries, 621 yards, three TD
2013 projection: 170 carries, 1,071 yards, 12 TD
While veteran James White (806 yards, 12 touchdown in 2012) will take over for Montee Ball as the Badgers' primary tailback, Gordon should see plenty of action in 2013. The speedster burst onto the scene as a freshman late last season, amassing 216 yards on nine carries against Nebraska in the Big Ten title game and 51 yards on nine carries against Stanford in the Rose Bowl. Gordon won't likely replicate last year's impressive 10 yards-per-carry average, but he's a consistent home-run threat.
 
Impact Freshman
 
RB
Dontre Wilson
2012 stats (high school): 1,895 rush yards, 37 TD; 750 rec. yards, 9 TD
2013 projection: 750 rush yards, 10 TD; 360 rec. yards; 2 return TD
Meyer is counting on several track-speed signees from his 2013 class to become immediate difference-makers as freshmen. Based on early accounts out of Columbus, Wilson figures to fit that mold. "He's got something that we didn't have, and that's just electric speed," said Meyer. With running back Carlos Hyde's season-opening three-game suspension, Wilson should get early carries while also seeing time as a receiver and return man.
BAUMGAERTNER: Freshman 15: Impact newcomers in 2013
 
Coach On The Hot Seat
 
Tim Beckman
Last season: 2-10 (0-8 Big Ten)
Career at Illinois: 2-10 (0-8 Big Ten)
Not many coaches qualify for hot seat status just one year into their tenure, but Beckman would've been hard-pressed to make a worse first impression. Despite inheriting a relatively talented roster from Ron Zook (who could always recruit), the Illini plummeted from mediocre to awful in 2012, and Beckman's early recruiting returns aren't much more promising. He'll need new offensive coordinator Bill Cubit to resuscitate fourth-year quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase.
RICKMAN: Hot Seat Watch: Which coaches have the most at stake in 2013?
 
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