Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Big Ten Part Deux

We continue our Questioning of the Big Ten with the other five teams...

Is Northwestern for real?
If by "for real" you mean better than the Indiana schools, then yes, they're for real. The Purple Smart Kids will probably get the six wins they need to go bowling for the second straight year thanks to what has to be the worst/easiest non-conference schedule in the Big Ten (Towson, Eastern Michigan, Syracuse, and Miami of O-HI-O. Way to challenge yourselves there Wildcats), and the fact they play both Indiana and Purdue. Hey nothing like earning that trip to the Motor City Bowl. I'd add something else but I'm STILL upset about their ridiculous upset of the Gophers 24-17 last year at the Metrodome, so let's just say I have September 26th circled on my calendar. I'm sure Coach Brewster and the Gophers do too.

Is too much being expected of Ohio State and QB Terrelle Pryor?

Look, no disrespect to the Buckeyes who, as far and away the best team in the Big Ten for this entire decade, have had to carry the weight of the conference's national reputation all by themselves and have done an admirable job. And no disrespect to the super soph Pryor, who besides being an all-world talent and probably the best sophomore in the country, also can walk on water and turn water into wine- at least according to Buckeye fans and the Big Ten media (who picked him as the pre-season player of the year over some more experienced players). But for almost every major poll and publication to rank them 6th in the country to start the season (AP and Coaches polls, ESPN, Foxsports, and Sporting News all have them 6th. Only SI.com has them 10th) is a bit much considering how much Ohio State lost from last year's team. Yes, Pryor is an other-worldly athlete who handled his quick ascension to the starting QB of a top five team last year as well as anyone could have, but the kid still has a LONG way to go to be a polished QB. Last year, with two NFL quality receivers named Brian (Hartline and Robiskie), Ohio State had the second worst passing offense, and the third worst overall offense, in the Big Ten. Sure, Pryor will be better than 2008, but his receivers certainly won't. Also add in that last year's starting tailback Beanie Wells left to be a first round NFL draft pick, and it means Pryor's going to be leading a very inexperienced group.

Defensively they also lose a ton of talent, including All-American linebacker (and Minnesota native. Sorry I always feel the need to mention it) James Laurenitis, and corner Malcolm Jenkins. They do return arguably the best d-line in football, a group that's going to have to be outstanding early to let the new guys in the back get comfortable and acclimated. Coach Jim Tressel and his staff recruit as well as anybody in the country, so there's a ton of talent stepping in, but I just don't see this being a top 6 team to start the year- or to end it. Not that I see them falling completely off the radar- they'll lose to USC September 12th, and probably only lose once in the Big Ten, but that'll still be enough to keep them out of the national championship talk for 2009.

Wait a minute, Penn State's non-conny schedule couldn't possibly be more of a cupcake than Northwestern's, could it?
Wait let me check...Akron, Syracuse, Temple, and Eastern Illinois...you know what? I owe the Purple Smart Kids an apology: Penn State has a cushier and lamer non-conference schedule than your team does. My mistake. What's the matter Joe Pa- was the team from the Happy Valley Retirement Home not able to reschedule their shuffleboard tournament? Were the Penn Quakers too busy studying for them to play you too? Good gracious, that's a lame schedule, but hey, it's four guaranteed victories and three of them come before the Nittany Lions first real challenge when they host Iowa then travel to Champaign to face Illinois at the end of September and early October. And the JoePas are going to need the tune-up games before that too, because they've got a LOT of new faces to break in. Having senior QB Daryll Clark and HB Evan Royster will help the offense transition as they replace their entire receiver core and a good chunk of their offensive line. Defensively they return the Big Ten's best linebacking duo in Sean Lee and Navaro Bowman, who will have to shoulder the load while an almost entirely new secondary and group of defensive ends get their feet wet. Like Ohio State, the Nittany Lions should compete for the conference title, but while they'll start the season ranked in the top 10, I don't see them finishing there.

Can 2010 come soon enough for Purdue?
Yeah, probably not. Joe Tiller pretty much left the Purdue program the way he found it- at the bottom of the conference. New guy Danny Hope is full of, well, hope, and there's should be some of it for Boiler fans for the future. If Hope continues to make recruiting inroads into Florida, the Boilers are going to be feisty in the not-so-distant future, and former high school All-American QB Robert Marve will get to suit up next year. But for this season, the cupboard looks pretty bare, and if they win even one conference game, even against Indiana, that'd have to be considered a success for 2009.

Just why exactly does everybody hate Wisconsin this year?
All of the negativiy in Madtown this offseason is enough to probably make Bucky Badger cry in his Old Mil Lite. Was it something Kelso and Eric Foreman said? Hey I can understand why Badger fans, and others, seem to hate their coach, Bret Bielma. After all, the guy IS an Iowa alum, so that's all I need to know. But why on earth do the media and pundits seem to hate the team and are predicting doom and gloom for 2009? First of all, have you SEEN Wisconsin's schedule? No really, have you? Go ahead and click on that there schedule link, and tell me how the Badgers aren't going to win at least 8 games this year. Please, I'd love to hear it. Not only should they win their four non-conference games, but considering they don't have to play Penn State or Illinois this year, I'll almost guarantee Sconnie will find four more wins in the Big Ten, especially when Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue all come to Camp Randall this year.

Not only is the schedule favorable, but the team is pretty good too. Yes, they have a quarterback controversy, although if they'd just ask me they wouldn't: since incumbent senior starter Dustin Sherer hasn't proven good enough to beat out frosh Curt Phillips, you start Phillips and let him get his feet wet in the first 3 games against N. Illinois, Fresno State and the juggernaut from Wofford. And he's going to have plenty of help: Wisconsin ALWAYS has a solid O-line, they have a stable of good running backs (I was surprised to see 247 pound behemouth John Clay has been demoted to second team), and their receivers, led by former NFL All-pro Al Toon's kid Nick, David Gilreath has some wiggle to him, and TE Garrett Graham will be playing on Sunday's next year. Defensively the Bucky Badger's have some questions, as they return just five starters, but the offense, and the schedule, will be good enough to make the Badgers the surprise team of the 2009 Big Ten season.

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