Alabama is once again in the national championship and the Big Ten just experienced one of its worst seasons in recent memory. Not only were there two teams ineligible for bowl games because of NCAA sanctions, but teams such as Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin didn't live up to the expectations set before the year began.
The 2012 Big Ten all-conference team was recently put together by the media and coaches. While the conference as a whole flopped like the movie the Green Lantern, it doesn't mean that there aren’t talented players throughout the conference.
This brought up an interesting question of how the Crimson Tide, arguably the most talented team in the country, could fare against the best players in the Big Ten.
Would a team full of all-stars manage to beat a regular team, or would Nick Saban and company find a way to beat an entire conference?
The answer may actually surprise you.
Complete Big Ten team can be found here.
QB—Taylor Martinez, Nebraska
RB—Le’Veon Bell, Michigan State
RB—Montee Ball, Wisconsin
WR—Allen Robinson, Penn State
WR—Jared Abbrederis, Wisconsin
C—Matt Stankiewitch, Penn State
OG—Patrick Omameh, Michigan
OG—Spencer Long, Nebraska
OT—Taylor Lewan, Michigan
OT—Rick Wagner, Wisconsin
TE—Jacob Pedersen, Wisconsin
DL—Johnathan Hankins, Ohio State
DL—John Simon, Ohio State
DL—Jordan Hill, Penn State
DL—Kawann Short, Purdue
LB—Max Bullough, Michigan State
LB—Michael Mauti, Penn State
LB—Chris Borland, Wisconsin
DB—Micah Hyde, Iowa
DB—Johnny Adams, Michigan State
DB—Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State
DB—Bradley Roby, Ohio State
You have to love the running back combination of Le’Veon Bell and Montee Ball.
The pair are physical and tough-nosed runners that could be key in wearing down this Alabama front seven. Playing behind an all-conference offensive line, this would be the key in moving the football against the Crimson Tide.
We haven't seen a team yet that was able to run all over a Nick Saban defense, but then again, it isn't every day that Alabama would be playing a team full of all-stars. The Crimson Tide have the best run defense in the country, with a physical defensive front, but the running game advantage has to go to the Big Ten.
It is just way too massive and deep at running back to be denied for all four quarters. Eventually, Alabama would realize it is being given a dose of its own medicine, and it would certainly be a sight to see on television.
However, Taylor Martinez at quarterback shouldn't scare Alabama whatsoever. He is somebody who hasn't shown he can complete passes consistently and would have a hard time beating the Crimson Tide with his legs. Just look at the season opener against Michigan if you would like to see how inaccurate, dual-threat quarterbacks fair against Nick Saban and this Kirby Smart defense.
This Big Ten offense would be very one-dimensional like most offenses are in that conference and it would then give Alabama the overall advantage. If we know anything about SEC football, you can't beat great defense only doing one thing on offense. Eventually it will be figured out and exposed.
Is there any other defensive line that could be put together that is better than the first-team Big Ten squad?
I'm not sure one is possible.
Johnathan Hankins, John Simon, Jordan Hill and Kawann Short are all top NFL Draft prospects that are capable of giving opposing offensive lines nightmares. I know Alabama is stout with its offensive line, but it has had issues throughout the year. And even though it plays against SEC defensive lines, this is a freakishly talented unit that would create fits up front.
The secondary of this team is also experienced and loaded with shutdown corners, such as Johnny Adams and Bradley Roby. Although Alabama doesn't really have playmakers at the receiver position, especially with Kenny Bell out, quarterback AJ McCarron has still shown the ability to be a threat throwing the ball.
Facing a defensive backfield like this would make things difficult and could rattle the second-year starter.
The linebacker corps is also athletic and would be able to chase down the Crimson Tide running backs, limiting big plays and interrupting passing lanes. While Alabama is an offense that wants to wear you down over time, it has produced 32 plays of 30 yards or more, showing that it has lived on the big play throughout the season. Those chunk yardage plays would be tough to come by against a Big Ten all-conference defense.
We usually give a lot of credit to how tough an Alabama offense is with its power running game, but the Big Ten is built big and physical on defense as well, particularly on the line. The Crimson Tide will never be shut down completely, but I would give the Big Ten the edge in this battle because of the experience and overall athleticism.
Advantage: Big Ten
The main question that would need to be answered is how much time will there be before this game is being played?
If this would be treated like a bowl game and Nick Saban had a month to prepare, you can give me Alabama all day long. Giving the best coach of this generation more than one week to get his team ready is suicide and won't bode well for the opposing team.
Another thing that should be noted is that Alabama is an actual team that has played together throughout an entire season. Some of these players have even been on the field together for more than a year, already having the chemistry down and being comfortable with one another.
This Big Ten team was put together with players from teams throughout the conference. A majority of the players have never played together and it would take more than a few days to understand one another. Even if the game was played a month from now, it still wouldn't make up for what Alabama has in experience playing together.
Even with all of that said, I can't pick against Nick Saban and this football team. Not that it is unbeatable, but it is a squad that very rarely loses big games and is led by a coaching staff that knows what it takes to win.
When you add the athleticism and overall speed of this Crimson Tide roster, it would be too much for the Big Ten to squeeze out a victory.
Prediction: Alabama wins, 28-17.