Thursday, September 2

2010 College Football Predictions: The Big Ten

Many people think the Big Televen was the big winner out of the conference reorginization that happened over the summer. However, there are some traditionalists out there that think it is the ending of the world that the conference will be split into two divisions when Nebraska joins and makes it the Big Tweleve in 2011. I understand there can be some resistance to change, many fear change. Since I have no emotional attachment to the subject my thought is to just move on and be happy you added one of the best programs in college football and now your BCS teams won't be stale in big games from sitting out almost two months. Most of all, like most people wanted the Ohio State-Michigan game will remain the last game of the regular season. One mouth-breathing tradition preserved at a time.

1. Ohio State- The Bucks are the big dog in the yard, and have been for the decade. I'm taking my disdain for them out of the equation here, I think OSU is going to have a very good year. I'm not expecting fireworks from Terrelle Pryor in the passing game, he won't be facing Oregon so the 300 yard passing games won't be raining down upon us. I do expect him to improve in not turning the ball over. The Sweater Vest has received some criticism for his conservative game tactics, but those tactics have lead Ohio State to be a fixture in the BCS. The Rose Bowl win silenced some critics but not all. If Ohio State makes it to Glendale this year for the BCS title game like I think they will, Tressel and the Bucks will have a chance to silence the entire nation.

In terms of the Big Ten, they have some challenges ahead. At Wisconsin, and at Iowa. The rest of the Big Ten schedule should be doable and that includes Penn State at home. I think they will drop one of those two but it will not cost them one of the top 2 spots. Yes there is a lot of hoopla around week 2 and Miami's visit to the Shoe. I am going to plug my ears that week because I don't want to relive 2002. Winning that game for either team will be huge, but it does nothing in regards to that night in Tempe. Neutral field or South Florida I would give the Canes more of a shot, but I think OSU wins by 10.

2. Wisconsin- Badgers are big and bruising. Their offensive line averages 320 pounds and they have John Clay who is already established as a big time college football running back. They made a statement last year in Orlando beating up Miami in the trenches. This is the quintessential Big Ten power team. Their schedule is pretty luke warm outside of conference but in conference play they face Iowa and Ohio State in back to back weeks. I think big things will be happening in Madison this year, perhaps a BCS at-large, but just shy of national title talks.

3. Iowa- A lot of chirping is coming from the folks over at Kinnick this year. After an improbable string of close victories and comebacks, the Hawkeyes capped the year by winning the Orange Bowl in impressive fashion. There's no doubt Adrian Clayborn is half man, half bear-pig and McNutt at wide receiver needs to be mentioned simply because his name is McNutt. The Hawkeyes need to be more consistent and I know that sounds strange for a team that did as well as them but after a certain amount of time, luck runs out for us all. That said this team is very capable of making its own luck.

4. Michigan State- My word their OOC schedule is appaling. If you are pumping Notre Dame up as your bigtime showdown outside the Big Ten then you know its bad. I know, rivalry game, flags were planted and all that but sheesh. Therefore, I think MSU will get the confidence early on to thrive and build themselves up for the Clemson of the midwest we all know they are. Wisconsin coming to East Lansing has upset alert written all over it. Avoiding Ohio State also helps. But then I am sure some losses will be smattered here and there, like at Iowa and at Northwestern that will crush conference hopes. I feel another trip to Florida for a bowl game, Capital One, Outback, Champ Sports, something.

5. Penn State- The mood is somber when Joe Pa is brought up nowadays. I wonder how the conversations about the legend go in Happy Valley, because outside of there the talk turns downright morbid. We are basically at the point where people are waiting for Paterno to die because he will not retire. He has earned the right not to, but it makes for skin-tearing when the team beings to struggle. Joe quited doubters last decade after PSU won two Big Ten titles and made BCS bowl appearances but now those accomplishments don't seem to justify keeping an aged coach around. It's too early to say but there are rumors about a paucity of recruits coming in. It is a sad commentary but I think other schools are telling recuits not to go to PSU because of JoePa. Unfortuantely any talk of Penn State in the media will begin and end with this topic, which will adversely affect the team. A bowl game waits for the Lions, but not as good as one they want.

6. Northwestern- It's hard not to root for a guy like Pat Fitzgerald. He is doing at Northwestern what many people thought was possible but not likely: create a consistant winner. Now can he elevate them to a higher status? It would be an amazing thing if he could. The Wildcats don't exactly reload so easily and offensive line losses and the loss of Mike Kafka will metamorphosize into a slighty worse team this year.

7. Purdue- The Robert Marve era has begun in West Lafayette. Having seen everyone of Marve's games when he played at Miami, I can say that the guy is athletic. His throwing can be erratic and he can try to force the ball at times, and while had had to sit out last year he also tore up his knee and had to sit out for awhile. I think Marve can help Purdue reach for that .500 mark this season, especially with the easy OOC that only has Notre Dame as an opener. Just don't go thinking he is a savior for the Boilermakers.

8. Michigan- As we slog down to the end of the Big Ten, there are some teams that make you shake your head, but Michigan makes you scratch it. People are not sure where to peg this team. Rich Rod is installing his program theory in a conference that is completely counter to it. He has not brought in the best players even for his system and now there are rumors of his seat heating up even though he has not had a full recruiting cycle there. A lot of questions will be answered in Michigan's first two games. UCONN comes to the Big House and then they travel to South Bend. If they lose both of those, it is going to get ugly in Ann Arbor.

9. Minnesota- The Gophers lost their fast white receiver? How will they ever recover.

10. Indiana- At least the Hoosiers know where they stand in football. They want to make a bowl, and get some bowl money, and not be seen as a complete smushsmortion of a football team so they scheduel Towson, Western Kentucky, Akron, and Arkansas State out of conference.

11. Illinois- It's been said that Ron Zook pisses intensity. It appears he has a urinary tract infection because there has been nothing intense about the Illini the last couple years.

Player to watch: John Clay, Wisconsin
Exceeds expectations: Michigant State
Fails expectations: Penn State
In-conference game to watch: Ohio State at Wisconsin, Oct. 16
Out of conference game to watch: Miami at Ohio State, Sep. 11

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