Blog Entry

Picking the Big Ten

Posted on: June 15, 2009 10:04 am

This might be the worst I've seen the Big Ten in 11 years.

That's as long as I've been at, so 1998 seems like a reasonable benchmark. In '98, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio State shared the title. Michigan was coming off a national championship. Wisconsin went to the Rose Bowl that year. Ohio State went to the Sugar Bowl.

For gosh sakes, in '98 John Cooper was about to win at least 10 for the fourth consecutive year.

Now? Illinois can't decide whether it is a contender or in the middle of the pack. Bret Bielema is feeling the pressure at Wisconsin. The only new coach in the league is aptly named Hope (Danny, at Purdue). Eleven years ago the Boilermakers won their last six in row, went to the Alamo Bowl and upset Kansas State with Drew Brees.

The 2009 Boilers are coming off their worst season (4-8) in 12 years.

Iowa wants to be good again but it could use less yapping from its fans and more production on the field. And Michigan ... where have you gone Wolverines? A total meltdown in Rich Rodriguez' first season has to be rectified, like, yesterday.

Indiana and Minnesota will be at the bottom of the league, a place with which they are familiar.

The Big Ten remains the leader in BCS bowls (19) but you don't have to be told the league has lost a step in recent years. The 28 NFL draft picks each of the last two seasons ranked fifth (2008) and tied for fourth (2009) among major conferences.

The league is only 9-20 in bowls (1-6 last season) since 2005.  

Here's my best example for how average the Big Ten has become: Penn State has to replace 12 starters (the most in the league), including its entire secondary. It is a twisted ankle at quarterback away from finishing fifth. A good, not great, group of receivers have to be replaced by what might be good, not great, group of receivers.

Still, the Nittany Lions are a virtual pick-'em with Ohio State to go to the Rose Bowl.

By the way, the Rose Bowl is going to be it for the conference champ.  I don't see a national title contender in the bunch. The letters U, S and C will burn the ears of Big Ten loyalists. USC has beaten Big Ten teams by a combined 60 points the past three Januarys. The Trojans will likely be waiting in Pasadena to lay the smack down once again.

Like the Woody and Bo days, it's still a two-team league. Unlike the Woody and Bo days, there's not much national buzz.

1. Ohio State -- How do you lose Beanie Wells, Malcolm Jenkins and James Laurinaitis and get better? You don't. But there is enough left for the Bucks to win the Big Ten again. They have won at least a share of the four previous titles. Everyone seems to be jumping on the Terrelle Pryor bandwagon this season. Look, I like the kid and the athlete. I'm still not convinced he's going to make that quantum leap this season. There will be more pressure on Pryor to carry the offense with his legs if either Brandon Saine or Dan Herron can't become the big dog at tailback. Much will be learned on Sept. 12 when USC visits. Give Jim Tressel a running game, a punter and 105,000 homers and he will field-position you to death. If Tres can't pull it off in September, there's a rematch waiting in Pasadena.

2. Penn State -- It's a miracle of modern science. No, not JoePa's body, I'm talking about the Penn State staff. It has stayed together (for the most part), remained loyal and helped Joe dig out of that 2000-2004 hole. The Nittany Lions are Rose Bowl contenders for the foreseeable future. The defense keeps its snarl with the return of linebacker Sean Lee. The unit did finish in the top 10 in total defense last season. Will the D miss defensive ends Aaron Maybin and Maurice Evans? As mentioned, Daryll Clark has to stay healthy. He has enough elusiveness along with tailback Evan Royster to win the league. Ohio State comes to Happy Valley on Nov. 7.

3. Iowa -- If only Shonn Greene had returned, we might be talking about the Hawkeyes giving Ohio State and Penn State a run. With quarterback Ricky Stanzi having a year of experience and three offensive line starters returning, the Hawks will be productive but in a different way. Stanzi likely will have to make more plays himself (hint: scramble) unless sophomore Jewel Hampton or freshman Jeff Brinson replace those Greene yards.

4. Michigan State -- The Spartans are the Big Ten's flavor of the month. Coach Mark Dantonio has averaged eight wins in his first two seasons in East Lansing and the program ready to take off. Even with the loss of his two best players -- quarterback Brian Hoyer and tailback Javon Ringer -- there is plenty of talent waiting offstage. Watch true freshman tailbacks Edwin Baker and Larry Caper. Sorry Penn State, Michigan State might have the best linebackers in the league starting with junior Greg Jones, a consensus preseason all-Big Ten pick. Dantonio has the two best leg men in the league in kicker Brett Swenson and punter Aaron Bates. Iowa, Penn State and Michigan come to East Lansing. Ohio State is off the schedule.

5. Illinois -- What's your legacy going to be Juice Williams? Two years ago Illinois' quarterback guided a stunning upset at Columbus. Last season Williams and the Illini slumped. In his senior season, Juice could go out as one of Illinois' quarterback greats. Even though he led the Big Ten in passing yards, Williams threw too many interceptions (16). He will hook up often with the incredible Arrelious Benn. New offensive coordinator Mike Schultz will try to squeeze some of the old Juice out of his new quarterback. Schultz oversaw a similar offense at TCU. We'll know about the Illini before Oct. 1. They play Missouri in St. Louis and Ohio State in Columbus in September.

6. Northwestern -- The Big Ten's annually pesky Wildcats figure to be that way again. After Tressel, Pat Fitzgerald might be the league's best coach.  His team started 5-0 and came within an overtime loss to Missouri in the Alamo Bowl of winning 10 last season. There are too many holes this season to expect Northwestern to finish in the top half of the league but somebody's going to get punked by the purple in the parity-filled Big Ten.

7. Wisconsin -- Is it time to panic yet? Bielema started 21-5 in his first two seasons, then slumped to 7-6 last year. But it was the way it happened: Bielema still hasn't been able to find a serviceable quarterback. The Badgers looked lost on defense and the prospects aren't good for this season. The formula to beat Wisconsin hasn't changed: Let the tailbacks get their yards, smack the quarterback in the mouth, wait for the turnovers and control the ball against a poor-tackling defense.
8. Michigan -- I was at a Michigan scrimmage in April during the Final Four. Granted, you don't learn much from watching a scrimmage but it seemed to me the offense still struggled to move the ball. Rich Rod better hope that the early-enrolling Tate Forcier is the answer at quarterback. There isn't much behind him. The defense should toughen up. A bowl is a possibility but will a 5-7 season be considered progress?

9. Minnesota -- Third-year coach Tim Brewster has a new state-of-the art stadium. That won't distract fans from asking if the five-game season-ending losing streak is the beginning of the end or just a nit in Goldy's fur. Watch the combination of quarterback Adam Weber  and receiver Eric Decker.

10. Purdue -- There are spider webs in the cupboard left over from Tiller's era. Only two starters return on offense. The most experienced quarterback is fifth-year senior Joey Elliott who has played in 10 games in three seasons. Hope is looking at an 0-5 start if he can't beat Northern Illinois and Toledo early.

11. Indiana -- Kellen Lewis wasn't going to play quarterback anyway. Still, his dismissal from the team in April all but assures another down year in Bloomington. Lewis, the program's career passing touchdown leader, had been moved to receiver to make room for junior Ben Chappell. Lewis was the Hoosiers' best athlete. Without him there aren't many playmakers or much hope. Coach Bill Lynch might be on the hot seat.


Since: Sep 8, 2009
Posted on: September 8, 2009 9:00 pm

Dodd and the Big Tenstalk

I have been reading cbs.sportsline for years.  There are some very gifted writers on this site who know what they are talking about and present their opinions in an objective, reasonable way.  Even if you don't agree with them, you can see the rationale behind their argument.  Dennis Dodd is not one of the writers to which I refer.  He is consistently anti-Big 10, to the point that I wonder if Woody Hayes dated his sister and never called her back or Barry Alvarez said something mean about his momma.  Every conference in college football has its ups and downs, good years and bad ones, but it seems like it doesn't matter if it's 1998 (The up year he refers to) or 2008 (clearly a down year based on bowl records), he finds plenty of negatives and very few positives about the Big Ten.  I am admittedly a diehard Penn State fan and alumnus, but I am also fair minded when it comes to college football in general.  I can openly admit that USC had a much better team last year and handed us our head in the Rose Bowl.  That doesn't have anything to do with THIS year's teams.  In my opinion, a truly objective college football fan can tell that Dodd isn't, and it colors his writing in a damaging way.  Oh, and let's think about moving the Rose Bowl to any neutral Big Ten site every other year instead of giving USC another home bowl game.  Again, I respect USC and they are deeply talented year in and year out, but when was the last time they won a meaningful bowl game outside of LA?  And come up with something besides the beatdown of a very clearly outmatched and overrated OU team in the 2005 Orange Bowl.  I patiently await a response, and wish the best of luck to every team that Penn State is not playing this week!

Since: Jul 10, 2008
Posted on: July 19, 2009 3:43 pm

Picking the Big Ten

You always have to take a stab at Iowa fans.  Did you do some homework this time Mr. Dodd, before you wrote some senseless trash?  Did you research the state of Iowa's education ranks among the rest of the states?  You must have since you didn't mention how dumb we all are. 

Since: May 29, 2008
Posted on: July 9, 2009 10:57 am

Picking the Big Ten

Wow. You need to stop whining about Iowa fans. Get over it that you don't know enough about the team and the fans.

Since: Dec 13, 2007
Posted on: July 9, 2009 9:42 am

Picking the Big Ten

Dodd is doggin' the Big ten for effect...good job Dodd it worked...we're on 18 pages of comments...Money mouth  I think Dodd doesn't realize that Mich, Mich State, Ill and Iowa (maybe...depending on Stanzi's improvement) will all be better than they were last year.  OSU and Penn State will be about the same. 

Last year, like usual, the strength of the offensive lines kept OSU and PSU at the top...and their lack of creativity and skill position players kept them from doing anything nationally.  It's the same thing every year...these two teams seem to have just enough edge on the Offensive Lines that they manage to manhandle the Big Ten...but when they finally meet teams with equal or better lines and MUCH better skill position players in bowl games they can't hang.

Could this be the year though other teams catch up?  Maybe we'll see...


OSU and PSU tied for first...  Pryor has the skill...but where are the receivers and running backs this year? Pryor will need help. Clark is overrated but Royster is much better than people give him credit for...on tradition alone...I give these two teams the nod....something tells me that this could be a year where other teams step up though

Next... Tie between Mich State and Ill.... The thing that most people don't realize is that the QB play at MSU will be greatly improved.  Hoyer was smart...he wouldn't lose games for you but he wouldn't win them either.  Watch out for a huge improvement in the MSU passing game, Spartans defense may be the best in the league.  The big question mark will be replacing Ringer.  Ill. will finally put things together, They have the Juice and Benn...they may be the best offensive team in the league...I'm only guessing, but the D will improve (it has to).

Next... Tie between Iowa and Wisc.    Iowa should be better but their Big Ten road schedule is brutal...OSU, Penn State Michigan State and Wisconsin...all on the road.  Sorry, but I don't think Iowa will win a Big Ten road game this year...they'll probably win all the other games though.  Wisconsin has got to find a QB.  And improvement in the O Line.  That was the reason for the dropoff last year...their O-Line just wasn't as good as it usually is...

Next...Tie between NW Mich and MInn will stay about that same and Mich will improve.  Look at what RROD did at WVU when he took over from Nehlen....the 2nd year showed improvement but it wasn;t till the third year did the program take off..I expect the same at UM  Kafka is good...Sutton is gone...but Omar Conteh isn't bad.  Minn......umm...I don't know much about them...they have a new stadium...will this be the year where Minn walks through thier cupcake early season schedule and then actually wins some road games in the Big ten?  (I doubt it...but maybe I'm wrong).

The rest.

I can't wait for the season to start.

Since: Sep 1, 2006
Posted on: July 8, 2009 2:17 pm

Picking the Big Ten

Funny how the little bald troll doesnt mention that the Big 10 is the BCS conference w the best record against other BCS conference teams during regular season w a 22-17 record since the inception of the BCS. 

Do you think he really didnt know or did he intentionally leave it out?

Since: Jul 8, 2009
Posted on: July 8, 2009 11:54 am

Picking the Big Ten

Can't wait for Sept 12th, the Big Ten has a real opportunity here. USC is depleted from last season and playing on the road.

I think the Big Ten will be decided by the effectiveness of Penn States rebuit Offensive Line.

It will also be interesting to see how Minnesota does in their new digs.

Since: Nov 17, 2007
Posted on: July 7, 2009 5:02 am

Picking the Big Ten

I'm not a Michigan fan, or a Rich Rodriguez fan, but you have to give the guy a chance to bring in some players and set up his system. I think that much of the problem lies with Lloyd Carr's last few years. I'm convinced that Carr lost some of his drive during those last years and lost his edge in recruiting. I'm looking at Michigan and saying they don't have the talent they had in years past. Right now, that is not Rich Rodriguez's fault. Next year and after that it will be his fault, but not right now.

If the talent level was on par with what Michigan used to have, Appalachian State never would have happened. Never. That would have been exactly what it was supposed to be. A tune up game.
Talent alone is not enough.

Go look at the rankings. Carr brought in consistantly top rated talent. Note that the 2008 and 2009 classes both contained recruits that committed to Carr (3 in 2009 confirmed, 2 others not confirmed). During the first 2 years of a transition 50% or more of the first class and 10% or so of the second class were recruited by the former coach.

Rodriguez 2010 11th (Scout)
Rodriguez/Carr 2009  14th (Scout) 8th (Rivals)
Carr/Rodriguez 2008 6th (Scout) 10th (Rivals)
Carr 2007 10th (Scout) 12th (Rivals)
Carr 2006 9th (Scout) 13th (Rivals)
Carr 2005 2nd (Scout) 6th (Rivals)
Carr 2004 5th (Scout) 5th (Rivals)
Carr 2003 8th (Scout) 17th (Rivals)
Carr 2002 19th (Scout) 16th (Rivals)

Certainly it takes 3-5 years to rebuild a program and given the extreme makeover happening at UM, it will likely be 5 years. Certainly the kinds of players UM needs for the new scheme are just now coming on board. However, a good coach works with the material at hand. Rodriguez is to blame for UM's season last year.

Dantonio took over and using Smith's recruits transitioned from the Smith version of the Spread to the Power I and had a 7-6 bowl season and a 9-4 bowl season. Dantonio just received his first class that was 100% recruited by him. It can be done.

Take Notre Dame. Consistantly top ranked classes. Prior to this year, MSU was consistantly mediocre classes. Yet, over the past 5 years, ND is 1-4 versus MSU.

No. Talent alone is not enough.

It takes good coaching.

It takes practice and execution on offense.

Above all else, it takes teamwork.

Since: Nov 17, 2007
Posted on: July 7, 2009 4:11 am

Picking the Big Ten


Debop, what concerns me for Michigan is this: What happens if RR does not succeed within 3-5 years? He will have stocked the shelves with his type of players; the next coach may want to switch offensive schemes, and thus need to recruit other types of players. Michigan could be riding a roller-coaster for awhile. YIKES!That would really depend on who was brought in as the new coach. An example of which I am familiar is Dantonio changing State's offense from the Smith version of the spread to the Power I. He had to work with the players on the roster and went 7-6 and 9-4. He changed the defense too.

It can be done.

Dantonio just got his first recruiting class that does not contain "transition" recruits (in the first 2 recruiting classes there will be players recruited by the former coach) and it will be interesting to watch the program evolve. The 2009 recruiting class will start having an impact in the 2010 season and then we shall see just what kind of program State has become.

Then, UM will be suffering on defense with yet another new scheme this fall.

Bring on the season!

Since: Apr 26, 2008
Posted on: July 7, 2009 12:05 am

Picking the Big Ten

For the record, those were two Iowa Hawkeye fans who didn't even know each other.

Since: Dec 22, 2008
Posted on: July 6, 2009 1:06 pm

Picking the Big Ten

Heck not just the cheating, but let's take a look at this.  Here Dennis you fudge pucker learn something.  The question is where did the RAPIST that IOWA KICK OFF OF THEIR TEAM END UP.  I'll give you a hint.  In the SEC.  That is right.  These goons are up on sexual assault charges in the great state of Iowa and playing collegiate football in the SEC.   I had a friend talk me into reading Dennis's slam on hawk fans.  I don't get it, if I had a loser of a face that only a mother could love, I sure wouldn't have my mug posted front and center.  I can't believe I came over here to read this because even his deodorant stinks.  Anyway, back to my point. Kick the Big Ten all you homos want.  I will love them just like a mother love the sloppy end of a fudge stick, right Dennis!

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