Let the real games begin … 2011 Big Ten Season Preview.

Written Ramblings by DJ

Welcome to the Big Ten Taylor Martinez!

No more Akron, South Dakota State or Middle Tennessee State.  It is time for the conference season.  The Big Ten season is unique this year.  There is no player named Pittman or Wells on the running back depth chart for Ohio State.  Heck, Ohio State probably won’t be in a BCS bowl game for a change.  Illinois is ranked to begin the conference season. Michigan has no defense … wait, scratch that.  Their defense has been horrible for four years now.

I am not about to break down each team’s defensive/offensive schemes.  You can get that from Todd McShay and Urban Meyer on Saturday mornings.  Urban Meyer is secretly hoping for Florida to choke away the rest of the season so he doesn’t regret his decision to leave but the Gator defense might actually be better under Muschamp.   And I have no clue why Todd McShay is talking about College Football.  He’d rather be analyzing the body fat percentage of every player in the SEC and their 40 yard speed during the NFL combine.  Anyway, that’s enough about the SEC and NFL.  Let’s break down the Big Ten … legends and leaders style.  (The names aren’t that bad!)

IOWA

There was no way they were going to whoop their rival Cyclones by 35 points again like last season.  Iowa State isn’t too shabby at home so that was a tough game as expected.  Pittsburgh seems to blow leads (against ND last week) so I am not surprised Iowa was handed that win at home after being down most of the game.  The road games are winnable; the toughest one being at Nebraska.  They don’t play Bucky or the Buckeyes which should help.  The NFL coaching rumors won’t be around if Ferentz can’t win at least five games with this schedule.

Prediction:  5-3 or maybe 6-2 if their defense shows up.  

DENARD ROBINSON MICHIGAN

They can’t stop anybody and Denard can’t throw consistently against good defensive teams.  Sure, he did that against Notre Dame but the Irish defense might be worse.  It won’t work during the conference season against faster defenses who will force him to throw most of the time.  Same story as last year but Hoke is no D!@# Rod.  Dan Patrick asked him about the specific play call at the end of the Notre Dame game and he had no idea.  He doesn’t even wear a headset b/c he only deals with defense and that ought to be a good sign for a Michigan fan.

Apparently the Big House has been sold out for 240 games consecutively.  But they still continue to set new attendance record every year.  It doesn’t really add up.

Prediction: 3-5 or 4-4.  They will handle Minny and Purdue but the key game will be @ Northwestern on October 8th.  Hoke needs to win those types of games to spark a turnaround.  I think they beat one of their rivals this year, OSU or Michigan State.

MICHIGAN STATE

They blew out cupcakes during the non-conference season.  Sparty football is similar Illinois basketball in the Big Ten … completely unpredictable and has received too much preseason hype over the last the four to five years.  Their schedule is absolutely brutal.  They need to win all of their home games to get to seven wins.  Wisconsin at home won’t be fun but it is a night game so they could pull it off.

Prediction: No more than 4 win this year.  3-5 is more realistic but 4-4 if they hold home field.

MINNESOTA

I looked up Jerry Kill’s background to see if he came up through the Purdue coaching system.  He looks like a Purdue head coaching candidate … bald head and a bad!@$ ‘stache.  The ‘stache is in par with Joe Tiller (coached Drew Brees) and Danny Hope (current Purdue coach).

Yea, this is how much I know or care about Minnesota football this year.

Prediction: “They are who we thought they were.”  They won’t win more than 2 games.  1-2 wins tops.  They might beat Purdue and the losing head coach might have to shave off the ‘stache.

NORTHWESTERN

Well we know that they will continue to play that weird “wildcat” sound in Ryan Field every time they score or make a big play.  It is the sound that’s played in Anchorman when Brian Fantana picks out the “Sex Panther” cologne.  That’s about all I know about this team so far.  A healthy Dan Persa will help but won’t make a huge difference.   They run the same freaking set of 5-6 plays with any quarterback out there anyway.

Prediction: Fitz is always a tough out at home.  My guess is 3-4 or 4-4 at best if they win at home.

NEBRASKA

The media seems to put a “do or die” tone to their matchup with Bucky this weekend.  It is a great matchup but that won’t decide the Husker season.  Taylor Martinez can define himself has the next Eric Crouch (with an arm) during the next eight games.  They should clean up at home but the key stretch is @ Michigan State, @ Michigan and @ Penn State.  They need two wins during that stretch in order to play in the BT championship game.

By the way, doesn’t Bo Pelini look like the crazy serial killer dude from Fargo??  It reminds me of that guy with an accent from the movie every time I see him scowl on the sidelines.  This is the character that kills the highway cop in the movie and shreds the body in the cabin.

Prediction:  If the defense is up to “Pelini standards”, they will win 6 games.  6-2 if they can beat Iowa at home to end their first Big Ten season.

WISCONSIN

I was playing NCAA College Football ‘08 a couple years ago in my apartment.  My roommate (hardcore Badger fan) and I were getting ready for Thirsty Thursdays as usual.  My QB just busted a 75 yard touchdown run in the game.

Roommate: “Whoa, nice run.  Who is your team?”

Me: “Wisconsin dude!  My QB is super athletic and is a favorite for the Heisman.”

Roommate: “What?? Athletic quarterback at Wisconsin?? And a Heisman favorite?!  haha, this game is so freaking unrealistic.”

Me: “Well, I am in the Dynasty mode and I recruited this guy.  Technically this is the 2016 season.”

The game did not turn out to be that unrealistic after all. It is only 2011 and Wisconsin has an athletic quarterback who is on every Heisman list right now.  Russell Wilson is worth all the hype.  How good is their defense?  We’ll find out this weekend.  On a side note, is Camp Randall the toughest place to play a night game in primetime in the conference right now?  I can’t remember the last time they lost a game at night especially to a top 25 opponent.  Camp Randall is not close to the “white out” at Penn State night games but their track record definitely makes a case for the toughest home crowd.  I wouldn’t say they have the toughest home crowd at night in the country.  That would be LSU … they bring a freaking Tiger out to the sidelines.

Wisconsin is used to the “underdog’ tag, not the favorite one.  This season will speak volumes about Bret Beilema. The last time they were ranked in the top 10 this early in the season was 2007.  They lost to Illinois on the road leading to a couple losses but ended up with a solid season albeit underachieving compared to the preseason expectations.

Prediction: Their key stretch includes three tough road games – Ohio State, Michigan State and Illinois.  Both the OSU and MSU games are at night which isn’t easy.  Two wins out of that stretch should get them to a 6-2 season at least.  7-1 is definitely possible if they beat Nebraska on Saturday (and they will).

ILLINOIS

“Just when I thought I was out … they pull me back in.” – Michael Corleone, Godfather III.

This quote summarizes my ups and downs with Illini football.  Just when I think they have crossed the line towards consistency; they pull me back in with some boneheaded and lazy play against mediocre teams that they should be dominating.  Just when I think they should and will beat a mediocre team; they end up losing or pulling out a close one.  There are no guarantees with this team.  They beat Arizona State at home so I figured they’ll roll over Western Michigan.  Nope, they had to go back to their lackadaisical ways again.  I thought they got over the hump in 2007 after the Rose Bowl but they followed it up with an inexplicable 5-7 season.  I thought we blew our season last year as we entered the Northwestern game in Wrigley with a 5-6 record but they pulled me back in again by destroying the Wildcats and running all over Baylor in the Texas Bowl.

The program has not produced consecutive winning seasons for about 20 years now.  Enough said.

Prediction: The schedule should help them out but I am acutely aware that Ron Zook still wears a headset on the sidelines.  That should cost them a couple games at least.  This team should be 6-2 but I would not be surprised if they end up at 4-4 with road losses at Minnesota and Indiana.  The sad part … most Illini fans including myself will still be satisfied with an overall 8-4 season.  Set the bar low and life is awesome right?!

OHIO STATE

3-1 isn’t a bad place to be for this team right now.  They have a pivotal game this weekend against Michigan State.  Nothing specifically sticks out about this team now that the overrated Pryor is out.  The quarterback situation is … wait, why are we talking about their season??? That is not the real question surrounding this program at the moment.  Which coach will they pursue after the season ends? Urban Meyer’s name will come repeatedly.  They will get turned down by Chris Peterson unless Boise has some more off the field issues.

Prediction:  Urban Meyer will turn them down during the offseason. I think he’ll stay put analyzing tape with Todd McShay for another year.  Notre Dame will probably get rid of Brian Kelly after next season.  Meyer goes to Notre Dame in 3 years.

Oh and regarding the Ohio State record this year?  They still have enough talent on defense to win four to five games.  I think 5-3 is a realistic possibility with losses to Nebraska, Wisconsin, Michigan or Illinois.

PENN STATE

I keep hoping that Paterno will turn it around every year.  The media gives him the benefit of the doubt too.  They can’t generate consistent offense with their dual quarterback system.  So the only thing they have going right now is the “white out” and those three guys who wear Joe Pa face masks during the games.  I really need to get one of those for Halloween this year … black tie, half sleeves white shirt and a Paterno mask.

Prediction: 4-4 at best if they can win three games at home (Iowa, Purdue, Illinois).  Indiana will be their only road win.

INDIANA

I know nothing about their football so here is a basketball plug.  Tom Crean’s team at least needs to be part of the “bubble” conversations if he wants to keep his job next year.  Christian Watford and Maurice Creek are finally healthy so that should help.  I am not buying into the Cody Zeller (top 10 recruit) just yet.  Ok, I’ll stop before I go off on a basketball tangent.

Prediction: They won’t win any road games this year (Wiscy, Iowa, OSU, and MSU).  Their best shot is 3-5 if they can win 3 out of the 4 home games.

PURDUE

They lose their young quarterback to an Achilles injury.  Robbie Hummel got hurt in the preseason as well.  Maybe their training staff needs to re-assess their workout/practice philosophy next year so they don’t lose their stars to injuries before the season starts.

Prediction:  1-7 at best.  The bold prediction is that they will fire Danny Hope and try to hire Jerry Kill to continue their ‘stache legacy with coaches.

So there it is … my preview of the Big Ten football season this year.  Big Ten Network will have its best ratings for the next 6 months before they go back to talking about students and campus programming.  They lost Charissa Thompson (aka Erin Andrews wannabe) to ESPN so we are stuck with Jerry DiNardo.

The media has been hyping Michigan and Illinois as sleepers.  But one of them can’t play any defense and the other still has Ron Zook so I don’t see it happening.  Wisconsin and Nebraska will play in the BT championship game.  These are the only teams that stick out from the pack.  They are in two separate divisions right?  I still can’t keep track of these divisional splits.

One more thing … 6 more weeks until College Basketball tipoff.

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