Take five: Big Ten predictions for 2009

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

The 2008 Big Ten season officially ends tonight as No. 10 Ohio State faces No. 3 Texas in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, but it's never too early to take a look at 2009. Here are five fearless predictions for the Big Ten next fall.

1. The Big Ten mercifully gets only one BCS entry -- After sending two teams to BCS bowls for four straight years, the Big Ten is limited to only one participant (Rose Bowl). The league's recent big-game flops turn off the bowl selection folks, but the Big Ten gets a more reasonable bowl lineup and finishes above .500.

2. Penn State repeats, JoePa returns -- The Nittany Lions fix their secondary and produce one of the nation's most dominating defenses en route to a second consecutive league title. Penn State capitalizes on a favorable home schedule (Ohio State, Iowa, Minnesota), and head coach Joe Paterno opts to return for a 45th season.

3. Michigan reaches the postseason (barely) -- The Wolverines might be making the short drive to Detroit for the Motor City Bowl, but they won't miss the postseason for the second straight year. Freshman Tate Forcier stabilizes the quarterback spot and Michigan finds a way to win six or seven games.

4. Northwestern wins a bowl game -- The Wildcats should have ended their drought this year against Missouri, but they'll come through next fall in the Champs Sports or Insight bowl. It marks Northwestern's first postseason victory since the 1949 Rose Bowl.

5. Ax falls on at least one coach -- After a rare offseason with no forced coaching changes, the Big Ten sees some turnover in 2009. Indiana's Bill Lynch can't afford another losing season, and Wisconsin's Bret Bielema needs to show improvement following an extremely disappointing 2008 campaign.