Sleeper picks for the Big Ten

Identifying under-the-radar teams, players and units for the 2013 season

Updated: June 25, 2013, 9:36 AM ET
By Phil Steele | ESPN Insider

James WhiteJeff Hanisch/USA TODAY SportsJames White has 2,571 career rush yards for the Badgers.

After a couple of disappointing years, the Big Ten is poised for a bounce-back season this year. The Ohio State Buckeyes, led by quarterback Braxton Miller, are the prohibitive favorites to win the conference. But besides the Buckeyes, there are at least five other teams that could find their way into the top 25 this year, led by the three-time defending conference champion Wisconsin Badgers.

That's where we begin these Big Ten "sleeper picks" -- the teams, players and units that could surprise this season.

1. After Ohio State, which team has the best chance to win the Big Ten?

Despite having a new head coach, Wisconsin has the best chance to knock off the Buckeyes this year. It starts with the Badgers' favorable schedule. Last year, they had to play both Nebraska and Michigan State from the Legends Division and lost to both. This year, they avoid both teams along with other Legends favorite Michigan. They get both Northwestern and Penn State at home, and besides Ohio State, their other Big Ten road games come against Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota, who had a combined record of just 12-25 a year ago.

Phil Steele

ESPN Insider