Big Ten football: A reason every team could win the title

Gary BrownCorrespondent IIAugust 29, 2010

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Wisconsin Badgers

Why they can: On offense, the Badgers will return ten starters team that scored almost thirty-two points per game last year. Scott Tolzien is a very efficient quarterback, and the heart of the Wisconsin football team.

Why they can’t: Linebackers and defensive backs can look significantly better if the guys in front of them play well. Wisconsin needs to find out early who are the guys that will be difference makers on the defensive line.

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Will they? Yes, if. If the Badgers go 4-0 in October they will be the Big Ten champs. This means they will have to reel off wins against Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State and Iowa. Look for the Badgers to get it done and win the conference.

Ohio State Buckeyes

Why they can: Every player who had a rushing, receiving and passing touchdown from 2009 returns for the Ohio State football team in 2010. Leading the way for the Buckeyes will be Terrelle Pryor at quarterback who looks like he is ready to fulfill the promise he brought with him to Columbus.

Why they can’t: Two tough road games are on tap as Ohio State has to travel to both Iowa and Wisconsin.

Will they? Most national pundits think so, but it will take a sweep of their final three games against Penn State, Iowa and Michigan.

Iowa Hawkeyes

Why they can: Ricky Stanzi is a genuine leader at quarterback and. though the linebackers are inexperienced, Iowa football fans will have plenty to cheer about on defense with eight starters back.

Why they can’t: Along the offensive front the Hawkeyes will suffer significant losses, and there is reason for concern about the overall talent level of the guys they do have.

Will they? Only if Kirk Ferentz and crew can coach the offensive line up.

Penn State Nittany Lions

Why they can: Penn State football fans can be grateful their team has a solid running back in Evan Royster and depth in the receiving corps. There is also plenty of experienced talent coming back along the offensive line.

Why they can’t: Kevin Newsome has thrown 11 passes in his college football career and while the defense may mature over the year, the three top tacklers from last year are gone; this unit will be a question mark as the season begins.

Will they? Newsome will have to really mature quickly, but don’t count on a Big Ten title for Joe Pa this year.

Michigan State Spartans

Why they can: Kirk Cousins is a better quarterback than people believe and Michigan State football fans don’t appreciate what he does for the Spartans. On defense the Spartans have a great linebacker in Greg Jones, who passed on the NFL draft to come back for one more year. Last year he led the team with 154 tackles. Eric Gordon, and Chris Norman will line up with Jones to make this one of the best groups of linebackers in the nation.

Why they can’t: Road games at Northwestern, Iowa, and Penn State.

Will they? Do Michigan State fans expect to win the Big Ten? Not really. So enjoy another good season with a good bowl game, but no Big Ten title.

Michigan Wolverines

Why they can: They are in year three under Rich Rodriguez and this seems to be magic time for coaches as they have players with experience in their system at hand. There are a handful of playmakers available that might be able to help the Wolverines take steps forward if the lights come on.

Why they can’t: Michigan football is as unstable as it has probably ever been. The Wolverines are unsettled at quarterback and have a coach on the hot seat. By the way, there is also that little old distraction of an NCAA investigation.

Will they? No, but take heart Michigan fans. With enough losses this year a new coaching staff will be in place, the NCAA penalties will be known and the journey to becoming Michigan football once again can be embarked on.

Northwestern Wildcats

Why they can: Football excellence begins up front and for Northwestern football 2010’s success will be heavily dependent on an offensive line with talent and experience. Avoiding Ohio State on the schedule is also a plus for a team looking to equal last year’s eight win total.

Why they can’t: Mike Kalfka is no longer the quarterback and new starter Dan Persa will not have Andrew Brewer and Zeke Markshausen to catch the ball. Avoiding Ohio State might be good for the plus side, but facing Penn State, Iowa and Wisconsin down the stretch will burst the bubble of Wildcats fans late.

Will they? No, but sometimes you have to be happy with your station in life. Look forward to a bowl game and dream of making the NCAA basketball tournament for the first time in school history.

Purdue Boilermakers

Why they can: Robert Marve will have the opportunity to line up under center after sitting out a year after his transfer from Miami. He will look to extend the field with a talented group of receivers led by Kevin Smith. Depth on the defensive line and three returning linebackers that started every game last year should help the defense be better this season.

Why they can’t: There is no returning back from last year that will be able to take pressure off Marve and the passing game. If Ralph Bolden had not injured his knee in the spring Purdue football would have a real opportunity to step forward in the conference this season.

Will they? Making a bowl would be a positive outcome for the 2010 campaign. It won’t be the one played in Pasadena.

Illinois Fighting Illini

Why they can: If change is good, then this will be a great year for Illinois football. Vic Koenning comes on board to lead the defense and Paul Petrino is in charge of the offense. The Illini also return two solid running backs in Mikal Leshoure and Jason Ford.

Why they can’t:  Usually experience is good, but not in this case. On the defensive side of the ball seven starters return on a squad that gave up 403 yards a game last year and over thirty points.

Will they? Not a chance.

Indiana Hoosiers

Why they can: If there has to be a reason then it would be starting quarterback Ben Chappell is back and he will have an experienced offensive line in front of him. The senior QB is smart and he is capable of avoiding sacks.

Why they can’t: This is much easier to explain. Indiana football just does not have enough playmakers anywhere on the team to make much noise in conference.

Will they? What do you think?

Minnesota Golden Gophers

Why they can: Well, they can’t because they have nine starters back on offense, a unit that averaged just 20.9 point per game last year. It would take a significant number of true freshmen stepping in to make the offense better. Minnesota did not have that great of a recruiting class.

Why they can’t: Most of the defensive starters from last year are gone. This is not like Alabama where they will lose nine or ten guys but have players to plug in that many think will be even better than the guys who started last year.

Will they? Have you seen the Gophers' new stadium? It is really nice. See, we said something nice to avoid saying something else.

So what to expect from the Big Ten? Look for a very solid Wisconsin team to be a surprise champion with Ohio State next in line. Penn State will improve as the season progresses and Iowa will disappoint.

The rest of the conference will look to step forward and there is good reason to believe that Michigan State, Purdue and Northwestern could all experience seasons that satisfy their fans.

The rest of the conference will be looking ahead to the 2011 season. Illinois fans will start thinking how great the guy who replaced Ron Zook at Florida has done, while Bama fans will continue to be grateful that Michigan’s Rodriguez decided to pass on the opportunity to be their head coach.


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