So I just finished Lindy's Big Ten Preview magazine, which I've been reading for 30 years now. Part of their in-depth previews of every Big Ten team is a complete rundown on their projected starters for the coming season.
For the sake of this exercise, let's assume these are completely accurate. And then, let's remove guys on each team we think are viable candidates to leave early for the NFL draft after this season. Based on those two qualifiers, and using Lindy's projected lineups from there, here are the returning starters for each Big Ten team in 2020:
Here are some potential takeaways from these numbers:
Built to win big this season: Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State
The problem for the 2019 Hawkeyes is that road schedule. Looking at how recruiting has fallen off for Sparty and Mark Dantonio's age, this season could be Michigan State's best shot to make noise before he calls it quits. Michigan and Ohio State are dynamic recruiters, so returning starters don't mean as much to them, but they'll both still be young next season.
2020 is the year: Nebraska, Penn State, and Wisconsin
The Huskers still have one of the most favorable schedules in the Big Ten in 2019, so they could win ahead of schedule. Wisconsin is cycling back up, and its prized quarterback recruit will have more valuable experience next season. If Penn State can convince a couple of defensive studs to stay in school, it could be the East Division favorite a year from now.
The two-year window is open: Minnesota, Northwestern, and Purdue
Given what these programs did last season, everything they bring back for this season, and what they still have in the pipeline for 2020, these three schools have a multi-year window of opportunity to take the next step. Or, in the case of Northwestern, maintain the next step they just took.