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 17, 2007
Posted on: June 16, 2009 4:32 pm

Picking the Big Ten

Fake, please be a little more fair. For a long time, the Big10(11) - Pac10 tie-in with the Rose Bowl prevented teams from those conferences from sorting out the NC on the field. Blame it on the politics of the time, greed, whatever, but that was the reality for a long time.

And please give Penn State some credit for the years in which they went undefeated but were not recognized as the NC. Shoot, one year Richard Nixon screwed us!!

And, personally, I'm not a big conference homer. Shoot, there are probably more SEC teams I like than other teams in the Big10(11). Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee -- I have fonder memories of games with these teams than I do many of our conference opponents.


Since: Sep 14, 2007
Posted on: June 16, 2009 4:13 pm

Picking the Big Ten

Michgan State is going to shock alot of people next year.  I think the saying "defense wins championships" is written all over this squad.  And from th outside looking in, I think Greg Jones can PROBABLY win the Big 10 all by himself.

Ok, maybe not.  But I think the OL is decent, the WR corps is average at best, but in a pretty weak conference, I think all of the teams will beat each other up this season.  Ohio State is the brad-winner of the conference, but that's not too impressive.

Since: May 7, 2007
Posted on: June 16, 2009 3:42 pm

The Big 10 has ALWAYS been over-rated

It amazes me that people are just now starting to realize this conference has LONG been over-rated. Since Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechlar's "golden era" and Ohio States title in 1968, there have been two, yes TWO, National Champions out of this conference. Michigan in 1997 (Michigan shared the title with Nebraska that year) and Ohio St. in 2002. That's FORTY YEARS for this over-rated conference to produce a paltry 2 National Champions. During that time there have been numerous SCHOOLS with at least as many Championships as the ENTIRE Big 10.

Miami - 5 championships
Nebraska - 5 championships
USC - 5 Championships
Oklahoma - 4 Championships
Alabama - 4 Championships
Texas - 3 Championships
Florida - 3 Championships
Florida St. - 2 Championships
LSU - 2 Championships
Penn St. - 2 Championships (Penn St. was not in the Big 10 when they won their titles)

So can you people PLEASE stop acting like this is a good conference?? There are NO ARGUMENTS that any of you can make to say the Big 10 hasn't not been over-rated for many many years!!!!

Since: Mar 20, 2009
Posted on: June 16, 2009 3:36 pm

Picking the Big Ten

Do you guys remember Vince Young making a fast and well-coached USC defense look like peewee football players?

That is what I am afraid Terrelle Pryor could do to the slower Big Ten defenses this season.  As a true freshman last season, the guy ran effortlessly by defenders as if they were running in mud.  

I would love the Illini's chances of competing for the Big Ten title except for the fact that they have to face that guy.  The Illini offense will score on anybody this year.  I predict the Illini will have a top ten offense nationally and average 35+ points a game.  Unfortunately, the D could give up close to that.  It will be an entertaining brand of football in Champaign this season to be sure.  If Juice limits his turnovers, that will not only help the O, but keep the D out of compromising field position.
My predictions which count for nothing:
1) Ohio St.
2)  Illini
3)  Penn St.
4)  Iowa
5)  Northwestern
6)  Michigan St.
7)  Michigan
8)  Minnesota
9)  Wisconsin
10)  Purdue
11)  Indiana

Since: Nov 17, 2008
Posted on: June 16, 2009 3:15 pm

Picking the Big Ten

Picking the Big Ten

Dude! What is your problem? Disagree, fine, but don't call him names like that. Do you kiss your mom with that mouth. There are better ways to get your disagreements across. Grow up.

Funny.  Say what you want, but my mom is also an BIG TIME Hawkeye fan.  She does not miss a game.  If she doesnt get to go, shes always watching it on tv with the sound down so she can hear Gary Dolphin and Eddie Podolak on the radio.  Even she would go off on Dodd to tell him how wrong he is.

and in case you non big ten fans are wondering, yes that is the same Eddie Podolak that played for the Kansas City Chiefs....

Since: Apr 6, 2008
Posted on: June 16, 2009 1:27 pm

Picking the Big Ten


(Read the following with a slow southern drawl for full effect) Then, you sir, understand the difference between the "south" and the "deep south."  Those two should not be confused and the "deep south" will never surrender. 

Growing up in Orlando in the 50's and 60's was like growing up in a typical northeast town except for the lack of snow and increase of sun and heat. 

That was a great story about the Army Lt. Col.

Duke in a bowl!  My god, man, has that even happen since the Steve Spurrier days?  Actually I just looked it up and yes they were in a bowl under Spurrier in 1989. a loss to Texas Tech.  Five years later they played Wisconson in the much ballyhooed Hall of Fame bowl and again lost.  Last bowl win was 1960, a mere 49 years ago.  You're probably right, they may be due again.  I would definately send out a "save the date" invite to your friends.    

Regards to you and yours! 

Since: Nov 13, 2006
Posted on: June 16, 2009 1:24 pm

Picking the Big Ten

you dont even watch football do you ??

Since: Mar 20, 2008
Posted on: June 16, 2009 1:21 pm

Picking the Big Ten

As a PSU backer - I am embarrassed for your post.  You are the reason Philadelphia fans get a bad wrap!

Since: Apr 6, 2007
Posted on: June 16, 2009 1:20 pm

Picking the Big Ten

Dude! What is your problem? Disagree, fine, but don't call him names like that. Do you kiss your mom with that mouth. There are better ways to get your disagreements across. Grow up.

Since: Oct 19, 2007
Posted on: June 16, 2009 1:18 pm

Picking the Big Ten

I have to agree with the first commentor.

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