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: Nov 10, 2008
Posted on: June 22, 2009 3:46 pm

Picking the Big Ten

I won't disagree that parity is an issue in the league, but what does NU have to do to not be in the "joke" category -
"chess club - that's a real good one"  We have finished with as many winning records in conference as the Michigan Statesand Iowas, and played within an extra point of beating an "unbeatable" Missouri team in our bowl, but we still get the nerdy brainiac jokes.  Watch how Cory Wooten plays his "chess game" this year and see how many pieces are left standing.

Go Cats! 

Since: Jul 28, 2008
Posted on: June 21, 2009 8:58 am

Picking the Big Ten

Correction, the National Championship goes through State College.

Since: Nov 8, 2006
Posted on: June 21, 2009 6:07 am

Picking the Big Ten

The Big Ten championship goes through State College...again!

Since: Sep 17, 2007
Posted on: June 20, 2009 9:49 pm

Picking the Big Ten

Throw them in the pen vs an SEC team--even a mediocre TN, say--and they're thumped once again.

Snaker, either you have a homer memory or are less than 2.5 years old. Penn State beat #17 Tennessee, 20 - 10, on Jan 1st, 2007. Does a #17 ranking meet your definition of a "mediocre" Tennessee team? Further, Penn State is 5 - 2 against the SEC since 1990.

What an idiotic statement you made.

Since: Jul 28, 2008
Posted on: June 20, 2009 5:56 pm

Picking the Big Ten

What is the SEC's record against Penn State and Michigan? Yeah, that is what I thought. Sorry but the SEC criminals, rejects, and morons and their incestuous fans will always be below the Big Ten. The Big Ten has three of the top eight programs in college football and five of the top twelve. The SEC has one team (Bama) who ranks in the top twelve over the history of college football. The SEC will always be the conference of idiots and losers. The Big XII which has three teams in the top twelve all time, four if you extend that out to the top fifteen (the SEC would then have two with Tennessee) and is far superior to the SEC. Of yeah, and how about them graduation rates?

Since: Aug 17, 2007
Posted on: June 20, 2009 4:16 pm

Picking the Big Ten

Yep. I agree. I'm from Big Ten region, yet you've pegged them in one post: pretty much consistently the same (except MI used to be up there as one of the good three, along with PSU and OSU). The rest get thrashed by the top two teams, the "champs" think they're good. Etc etc. Throw them in the pen vs an SEC team--even a mediocre TN, say--and they're thumped once again. Same ol song and dance my friend.

Since: Jul 28, 2008
Posted on: June 20, 2009 1:19 pm

Picking the Big Ten

The Big Ten has always been a joke? Apparently this hack did not watch college football during the 90s whent he Big Ten was the unquestioned king every year from 1993 to 1999, the longest reign any conference has had since, well, when the Big Ten was king for the entire decade of the 60s and into the 70s. Sorry but over the course of college football history, the Big Ten is consensus top conference, and it will be again, perhaps as soon as this year. If not this year, then next.

Since: Sep 7, 2008
Posted on: June 20, 2009 12:54 pm

Picking the Big Ten

The Big Ten has always been a joke. Finally someone else sees it. It's a JV conference that needs its automatic BCS bid stripped. And the Big East's football prowess is legendary....Please. Get over yourself gmkann

Since: Jul 28, 2008
Posted on: June 19, 2009 10:44 pm

Picking the Big Ten

Dolt, I mean Dodd is a frakking moron. The Big Ten is rebounding quite nicely thank you very much. Partly through the SEC's decline and their own improvement, the Big Ten caught up last year. At very worst, they were a half step behind the SEC and a solid third in the nation. The Big XII was the consensus king. Given that the Big Ten already has two teams better than the top two SEC squads, some added depth should bring them into a virtual tie this year. Perhaps Dolt, I mean Dodd should talk about the rapid decline of the SEC. Then went form God's conference to barely having a team that was a legit top five (Florida was the fourth best team in the land last year), one top fifteen team in Bama. They had some nice depth in the middle but LSU and UGA were supposed to be top teams and weren't while most of the conference stunk it up. Ole Miss was a wonderful surprise but nobody in their right mind thinks that Nutt can do it when his team can't sneak up on anyone. Conversely, for the Big Ten the sky is the limit. Penn State looks to be a top four team again this year, Ohio State is a top six. Iowa and Michigan State are top 25 based on coaching alone. Northwestern is on the verge, Minnesota and Wisconsin should be solid and Illinois should rebound giving them a middle as solid as the SEC's. And unlike the SEC, the Big Ten only has three outright stinkers in Indiana, Purdue who could surprise and Michigan. Of course the SEC has one more team than the Big Ten.

Since: Jan 9, 2007
Posted on: June 19, 2009 1:37 pm

Picking the Big Ten

I believe it's Pitt that plays Youngstown State this year.  And believe me when I tell you that win is not a sure thing for the Pampers considering they only beat 1AA furman a few years ago.  Let me know when Penn State ever makes a trip to a MAC school, remember when Pitt played in Toledo's glass bowl a few years ago.  They also played at Ohio (not Ohio State) of course that game was on a Friday night, about the only time Pitt can actually get on TV.

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