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: Aug 20, 2006
Posted on: July 6, 2009 12:03 pm

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.

I'm waiting to see how they look this year. Rodriguez is trying to put a new system in place with another coaches recruits, and that doesn't work out very well sometimes. He had better, however, make some progress or he'll be in deep trouble. Another 3-9 season won't cut it, especially with EMU and Delaware St on the schedule.

Go Buckeyes!

Since: Jul 8, 2007
Posted on: July 3, 2009 7:39 am

Picking the Big Ten

i've said this a million times when arguing with people at work. i would LOVE to see an SEC team come and play in big ten country in november. case in point:
all averages are november
iowa: 35
michigan: 40
pennsylvania: 40
indiana: 42
illinois: 42

as opposed to
florida: 65
louisiana: 60
texas: 60
alabama: 55

NOTHING slows down an offense better than 35 degrees with a 20-30 mph wind (such as last year's penn state vs iowa game) why do you think the big ten plays line-em-up and run it down your throat football? that's the only offense that works in those temps.

Since: Jun 16, 2009
Posted on: June 30, 2009 11:53 pm

Picking the Big Ten

Hey Big Ten Fan..
Hate to break the news to you but your Pub days of smashmouth footbal is outdated.. The new erra is called Speed and muscle & brains.. And guess what ..The rest of the Coaches in the Big Ten at least know that they need to gear-up for speed and spread offense.. I would thiink Old Rich will be King in Michigan within two years... If you still are confused... Just look at all the teams that have played against the  Big ten in Bowl Games..Blow-Hio state has gottena OLD FASHION BEATING  three time recently and lets not forget Old Joe Pa.. took it in the shorts at the Rose Bowl.. And if you are still not convinced check the Recruits that the Big ten are getting..Thye are recruiting in states  Like Texas, California, Florida.. the Bed of speedsters... And When young men gather to play on a field.. They don't give a RATS Behind about past tradition.. They are more focuse about there future.. But lets not forget Mr Lloyd Carr.. ( Which is a Champion among Coaches) He was from tradition.. And the Alumni also forgot about tradition .. All they wanted to do is WIN.. ANd bring back the mighty dollar to the Wolverines Football Program..

Even in Pro football they are running more.. Check out the Dolphins.. They are even thinking about getting Mr Mike Vick..

Since: Nov 12, 2006
Posted on: June 30, 2009 5:52 pm

Picking the Big Ten

his might be the worst I've seen the Big Ten in 11 years.
Hmmm this sounds familiar coming from Dodd....

Since: Oct 3, 2006
Posted on: June 29, 2009 9:55 pm

Picking the Big Ten

My preseason rankings:

1. OSU
2. PSU
3. IA
4. MSU
5. MIN
6. UM
7. ILL
8. WIS
9. NW
10. PUR
11. IND

I see my nittany lions going at least 10-2, possibly 11-1.

Since: May 27, 2007
Posted on: June 29, 2009 9:27 pm

Picking the Big Ten

Loop - good post and while UM should strive to play as consitantly well as those other teams you list - USC unlike all the others - does not play any variation of a spread offense.  SC is still old school pro style offense - just as old Llyod Carr coached.

Since: Oct 1, 2008
Posted on: June 29, 2009 1:59 pm

Picking the Big Ten

I guarantee Michigan has as much or more current NFL players as almost every other program in the country.  Not just busts, too.  There are ex-Michigan players on good NFL teams and they aren't just backups.  The reason they've been bad is just that they haven't gotten it done.  It's that simple.  Carr always got good talent and until his last two or three years, had Michigan near the top of college football.  He was second or third best winning percentage among active coaches, won a national title, 5 or 6 Big Ten titles and people are all over him.  He couldn't beat Tressel but still was only 1 game under 500 against OSU (still not acceptable).  Just because a team is having a bad five year stretch doesn't mean that the programs been flushed and that they're getting second tier players.

Since: Nov 19, 2006
Posted on: June 29, 2009 12:31 am

Iowa wins against SEC in bowl games

I can't speak for all of the Bigten, i can only say Iowa has held it's own against SEC competition in bowl games.

Non BCS ERA 1-1
1982 Iowa 28 Ten 22
1983 Iowa 6 Florida 14

2003 Iowa 37 Florida 17
2004 Iowa 30 LSU 25
2005 Iowa 24 Florida 31
2008 Iowa 31 S.Carolina 10

Since: Aug 18, 2006
Posted on: June 28, 2009 3:45 pm

Picking the Big Ten

Who in the hell is researching the big ten and doesn't have Illinois in the top 3 ? Seriously folks, I am not even an Illinois fan but this is absolute ignorance. Illinois has the best QB, ( he was the best offensive player in the big ten last year and will be this year and reminds me of Mcnabb). Hands down the best recievers, three starters back on the OL and expect big things from the linemen stepping in.Dufrene is a quality back , the defense is a little skeptical but have quality lb's and secondary. I think the DL could be excellent if they get healthy. One idiot has the 8th in the big ten , do your homework dude.


Since: Aug 20, 2006
Posted on: June 28, 2009 3:22 pm

Why the Big 10 has slipped

If you think about it, during the 90s the Big Ten was probably the best conference.  Ohio State, Penn State, and Michigan all were annual contenders.  At the beginning of this decade, Penn State was down because of JoePa's age, so you'd have Ohio State and Michigan in a two team race, and usually Wisconsion, or, at that time, Iowa would compete for the third spot.  Now, Penn State has righted the ship, but Michigan is going through a strategy change, so it's the same type of situation.  The Big 10 will be back in a year or two once Michigan is Michigan again, and the Big three, are truely the big three.

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