Play Fantasy Use your Fantasy skills to win Cash Prizes. Join or start a league today. Play Now
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: Oct 19, 2007
Posted on: June 16, 2009 1:17 pm

Picking the Big Ten

I have to agree with you.

Since: Jun 10, 2008
Posted on: June 16, 2009 1:17 pm

Picking the Big Ten

Ohio State will be playing in the BCS Championship game. I dont care what the rest of the country thinks or cares for all that matters.

Since: Oct 19, 2007
Posted on: June 16, 2009 1:16 pm

Picking the Big Ten

I have to agree with you.

Since: Dec 1, 2008
Posted on: June 16, 2009 1:13 pm
This comment has been removed.

Post Deleted by Administrator

Since: Aug 19, 2006
Posted on: June 16, 2009 1:09 pm

Picking the Big Ten

That, "give Rich Rod time" crap is good for other Universities but not Michigan; how many records of futility did he break last year?  I've seen gender transitions go smoother than his transition at Michigan.  According to your logic, we should have expected to be worst than any Michigan team ever because "Rich Rod" needs to get his system in place.  Give me a break with that crap; he get's no passes!

Since: Dec 20, 2006
Posted on: June 16, 2009 12:36 pm

Picking the Big Ten

Picking the Big Ten

B.S.  Michigan absolutely demolished a Tim Tebow led Florida team just a couple of years ago.  You mean to tell me that Michigan lost all of it's athletes when Rich Rod came to town?  Lamar Woodley was the star of the Superbowl; is he an athlete?  Strive to be like Tx, Osu, Usc, Florida?  Why?  Run Rich Rod out of town and we are better than all of those programs; nevertheless, I give credit to whoever was the brains behind sending this WVU scum to infiltrate the Big House and bring us to our knees!!!

Demolish? The final score was 41-35. That Michigan team certainly had talent on the offensive side of the ball. My Dolphins drafted Long in the first round and Henne in the second. The Gator's defense was mainly freshmen and sophmore players with little no experience.

Yes, why would anyone want to be like Texas, Oklahoma, USC and Florida? Why would you want your program to be considered among the best programs in the country? I mean Rich Rod has been coach for a year - why would you want to give a coach with a new system more than a year to turn things around? Why allow him time to get players that fit his system? You could just keep changing coaches every year till one has a winning season.

I do not know if Rich Rodriguez will be successful at Michigan, but think you have to give 3 to 4 years to finds out. That will allow him time to recruit players that fit his system.

Since: Sep 17, 2007
Posted on: June 16, 2009 12:24 pm

Picking the Big Ten

ConnGator, I've been in Georgia, Texas, Florida, South Carolina, and, now, North Carolina. This is as "deep South" as I want to get for the foreseeable future, thanks very much!

True story: When I was working in Iraq, the military support staff for the Embassy was a unit from Pennsylvania. A buddy and I went to the chaplain's office for something, and while Jim was talking with the chaplain I started a conversation with a lieutenant colonel sitting there. I asked, "Colonel, are you from Pennsylvania also?" With contempt in his voice, he said, "Ah'm not a Yankee; Ah'm from Jawja." Being shy, I then asked him, "Wonder what your ancestors would say about you wearing a uniform with US Army on it?" He sputtered for a couple seconds -- sounded like an off-course drone aircraft -- then got up and walked out. I related the conversation to Jim -- who is from North Carolina, btw -- when he got back, and he said, "Those people need to get over that s(p)it." ROFL!!!!

How are things with you? Busy here -- like everybody else, dealing with the economy.

On the positive side, Cutcliffe seems to doing wonders for the football program here. People are actually getting excited about something other than Duke basketball. Minor prediction: If Cutcliffe stays five years, he will have Duke in a bowl game.

My best to you!!

Since: Apr 6, 2008
Posted on: June 16, 2009 12:04 pm

Picking the Big Ten

Hold on there 84!   Just because we decided to pay those guys a little bitty bonus to write nice stuff about us it no reason to demean their abilities.  Wink  Hey, it's not our fault we happen to think of it first. 

I loved your comments about the southern attitude.  You do know that's only in the "deep" south, right? 

Since: May 24, 2007
Posted on: June 16, 2009 11:36 am

Picking the Big Ten


Since: Jun 16, 2009
Posted on: June 16, 2009 11:30 am

Picking the Big Ten

Dear Dennis,

You truly are a D'bag.


The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or