Saturday, September 01, 2012

2012 - A Big 10 Preview

Once upon a time, the Big Ten was the premier conference in the nation.  Now, they are 3rd at best according to most people.  The conference has seen their top teams, Ohio State and Wisconsin not be able to win their big bowl games.  Michigan might be on the verge of a resurgence.  Iowa, Michigan State, and Penn State haven't performed up to expectations.  Speaking of Penn State, you might not have heard that they had a rough last 12 months at the school.  Something about sexual misconduct or something like that.  Nebraska is the new school in the conference and last year they weren't the team that everyone expected.  Illinois, Indiana, Purdue, Northwestern, and Minnesota bubble up and surprise people every once in a while.  But the big whale in the sea, Notre Dame, has said that there is no incentive in becoming a member of the Big 10.  Until that happens, the conference might be stuck in the mud.


1.  Ohio State.  Urban Meyer is now officially the Head coach in Columbus.  He brought his spread offense and might have something cooking.  Braxton Miller should be able to shine as the signal caller.  The hallmark running game should be formidable and the Buckeyes might have found a few receivers.  The offensive line is a question mark, but they should be able to pull together.  The Defensive Line is the best unit on this team.  There are three potential All-Americans on the line and they recruited several front-line defensive linemen to keep this unit strong for years to come.  The secondary and linebacking corps are strong as well.  Overall 10-2, Big Ten 6-2. 

2.  Wisconsin.  This offense could be scary good.  The Badgers have another transfer to play QB and he must follow in the footsteps of Russell Wilson.  I believe that Danny O'Brien can do that.  The line should be solid and the receivers should do their job.  A question is Montee Ball and being attacked in the off-season and how he can bounce back for the Badgers.  The defense is full of question marks.  The secondary could be adequate and that is if everything goes well.  If not, then the secondary could be real bad.  The lack of speed on the defense could also work against the Badgers.  Overall 10-2, Big Ten 6-2.

3.  Illinois.  The Fighting Illini are changing yet again on offensive philosophy.  Nathan Scheelhaase is playing in his 3rd system and he is a junior.  The coaching staff believes that their unproven running backs can carry the load.  The receivers should be able to match the production of last year.  If the line doesn't improve from last year though. this offense is going to look ugly.  The defense should be tough.  Last year they ranked 7th in total defense.  They are the strength of this team and should be able to pull Illinois to back to back bowl games.  Overall 7-5, Big Ten 4-4.

4.  Purdue.  Coach Danny Hope believes that for the 1st time in his tenure at the school, he has the athletes that will be able to run the offense that he wants.  That is if the line can become anything good.  3 linemen graduated, and two projected starters are coming off injuries.  The skill positions are solid and the three headed QB rotation/Wildcat options is unique.  There is a new defensive scheme in place which will try to confuse the opponent by masking the true intentions of blitzers and other players.  There is talent at all three levels and by the end of the season, that talent should be shining through with good play.  Overall 5-7, Big Ten 3-5.

5.  Penn State.  This year is going to be like no other for the Nittany Lions.  It is the 1st without Joe Paterno, it is the 1st after the Jerry Sandusky fiasco, it is the 1st of 4 years that the players at Penn State are basically free agents.  I believe that 9 players have transferred out including Silas Redd.  Bill O'Brien has cleaned out almost all remnants of Joe Paterno's staff and is giving everybody a clean slate.  I don't think anybody knows what the season will bring, but the effects of the past year will be evident in the record.  Overall 3-9, Big Ten 2-6.

6.  Indiana.  Let's list the problems here.  The line is young, the running backs are nothing special, the receivers don't instill fear on their opponents, and the passing game is past terrible.  Out of 17 passing statistics that the NCAA charts, the Hoosiers were in the top half of the Big Ten in exactly 1.  Tells you that the offense isn't on solid footing.  So you look to the defense.  And that unit makes the offense look good.  When your defense ranks last in rushing, total defense, and scoring defense in the Big Ten, the offense looks good by comparison.  Enter 5 JUCO transfers into the starting lineup.  Hopefully they help the defense.  And if the Hoosiers cannot reduce the number of TD passes they allow from last year (26), they will not win many games.  Overall 3-9, Big Ten 0-8.


1.  Michigan.  When you think of Michigan football right now, it is Denard Robinson.  He is electric and something that the Big Ten doesn't have very much experience against.  Fitzgerald Toussaint gives the Wolverines a second threat on the ground.  The receivers and line are good.  On defense, the line is in a state of flux.  The linebackers are question marks, but the secondary is the strength of the defense and should hold up almost every game.  Brady Hoke is bringing the luster back to Michigan, but the Wolverines aren't ready for the Top 5.  Overall 10-2, Big Ten 7-1.

2.  Nebraska.  This team rises and falls as Taylor Martinez goes.  If he can become consistent and make the throws that you expect a QB to make, then the Cornhuskers have a shot at a Big Ten title.  The skill positions have lots of talent and while the line is being reworked, it is usually a strength for Nebraska.  The Huskers defense should be able to adapt better to the physicality of the Big Ten.  the experience of last year will help the mentality that the Blackshirts have.  The secondary has experience and depth.  The linebackers have talent but aren't that deep and the defensive line is trying to beef up against the run.  Overall 9-3, Big Ten 5-3.

3.  Michigan State  Andrew Maxwell is going to take over the reins from Kirk Cousins.  He might have problems early in the season.  The offensive line is going to be excellent, the receivers are a bit unproven but talented and the RB position is strong.  The defense has added speed at DE and LB.  The interior linemen won't be as dominant as the past few years and the secondary plays an excellent zone coverage.  Mark Dantonio is an excellent coach and needs to get the Spartans over the hump to a Big Ten title soon.  Overall 8-4, Big Ten 5-3.

4.  Iowa. Another year, another underachieving team.  The offensive line needs to replace three new starters.  Being a RB on the Hawkeyes is taking your health into your own hands.  Each time there is a proven commodity,they are injured or quit the team.  This year, the Hawkeyes are already on the 3rd string RB.  QB James Vandenberg is a player but there isn't elite talent for receivers.  The defensive line has many questions and the back 7 is solid but not exceptional.  Overall 8-4, Big Ten 4-4.

5.  Minnesota.  Jerry Kill has stood by his decision to make MarQueis Gray his QB after two years at receiver.  Gray starting his second year at QB looks like he will be a productive player.  All around Gray though is a team that is young.  One receiver on the team has caught a TD pass, one RB has rushed for a score.  There is some talent there, but probably not enough to compete week in and week out with the elite of the Big Ten.  The defense is slowly starting to change.  The coaching staff is trying to bring speed to the defense.  Players are being moved around to emphasize speed.  That means that the defense is a major work in progress.  Overall 6-6, Big Ten 3-5.

6.  Northwestern.  The offense is good.  Kain Colter should be able to take over from Dan Persa and hardly miss a beat.  The depth and talent for the Wildcats is real good and should be the strength of this team.  The RB position is in need of a stud and the offensive line needs more depth and needs to improve on the pass protection.  This group was horrid last year and are pinning their hopes on younger and possibly more talented players.  The Linebackers return all three starters but need them to step up and improve their play.  The D-Line needs to improve on their 17 sacks from last year and the secondary has one returning starter with lots of young players being counted on to come through.  Overall 5-7, Big Ten 3-5.

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