It may be way too early to do a final win-loss projection for the 2013 Big Ten baseball season before any team has thrown a live pitch but that's what we're doing at Corn Nation. Prediction: Nebraska and Ohio State to share conference title.
Corn Nation projects Nebraska to win the Big Ten Conference regular season title in a very close race with a 15-9 record, finishing in a tie for first with Ohio State, and clinching the top seed in the Big Ten tournament due to a tiebreaker.
We project a tight race among the top four-to six teams in the conference, we also don't see any specific team taking a huge lead in the conference race, with 8 teams finishing .500 or better. The conference championship may well be decided by which team gets on the best hot streak during conference play.
Nebraska - 15-9
Ohio State - 15-9
Michigan State 14-10
Indiana - 14-10
Penn State 12-12
Nebraska was selected first due to its strong non-conference competition, and its favorable conference schedule. The Huskers face Ohio State and Indiana at Haymarket Park, and miss Michigan State entirely in this year's rotation.
Ohio State was picked as a tie for first place, losing the top seed to Nebraska by losing the series at Haymarket Park. Outside of that trip, the Buckeyes also face a favorable schedule, getting Michigan State, Illinois, Penn State and Indiana all in Columbus.
We place Michigan State in 3rd place, again looking at a favorable schedule that has indiana, Purdue and Illinois all coming to East Lansing. The Spartans don't have to play the Huskers, while traveling to Columbus, Minnesota, Michigan (1 game), Iowa and Penn State.
We expect the Indiana Hoosiers to be in the thick of the competition as well, but it has its three hardest series all on the road in Nebraska, Michigan State and Ohio State, while also facing Illinois and Penn State at home.
Right behind the pack of leaders we expect a tight cluster of Illinois, Purdue, Penn State and Minnesota. All four could emerge as contenders with the right type of season or winning streak.
The bottom end of the conference includes Michigan, Iowa and Northwestern. While we don't expect these teams to compete for the title, they all can play big roles as spoilers. The team that wins the B1G in 2013 may be defined by how well they played and how many wins they could rack up, against the lower tier of the conference.
Big Ten Baseball starts this Friday!
Nebraska opens the season at Cal State Bakersfield on Friday, before playing a doubleheader at Cal State Fullerton on Saturday, and closing the weekend with a Sunday game at USC.
Illinois starts the season at Tennessee Tech,while Iowa is at Austin Peay State. Michigan heads to California. Ohio State heads to Sarasota, Florida to take on Mercer, Notre Dame and St. John's. Penn State begins at East Tennessee State.
Indiana and Purdue are in the Big Ten/Big East Challenge, with both taking on Louisville, Connecticut and South Florida. Michigan State and Northwestern head to the Greenville Drive Tournament to take on Miami (OH), Furman and each other. And in one of the bigger beginning series of the season, Minnesota heads to UCLA.
To check out the highlights of the Big Ten Baseball schedule, see CN's article Big Ten Baseball: The Match Ups You Don't Want To Miss.