Big Ten Predictions as Conference Play Begins

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Sep 26, 2015; Evanston, IL, USA; Northwestern Wildcats running back Justin Jackson (21) is tackled by Ball State Cardinals safety Martez Hester (21) during the second half at Ryan Field. Mandatory Credit: Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

Who is a sleeper team to perform well in the Big Ten West?

Erik Buchinger: Although they may not be looked at as a sleeper anymore after a pair of big wins in the non-conference schedule, but the Northwestern Wildcats look like a team that could do some damage in the Big Ten West. Nobody expected much out of Northwestern this season, but the Wildcats shocked Stanford 16-6 at home during the opening weekend of the season and defeated Duke 19-10 in Durham. Northwestern enters conference play ranked No. 16 in the country and like Wisconsin, the Wildcats avoid Ohio State and Michigan State on the schedule. Watch out for the Wildcats in the West.

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Taylor Johnson: I never thought I would ever say this, but a sleeper team in the Big Ten West looks to me like Northwestern. After their upset of Stanford, they have been on a roll. Sophomore running back Justin Jackson‘s 516 yards through four game is ninth-best in FBS and the Wildcats defense is allowing an average of just 8.8 per game, third-best in the country. Their conference schedule is not the most difficult by any means, it’s just a matter of if head coach Pat Fitzgerald can keep this team focused throughout the course of the season.

Jim Oxley: This may be a long shot, and we’ll know more on Saturday, but my sleeper in the west is the Iowa Hawkeyes. CJ Beathard is making Iowa fans forget all about Jake Rudock, and before a haircut he was giving Joel Stave a serious run for his money in the “Sunshine” comparison game. On a more serious note, with Beathard throwing and Jordan Canzeri running, the Hawkeyes offense will give teams problems this season, and will threaten in the West.

Rayan Vatti: Minnesota. Despite the fact that the Golden Gophers have a terrible offense, they still have a very good defense, led by an elite and veteran secondary. At home, they are going to be tough for anyone to beat, as proven by their narrow loss to TCU in which they only gave up 23 points. Everyone’s talking about Wisconsin, Northwestern, and Iowa, but watch out for Minnesota to make an under the radar push for the title.

Next: Who Wins the East?