The following is the 2016 regular season predicted order of finish of the Big Ten West:

  • 1) Iowa
  • 2) Nebraska
  • 3) Wisconsin
  • 4) Northwestern
  • 5) Illinois
  • 6) Minnesota
  • 7) Purdue

1) Iowa

The Hawkeyes began the 2015 season unranked and came within 22 seconds of winning the Big Ten Championship and a berth in the Football Championship Playoff.This year Iowa returns 13 starters from a team that won their first 12 games.

They lost the Big Ten Championship by only three, 16-13 before being beaten soundly in their bowl game by Stanford.With their starting quarterback, C.J. Beathard and eight from a defense that only allowed 20 points per game average, they should be at the top of the division.

2) Nebraska

The Cornhuskers' 6-7 record in 2015 was misleading. Five of the losses were by 13 total points. This team is well coached and much closer to the top of the division than the record would lead you to believe.With six returning on offense, including the QB, TE and RB, the 33 point per game average of 2015 is realistic. The defense needs to improve but changes have been made with the coaches to assist in addressing that.

3) Northwestern

Offensively, the Wildcats need to improve, especially in the pass game. Their running game averaged 188 yards per game in 2015. That too, could use some improvement. Overall, they must get the points scored average up from the 19.5 per game of2015.Defensively, the 18.6 points per game they averaged giving up in 2015, was ranked number 12 in the nation. If they can repeat that in 2016 they can expect success in the win column as well.

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4) Wisconsin

It will be interesting to see how Wisconsin does defensively since losing Dave Aranda to LSU at the end of 2015. The Badgers only allowed13.7points per game on defense for the season. They led the nation in fewest points allowed and were number two in fewest total yards allowed.Justin Wilcox, formerly of USC is the new defensive coordinator in Madison.

The Badgers have had one of the top rushing offenses in the nation for nearly two decades.

That was, until 2015, when they averaged 150 yards rushing per game. The good news is seven returning linemen are back this season. Of course, that could be the bad news as well unless the seasoning has helped.Wisconsin will be hard pressed to match last season's 10 win total.

5) Minnesota

The Golden Gophers return 14 starters from last year's team, including the quarterback, running back and three of five offensive linemen.New Head Coach Terry Claeys has made a number of changes with offensive coaching, including a new coordinator, quarterbacks and offensive line coaches.

He intends to do whatever it takes to get the point production up from last season's 22.5 average per game.Defensively, seven starters return from a defense that allowed 25.2 points per game in 2015. That's just above middle of the road on average. Add in an offense that was 106 out of 128 total teams and you get a team that finished 6-7.Here, they are ranked #5 in the western divisionfor 2016. But there is potential for this team to do quite a bit better in 2016.

6) Illinois

The Fighting Illini have a new coaching staff for 2016. Lovie Smith, formerly of the NFL's Chicago and Tampa franchises has taken the reins.Smith has nine returning starters from last seasons' team. That number matches the number of bowl teams on this year's schedule.He alsohas a new staff and is installing a new offense and defense. It's anybodies guess how year one will play out. But if anyone can turn things quickly in Urbana-Champain, Lovie Smith can.

7) Purdue

The Boilermakers return 16 starters from 2015's team that finished the year at 2-10. Hopefully, all that experience will translate into some more wins.I wish I could share optimism about all the good things happening at Purdue. Unfortunately, I don't see anything --other than the additional experience already noted -- on either side of the football that warrants this team being ranked any higher.

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