Big Ten Football: Top Teams of 2009
Think you know who's the best in the Big Ten? Well you don't! Unless your picks are the same as mine. Just kidding!
Big Ten play this year looks to be great and exciting with a lot of upsets. However, only one team can be the Big Ten Champ...I mean, uhh, just kidding...
Here's my list of the top four teams in Big Ten football and why!
1. Penn State Nittany Lions
I know what you must be thinking. Every other poll and writer has Ohio State ranked first in the Big Ten. Although I think it is going to be tight, Penn State will win the Big Ten.
The first reason is the schedule: Although Penn State plays Illinois, Michigan, and Michigan St. away, they get their toughest games (Iowa and Ohio State) at home. Also, Wisconsin is not on their schedule. Overall, they have a the 72nd hardest schedule.
The second reason is there defense: They have the best linebacker corps in rising star Navorro Bowman and returning top backer (who was injured with a torn ACL last year) Sean Lee. Despite losing their top three defensive ends to the NFL, they are still stacked on DL due to the recruiting of Larry Johnson.
The projected starters at DE are veteren Jerome Hayes, and although his career has been characterized by injuries, he is still a good pass rush threat. The other, sophomore Jack Crawford, is still unproven, but was ranked as the No. 15 top DE of his recruiting class. They return their two top defensive tackles, Ollie Ogbu and Jared Odrik.
The secondary will be the only hole that needs filling, returning just one starter, in CB A.J. Wallace. Again, due to the easy schedule, the only real passing threat will be Illinois, and Ohio State if Pryor develops more into a passer, which he needs to if OSU has a shot at USC.
The third and final reason is the offense. They may only have five returning starters (which is one more than the defense, which has four), but the returnees are the most important.
They also have reliable backups. Daryll Clark is starting QB with good reason, making first-team Big Ten last season. His backup, true freshman Kevin Newsome, did well in the Spring Game. He ranks as the No. 10 QB of his recruiting class.
They also return the 1,000 yard rusher Evan Royster and speedster Stephfon Green, both of whom should expect more carries with the loss of their top three wide receivers. The offensive line lost three, including All-American center A.Q. Shiply, to the draft. The two returning starters are both on first-team Big Ten.
Finally, the receivers: They have a huge hole to fill, with the leaving of the three four-year starters, who led PSU back to its glory.
Redshirt freshman A.J Price looks like Clark's main target. Converted QB Brett Bracket will provide sure hands, along with converted defensive back, Chaz Powell. Look for the passing yards to go down, and the rushing yardage to go up.
I call them to go 12-0 in the regular season.
2. Ohio State Buckeyes
Two words: tough schedule. Their schedule is the 39th toughest. Yes, they do get USC at home, but USC is still USC. They get Illinois at home, but expect Juice Williams to light it up on their inexperienced secondary.
Although they play a less talented and less experienced Wisconsin team, OSU is just as inexperienced. Iowa is a threat, but without Shonn Greene and home-field advantage, don't expect an upset. The games OSU NEEDS to worry about are the USC and PSU games.
Terrelle Pryor needs to be ready to play PSU, because although OSU may be more talented, Pryor has yet to throw a pass during a prime-time game filled with almost 110,000 people, which I am sure that that many fans will show up to Beaver Stadium.
They lose their top two receivers and 1,000 yard rusher Chris "Beanie" Wells. Although they have three starters on the OL back, not one made it to the All Big Ten Team.
The defense will have to carry all the weight on this team. Pryor is too young to have to handle it, not that he couldn't. With two strong three strong offenses on their schedule, the defense needs to work it's hardest to get a chance at the Big Ten title this year.
I predict Ohio State goes 10-2, with losses to USC and Penn State.
3. Illinois Fighting Illini
I know no one can believe that I have the Illini here. I won't say much about them other then their schedule and offense. Juice Williams leads probably the most talented offense in the Big Ten, and one of the best in the nation.
In almost every game, they out-gained foes by an average of 346-310. Turnovers killed them: they were -15. They had five close losses and could have easily been a 8-5 team.
They return 13 starters, including eight on offense. Their only tough road test looks to be versus Ohio State. They get Penn State, Michigan State, Michigan, and Northwestern all at home. They play Missouri, who looks to be one of the toughest opponents, at a neutral field.
I don't think they can break the 10-3 mark. Losses to Missouri, OSU, and PSU.
4. Iowa Hawkeyes
Although Iowa is my No. 4 in the Big Ten, and probably ranked in the top 25, don't look for them to improve on last year's success.
Yes, they have eight starters back on defense. Yes, they have returning starter, QB Ricky Stanzi. No, they are not returning one of the best RB in the country, Shonn Greene, who rushed for over 100 yards every game! And no, they do not have an easy schedule.
That's right. They have the 28th hardest schedule, having to travel to PSU, Wisconsin, Michigan St., and Ohio State. They play Wiconsin and Michigan St. back-to-back.
Last year was their chance to win the Big Ten title. They won't get it done this year. Expect an 8-5 or 9-4 season with a bowl loss.