per Shama:

West Division glory frequently has gone through Madison but maybe things are changing. Wisconsin was not only a favorite to win the West a year ago, but appeared talented enough to make a run at earning an invitation to the College Football Playoff. Instead the Badgers disappointed with an 8-5 overall record, 5-4 in the Big Ten. Wisconsin lost an early season game at home when BYU pulled off a major upset. Things got worse when at season’s end the hated Gophers embarrassed the Badgers in Madison, 37-15.

Despite a big bowl win over Miami, did the long powerful UW program lose its swagger? If so, can the Badgers get it back? The recovery project may include turning to a true freshman quarterback in Graham Mertz and seeing progress from a suspect defense. Pivotal season coming for the Badgers who showcase Jonathan Taylor, the great junior running back.

When Illinois hired NFL veteran Lovie Smith as its head coach in 2016, I found it a curious choice. I am still scratching my head about that, and Illini loyalists can’t be blamed if they are pulling their hair out. In three seasons Smith and friends are 9-27 overall and 4-23 in Big Ten games (ouch). Based on past performance, the Illini don’t seem to do a lot effectively but they do have one of the conference’s better running back tandems in Reggie Corbin and Mike Epstein. Positives also are that the Illini seem to be upgrading the talent and there’s not much whispering about Smith’s job security because school authorities appear committed for the long-term.

The Big Ten schedule parade starts next week with nonconference games led first by Minnesota hosting South Dakota State on Thursday night.

Go Gophers!!