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Rutgers

If the adage holds true that defense wins championships then Rutgers should be considered a legitimate contender for the AAC crown. With a very manageable non-conference schedule the Scarlet Knights should also be at the top of your list for an OVER play on a 7-game win total which seems incredibly low for a team that is a co-second favorite to win the conference. They will face Louisville and UCF on the road but two of their other tougher games (Arkansas and Cincinnati) are at home.

League Abbreviation: 
NCAAF
Team ID: 
8649

Nebraska

With what should be a very dangerous offense but an iffy defense Nebraska might play a lot of high-scoring games again this season. The Huskers have all-Big Ten candidates all over on offense, but have a bunch of holes to fill on what was a swiss cheese defense last year. After playing for the conference title last season nothing less than a return trip to Indianapolis is expected. And the easiest schedule among the contenders in the Legends Division might allow them to do that.

League Abbreviation: 
NCAAF
Team ID: 
8625

Michigan State

Michigan State hasn't played in the Rose Bowl since 1987; they've come close a few times since, tying for the conference title twice and losing the conference championship game, but the drought continues. Maybe, though, not for much longer. MSU might field the best defense in the league this season, and with a little improvement from the passing game the offense should be fine. If they can take care of the games they should win, and take two of three during that tough stretch in November, the Spartans might find themselves headed back to Indianapolis.

League Abbreviation: 
NCAAF
Team ID: 
8558

Connecticut

Connecticut is built to be a middle of the road team this season in the AAC. Their non-conference schedule includes games against Maryland and Michigan so its margin of error for beating the teams it is supposed to is rather thin if it wants to exceed its 5.5 projected win total and qualify for a bowl. The offense will once again struggle to score points, but there is enough talent back on defense to keep the Huskies in a good majority of their games.

League Abbreviation: 
NCAAF
Team ID: 
8620

South Florida

The prospect for a quick turnaround for South Florida does not look that promising behind an offense that will struggle to move the ball downfield and score points, but Taggart will start to lay the groundwork for bigger and better things down the road. The Bulls face Michigan State and Miami as part of their non-conference schedule, followed by Cincinnati and Louisville in a span of six games, so the losses will pile up quickly. Taking the current roster and the whole schedule into consideration, anything more than five wins would be a major accomplishment for the Bulls.

League Abbreviation: 
NCAAF
Team ID: 
8605

Michigan

Michigan last won the Big Ten in 2004, and of course every season that doesn't end with a trip to Pasadena is a disappointment to Big Blue Nation. The Wolverines have made nice strides under coach Hoke, but they've got holes to fill on both lines, they've got to cut down on the turnovers, and the back half of this year's schedule is going to be a handful. On top of all that, even if Michigan beats Ohio State in the season finale and wins the Legends Division, they might end up facing the Buckeyes in the Big Ten championship game.

League Abbreviation: 
NCAAF
Team ID: 
8618

Illinois

Illinois is a program in need of a jump-start. The Illini enter this season having lost 14 straight Big Ten games, many of those in non-competitive fashion. But might there be some promise of better things? With Scheelhaase healthy for a full season the offense would improve upon its 17 PPG of last year, and the defense almost can't help but be better. If Illinois can take care of business in its non-conference games, split its Big Ten home games, and pull off one upset on the road, it could find itself back in a bowl. For the moment, that's the goal.

League Abbreviation: 
NCAAF
Team ID: 
8638

Indiana

For Indiana's big-picture, 4-8 is better than 1-11, and just two victories away from 6-6. And considering the Hoosiers lost at least a couple of games last year they could have won, and with all the returning experience, six wins this season seems perfectly possible. Also, college teams often make significant advancements in the third year of new coaching regimes, and this will be Indiana's third season under coach Wilson.

League Abbreviation: 
NCAAF
Team ID: 
8608

Purdue

Purdue hasn't played in the Rose Bowl in 13 years, and for Big Ten teams the trip to Pasadena is always the goal, at least for those beyond BCS championship game contention.  A more attainable goal for this season is just to make it back to a bowl, and maybe pull an upset or two along the way. Offensively the Boilers probably won't average 28 PPG like they did last season, but the defense is likely to improve upon the 31 PPG it allowed last year. How many wins that will equate to is up for debate.

League Abbreviation: 
NCAAF
Team ID: 
8584

Northwestern

Northwestern is listed at about 10/1 at most sportsbooks to win the Big Ten this season, and those are the best odds the Wildcats have had in a long time. The 'Cats won 10 games last year, including a bowl, and that's not a fluke, considering they've now gone to a bowl five years in a row. The next step is to win the Legends Division. And with all the returning talent, including at quarterback and on defense, along with an upset or two and some help from elsewhere, there's a chance it could happen this year.

League Abbreviation: 
NCAAF
Team ID: 
8382

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