Where Do You Go to See the Best Football and Basketball in the Big Ten?

Ryan Curi@rcuri1Featured ColumnistJuly 18, 2012

Where Do You Go to See the Best Football and Basketball in the Big Ten?

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    There's no denying that the two biggest sports in terms of both revenue and popularity at the collegiate level are football and basketball. In fact, those are often the only two sports that you have to pay to watch if you are a student.

    So, if all 12 of the Big Ten schools brought their football and basketball teams together for an all-out war with each other, which school would prove dominance over all the others?

    To figure out the answer to the question above, I ranked all 12 schools in both football and basketball for the upcoming season. Whichever school had the lowest combined number was declared the winner.

    After analyzing the list, it was no surprise that the top dogs were the teams that are in the hunt for both a Big Ten football and basketball championship. Likewise, the teams that find themselves in the bottom half for both sports are near the end of the list.

    If you're a Big Ten student, graduate or just a fan, take a look here before you decide to invest your time or money into either of your school's two major sports.

12. Penn State Nittany Lions

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    Football Rank: 8th (4th in Leaders Division)

    Penn State loves their football. In fact, it is one of the toughest stadiums to play at in the entire nation. To be frank, though, their program is in a lot of trouble after continued investigations.

    The fact that they are receiving an 8th place vote from me may be generous, despite going 9-4 in 2011, especially considering they might not even have a team in the near future. It appears as though Matt McGloin has the starting quarterback job all to himself, although the Nittany Lions must improve offensively for him to keep his job.

    Basketball Rank: 11th

    In contrast to football, no one goes to the Bryce Jordan Center to watch their Lions on the hardwood.

    Tim Frazier will be back for his senior season, after leaving Penn State in points, rebounds and assists as a junior. Head Coach Patrick Chambers has the program headed in the right direction, although it may take a few years before they are in any kind of postseason tournament.

11. Purdue Boilermakers

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    Football Rank: 10th (5th in Leaders Division)

    Purdue football is actually headed in the right direction after a 7-6 season in 2011, highlighted by a thrilling overtime win over Ohio State that helped them secure a bowl berth. Robert Marve is back for his final season at quarterback for the Boilermakers.

    At 10th place, they could be under the radar and even sneak into the top three in the leaders division.

    Basketball Rank: 9th

    Now that Robbie Hummel has graduated, following JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore from the year before, the Boilermakers need a new face of the program.

    DJ Byrd is poised to have a big senior season, while Ronnie Johnson could be the engine that gets the Boilers running. Ronnie's brother, Terone Johnson, will likely be his backcourt mate along Anthony Johnson (unrelated).

    Making the NCAA Tournament this upcoming season would be considered a success for this young team.

10. Nebraska Cornhuskers

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    Football Rank: 5th (3rd in Legends Division)

    Although Nebraska finished the 2011 football season with a 9-4 record, it came with some disappointment. The Cornhuskers made the move from the Big 12 to the Big Ten almost strictly because of football. So, finishing in 3rd place in their division, and not stomping over every Big Ten foe like they thought they would, made going 9-4 seem not that special.

    Scrambling quarterback Taylor Martinez is back and hoping to get the Huskers to the Big Ten Title Game in Indianapolis this December.

    Basketball Rank: 12th

    Nebraska loses four of five seniors from last year's team that tied for last place with Penn State. Dylan Talley and Brandon Ubel are the top returning players, although both are inconsistent.

    The program did make a coaching change when they fired Doc Sadler and replaced him with Tim Miles, formerly the head coach at Colorado State. Give Miles a few years in Lincoln and he will have the Cornhuskers competitive again.

9. Minnesota Golden Gophers

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    Football Rank: 11th (6th in Legends Division)

    Former wide receiver MarQueis Gray will once again be under center this year for Minnesota, although hopefully he will be given more time in the pocket. Last season, the Golden Gophers started three freshmen on their offensive line, leaving Gray little time to find receivers.

    Jerry Kill also has this program going in the right direction but, in a deep Legends Division, Minnesota is still clearly the bottom feeder for the time being.

    Basketball Rank: 6th

    After a disappointing regular season in basketball, the Gophers made a surprising run all the way to the finals of the NIT. Andre Hollins was phenomenal in the tournament, while Rodney Williams continued his season of vast improvement. Trevor Mbakwe is scheduled to return from an injury that kept him out all of 2012, which makes Minnesota a potential top 25 squad.

    This team must avoid injuries and suspensions for this year to be different than the past two and, if so, the sky is the limit with potential here.

8. Illinois Fighting Illini

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    Football Rank: 7th (3rd in Leaders Division)

    The 2011 Fighting Illini football team started a remarkable 6-0, although it should be noted that five of those games were at home.

    Ron Zook lost his job after the Illini dropped their next six games, before winning their second consecutive bowl game over UCLA and finishing the season 7-6.

    Jonathan Brown, Terry Hawthorne and Michael Buchanan help make up a stout defense, while Nathan Scheelhaase and Donovan Young must work on timing for the offense to click. Head Coach Tim Beckman has the enthusiasm necessary to get this program back on track.

    Basketball Rank: 10th

    Last year's basketball season went eerily similar to the football season. The Illini stormed out of the gates and at one point held a 15-3 record, only to fold and not be selected to any postseason tournament, which cost Bruce Weber his job.

    John Groce is Weber's successor, coming from Ohio, and has already brought in two transfers who could be impact players for Illinois when they become eligible. Seniors Brandon Paul and DJ Richardson should be the team's top two players, followed by junior swingman Joseph Bertrand.

7. Northwestern Wildcats

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    Football Rank: 9th (5th in Legends Division)

    After going 6-7 on the gridiron a year ago, the Wildcats are looking to consistently be above .500 again.

    Dan Persa has graduated, although he missed most of 2011 anyways after NU made an effort to get his name into consideration for the Heisman Trophy before the season began.

    Kain Colter takes over at quarterback for Pat Fitzgerald's young squad. The Wildcats' defense, especially their secondary, must be better in 2012 than it was in 2011.

    Basketball Rank: 7th

    2012-2013 will be yet another year of hope for Wildcat basketball fans. Northwestern lost their all-time leading scorer in John Shurna, but returns every other key player—along with plenty of additions.

    Drew Crawford and JerShon Cobb could make up the conference's best combination of wing players. David Sobolewski should once again run the point, but the 'Cats will need better play from their center position if they want to get to the promised land for the first time in school history.

6. Iowa Hawkeyes

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    Football Rank: 6th (4th in Legends Division)

    Iowa football is downright consistent. You can count on them to reach a bowl game every season, although recently they have not been the best bowls. The Hawkeyes went 7-6 in 2011, although disappointingly lost to in-state rival Iowa State.

    You can count on Head Coach Kirk Ferentz having his team ready when they hit the field on September 1 against Northern Illinois, in a game that will be played at Soldier Field.

    Basketball Rank: 8th

    The Hawkeyes took a step up in 2011-12 by reaching the NIT, and even winning a game against Dayton. I believe the NCAA Tournament will be just a little out of their reach this coming year, although I'll put them as a lock to make in 2013-14.

    Fran McCaffrey recently signed a seven-year contract, and hopes to continue bringing in recruits like Mike Gessell and Adam Woodbury. Roy Devyn Marble, Aaron White and Melashn Basabe are all key returning players for Iowa.

5. Indiana Hoosiers

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    Football Rank: 12th (6th in Leaders Division)

    2011 was a tough year for IU football, although what year isn't? The Hoosiers won only one game and was unable to beat a single Big Ten team in eight attempts.

    2012 should be much of the same, which didn't help when the top high school quarterback, Gunner Kiel, decommitted from IU. No one in Bloomington really cares about the football games themselves, so they rather spend the duration of the game tailgating—a much better option.

    Basketball Rank: 1st

    Basketball expectations will be quite different from football, considering the Hoosiers are expected to be the top-ranked team in the nation when the polls come out. Tom Crean has brought in an outstanding recruting class, headlined by point guard Yogi Ferrell.

    The team also returns Cody Zeller, Christian Watford, Jordan Hulls and Victor Oladipo on their deep roster. While the Hoosiers advanced to the Sweet Sixteen in 2012, anything short of a Final Four appearance in 2013 may be a disappointment.

4. Michigan State Spartans

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    Football Rank: 3rd (2nd in Legends Division)

    Michigan State had Wisconsin on the brink last December, hoping to win the Inaugural Big Ten Title Game. The Spartans were not as lucky the second time against the Badgers, winning the first game on a miraculous Hail Mary Pass at the buzzer, but nonetheless finished the season with an 11-3 and 7-1 conference record.

    Kirk Cousins is now in the NFL, leaving the quarterback position open. Nonetheless, I expect the Spartans to compete in the Legends Division but fall just short to their rival, Michigan.

    Basketball Rank: 5th

    Draymond Green, the conference Player of the Year, will not be on the Michigan State campus this next season. So, who will step up for Tom Izzo's squad to make them a contender?

    Keith Appling, Branden Dawson and Adreian Payne are the team's top returning players, although none of them can do what Green did (which was everything). Derrick Nix will be the only senior in the rotation, so 2013-2014 could be another special year in East Lansing.

3. Ohio State Buckeyes

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    Football Rank: 4th (2nd in Leaders Division)

    The perennial Big Ten champion Buckeyes took a hit in 2011, going 6-7 after the firing of Jim Tressel.

    2012 should be better for OSU, after they made a huge move by hiring Urban Meyer. The team may still be a year or two away from a BCS game, but Braxton Miller's maturity near the end of last season gives Buckeye fans hope.

    Expect top recruiting classes to start coming in year in and year out with Meyer at the helm.

    Basketball Rank: 3rd

    A second straight trip to the Final Four in 2013 might be too much to ask for from Thad Matta, although I wouldn't put it past him. Juniors Deshaun Thomas and Aaron Craft make up one of the conference's best duos.

    Lenzelle Smith Jr. will also be needed for the Buckeyes to win their fourth-straight Big Ten Championship. The other two starters are unknown for the time being, although the lead candidates are LaQuinton Ross and Amir Williams.

2. Wisconsin Badgers

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    Football Rank: 2nd (1st in Leaders Division)

    Can Montee Ball have the same type of season in 2012 as he did in 2011?

    Although breaking his own touchdown record might be a bit too much to ask of the senior, you have to applaud Ball for deciding to come back to school for his senior season.

    The Badgers have made consecutive Rose Bowl appearances, although losing both games. Dual-threat quarterback Russell Wilson is no longer on campus, making Ball that much more important.

    Basketball Rank: 4th

    Bo Ryan has never finished worse than fourth place in the Big Ten during his tenure at Wisconsin. And, although the league will be stacked again in 2012-13, I couldn't budge from this trend.

    The Badgers lose Jordan Taylor, but everyone else comes back to Madison this year. Wisconsin is becoming a regular in the Sweet Sixteen, but can they get over the hump this year and advance further?

    Jared Berggren, Ryan Evans and Josh Gasser are the team's top returners, while freshman Sam Dekker should have an instant impact.

1. Michigan Wolverines

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    Football Rank: 1st (1st in Legends Division)

    Coming out of the pack ahead of all other Big Ten schools is none other than the Michigan Wolverines.

    Denard Robinson is one of the best playmakers in college football, and comes back to a Michigan team that finished 2011 with an 11-2 record and a BCS bowl victory. Brady Hoke is a defensive-minded coach, which is something that was not a focus under Rich Rodriguez.

    The Wolverines will have their first tough test of the season when they travel to Alabama on September 1 to face the Crimson Tide.

    Basketball Rank: 2nd

    Basketball is hoping to have the same success as football this upcoming school year in Ann Arbor, with the return of Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr., as well as the additions of Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III.

    Michigan may have to get away from the heavy three-point shooting offense that Coach John Beilein runs, now that they have size. The Wolverines should battle all season long atop the conference standings with the Hoosiers.