It's July and that means college football season is quickly descending upon us.
Fall practice is less than a month away and each team in the Big Ten has it's own particular strengths and concerns. It's time to examine each team so let us put them under the microscope in what I'm calling the summer evaluations.
1) Ohio State Buckeyes: Legit National Title Contender?
Most people seem to think so and for good reason. Ohio State has been incredibly consistent under Jim Tresse,l winning the Big Ten five straight seasons and dominating arch rival Michigan to the tune of six straight wins.
The key for Ohio State this year isn't as attached to Terrelle Pryor as it would appear. As they often do, the media annointed the game versus Oregon as the breakout game for Pryor that will propel him to a 2010 Heisman campaign.
Certainly Pryor played well in that game and should continue to get better, yet the team's ultimate key to success is the offensive line and power running game that was so dominant at the end of the year. That will be the difference maker in 2010.
As always, the defense looks great as well as the special teams, and this team is a legitimate national title contender.
Best chance to be upset: Nov. 20 at Iowa. You could barely call this an upset, as last year's game was quite competitive. However, I do think Iowa has a chance to win this game and it would be an upset .
Key Game: Sept. 11 vs. Miami. The Hurricanes are a very talented team on both sides of the ball and also have been a very young team in recent history. The key to this game will be whether or not the Hurricanes can get pressure on the quarterback.
If Ohio State wins this game it could be the beginning of a national title run. If they lose, it could all but end their chances. Mark this one down on your calender as one of the most important non-conference games of the year!
2) The Iowa Hawkeyes: If You Ain't First, You're Last
It's tempting to call Iowa a Cinderella in the Big Ten, but lately they have proven to be a bit more than that. Not only are they a legitimate Big Ten title contender, they are a dark horse national title contender.
The Hawkeyes were 10-0 before QB Ricky Stanzi got injured versus Northwestern, which subsequently led to their first loss. They bounced back from back to back losses to win a BCS game versus Georgia Tech.
After the win, Stanzi apparently showed his patriotism by telling reporters that "these colors don't run." Patriotism is nice, however Stanzi needs to avoid pick sixes if Iowa wants make a championship run (sorry Iowa fans).
With a great defense, a veteran quarterback, and most other pieces in place Iowa really needs to get help on an offensive line that lost three starters and several veteran back-ups. Luckily they have excellent coaching and player development here, so it's likely they will.
Lastly, I have a suggestion for Iowa players: you need a new slogan. Instead of "these colors don't run," perhaps you should quote the legendary race car driver Ricky Bobby for 2010. "If you ain't first you're last." Second place just won't cut it this year.
Best chance to be upset: At Arizona on Sept. 18. It's early in the year, and Arizona will be a tougher team this year then they are getting credit for. This will be a good game but I could definitely see Iowa having a letdown here before finishing strong. Iowa is 4-8 in it's last 12 true road openers.
Key Game : Vs. Ohio State on Nov. 20. This game may very well decide the Big Ten Championship again and possibly a national title game appearance. Last year Iowa took the Buckeyes to overtime in their house, so it will be interesting to see what kind of home field advantage Kinnick will provide.
Next up will be previews of Wisconsin and Penn State!