Congratulations fair reader, it’s time to see what we think about the Big 10 which is actually 12. Always a tough conference with good teams, they are perennially overrated. They traditionally struggle against good, out of conference competition.
That being said, there is talent galore here and if you play them in non-conference game, good luck.
2011 Big 10 Previews (In alphabetical “Conference” order):
Illinois Fighting Illini: 7-6 in 2010
The fighting Zooker’s had a pretty good 2010 and have a lot of those players returning this year. The law of averages says they’ll be somewhere in the middle this season.
Offense: It all starts with QB Nathan Scheelhaase, one of the conferences best. Yeah, they did lose Mikel Leshoure and that will hurt. Scheelhasse will have to account for a lot this season.
Defense: No stars, but 9 returning starters. And in College Football, that’s not such a bad thing.
Outlook: A fairly easy schedule will help as will 8 home games. Ron Zook’s teams tend to under achieve and we wonder if this team will do the same thing.
Phil says: They’ll be decent. Schedule all but guarantees them 6 wins. 7-5 will be a success for these guys. 6-6 is more realistic.
Jon says: Agreed… and that’s after a 3-1 start…
Wilkie says: I think new offensive coordinator Paul Petrino will have a tremendous effect on the Illini offense. With division rivals Ohio State and Wisconsin coming to Champaign Illinois may be the dark horse in the Leaders Division.
Indiana Hoosiers: 5-7 in 2010:
If there was a “Schleprock” team in each conference, this would be the team in the 10. They always struggle, though appeared to have started to turn the corner in 2010. We’ll see if they can maintain it.
Offense: It starts with wide receiver Demarlo Belcher. 78 catches last season ain’t bad, the question is can QB Dusty Kiel get the ball to him and that’s one that won’t be answered until they play for real.
Defense: This is where they struggle to compete. The offense is pretty good, defense...not so much. DT Adam Replogle will be leaned on heavily along with LB Jeff Thomas.
Outlook: This program is heading in the right direction. Kevin Wilson does have his work cut out, but it seems as though they are turning the corner. Virginia is the toughest non-conference game...and is easily winnable.
Phil says: Consistency is the key here. They need to continue making strides. They should. 6-6 is not out of the question.
Jon says: I think Wilson will have his work cut out for him… maybe 4-8…
Wilkie says: It won’t translate into wins this year but Kevin Wilson is stirring the pot in Bloomington. Six wins is about the max.
Ohio State Buckeyes: 11-1 in 2010:
It wasn’t the most pleasant off-season for these guys. We’ve talked at length about their off the field problems this summer. And yes, it will affect them, we just don’t know how much.
Offense: Terrelle Pryor will be tough to replace if for no other reason than he was the only QB with experience. But as always, there is plenty of talent here. Without Dan Herron and DeVier Posey, they’ll struggle early in the year. Someone is going to have to step up--Braxton Miller maybe?
Defense: If Johnathan Hankins steps up, they’ll be really good here...again. They lost a few players, but as always there are plenty of guys to step up.
Outlook: An awful lot of variables here with a new coach and key players out for 5 games. But these guys tend to play cupcakes early and that will help. The season really will hinge on who steps up and fills the void and right now nobody knows for sure who that will be.
Phil says: This will be a tough season in Columbus. They’ll recover, no matter what the NCAA says or does, but you can write this year off. 9-3.
Jon says: After winning the Ohio State title with wins over Akron and Toledo, I’ve got them at, maybe, 8-4… a rookie QB and not knowing how the rest of the “Tattoo 6” will respond will be the big difference…
Wilkie says: In September they won’t resemble the Ohio State we know. I doubt they beat Miami or Michigan State. Starting with Nebraska October 8th the Buckeyes will be in tact and I wouldn’t be surprised if TOSU rattles off seven straight wins.
Penn State Nittany Lions: 7-6 in 2010
2010 was a year to forget for the Nittany Lions, the expectations were higher. But they’ve been here before and recovered. And there’s some talent here.
Offense: Derrick Moye is the prototypical WR. NFL Scouts are already drooling over him. Someone needs to grab hold of the QB job, but nobody knows if that will happen. There’s not much else that stands out here.
Defense: If they are going to be successful, the “D” will lead the way. LB Michael Mauti and CB D’Anton Lynn are the best of a really good defense. And DT Devon Still ain’t bad. But will they wear out because of the offensive struggles?
Outlook: The “D” is one of the country’s best, the “O” one of the worst. Until the balance emerges, they’ll struggle. Finishing Nebraska, at Ohio State and at Wisconsin won’t do much for morale either.
Phil says: Having Alabama in the non-conference schedule ain’t going to help things. This year will be a bit of a struggle. 7-5 again sounds good.
Jon says: I’ve got them 8-1 heading into November, maybe 9-3…
Wilkie says: Joe Pa is energized, the Nittany Lions are better but the November schedule is a killer. 7-5 in Happy Valley.
Purdue Boilermakers: 4-8 in 2010
Another team seemingly on the rise. They’ve been stuck at the bottom of this conference for years. There is some talent here and we think Danny Hope is a good coach.
Offense: Ralph Bolden is a pretty good RB and Robert Marve has shown flashes of being a good QB, but can he sustain it and hold off Rob Henry?
Defense: They are stacked on D this year with Kawann Short and Bruce Gaston anchoring the line. Oddly, this may be the strong suit of this team in 2011.
Outlook: They should be better. The schedule isn’t too daunting. And they aren’t a bad team. A few guys will need to step it up for that to happen.
Phil says: An easy schedule helps. A bowl game is a real possibility. 7-5
Jon says: I don’t see it going 7-5… I’m still thinking 4-8’ish…
Wilkie says: The Boilers go bowling in December. 7-5 is possible.
Wisconsin Badgers: 11-2 in 2010
They are everyone’s offseason darlings it seems. And they are always good. But they always lose a game they shouldn’t. Always. Let’s see how well Russell Wilson fits in.
Offense: It will start with Wilson and WR Nick Toon. With RB’s James White and Montee Ball around they should be able to run well too. There are some holes on the line.
Defense: Chris Borland will be the man this year. He has to. DT’s Patrick Butrym and Jordan Kohout will certainly help.
Outlook: Yes, they will be good. They should be the class of this conference. But they always seem to choke in the end. Is this they year they get past it? Because they are certainly loaded at almost every position.
Phil says: Unless they implode, this is the best team in the conference. The schedule is conducive to running the table, but they’ll gag somewhere 11-1 and BCS Bowl
Jon says: That’s what I’m looking at as well… somewhere in the 10 or 11 win season-range and playing South Carolina in the Citrus Bowl…
Wilkie says: Getting quarterback Russell Wilson as an unrestricted free agent was the game changer the Badgers needed. This is your Big 10 champion.
And we move on to the poorly named Legends division--
Iowa Hawkeyes: 8-5 in 2010
This also was a rough offseason for Iowa with the 13 players being hospitalized and suspensions galore. They are the prototype for Big 10 football, good in conference, not so much out of it.
Offense: When your best player is a Tackle, you’ve got some things to worry about. Somebody has to play QB with James Vandenburg your leader in the clubhouse, and having Marcus Coker in the backfield will help.
Defense: They’ll be stout. Shaun Prater is NFL ready now and his counterpart Micah Hyde is pretty good too. The line will put some pressure on people.
Outlook: Iowa is traditionally good, but rarely great. This season won’t change that perception. There are too many question marks for them to excel, but they’ll be about where they were last year, with hopefully less headaches.
Phil says: If everyone plays to their max, 8-4, but 7-5 is more realistic.
Jon says: I’ve got the same thing… somewhere in the 7-5 range…
Wilkie says: Iowa thrives at being the under the radar team and the Hawkeyes are in that position this season. Will Iowa take advantage again?
Michigan Wolverines: 7-6 in 2010
They hired the right guy this time: Brady Hoke. And yes, they improved last year. But they still haven’t reminded anyone of the Michigan of old. With some discipline and defense, they could be what the rest of Big 10 should be playing like.
Offense: Denard Robinson. Do we need to say more? Robinson, the QB, was a dynamic play-making machine last year. He did wear down towards the end though. He needs to get bigger. Having WR Roy Roundtree back certainly will help.
Defense: This is the problem. They were awful the past two seasons. DT Mike Martin is the best player, but there is little around him. We’ll see if that happens.
Outlook: On the rise. If the Defense improves, the team will be better. Rich Rod, for all his faults, got some talent to come to Ann Arbor.
Phil says: They are heading in the right direction. They aren’t there yet. 8-4.
Jon says: I’ve got somewhere in the 6-6 range. I think they’re a year away…
Wilkie says: Brady Hoke mission isn’t to change the culture at Michigan but to be a part of it. The Wolverines won’t be all the way back this year but getting closer. Michigan won’t be home for the Holidays either.
Michigan State Spartans: 11-2 in 2010
Another team that is always competitive in the conference but struggles out of it. And they seem to always find ways to lose games they shouldn’t. But they’ve got some key guys coming back this season and a pretty friendly schedule.
Offense: It all starts with QB Kirk Cousins. Cousins is arguably the best QB in the conference and the leader of this team. WR B.J Cunningham and TE Brian Linthicum are back too. 3 new starters on the line could be an issue.
Defense: Safety Trenton Robinson is probably the best player on the D, and there will be 5 new starters this season. Someone is going to have to step up and lead up front, the question is who.
Outlook: Depends on the defense. They should be a tough out because of Cousins, but there are a lot of question marks. Again, a cake schedule will help...a lot.
Phil says: They’ll struggle this year. They lost a lot of starters. Best guess is 7-5.
Jon says: Six wins, maybe 7…
Wilkie says: If the youngsters come through then Michigan State is a title contender. The Spartans have nine wins in them.
Minnesota Golden Gophers: 3-9 in 2010
There is a new sheriff in town, Jerry Kill and he’s got his work cut out for him. They lost a lot of experience off a really bad team. This is a long term project for Kill or anyone else.
Offense: The top 3 receivers return, but who is going to throw it to them? Duane Bennett is a solid RB, but there are holes almost everywhere.
Defense: There is a little more here to work with. Leading tackler LB Gary Tinsley returns and LB Keanon Cooper is pretty good too. But again, nothing else stands out.
Outlook: Well, they are going to not be very good for awhile. There are some winnable non-conference games, but they won’t be favored in any Big 10/12 game.
Phil says: Jerry Kill may regret taking this job. He’s got a lot of work here. 3-9
Jon says: Bad, badder, baddest… and not in a good way… 2-10
Wilkie says: Jerry Kill won at Saginaw Valley State, Emporia State, Southern Illinois, and Northern Illinois he will win in Minnesota, just not this year. 3-9 but it won’t seem that bad.
Nebraska Cornhuskers: 10-4 in 2010
Welcome newcomer. Nebraska brings money, revenue and a really good team to this conference, this year. Bo Pelini deserves credit for getting this program back on track.
Offense: QB Taylor Martinez is back and that is where everything starts. Leading reciever Brandon Kinnie is back too. But only 2 starters on the line return. Could make things difficult early.
Defense: DT Jared Crick leads a stout defense that also returns tackling machine LB Lavonte David. Key starters in every spot are back. They’ll be tough.
Outlook: Come November, there may be some 2nd thoughts about having these guys in the playground. They could easily run the table and will be in the conference championship game.
Phil says: Look out Big 10/12. 11-1, conference champs and BCS Bowl.
Jon says: What Phil said…
Wilkie says: The Nebraska-Iowa rivalry just doesn’t have the same cache as Nebraska-Oklahoma, This will take a while for me to get used to the Huskers in the Big Ten. The Huskers will challenge for the league title though. 10-2 for the stenciled “N’s”
Northwestern Wildcats: 7-6 in 2010
Pat Fitzgerald has made them a tough out for anyone. And this time, they return a bunch of starters (16). They’ll be a handful for anyone.
Offense: QB Dan Persa returns and he’s pretty good. He accounted for a lot of 2010’s offense. 3 of the 4 leading receivers are back too. As is most of the line.
Defense: Couple of replacements needed. Though Safety Brian Peters returns. The D-Backs look pretty stout, there’s some concern again on the D-Line.
Outlook: They should be pretty good. There’s some talent and we like Fitzgerald the coach. No Ohio State or Wisconsin on the schedule will help.
Phil says: They are the dark horse in this conference in my eyes. 10-2 wouldn’t be a surprise.
Jon says: 6-6 and more tough losses than comfortable wins…
Wilkie says: The easiest schedule in the Big Ten might pay off handsomely for the Wildcats. 10 wins might happen.
Player of the Year:
Phil says: Dan Persa, Northwestern
Jon says: Monte Ball, Wisconsin
Wilkie says: Edwin Baker – Michigan State
Phil says: Nebraska vs. Wisconsin. Cornhuskers win the title and BCS berth.
Jon says: Nebraska-Wisconsin… Nebraska wins and becomes both a leader and a legend…
Wilkie says: Wisconsin vs Nebraska. Badgers will be your Big Ten Champion.