Every year, we see the same old previews about the Big Ten. Who knew that Ohio State would be predicted as the favorite in the conference, and who knew that Indiana would be at the bottom of the barrel?
There is no point to these predictions, as they are more obvious than they are a guess. Here are five predictions that you don't see every day. Some have a good shot at happening, and some don't. But I can assure you, they are all very unique.
1. Illinois will finish at or below .500
As far as offensive talent is concerned, Illinois is stacked. They have arguably the best wide receiver in the country in Arrelious Benn and a good quarterback in Juice Williams.
The problem is the team chemistry. Illinois had all of that last year, but didn't live up to expectations. The team couldn't work together when they needed to and Williams couldn't step up in the clutch.
The Illini defense will be horrendous as usual. They made bad offenses look like Oklahoma in 2008, and that shouldn't change in 2009. The Illini haven't shown that they have taken a step in the right direction, which makes me skeptical to think that they will be much better in 2009 than they were in 2008.
Some experts have picked them to finish in the top four or five in the conference, but I just don't see that happening. They have too many questions on defense and are too inconsistent on offense to do so.
2. Iowa will beat Penn State in State College
I know all of the Iowa haters out there are going to really lash out at this one, but I think it is a possibility. Defensively, the Hawkeyes are stacked.
They have one of the best linebacking trios in the country and an All-Big Ten filled defensive backfield. They will give Darryl Clark and company the toughest game they play in 2009.
The Iowa offense is a lot better than most people think. Many people think that without Shonn Greene, the Hawkeyes will have no offense. That is definitely not true.
The offensive line, anchored by All-American candidate Bryan Bulaga, is considered by many, including college football expert Phil Steele, to be one of the top five in the country. The line was a major reason behind Greene's success last season and they should do an even better job for Greene's successor, Jewel Hampton. Hampton did very well last year, rushing for almost 500 yards as Shonn Greene's backup.
Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi also improved greatly as the year went on in 2008. If he can continue that trend in 2009 and Hampton does a good job running the ball, he should be able to make some important throws late, as he did last year, against a somewhat inexperienced Nittany Lions backfield.
If Iowa can stay tough defensively and Hampton can pound the ball out, opening up the passing game, Iowa will have a legitimate shot at beating Penn State in Happy Valley.
3. Ohio State goes 11-1, but is denied a shot at a National Championship
If you look at Ohio State's schedule, there are really only three games to be afraid of: an away game at Penn State, a home game against USC, and a home game against Iowa.
The loss to USC is a given. I see the Buckeyes quieting the whiteout in Happy Valley and squeaking by Iowa with a win at home. Even though the Buckeyes would be undefeated in conference play, I still see them losing out on the national championship.
I think USC will go undefeated and Ohio State, Florida, Texas, and Virginia Tech will all finish with one loss. In this scenario, USC and either Texas or Florida would finish on top of the final BCS standings. It may not be fair, but it would help out the Big Ten in the long run.
4. The Big Ten has only one BCS representative and finishes over .500 in bowl games
As I stated earlier, I think Ohio State will win the Big Ten and advance to the Rose Bowl. However, they will be the Big Ten's only BCS representative due to increasing pressure to include more non-BCS schools in the BCS. This will result in more manageable matchups in bowl games and lead to a .500 plus winning percentage for the Big Ten.
Ohio State will likely play the Pac-10's second place team (possibly Oregon) in the Rose Bowl and will come away with an easy win. This will lead to more manageable matchups in the lower bowls as well.
If this were true last year, the Big Ten would have done much better during bowl season.
Penn State still would have lost to USC. Ohio State could have beaten Georgia Michigan State would have beaten South Carolina. You get the picture.
I think that this type of scenario will take place and help to restore some of the Big Ten's respect throughout college football.
5. The Big Ten final standings and bowl placement will look like this
1. Ohio State
3. Penn State
4. Michigan State