College Football Rankings 2011: How Did the Big Ten Do in the 1st Coaches Poll?
Like Rodney Dangerfield, the Big Ten, even with the addition of the Nebraska Cornhuskers, got little respect in the preseason Coaches Top 25 Poll!
Of course, it did not help that Ohio State self-destructed during the offseason; however, in the grand scheme of things, fans in the Big Ten can take consolation in the fact that the preseason poll means nothing compared to the one that ends the season.
Last year’s USA Today Coaches Poll ranked Ohio State at the No. 2 spot with Iowa at No. 10––both Big Ten teams making the Top 10 of the prestigious preseason poll.
In 2010 Wisconsin came in at No. 12 and Penn State at No. 14 in the preseason poll. Nebraska (9) was not yet a member of the Big Ten.
This year Wisconsin managed to come in at No. 10, Nebraska at No. 11, Ohio State at No. 16, and Michigan State at No. 17 while Penn State anchored the No. 25 spot.
So while the Big Ten did not find themselves included in the upper tier of the preseason ranking, they have five teams placed between 10 and 25 in the initial Coaches Poll.
The SEC scored the most with eight teams in the initial Top 25. The Big 12 added five teams.
The PAC-12 has two (USC cannot receive votes since they are on probation). The ACC scored two along with TCU and Boise State out of the Mountain West Conference. Notre Dame stands alone as an independent.
The Big Ten with its inaugural season featuring 12 teams in two divisions will expect to see the five teams placed in the Top 25 rise even higher in the polls.
Additionally, Big Ten officials hope Iowa, Northwestern and Michigan, who received top 25 votes, will climb into the Coaches Poll during the course of the 2011 season.
Wisconsin Badgers Ranked No. 10
David Purdy/Getty Images
With a few unknowns coming into the season, the Badgers may have to scramble until they find a suitable replacement for departed quarterback Scott Tolzien. The offense will also have to fill in for running back John Clay and offensive linemen Gabe Carimi and John Moffit.
On defense, the Badgers will look to replace defensive end J.J. Watt.
The Badgers will have bodies to fill the holes left by these stellar starters from a year ago but the chances are that even if the new players become equally as adept, it will take them some time to reach their full potential.
As members of the “Leaders Division,” the Badgers will have to do battle with powerhouse Ohio State and Penn State for a shot at the division title. Then, of course, there is always Illinois to spoil things for the Top Three.
The Badgers, nonetheless, will have another potent offense with James White and Montee Ball in the backfield as well as receiver Nick Toon who is hoping to be fully recovered by the time the Big Ten season gets underway.
Nebraska Cornhuskers Ranked No. 11
Eric Francis/Getty Images
This will mark the first season for the Cornhuskers as part of the Big Ten.
Many pundits have picked Nebraska to win the “Legends” Division in 2011 which would give them an opportunity to test their mettle against the team that wins the “Leaders” Division which early on looks to be Ohio State or Wisconsin.
It would also give the Huskers an opportunity to play in back to back division title games for two different conferences. Last year the Huskers advanced to the title game in the Big 12 where they lost to the Oklahoma Sooners.
But the Huskers return a team laden with talent for the 2011 season. On offense, expect Taylor Martinez to retain quarterbacking duties. One area Nebraska will expect to improve is their passing game as the offense tries to balance their running attack with equal gains through the air.
The Huskers have always been solid on defense and no one expects that to change in 2011 with the return of Jared Crick at tackle and linebacker Lavonte David. The “Black Shirts” will do their part to make sure that the Cornhuskers come out of the shoot in September ready to rumble.
Ohio State Buckeyes Ranked No. 16
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
At the end of the 2010 season, Ohio State finally got the monkey off its back by defeating an SEC team in a postseason contest. This game happened to be the Sugar Bowl where the Buckeyes took care of Arkansas 31-26.
This allowed the Buckeyes to finish at No. 5 in both the Coaches Poll and the AP Top 25. The Buckeyes also won a share to the Big Ten Title.
Ho-Hum. Pretty ordinary stuff for the vaunted football program housed in Columbus.
But then came the offseason mess with five players, including quarterback Terrelle Pryor, suspended for the first five games because of reported NCAA violations. The bad news just kept on coming, resulting in Jim Tressel’s resignation and Pryor’s departure for the NFL.
New Coach Luke Fickell will inherit a talented team of players but after all the adversity and bad press, the task will be to focus the team's attention on playing football.
The first issue will be deciding on a starting quarterback which may be backup senior Joe Bauserman or maybe incoming freshman Braxton Miller.
It will be an interesting season for the Buckeyes as they struggle to fulfill the high expectations of their fans as well as the tumult facing the team at every turn with a new coach, a new quarterback and a new Big Ten format.
Michigan State Spartans Ranked No. 17
Hunter Martin/Getty Images
No one who cares about the Michigan State Spartans can erase the memory of their utter demolition by the Alabama Crimson Tide 49-7 during the Capital One game on New Year’s day.
That climax to an otherwise outstanding season had to leave a very bad taste.
The lop-sided loss cast a shadow over the Spartan's 11-win season that allowed them to share the 2010 Big Ten Title with Ohio State and Wisconsin.
With a new offensive coordinator on board, Kirk Cousins is expected to offer up more passes downfield.
There is plenty of returning talent in the backfield led by running back Edwin Baker as well as receivers Keshawn Martin and B.J. Cunningham.
The defense will have some big holes to plug including that left by the departure of All-American linebacker Greg Jones. The backfield lost seven starters from a year ago. There is plenty of work to do to shore up that part of the defense.
Michigan State feels they have plenty to prove again in 2011.
Coach Mark Dantonio, working with new offensive coordinator Dan Roushar hopes to improve the pass game as well as the overall attack on offense.
Penn State Nittany Lions Ranked No. 25
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
It is time for another football season to get underway and 84-year old head coach Joe Paterno is ready to roll out another Top 25 football team.
Last year, however, was not special at all and the Nittany Lions were at best mediocre. This year expect vast improvements on both sides of the ball.
The Nittany Lions begin with much talent on offense and defense returning to the playing field in Happy Valley.
The most solid lineup seems to belong to the defense where seniors Devon Still, Jack Crawford and Kevion Latham will anchor the line, doing their utmost to hold back opposing offenses.
The quarterback issue still haunts Penn State. There appears to be no clear cut choice between last year’s starter Rob Bolden and his replacement Matt McGloin. Paterno has given no clear cut indication of which player may win the starting quarterback spot in 2011.
In the backfield expect running backs Silas Redd and Stephfon Green to take up the slack left by the departure of Evan Royster.
Derek Moye will also be back at wide receiver where he caught 53 passes as well as Justin Brown who hauled down 33. Devon Smith also added 27 catches as well as speed downfield.
The Nittany Lions expect to climb in the rankings as their season progresses.
Also Ran: Iowa Hawkeyes Ranked No. 30
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
While Ohio State had some serious offseason woes, the Iowa Hawkeyes also had to do some much needed damage control.
Hopefully, the worst is behind the Hawkeyes and they can turn their attention to the playing field. This is where new quarterback James Vandenberg will be standing in place of Ricky Stanzi who led Iowa for most of the past three seasons.
To say that 2010 was a disappointment for the Hawkeyes is a vast understatement. But like all seasons,it ended. Now a new one appears on the horizon.
The Hawkeyes have to replace some key personnel but they also return some real talent on both offense and defense.
Running back Marcus Coker, who stepped in to replace departing Adam Robinson midseason, will be back to run the ball out of the backfield while wide receiver Marvin McNutt will be on hand to help move the ball downfield through the air.
On defense, Iowa returns linebackers James Morris and Tyler Nielsen as well as cornerback Shaun Prater and safety Micah Hyde. The line will be anchored by Broderick Binns and Mike Daniels.
Starting out of the Top 25 will be a place familiar to the Hawks who traditionally do better when no one expects them to excel.
Also Ran: Northwestern Wildcats Ranked No. 31
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Now that Dan Persa is back as quarterback and Coach Pat Fitzgerald has instilled more intensity into the Wildcats, Northwestern may surprise a few folks in 2011.
Fitzgerald was not pleased at the way Northwestern ended their season.
He felt the team gave up after losing Persa as the team’s starting quarterback. Their final record of 7-6 including a loss to Texas Tech 38-45 in the Ticket City Bowl was not acceptable.
Persa will be back and Northwestern returns 16 starters from last year’s team as well as kicker Jeff Budzien and punter Brandon Williams.
Fitzgerald expects his team to play well for the entire season emphasizing offseason conditioning. He wants his team toughened up and more able to hang with the premiere football programs in the Big Ten.
The Wildcats could be an impact team for the “Legends” Division.
Also Ran: Michigan Wolverines Ranked No. 34
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images
With a new coach and a new offensive system, it may be difficult for Michigan to make it to the top of the Big Ten during Brady Hoke’s first year but it will be important for the Wolverines to make significant progress in 2011.
The Wolverines have many opportunities to find improvement with their returning quarterback Denard Robinson leading the attack. Also, Michigan returns 10 starters on offense as well as eight on
Hoke will do away with the spread offensive scheme, initiating a more pro-style which may not give Robinson the running room he enjoyed in 2010.
The offensive coaches, however, are working to give the starting quarterback more options coming out of the backfield.
While Michigan fans will give Hoke some time to bring the Wolverines back to their glory days, they may be very impatient to see Michigan winning against their storied rivals very soon.