The most underrated team in the Big Ten is…

Yesterday, we kicked off our week long discussion of underrated teams with an ACC discussion. TSS Associate Editors Bart Doan and Terry Johnson join staff writer Kevin Causey and special rotating guests in our weekly roundtable discussing all things college football.

Earlier this offseason, we explored multiple Big Ten topics including the most intriguing games, the most improved teams, and Ohio State’s biggest challengers. This week, we look at who is being underrated heading into 2015. Joining us in this conversation is TSS writer and the man behind The Next Wave Football, Ryan Palencer….

Question: The coaches poll has been released, other outlets are releasing their Top 25 polls (SI, Athlon) and we are in the middle of releasing our poll. Which Big Ten team is the most underrated heading into the 2015 season?

Ryan Palencer:
On Twitter @RyanPalencer
Without question, it’s Indiana.

While the Hoosiers have still only been to a handful of bowl games in my lifetime, this year’s experienced unit looks to curb that. Though they are not experienced everywhere, Indiana has years in the right places. The main spot is up front on the offensive line with Dan Feeney and Justin Spriggs, who are battle tested in the conference.

The main question for the Hoosiers is keeping quarterback Nate Sudfeld upright and on the field. After Sudfeld went down with an injury to his non-throwing shoulder last season, the campaign fell apart. The other key question is a severe lack of experience in the defensive backfield with so many passing squads on the schedule.

Bart Doan:
On Twitter @TheCoachBart

I mean, you’ve got to go Michigan here, correct? Look, the Wolverines probably won’t just shoot to 12-1 right out of the gate with the Jim Harbaugh and staff hire, but marked improvement should happen in a significant way.

If Michigan maintained anything during its slide since Lloyd Carr was pushed out the door (don’t send me e-mails about how he “retired”), it’s been elite recruiting. The issue is that the elite recruiting wasn’t being elite-ly coached when it got there, and star classes on websites only mean so much until they get on campus.

Although it’s still up in the air, expect experienced Jake Rudock to get the first stab at leading the Wolves from the quarterback position. People don’t know about Drake Johnson, but he’s better than you ever would think. He’ll be running the ball. The wide receivers are an issue. Right now, they can’t separate from a table leg, so creative means will need to be used to get the downfield passing game to be an asset.

On defense, everything looks pretty good, from a deep, experienced linebacker corps to a secondary with tons of untapped talent. Throw in a schedule that sees most of the tough in-conference games at home and what you’ve got is pure insanity if someone isn’t putting Michigan in their top 25. There, I said it.

Kevin Causey:
On Twitter @CFBZ

All I’ve heard about this off-season in the Big Ten is Ohio State and Michigan. Those are two most hyped teams in the conference by far (and probably the country). Michigan isn’t getting the love in the polls that the Buckeyes have but I can’t consider Michigan here because I think anything less than a ten win season is going to be a letdown to that team and fan base.

Over the last two years Jerry Kill and the Minnesota Gophers have compiled a record of 16-8 in the regular season. What’s more impressive is the back-to-back eight win seasons came after a string of nine seasons where the Gophers never won more than seven games.

Jerry Kill has brought the Gophers back to respectability in an improved Big Ten….and nobody seems to have noticed. We ranked them 46th in the nation and I am partially to blame. I completely left them out of my Top 50.

Last year they beat Iowa, Michigan and Nebraska. In 2013, they beat Nebraska and Penn State. This isn’t the Gophers that we’ve become accustomed to watching and disrespecting. The Gophers are here to stay whether the Big Ten likes it or not.

Terry Johnson:
On Twitter @SectionTPJ

Michigan is the most underrated team in the conference.

Believe it or not, last year’s Wolverine team wasn’t nearly as bad as people made it out to be. Sure, the seven losses look bad, but the won-lost record doesn’t tell the entire story. The fact is that the Michigan defense was one of the best units in the country, ranking seventh nationally in total yards per game. That won’t change under the leadership of new defensive coordinator DJ Durkin, whose Florida defenses finished in the top 15 in total defense in each of the last two seasons.

On the other side of the ball, Michigan will be one of the most improved units in the nation. Offensive coordinator / offensive line coach Tim Drevno has an impressive resume, including highly successful stints at Idaho (two top 10 finishes in total offense), San Diego and Stanford. With a track record like that, there’s no reason to think that he won’t succeed in Ann Arbor.

With an improved offense and a stout defense, I expect the Wolverines to be the most improved team in the Big Ten this year. While that might not be enough to crack the Top 25, it’s certainly better than the single vote that Michigan received in the initial Coaches’ Poll.

About Kevin Causey

Dry humorist, craft beer enthusiast, occasionally unbiased SEC fan, UGA alumni, contributor for The Comeback.