This is the last year for an eleven member Big 10, but they claim they are still going to keep the conference name. Call it whatever you want, it is still one of the toughest Saturdays in the land. Gone are the days of three yards and cloud of dust, but it’s still tough-nose football. Inviting Nebraska into the foray will shuffle things around a bit, especially with the possibility that Michigan-Ohio State will be playing in *gasp* middle of the season instead of the end of November. It appears that the Wolverines and Buckeyes may be split into different divisions, still leaving the potential to meet in the Big 10 championship…that is if RichRod can find some wins, and not put Big Blue in trouble with the NCAA.
I hope the rivalries within the conference don’t suffer do to the Huskers jumping on the ship. The conference is taking the ACC model and putting a little twist on it with a “partner” game every year. With growth comes some pains, and this won’t keep everyone happy, but it’s the best that can be done with 12 teams.
Now for some pigskin. The Big 10 this year may be one of the wackiest conferences of the year. The top members have not shied away from big out of conference games this year, either. When Michigan scheduled UConn a few years ago, it looked decent given the Huskies had just jumped to Division 1. Better have the Blue and Maize ready RichRod! Miami comes a knocking in Columbus and Penn State heads to Bama on September 11. Let’s not forget the Notre Dame tour of the Big 10 the first three weeks. Not that I expect the Golden Domers to bring the pain, it’s still Notre Dame.
Tyrell Prior is atop nearly everyone’s Heisman list right now. It looks like it’s his to lose at this point. As long as Ohio State continues to win, his stock will stay high. Personally, I don’t see him winning it. He reminds me of Vince Young, a winning QB, but just not the numbers and impact on his own team that the eventual winner posses. Don’t get me wrong, Tyrell has the chance to single handedly win a few games for the Buckeyes this year, but he won’t throw for 4,000 yards or 30 td’s. He will be managing the helm of what may be the best team in the Country this year. But as we all know, sometimes the best teams don’t take home the trophy. Every play of every game matters. And, a little luck is always needed along the path (see back-to-back blocked kicks by Terrence Cody last year to beat Tennessee.) This Buckeyes team may be one of the best the Vest has coached in the Horseshoe, but alas they won’t win the conference title. The November 20th trip to Iowa City against the Hawkeyes will prove their demise, sending the Gold and Black playing for the Roses. Don’t cry for the Bucks as they will still receive an at-large BCS berth, adding to the Big 10 coffers before Nebraska shows up.
Here’s hoping JoPa makes it through the season safely, and decides to retire at the end of the season, maybe even before the Bowl game. It’s getting difficult to watch him try to get around the sidelines sometimes, and it’s getting harder and harder to understand the valley mumble. You’ve had a great career Coach. Go take some time and reflect, and enjoy things for a little while. Happy Valley will always be yours, and the Lions will always be grateful for everything you have done for them.
Can RichRod turn things around this year? They HAVE to win more than 1 conference game this year, right? Of course they will. There have been tons of off-field distractions, not to mention a few on-field with a QB debate and a broken bone or two, but the Wolverines will win more than 1 conference game this year. They have a very good chance of showing up against in-state rival Spartans at 6-0 this year. The next 6 pose a different issue for the Maize and Blue. Four games of the last 6 against teams that are ranked in the top 20 pre-season could mean another uncomfortable winter for RichRod and the Michigan faithful. Next year boys. Next year.
Kirk Ferrentz will have the Hawkeyes humming this year. Ricky Stanzi will do just enough to win this year, but won’t be winning any awards. Adam Robinson will be a Super Soph this year, putting up 1,200 yards and tons of touchdowns. But it will be the defense that will lead Iowa will visit the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1991.
Onto the predicted order of finish, with records:
1. Iowa, 11-1, 7-1 Rose Bowl Bound. Stanzi and Robinson lead the O, while the D is a group effort. Ferrentz wins coach of the year in the conference. They’ll be 2 minutes away from being undefeated and playing for the National Title, but the Roses will suit just fine.
2. Ohio State, 11-1, 7-1. This may be the best team in the Country, but they won’t be able to make it through undefeated after a trip to Iowa City. Pryor will take the heat for the loss, costing him the Heisman. The Vest will be stoic, as always, trying not to pile on against Meeshigan after the loss, trying to prove they are the best team out there.
3. Wisconsin, 10-2, 6-2. Avoiding Penn State this year helps, but won’t be enough to lift the Badgers to the top of the heap. John Clay will be the next beast in the backfield for the Cheeseheads, leading the conference in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns. The senior leadership of Scott Tolzien will help in several closer-than-they-should-be games, resulting in a W for the W’s.
4. Penn State, 9-3, 6-2. It will be a tough year for JoPa with a few close ones, just enough to make him take that long walk into the sunset. If they could find a more than serviceable QB to add to Evan Royster, they could make it to double digit wins. But if, well, you know.
5. Michigan State, 8-4, 4-4. Kirk Cousins will be a pass happy Junior this year, but you have to complete more to your team than the other team. The yards will rack up, but key turnovers will keep Sparty from being better than .500 in the conference.
6. Michigan, 7-5, 4-4. The start of the season will show some hope, but the walls will come crashing down in the last 6. Only one win will put RichRod on the front burner hot seat, especially after an embarrassing lose to the Buckeyes in late November. Having 3 starters throughout the season will not help the continuity of the offense.
7. Purdue, 7-5, 3-5. Trial by fire for the young QB corp will season them for next year, but not this year. Expect defenses to lick their chops this year.
8. Illinois, 6-6, 3-5. Another QB dilemma, with OJT. Defenses will throw everything they’ve got at the Illini, and be successful.
9. Northwestern, 5-7, 2-6. A 4 game losing streak to close the season will hurt.
10. Minnesota, 5-7, 1-7. Look for a coaching change at the end of the season.
11. Indiana, 5-7, 1-7. Too bad they can’t look forward to basketball season anymore.