Big Ten Power Rankings: Preseason
Here goes the preseason version of my Big Ten Power Rankings that will be updated throughout the season.
11. Indiana Hoosiers
The two Big Ten teams from the state of Indiana can really be interchangeable, but I see the Hoosiers as the worse of the two.
Indiana showed promise last year after jumping out to a 3-0 start. The problem was, wins against Western Kentucky, Murray State, and Ball State, don't show how good a team really is.
This year, the Hoosiers will be even worse. The loss of quarterback/wide receiver Kellen Lewis really hurts and I don't see Ben Chappell as a premier quarterback that can lead the Hoosiers out of the cellar. The defensive line is the only bright spot, but still not at the top of the Big Ten.
10. Purdue Boilermakers
Just a few years ago, Purdue was a program on the rise. But after a dreadful 2008, there doesn't seem to be much good for the Boilermakers heading into 2009.
In fact, they may end the year as better than the Hoosiers, but with a worse record because they don't play a cupcake non-conference schedule.
The Boilermakers lose many of their top players from last year and will be one of the worst in the league on offense.
The defensive backfield is one of the more respectable units on the team, but the defensive line is awful and the run defense needs to improve for Purdue to have a shot to win anything this year.
9. Minnesota Golden Gophers
This may be a shock to a lot of people, but I don't see the Gophers going very far this year, mainly due to a rough schedule. The Gophers must play California, go to Northwestern, go to Penn State, go to Ohio State, and go to Iowa.
To me, those are all sure losses. Some other possible losses include at home against Wisconsin and Illinois.
So, it is conceivable that this team could end up 5-7 in 2009. That is really not a crazy prediction considering the only good players the Gophers really have coming back are Adam Weber, Eric Decker, and Traye Simmons.
While those players may be good, they aren't even the best in the Big Ten at their respective positions, and they cannot carry this football team throughout the season.
8. Illinois Fighting Illini
A lot of experts are predicting that Illinois will be good this season, but I just don't see how that can happen.
Juice Williams is a good quarterback when he is on, but he is too inconsistent and throws way to many interceptions to keep Illinois in games by himself. Besides him, Arellious Benn is really the only elite player the Illini have on offense.
A bad offensive line will only add to the problem and will hamper the running game. The defense is worse that last year's unit that wasn't good to begin with.
They give up way too many points and I don't see the offense being consistent enough to come back when their defense gets them in a hole.
7. Michigan Wolverines
Many people see 2009 as a rebounding season from 2008. It will be, but the Wolverines won't be able to bounce themselves back into the top five in the league. I just can't see the 8-4 finish that some people are predicting.
Ohio State and Penn State are sure losses, as are a trip to East Lansing and a night game in Iowa City. Other probable losses are a trip to Madison and maybe a loss at home to Notre Dame.
This is a 6-6 or 7-5 football team. They don't have enough talent coming back and don't have the experience to beat the conference's elite teams.
6. Wisconsin Badgers
This may be a little high for Wisconsin. Outside of John Clay, they don't have any big-time playmakers who can step up. The wide receivers are below average and Dustin Sherer doesn't look like he's capable of leading this team too far.
The offensive line is just average and won't be a very big help to Clay. Clay will really have to try to carry this offense on his back if the Badgers want any shot at being a top five Big Ten team.
The reason I say that is because the defense isn't what it used to be. The Badgers have the worst defensive line in the league and teams will be able to run on them all day.
Once the running game gets out of hand, that opens up the pass, and teams may be able to beat the Badgers without stopping John Clay.
5. Northwestern Wildcats
Many people may be surprised that the Wildcats are so high. I'm not sure they can stay here, but right now, things look somewhat promising. Mike Kafka is blooming into a great young quarterback, and the defense, especially the defensive line, is turning into a very solid unit.
The schedule will also play in Northwestern's favor. A game at home against Penn State and road dates in East Lansing and Iowa City are probably sure losses, but outside of that, Northwestern will be in every game.
I see the Wildcats as a dark horse team in the Big Ten this year, that may be able to finish as high as fourth.
4. Michigan State Spartans
I'm a little skeptical about putting the Spartans this high, but many experts aren't, some putting them as high as third. The problem with Michigan State this year will be in the trenches.
They have a very young quarterback in Kirk Cousins, who will need good protection to be able to mature into the good quarterback he's capable of becoming.
The problem is the offensive line is not very good and Cousins may be sacked like crazy all year. This could cause a loss of composure and cause him to force some throws, which can't be done against great secondaries such as Iowa.
The offensive line will also be a cause for concern because it will not provide much support for new running back Andre Anderson, who will need all the support he can get trying to fill Javon Ringer's shoes.
The defensive line is bad as well and teams will definitely be able to run on the Spartans, which may open up the pass game and lead to a disappointing year for Michigan State.
The only reason they may still finish fourth is because nobody below them is much better.
3. Penn State Nittany Lions
I know Penn State fans are going to have a fit about this, but I don't think they are as good as Ohio State or Iowa. Sure, Darryl Clark is back, but he will have rough days against the great secondaries of the Buckeyes and the Hawkeyes.
Evan Royster will do well, but won't have his best games against those two defensive lines because the Penn State offensive line is one of the few question marks on this team.
The defensive line isn't great and the spectacular offensive lines of Iowa and Ohio State will help their running games tremendously. Once the run game opens up, both teams will be able to exploit the secondary, which is the Nittany Lions' weakest unit.
The secondary will be Penn State's main cause for concern and may be the reason for all of the losses in a two-to three-loss season.
2. Iowa Hawkeyes
Iowa will be much improved for 2008 on both sides of the ball. They have one of the best defenses in the country, starting with the defensive line.
The Hawkeyes do lose star defensive tackles Mitch King and Matt Kroul, but the defensive ends, Adrian Clayborn and Christian Ballard, will be outstanding, while Karl Klug and Mike Daniels won't be too bad inside.
The linebacking corps, led by Pat Angerer, may be the best in the Big Ten and the secondary is arguably the best.
The secondary returns Amari Spievey, the best corner in the Big Ten, and safeties Brett Greenwood and Tyler Sash, who led the league in interceptions in 2008.
The offense will also be much improved from 2008. The offensive line, led by star tackles Bryan Bulaga and Kyle Calloway, is the best in the Big Ten and one of the top five in the country.
They will provide excellent protection for quarterback Ricky Stanzi. Stanzi will continue to grow, as he did every week last year, and will now have more targets downfield.
Tight end Tony Moeaki is finally healthy and wide receivers Derrell Johnson-Koulianos and former quarterback Marvin McNutt will lead a solid group.
Running back Jewel Hampton will have a solid year because of the great offensive line. He ran very well as Greene's backup in 2008, rushing for 463 yards on 91 carries, and should put up big numbers in 2009.
He may not put up Greene-like numbers and won't run through people like Greene, but his speed and quickness will make him a very big threat to opposing defenses.
Overall, the Hawkeyes should have a good year and, despite a tough road schedule, have a good shot at a double-digit win season in 2009.
1. Ohio State Buckeyes
I know this may sound crazy, but I think Ohio State has a shot at a National Championship in 2009. We will know whether or not they are after a date with USC.
The game is early in the season and in Columbus, and if the Buckeyes can rattle a young Trojans team, they have a shot to go undefeated and reach the National Championship.
The rest of the schedule, outside of a home game against Iowa and a date in Happy Valley, isn't too bad.
Terrelle Pryor will be much better than expected in 2009 and he will have made tremendous improvement from 2008. He has a great offensive line to help him and plenty of targets.
If he learns how to use his quickness and scrambling skills more effectively, he could be a Heisman Trophy candidate come December.
The only question will be the running game, seeing nobody will be able to come in and put up Beanie Wells numbers their first time out.
The defense will also be a strong point for the Buckeyes. The defensive line is good, but the secondary is phenomenal, and will likely be an interception machine. Even if Pryor has an off game, the defense will ultimately keep Ohio State in every game.
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