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The B1G Picture: This season will be a success if...

Depending on the team, staff, season or circumstance, the measure of success for any one Big Ten program may be vastly different than the next.

In fact, it may not even be clear what the demarcation point of success is for a certain team in a particular season until it has ended.

However, as we kick off the second week of our B1G Picture series, we’ve asked writers, editors and publishers from each and every site across the conference to chime in on this topic as it pertains to the program they cover.

What will success look like in 2021, and what has to happen for every team in the conference to reach it? That’s what we explore in today’s edition of our ongoing series.

ALSO: The B1G Picture: Toughest game on the schedule


Ohio State

Improvement in the secondary will be key for the Buckeyes.
Improvement in the secondary will be key for the Buckeyes. (© Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports)

Although the Buckeyes had more success than all but one other college football team last season even WITHOUT a solid pass defense, I believe a return to form for the Ohio State secondary should more or less guarantee another stellar campaign for the Buckeyes.

Ohio State’s ability to turn quarterbacks over without a hitch in recent years, coupled with the embarrassment of weapons that C.J. Stroud, Jack Miller or Kyle McCord will have at their disposal in Ryan Day’s offense, leads me to believe that the Buckeyes will put up plenty of points next season.

Larry Johnson’s defensive line has long been a strength for the Scarlet and Gray, which means all the pressure will be riding on the back seven, and the defensive back unit in particular. If that group fixes its issues, it could mean the Buckeyes are well on their way to another deep postseason run.

BuckeyeGrove team writer Griffin Strom


This season will be a success if Indiana proves that last season was not a fluke and flash in the pan.

In order for that to happen, the Hoosiers have to show that they have taken a step and can not only beat but remain competitive with the likes of Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan year after year.

In addition, Indiana HAS got to win a bowl game. Tom Allen is 0-3 in bowls and the last two years have featured painful bowl losses.

TheHoosier staff writer Paul Gable

Penn State

Bauer says nine wins is the mark of success for Penn State this season.
Bauer says nine wins is the mark of success for Penn State this season.

Great question. Considering just how poorly the 2020 campaign went for Penn State, seemingly everything going wrong in terms of critical injuries and opt outs and inopportune turnovers and late-game failings, the bottom line is that improving on 4-5 isn’t a particularly high bar to clear.

But when you look at the schedule - starting at Wisconsin, vs. NY6 hopeful Ball State, vs. Auburn in the first three weeks before an October and November schedule that includes vs. Indiana, at Iowa, at Ohio State, and vs. Michigan - the potential for stumbles are many.

To that end, nine wins would be a success.

BlueWhiteIllustrated senior editor Nate Bauer


This season will be a success if Taulia Tagovailoa can be consistently good. He was up and down in 2020, either really good or really bad.

In the Terps' opener, he threw for just 94 yards and three interceptions in a loss to Northwestern. The following week he threw for 394 yards and three touchdowns through the air with another two touchdowns on the ground in a 2OT win over Minnesota.

If he can be more like the QB we saw versus Minnesota and Penn State last season on a consistent basis, Maryland has a chance to be very good.

TerrapinSportsReport publisher Scott Greene


This season will be a success if the team can continue to build on the three Big Ten victories from last year.

Yes, three wins in conference doesn’t sound like a lot, but it was the most the Scarlet Knights had since 2017. They also showed that they were competitive against most teams within the conference and proved that they are no longer the pushover they were in the past.

There is no win total that would determine this season a success, but rather if they continue to show they can be competitor in the conference it would be a win. Also a bowl game in 2021 definitely wouldn’t hurt.

TheKnightReport publisher Richard Schnyderite


Success for Michigan means a Big Ten Championship, says TheWolverine's Clayton Sayfie.
Success for Michigan means a Big Ten Championship, says TheWolverine's Clayton Sayfie. (AP Images)

To tag the label 'successful' on Michigan's 2021 season, the Wolverines will have to win the Big Ten Championship, which would likely put them in the College Football Playoff.

While they haven't won the league since 2004, nothing short of achieving that accomplishment at a place like this will be enough to fully satisfy the coaches, players, administration and fan base.

With that said, Michigan is looking for positive steps forward after a disastrous 2020 season. Harbaugh and Co. hit the reset button this offseason, replacing six assistant coaches and revamping the recruiting department.

If the culture problems that obviously existed last season have been resolved, the team improves and comes out on top in the games it 'should win — posting at least eight or nine wins — the campaign will be seen as one in which Michigan set itself up for future success.

TheWolverine staff writer Clayton Sayfie

Michigan State

Mel Tucker and his staff can call the 2021 season a success if they get to a bowl game. Getting to bowl games was routine for the Spartans under Mark Dantonio, and anything less than that will be unacceptable to a fanbase that doesn’t want to hear about rebuilding.

The timing of Michigan State’s coaching change prior to the COVID-19 shutdown was a gut punch for the Spartans given that Tucker took over shortly before things closed down. Now, Michigan State’s young program has an opportunity to prove that last year’s struggles were an anomaly.

SpartanMag associate editor Paul Konyndyk



Eight wins and a "decent" bowl appearance would be a successful season for the Wildcats, says Louie Vaccher.
Eight wins and a "decent" bowl appearance would be a successful season for the Wildcats, says Louie Vaccher. (AP Images)

This season will be a success if Northwestern wins eight games or more and makes a decent bowl game.

2021 will be a good litmus test of where Northwestern is as a program. They lost a lot of key players on both sides of the ball but, due to improved recruiting and key transfers, they have talented newcomers ready to step in.

Are those young players ready to step into elevated roles? Can the Wildcats contend, or possibly defend their Big Ten West crown?

WildcatReport publisher/managing editor Louie Vaccher


This season will be a success if the Iowa defensive line comes along to be as effective as it has been the last few years.

The Hawkeyes have had a great run along the defensive line, but everyone from that group over the past four or five years is gone. If Iowa can get to 30 sacks then given the talent and experience behind them at linebacker and defensive back the defense should be outstanding.

HawkeyeReport publisher Tom Kakert


The passing game must come alive for Mertz and the Badgers this season, says BadgerBlitz writer Jake Kocorowski.
The passing game must come alive for Mertz and the Badgers this season, says BadgerBlitz writer Jake Kocorowski. (Darren Lee/ Photographer)

This season will be a success if Wisconsin’s passing game comes alive to balance out the run game, and the defense gets to the quarterback.

The Badgers have that history of producing standout backs with its running game, but to keep defenses honest, they need to stretch the opponents’ secondary down the field. A healthy Pryor and Davis, along with Dike, standout tight end Jake Ferguson and others, could make that reality in 2021 with Graham Mertz entering his second season as a starting quarterback.

A secondary note is finding backs to complement Berger and developing major contributors in that department in what is at the moment a very unproven group.

Jim Leonhard’s defense only recorded 11 sacks in seven games in 2020. The season prior, it registered 50-plus in 14 games with the help of linebackers Zack Baun and Chris Orr.

If Nick Herbig, Noah Burks and Spencer Lytle can provide pressure from the outside, with Sanborn and Chenal attacking downhill from the inside, UW can create a lot of havoc for opposing offenses.

BadgerBlitz senior writer Jake Kocorowski


This season will be a success if Minnesota can sure itself up defensively. Last year they were 70th out of 128 in opposing points per game at 30.1 and 71st out of 128 in opposing yards per game.

With the offense returning 10 starters it should be able to score points and move the ball consistently. It will be up to the defense, which also returns ten starters and adds a couple transfers, to hold their own.

TheGopherReport staff member Alex Carlson


Improvement from the defense is key for the Boilermakers this season.
Improvement from the defense is key for the Boilermakers this season. (Chad Krockover)

This season will be a success if the defense comes together. The unit doesn’t need to be a steel curtain, but it must generate more pressure and create more turnovers. And it has to get off the field on third downs more consistently, too. The bend-but-don’t-break style of 2020 coordinator Bob Diaco was an abomination.

GoldandBlack associate editor Tom Dienhart


I think for Nebraska to define it a success, it starts with breaking the 6-win mark and getting back to a bowl game.

They have not played in a bowl game since 2016, and that’s a step this team needs to take obviously. To take it a step further, getting a win over a team like Iowa or Wisconsin in the division would also be a huge step. The Huskers have not beat Iowa since 2014 and Wisconsin since 2012.

HuskerOnline publisher Sean Callahan


This season will be a success if Illinois can scratch out 6 wins and make a bowl game.

The expectations are low among national analysts, but this team brings back more super-seniors than any other program in college football. Fans should expect improvement.

Of course, those are same players that posted a disappointing 2-6 record in the shortened 2020 season, so there’s much to prove.

The schedule isn’t overly challenging, though. The Illini have very winnable non-conference home games against UT-San Antonio and Charlotte, plus interdivisional home games against Maryland and Rutgers.

It could be a lot worse.

OrangeandBlueNews publisher Doug Bucshon