And now we are on to the second of our conferences with number issues, the Big Ten (with 12 and soon to be 14 members). They’re like the jealous younger brother of the SEC…they think they’re better when they’re not, they can’t stand the attention the big brother gets and they believe they deserve everything the big brother has worked for when they don’t. Also, the big brother (SEC) really likes to slap around the little brother (Big Ten).
Big Ten Legends
- Nebraska Cornhuskers (6-2 Big Ten, 10-2 overall). The Legends division will be a brutal one this year with four teams having a legitimate shot to have their asses handed to them by Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship. One of the most exciting players in the Big Ten (and a dark horse Heisman contender), Taylor Martinez, will somehow lead the Huskers into the Big Ten Championship but it won’t be easy.
- Northwestern Wildcats (6-2 Big Ten, 10-2 overall). A part of me really wants to say that the Wildcats will get into the Big Ten Championship. Talk about David vs. Goliath (especially if the Buckeyes show up undefeated). I think they are a loss to Nebraska away from getting to go to Indianapolis.
- Michigan State Spartans (5-3 Big Ten, 8-4 overall). It doesn’t seem to matter to these guys whether they win their division or not. Beating Michigan seems to be the barometer of success or failure. So for this year…success! Otherwise, they’re probably a couple close games away from a Big Ten title match.
- Michigan Wolverines (5-3 Big Ten, 9-3 overall). For a team that is this touted to be predicted all the way down in fourth in this division seems like lunacy. The problem is that on any given day, you could mix up the top 4, come up with a different order of finish and it would still look plausible. Plus, I believe the maize and blue will lose their rivalry game to Michigan State which would put them here.
- Minnesota Golden Gophers (3-5 Big Ten, 7-5 overall). Jerry Kill, in my opinion, not only has a sweet name, but has done a great job up at Minnesota. Tim Brewster did his very best to destroy the program so Kill bringing this team back to a respectable spot in the Big Ten is quite the feat. They still don’t have what it takes to penetrate that top four. Here’s hoping they can do some damage next year in the new west division.
- Iowa Hawkeyes (0-8 Big Ten, 1-11 overall). Many are calling for the Hawkeyes to possibly be bowl-eligible. I’m calling for them to be one of the worst BCS teams this year. This will easily be Kirk Ferentz’s worst Iowa team ever. I can’t even really see them being close in most of their Big Ten games. This is going to be a long season in Iowa City.
Big Ten Leaders
- Ohio State Buckeyes (8-0 Big Ten, 12-0 overall). Could the Buckeyes run the table again? Could Urban Meyer start 24-0 at Ohio State (which has to be a record of some sort)? Will tOSU get to the national championship and can they finally reverse their fortune in the big game for the first time in more than a decade? The answers here are probably, probably, and maybe.
- Wisconsin Badgers (6-2 Big Ten, 9-3 overall). I feel a bit bad for new Badgers head man Gary Andersen. Don’t get me wrong, he’s getting his shot at a great BCS school. And he’s taking over for Bret Bielema who makes Andersen look like a bit of an anorexic in comparison. However, they have an absolute juggernaut in their division and unless something bad happens to Ohio State or the Buckeyes shit the bed in one of their games, Wisconsin is playing for second place in this division in Andersen’s first year here.
- Penn State Nittany Lions (4-4 Big Ten, 8-4 overall). Don’t even get me started on the whole Penn State controversy and subsequent punishment. Not that they shouldn’t have been punished (of course they should have) but the punishment seems so ridiculous. Of course, Bill O’Brien is part of the problem there as he took a team that should have been under .500 last year and made them respectable despite the fact it didn’t mean anything in terms of postseason play. And he made Matt McGloin, arguably the worst B1G QB in 2011, a good QB. Things are looking up for Penn State.
- Purdue Boilermakers (4-4 Big Ten, 5-7 overall). Darrell Hazell hoped for a dream BCS gig after taking Kent freakin’ State to within a defensive stop of the Orange Bowl last season. So what happens? He ends up at Purdue. I make it sound bad but he’s in a bit of a pickle. He has three good teams in front of him in this division and four in the other division. And things don’t get better when the divisions get shuffled next year. Poor Darrell (I guess).
- Indiana Hoosiers (1-7 Big Ten, 2-10 overall). Such a nice chic pick to put Indiana just over .500 and in a bowl. I’m sorry, I just can’t see it. Too much of a talent disparity and I can’t see them being better than everyone other than tOSU and Wisky in this division. Not gonna happen. Not a chance. I think they are still a year away from bowl contention.
- Illinois Fighting Illini (0-8 Big Ten, 3-9 overall). Other than their shocking run to the Rose Bowl a few years back, the Illini have been largely irrelevant in the Big Ten for more than a decade. Think Indiana in orange uniforms. And now that Purdue and Indiana are slowly improving, look for the Illini to start setting up shop in the basement of the Leaders division and stay there for the foreseeable future.
I hate to say it, but unless something big happens (either an upset or an injury to an important player), Ohio State should run roughshod through their schedule this year. They are just that good in my estimation. I can’t see them losing a single game through the Big Ten Championship. If the Buckeyes aren’t somehow in the BCS national championship, I will be shocked. Also, I wouldn’t be surprised if Braxton Miller starts his Heisman campaign early on and stays in that conversation all year.
Finally, we are less than three weeks away. The start of the season is in sight! Sweet!