COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 01 Vrbo Fiesta Bowl - Liberty vs Oregon
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Expectations can make or break a program. Low expectations serve as motivation to prove all the doubters and naysayers wrong for some, while the weight of lofty expectations can prove too much to overcome for others. That's why, at the end of every season, there's a team that went 5-7 with a delighted fan base and a group of people who are miserable after watching their team go 10-2.

While every program and fan base sets the expectations, win totals are one of the few truly neutral projections for every team in the country. They're a simple measure of looking at a team's talent, its schedule and figuring out how many games you're most likely to win.

Perhaps most importantly, win totals give us all a chance to prove we're smarter than everybody else. I know I can never pass up the opportunity to do so, and I've gone through the entire Big Ten schedule for 2024 and figured out how many games each team will win. We don't even need to play the season! The results are all here!

OK, so I might be wrong on some of these. I went 7-7 with my picks last year, so maybe these oddsmakers know what it is they're doing. Let's see if I can post a winning record in 2024 as the Big Ten adds four new teams.


Over/under 5.5 wins

Wins: Eastern Illinois, Central Michigan, Purdue, Minnesota, Michigan State
Losses: Kansas, at Nebraska, at Penn State, Michigan, at Oregon, at Rutgers, at Northwestern

Analysis: I've seen some articles written with extremely low expectations for the Illini, and while I understand the concerns about a defense that lost some key pieces, they won with their offense last season. They could have one of the best offensive lines in the league, which should help them continue to score points. The primary obstacle is the schedule. Pick: Under 5.5 (-110)


Over/under 5.5 wins

Wins: FIU, Western Illinois, Charlotte, Maryland, Purdue
Losses: at UCLA, at Northwestern, Nebraska, Washington, at Michigan State, Michigan, at Ohio State

Analysis: I love the Curt Cignetti hire and expect he'll have an immediate impact, but there's still a lot of work to be done to get Indiana to a point where I expect it to reach a bowl game. This year, with a schedule that features a lot of the more "winnable" games on the road, it's a bridge too far for me. Pick: Under 5.5 (-140)


Over/under 8 wins

Wins: Illinois State, Iowa State, Troy, Washington, Northwestern, Wisconsin, at Maryland, Nebraska
Losses: at Minnesota, at Ohio State, at Michigan State, at UCLA

Analysis: I'm really excited to see what Iowa's new offense looks like, even if I don't expect it'll suddenly be scoring 30 points per game. Iowa will still be Iowa, which typically means it wins most of the games it should but struggles with the top of the league. This win total is technically a push, but I lean slightly more toward the over than under here. Pick: Over 8 (-120)


Over/under 7 wins

Wins: UConn, Michigan State, Villanova, Northwestern, Rutgers
Losses: at Virginia, at Indiana, USC, at Minnesota, at Oregon, Iowa, at Penn State

Analysis: My projection is down on the Terrapins this year primarily due to questions I have for this team at quarterback. Taulia Tagovailoa was far from perfect, but he was experienced and knew the playbook inside and out. Transfer M.J. Morris has talent, but he's been inconsistent when he's played. As for the schedule, there's no Ohio State or Michigan, but a lot of the typical "coin flip" games are on the road. Pick: Under 7 (-150)


Over/under 9 wins

Wins: Fresno State, Texas, Arkansas State, USC, Minnesota, at Washington, at Illinois, Michigan State, at Indiana, Northwestern
Losses: Oregon, at Ohio State

Analysis: I can't help but believe everybody's being too quick to write off the Wolverines. No, I don't anticipate another national title, but while there isn't much experience on offense, there's still plenty of talent. Plus, the defense will remain one of the best units in the country, so the Wolverines offense doesn't need to be prolific. Pick: Over 9 (+105)

Michigan Football Spring Game
Reigning national champion Michigan may be one of the more overlooked teams in the Big Ten this season.  Getty Images

Michigan State

Over/under 5 wins

Wins: Florida Atlantic, Prairie View A&M, at Boston College, Iowa, Indiana, Purdue, Rutgers
Losses: at Maryland, Ohio State, at Oregon, at Michigan, at Illinois

Analysis: It's the first season under Jonathan Smith, and the Spartans strike me as a team that could be slow out the gate but pick up speed as the season progresses. At the very least, the home slate provides plenty of chances to pick up wins, and if Aidan Chiles lives up to his potential, this team could surprise a lot of people. Pick: Over 5 (-110)


Over/under 5.5 wins

Wins: North Carolina, Rhode Island, Nevada, Iowa, Maryland
Losses: at Michigan, USC, at UCLA, at Illinois, at Rutgers, Penn State, at Wisconsin

Analysis: One of the harder teams for me to project. There's a new QB in New Hampshire transfer Max Brosme, but I don't know enough about the receiver talent and the defense will be under a new coordinator. The Gophers strike me as one of those teams who could be better than they were last season, but the schedule doesn't allow them to show it in their final record. Pick: Under 5.5 (-125)


Over/under 7.5 wins

Wins: UTEP, Colorado, Northern Iowa, Illinois, Rutgers, at Indiana, UCLA, Wisconsin
Losses: at Purdue, at Ohio State, at USC, at Iowa

Analysis: Overhyping Nebraska in the offseason has become a college football tradition, but I swear this projection isn't about thinking this is the year the Cornhuskers break through. It's more a reflection of a strong defense, a lot of potential at quarterback and a friendly schedule. The Big Ten has a lot of strength up top, but there's a lot of wiggle room for everybody else in the second and third tiers. Nebraska is in a spot to take advantage of it. Pick: Over 7.5 (-150)


Over/under 4.5 wins

Wins: Miami (OH), Duke, Eastern Illinois, Indiana, Illinois
Losses: at Washington, at Maryland, Wisconsin, at Iowa, at Purdue, Ohio State, at Michigan

Analysis: How does one project a team with an almost entirely new coaching staff that will be playing most of its home games on a practice field alongside a giant lake? If you've ever been to Chicago, you know how hard the wind can come off Lake Michigan, so it will wreak havoc on Northwestern home games. This year, it could provide a unique home-field advantage for the Wildcats. Not enough to lead me to believe we don't see some regression from this squad, but I still like their chances to get five wins. Pick: Over 4.5 (-130)

Ohio State

Over/under 10.5 wins

Wins: Akron, Western Michigan, Marshall, at Michigan State, Iowa, at Oregon, Nebraska, at Penn State, Purdue, at Northwestern, Indiana, Michigan
Losses: None

Analysis: Ohio State is a favorite in the Big Ten and national title picture for good reason. It has a strong argument as the most talented team in the country and plenty of the depth needed to survive a long season. It also has a relatively friendly schedule, though road trips to Oregon and Penn State will provide big challenges. Still, it feels like a three-game regular season with those two games and the finale against Michigan. The Buckeyes should cruise against the rest of the slate. Pick: Over 10.5 (-175)


Over/under 10.5 wins

Wins: Idaho, Boise State, at Oregon State, at UCLA, Michigan State, at Purdue, Illinois, at Michigan, Maryland, at Wisconsin, Washington
Losses: Ohio State

Analysis: I can't shake the feeling I'll regret this. I'm high on the Ducks, as you can see from my projection. At the same time, I've seen this play out so many times before, where a team joins a new conference with high expectations and fails to live up to them. We sometimes underestimate the challenge of learning an entirely new league! Still, in a bubble, the Ducks are uber-talented and will be favored in nearly every game. Pick: Over 10.5 (-110)

Penn State

Over/under 9.5 wins

Wins: at West Virginia, Bowling Green, Kent State, Illinois, UCLA, at Wisconsin, Washington, at Purdue, at Minnesota, Maryland
Losses: at USC, Ohio State

Analysis: Penn State will begin the season with College Football Playoff expectations, and it has a schedule that'll help achieve those goals. While Ohio State remains on the docket, there's no Michigan or Oregon, and while I have them losing on the road against USC, that's not etched in stone. Should the new-look offense click and the defense maintain its usual performance, the Nittany Lions might find themselves in the Big Ten Championship Game. Pick: Over 9.5 (-150)

Penn State Spring Football Game
Penn State star QB Drew Allar is tasked with leading Penn State to meet some big expectations this season.  Getty Images


Over/under 4.5 wins

Wins: Indiana State, at Oregon State, Nebraska, Northwestern
Losses: Notre Dame, at Wisconsin, at Illinois, Oregon, at Ohio State, Penn State, at Michigan State, at Indiana

Analysis: Another case where I expect a team will be improved over last season, but it won't be reflected in the record. Ryan Walters' second season with the Boilermakers includes a beast of a schedule. Purdue not only gets Oregon, Ohio State and Penn State in conference play but has to deal with Notre Dame, too. That's four games against potential playoff teams, and getting Illinois, Michigan State and Indiana on the road doesn't help, either. Pick: Under 4.5 (-190)


Over/under 6.5 wins

Wins: Howard, Akron, Washington, UCLA, Minnesota, Illinois
Losses: at Virginia Tech, at Nebraska, Wisconsin, at USC, at Maryland, at Michigan State

Analysis: I'm high on Rutgers this season and believe there's the potential for a seven- or even eight-win season. The schedule provides plenty of opportunity. The question will be how effective this team can be on the road. Trips to Virginia Tech, Nebraska, Maryland and Michigan State will determine whether it's a good or great season. Pick: Under 6.5 (+110)


Over/under 5.5 wins

Wins: at Hawaii, Indiana, Minnesota, Iowa, Fresno State
Losses: at LSU, Oregon, at Penn State, at Rutgers, at Nebraska, at Washington, USC

Analysis: The Bruins will rack up plenty of airline miles this year. The schedule starts with a trip to Hawaii and includes a road game against Rutgers. That has to be the greatest distance between two road opponents any school has ever played. There are also road trips to LSU, Penn State, Nebraska, and Washington, as well as home dates against Oregon and USC. The Big Ten is not making it easy for the Bruins in their first season. Pick: Under 5.5 (-130)


Over/under 7.5 wins

Wins: Utah State, Wisconsin, at Minnesota, Penn State, at Maryland, Rutgers, Nebraska, at UCLA
Losses: LSU, at Michigan, at Washington, Notre Dame

Analysis: Was last season an outlier or a warning of things to come? I'm encouraged by Lincoln Riley's decision to (finally) overhaul his defensive staff, and while I don't expect the Trojans to suddenly become elite defensively, they don't need to. Sure, Caleb Williams is gone, but Lincoln Riley has enough of a track record to expect the Trojans will have one of the better offenses in the league. There are plenty of games on this schedule where USC should be able to outscore teams. Pick: Over 7.5 (-120)


Over/under 7 wins

Wins: Weber State, Eastern Michigan, Washington State, Northwestern, at Indiana, USC, UCLA
Losses: at Rutgers, Michigan, at Iowa, at Penn State, at Oregon

Analysis: Neither my editors nor you lovely readers would appreciate it if I put a shrug emoji here, but honestly, that's how I feel about the Huskies. How do you approach a team that reached the title game but lost all its biggest contributors and a coaching staff? I like Jedd Fisch and think he'll be successful in Seattle, but that's a lot of changes on top of an already seismic shift of moving to the Big Ten. I can see this team winning 10 games and losing as many as eight. I'm making a pick here, but I have no confidence in it. Pick: Under 7 (-110)


Over/under 7 wins

Wins: Western Michigan, South Dakota, Purdue, at Rutgers, at Northwestern, Minnesota
Losses: Alabama, at USC, Penn State, at Iowa, Oregon, at Nebraska

Analysis: A case where the schedule could prove too much to overcome. Luke Fickell's first season with the Badgers had some bumps and bruises, but while I expect the on-field product to improve, those bumps and bruises will still come courtesy of their opponents. I applaud scheduling Alabama, but that game could prove to be the difference between a winning record or a mediocre one. Pick: Under 7 (-135)