So far we have discussed the ACC and the Big East in our previews and predictions. Now we will move on to a conference that has been battered publicly.
That’s right its Big Ten time. The last three seasons have been brutal to the Big Ten as far as the BCS games have gone.
Since the 2006-2007 seasons the Big Ten is 0-6 in BCS games. Furthermore the overall bowl record for Big Ten in the same time period is 6-16.
That is right a woeful 6-16 and still fans of the Big Ten are upset that their teams do not get national respect. During the same time period the SEC is 5-1 in BCS games and 19-7 overall with 3 National Championships.
The Big Ten lost in two of the three national championship games won by the SEC. Well, Ohio State lost two national championship games taking a huge hit in the eyes of the nation.
So the idea nationally that the Big Ten is overrated or an inferior conference is justified to a point. When your flagship programs of Penn State, Ohio State, and Michigan are getting smacked around come bowl time it hurts.
So when I say this season means a lot to the Big Ten as far as national perception goes I really mean it. The Big Ten not only has to beat teams out of conference in the regular season. They have to do it in the post season.
The bowl season is what most people remember. To add to the bowl problem the Big Ten cannot afford to keep losing to teams from lesser conferences.
I feel like the Big Ten will be a two horse race between Penn State and Ohio State. The problem is that both teams have questions that have to be answered before the bowl selections are announced.
So here is my Big Ten preview and predictions in alphabetical order.
Illinois Fighting Illini: Prediction 9-3
This could be a turning point in Ron Zook’s tenure at Illinois. After a Rose Bowl appearance in 2007 what followed in 2008 had to make Illini fans wonder if Florida fans were right about Zook.
Sure he can recruit like crazy but, can he coach the talent he gets to Illinois into a winning team year in and year out. If Zook does not have a good 2009 he could be on the hot seat before seasons end.
One reason Zook will be expected to have a good season is the players returning this season namely Juice Williams at quarterback. The offense should be the strength of this team and will be better if Williams becomes a better passer.
Williams’ has what could be the best receiving corps in the Big Ten. Still a 57.5 completion percentage and 22 touchdowns with 16 interceptions will have to get better if Illinois wants to be a top team in the Big Ten.
The defense has some holes to fill and will need to be better. Last season the Illini defense only held one team below 17 points.
While they might be able to beat less talented teams in a shootout but good teams will be able to get stops against Illinois offense. The schedule does not look to bad for Illinois.
The non conference games are not creampuffs but are not the toughest in the world. There is a sure fire win against Illinois State.
I believe that Cincinnati and Fresno State will be wins. I also think that Missouri will be a win after the departures from last season.
In conference the home schedule has two big games against Penn State and Michigan State. The other home games are Michigan and Northwestern.
I think the Illini has the talent to win all four home games and what could be a big upset against Penn State. That should give Illinois a 4-0 record in conference.
The in conference away games should produce a win against Indiana. The rest of the in conference road games will be losses from Ohio State, Purdue, and Minnesota.
I tend to be believe this team is only capable of loosing at most six games for a 6-6 season. Anymore than at that will be the end of Zook at Illinois.
I think every game is winnable on the Illini schedule. A perfect season could happen if everything goes the right way. Still I can see at least one to two loses.
My prediction is that the Illini will be a good team at 9-3. If I am wrong I get ridiculed by everyone who thinks I am wrong. The only problem is that if I am wrong and it is 3-9 season Zook is gone.
Indiana Hoosiers: Prediction 4-8
With the players returning this season after a huge letdown 2008 I was tempted to think Indiana would have a better 2009. Looking closer and there are no huge stars on this Hoosiers team.
Indiana is just about a given to be the whipping boy of the Big Ten year end and year out. I really do not see anything to change my mind about this season.
Star quarterback Kellen Lewis is no longer with the team and will be replaced by Ben Chappell. There are also several players coming back on the defense from injuries.
Namely the defensive secondary has both Nick Polk and Austin Thomas coming off knee injuries. That is just to name a few on the defensive side of the ball.
The schedule starts out pretty nice for the Hoosiers. The out off conference games are not tough except for one game.
Indiana’s non conference games are winnable against Eastern Kentucky, Western Michigan, and Akron. The road trip to Virginia will be a loss but will leave the Hoosiers 3-1 in non conference games.
The in conference home schedule has Ohio State, Illinois, and Wisconsin all of which will be losses. I do believe the final home game against Purdue will be a win.
The in conference away schedule had Michigan, Northwestern, Iowa, and Penn State all will be losses.
My dark horse to steal a bowl bid from another team is Indiana. I just have a question which is the real team the 2007 team or the 2008 team.
The away schedule is not too bad and the Hoosiers do get most of the Big Ten big boys at home. I would not be surprised if they were better than I predicted.
Normally I would give the worst a team could do this season but I do not see Indiana losing more than my first pick of 4-8. I do think that the Hoosiers could turn that prediction around if they can steal some games.
My pick is 4-8 but I cannot see anything less than that unless the program completely falls apart. The main question will be which team shows up the 2007 or 2008 team.
Iowa Hawkeyes: Prediction 7-5
The 2008 Iowa team started the season as just an average .500 team. Then they reeled off wins in six of their final seven games including a blow out win over South Carolina.
The Hawkeyes did it the way they always win with a good running game and a great defense. I do not look for things to change much in 2009.
The offense will go as far as the offensive line can carry them. If the big uglies up front can stay healthy and open holes in the running game Iowa will be in most games.
The defensive was nearly a top ten unit last season. If they can replace the holes made by departures they can be as good or better.
The non conference slate has two land mines. The first is a trip to in state rival Iowa State. I believe the Hawkeyes will win but the Cyclones just about always play Iowa hard.
The second out of conference game is Arizona at home. As of now it is a 3:30PM Eastern Time kickoff so the cross country trip should not hurt the Wildcats. Because of that I am picking Arizona to win.
The other two non conference games are gimmies against Northern Iowa and Arkansas State. Although Arkansas State is a very good football team but both games should be wins.
In conference Iowa had better win their home games because the road schedule is brutal. At home in conference the Hawkeyes should get wins against Michigan, Indiana, Northwestern, and Indiana.
The away games in conference could all be losses against Penn State, Wisconsin, Michigan State and Ohio State. There might not be a tougher road schedule in conference in the Big Ten.
Still I believe the Hawkeyes could win as many as nine games. That is if they can up pull road wins against Michigan State and Wisconsin.
The worse case would be a 4-8 season. Most of that will hinge if the wheels fall off after the back to back road games against the Spartans and Badgers.
I think the Hawkeyes will finish 7-5 and will get to a bowl. The Hawkeyes could surprise in a league full of middle of the pack teams.
Michigan Wolverines: Prediction 5-7
Let’s go over this Michigan fan. Let’s see you had a coach in Lloyd Carr who pretty much was a given to win eight to 10 games. A coach who won 122 games and only lost 40 in 13 seasons and went to a bowl game every year.
Sure his record against Ohio State had slipped. Carr did have a winning record against Notre Dame, Michigan State, and Penn State.
Carr won 5 Big Ten championships a national championship and was 81-23 in conference games. So what happened, he was run out of town.
I understand he lost to Appalachian State and struggled in the 2008 season. Still Carr’s team was mired by injuries and he kept it together to beat Florida in a bowl game after the season and finish 9-4.
So Carr was out and Rich Rodriguez was supposed to be the savior of Michigan football. Not so much.
Rodriguez did not start winning huge until Pat White came to town at West Virginia. In his first year at the helm for the Wolverines he had the first losing season in 40 years and Michigan failed to reach a bowl for the first time since 1975.
To follow up the Appalachian State loss Rodriguez lost to Toledo.
He did win three games.
The three wins came from beating a bad Miami (OH) team, a Wisconsin team that was in the middle of an epic choke, and Minnesota team in the middle of a major collapse. On top of that Michigan took another beat down to Ohio State.
While Rodriguez will have this year to put in his spread offence next year will be win or else. That is because here will not be many more wins this season than last season.
Out of conference Michigan has to beat the teams they are supposed to beat. That would be Western Michigan, Eastern Michigan, and Delaware State.
Rodriguez might not get a year three if he loses any one of those games. I think the Notre Dame game is not winnable.
In conference I do not see any chance of a road win with Michigan State, Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin all on the road. That is a tough road schedule no matter who you are.
The in conference road schedule has two good chance for wins in the form of Indiana and Purdue. Michigan does get Penn State and Ohio State at home. I still do not think they will beat either one.
I do not think this team could win much more than .500 at 6-6. Things could be worse if Michigan does not come ready play against lesser talented teams. If they over look teams another 3-9 season is possible.
Still I believe the Maze and Blue will turn things around and show some improvement. I think a 5-7 season is not too much to ask for a team that has not played up to the talent on it.
Just remember this coach Rodriguez next season better beat a great season with at least eight wins. Wait this is Michigan better make that nine.
Michigan State Spartans: Prediction 8-4
Last year was year in which the Spartans beat all the teams they should have and got a Michigan team in a funk and a Wisconsin team in the middle of a choke. That helped Michigan State to a 9-4 record.
Even with Javon Ringer having a monster year the Spartans were an average team offensively. They will have to break in a new quarterback and running back this season.
The good thing is there is talent to turn to in East Lansing. The holes on offense should be alright by the time the Big Ten schedule starts.
While the defense was not great it was good enough to keep the Spartans in the game to get wins. There are some holes that need to be filled but that should not Michigan State from having a solid defense.
Michigan State needs to keep winning as long as Michigan is struggling after being the ugly step child of Michigan. Recruits want to be a part of a winner something the Wolverines are not.
The non conference schedule only has one game to be feared. That is against Notre Dame but the Spartans get the Irish at home and I think will win the game.
They spanked the Irish at South Bend last year and are at home this season. The rest of the non conference slate should be wins against Montana State, Central Michigan, and Western Michigan.
In conference the away games stack up with trips to Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, and Purdue. Every one of these games could be loses.
The home conference games should give Michigan State a chance to beat up on Michigan, Northwestern, and Iowa. Then in the final home game I think the Spartans will beat Penn State.
The Spartans could have a special season depending on how well they play on the road. Plus if they can find replacements for the players lost after last season.
I do not see this team doing worse then 7-5 and could be as good as 10-2. I think a solid 8-4 will not be a bad season for the Spartans.
Minnesota Golden Gophers: Prediction 7-5
I have a lot of reservations about the 2009 Gophers football team. Which team was the real Minnesota team last season?
The team that won seven of its first eight games to start 7-1 and only lose to Ohio State in Columbus. Is Minnesota the team that then went on to lose its last five games including a blowout loss to Kansas in the bowl game.
After a Northwestern pick six for a victory the Gophers went in to a slide that they did not recover from. So a team returning this much talent should be a lock to have a good to great season, right?
I am not sure. Will this team lose another game at the end of the game and never recover. Will they move on from last season and have an even better year in 2009.
I was not completely sold on either so I guessed at least a winning season. That will be helped along I think with the opening of a new outdoor stadium.
Minnesota will have to fix the problems with last seasons collapse. If they can the sky could be the limit in 2009.
The out of conference schedule could be one of the toughest in the Big Ten. They should get wins over Syracuse early in the season and South Dakota State late in the season.
They do get to open the new stadium against a good Air Force team and a very good California team in back to back weeks. I think the Gophers will beat the Falcons but lose to the Bears.
In conference Minnesota gets Wisconsin, Purdue, Michigan State, and Illinois at home and can win them all. There could be trouble against the Spartans and the Illini.
The road schedule in conference has some bad as well as some good. The two road trips to Ohio State and Penn State are going to be loses. The trips to Northwestern and Iowa could both be wins or losses.
I think this Minnesota team could see the wheels come off early or stay in the hunt until late in the season. It could turn in to a 5-7 season or be a 9-3 season.
I am guessing on the safe side and go with a 7-5 Season. I still do not know what team will show up for 2009.
Northwestern Wildcats: Prediction 7-5
Northwestern is a school that you never quite seem to think they will be very good. Then the season comes around and the Wildcats play good football and win more games than they should.
After taking over this program Pat Fitzgerald has pretty much nothing but good things. The team is always tough to play and does not give up on a season.
While the talent level for Northwestern will never match Ohio State and some of the other promenade Big Ten programs. They will find very coachable players who can play their role on the team.
As far as the out of conference schedule goes for the Wildcats it is as easy as it can get. All four games should be wins against Towson, Eastern Michigan, Syracuse, and Miami (OH).
The in conference schedule as some tough road games. Northwestern travels to Purdue, Michigan State, Iowa, and Illinois. Every game but the Purdue game will be hard to win.
As far as home conference games the Wildcats play Minnesota, Indiana, Penn State, and Wisconsin. The Penn State game will be a loss. The Wisconsin game could go either way.
The Wildcats look to be a solid football team and should finish with a winning record. The worse Northwestern will be is 6-6.
The Wildcats could be as good as 9-3 if they play above their talent level. I see a 7-5 season for the Wildcats in 2009.
Ohio State Buckeyes: Prediction 10-2
Much has been made of the Big Ten nationally and most of the ire has been placed at the feet of Ohio State. While a Buckeye or Big Ten supporter will say they have been one of the best programs in the country since Jim Tressel took over.
The problem is that Ohio State has lost the biggest games on a national stage. That could change this season.
The out of conference games are creampuffs teams like Navy, Toledo, and New Mexico State. There is a statement game out of conference.
The Southern Cal Trojans come to the Shoe in early September that national image of the Big Ten and Ohio State could rise quickly. If the Buckeyes lose the conference will not be able to change their perception until next season.
For Ohio State to win the ball game quarterback Terrelle Pryor will have to look like the Heisman candidate. Pryor will get a USC team that has to replace several players on defense.
Ohio State is missing offensive pieces from last year’s team but Pryor has more starting experience than any quarterback the Trojans will play with. My only fear is that injuries and other issues could derail the Buckeyes chance.
Even if Pryor has to dot the I in the pregame festivities at the Shoe he will have to do it all in this game so the Buckeyes can win. Last year was at USC this year is at the Shoe and national pride.
In the biggest non conference game of the year I have Ohio State getting the win. The Buckeyes will still not get any pub for a national title except from ESPN and Big Ten fans.
In conference the Buckeyes do not have much to worry about. I only see two games being a problem.
I have the Buckeyes winning the following games Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and Michigan. These games are all at home and I do not believe Indiana or Michigan will compete with the Buckeyes.
I think Oho Sate could drop the Purdue game because they are normally racked with injuries by the middle of the year. The Purdue game is nearly in the middle of the year and on the road.
The other game I think the Buckeyes will lose is the Penn State game. While both teams have holes that need to be filled and questions that must be answered. I have to give Penn Sate the nod with the game being at happy Valley.
The most games I could even see Ohio Sate losing is maybe three games to go 9-3. I also can believe the Buckeyes can run the table and go 12-0.
I still think the Buckeyes will stumble at least once and more than likely twice. A 10-2 season would be great for most teams. The question is it for Ohio Sate fans if they beat USC and Michigan.
Penn State Nittany Lions: Prediction 10-2
This season could be the final season for a college football legend. One has to wonder if the NCAA takes 14 wins from Bobby Bowden will both he and Joe Paterno both will walk off in to the sunset.
It would not be so stunning if you think about it. Paterno rebuilt a Penn State program that was not completely down trodden but was not winning like is expected.
All Paterno did was turn the program around and bring it back to the top nationally. It would be fitting for the two best coaches of my life time to both walk away at the same time.
If Bowden cannot catch Paterno’s win total he could retire. Bowden’s retirement could make Paterno retire know he is with winning coach in Division I history.
To even begin think about that Penn State will have to retool its defense that was exposed by USC. The secondary will have to be better if the Nittany Lions want to go far.
The offense will fall on just one player just like Ohio State. The Penn State quarterback Daryll Clark will have to play like Nittany Lions fans dreamed he play like last season.
There will be a whole new receiving corps this season for Penn State. Clark will have to be a better passer than the 58.9 completion percentage with 16 touchdowns and 6 interceptions he had last year.
The non conference schedule is the weakest in the Big Ten. All four games should be wins and note even close with games against Akron, Syracuse, Temple and Eastern Illinois.
The conference schedule has two trap games and both are on the road. The rest are home games against Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio State, and Indiana. The only home test will be against the Buckeyes.
If the Nittany Lions can get past Ohio State the road schedule has games against weaker Michigan and Northwestern teams. The other two road games are against Illinois and Michigan State.
Penn State will play on the road for the first time against the Illini. As last season showed us the Nittany Lions struggle on the road like they did against Iowa.
The second game is a road game in the final week of the season against Michigan State. The Spartans could ruin a national championship run or have a Big Ten title in their grasp as well.
The schedule sets up where Penn State should only loose three games to finish 9-3 at worse. The Nittany lions could make a run at an undefeated season as well.
I am picking Penn State to win the Big Ten but it could just as easy be Ohio State, Illinois, or Michigan State.
Purdue Boilermakers: Prediction 5-7
It’s a new era at Purdue. Joe Tiller is gone and in his place is Danny Hope. This could be a rebuilding year for the Boilermakers.
Hope will use this year to make the Program his after years of begin led by Tiller. Also he will have to replace talent on the offensive and defensive end of the ball.
The hope for Hope (pun intended) is that Purdue is loaded with young talent. So this year’s team will take its lumps in hope (sorry, last time) of a better tomorrow.
The non conference schedule has easy wins against Toledo and Northern Illinois. The Northern Illinois game could turn on Purdue very quickly if they do not show up to play.
The other out of conference games are against Notre Dame and Oregon. Both will be loses for the Boilermakers.
I can only see Purdue winning three conference games all at home and against Northwestern, Illinois, and Michigan State. A sure fire home loss will come against Ohio State. Still the Illinois and Michigan State games can both be losses.
The road games in conference have trips to Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Indiana. All four games could be losses.
Purdue could lose very conference game but the Northwestern and Indiana. They could finish as bad as 3-9 or 4-8.
The best might be a 6-6 season in Hopes first season. I think a 5-7 season is more likely with a bright future ahead for the boilermakers.
Wisconsin Badgers: Prediction 8-5
Two coaches that could be on the hot seat in the Big Ten are Illinois coach Ron Zook and Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema. After taking over for Barry Alverez the handpicked Bielema could be in trouble if there is a slip in wins this season.
Wisconsin has been now for big offensive line and good running backs. The problem last season was a mid-season choke starting against Michigan. Then the struggle to beat Cal Poly at home and needing overtime to win in the last game of the season.
That is not even mentioning the beat down Florida State game the Badgers in a bowl game. So another season with just seven or six wins could spell doom for Bielema.
Last season could have been better for the Badgers and it could have been worse. This season will be more of the same from the Badgers.
They will try to play solid defense and control games with the running game. Wisconsin will have Zack Brown carrying the load.
That is because the Badgers will be breaking in a new quarterback. Still they will have to find a way to pass the ball.
The defense should be solid in the back seven. The problem will be finding players on the defensive line.
The non conference schedule should not be too bad. With game against Northern Illinois, Fresno State and Wofford all being wins. I do think a road game in Hawaii will be a loss because of the time change and the plane ride.
In conference Wisconsin should get wins from Michigan State, Iowa, Purdue, Indiana, and Michigan. Four of the five games are home games with Michigan being on the road.
Conference loses coming on the road from Minnesota, Ohio State, and Northwestern. The problem is I do not know if this Wisconsin team will be like last year’s team.
The Badgers could be a couple of games from a great season or a couple of games from a losing season. I think Wisconsin could be as bad as 7-5 or as good as 10-2.
I will settle on 8-4 with a hope of no mid-season collapse.
There is my Big Ten preview and prediction. Penn State should carry the banner for the conference.
Still if they should slip Ohio State, Michigan State, Illinois all will be ready to take advantage. No matter who wins the Big Ten the whole conference will have a lot of work to do to fix its national image.
State tuned for my PAC-10 preview and predictions.