After Michigan and Ohio State were thumped in the Big Ten’s biggest bowl appearances earlier this year, conference fans are certainly quieter than they used to be. It used to be the case that no-one gets through the Big Ten season unscathed, and yet Ohio State have managed it twice in a decade. If the Big Ten finally lives up to its reputation and the teams start beating each other in the way that the SEC teams do week in, week out, then it should bring it back from the shadows of good ol’ Southern football.
So who’s going to win?
The forecast by a lot of pollsters is the winner of the Big Ten will be wearing maize and blue. The University of Michigan – despite getting trounced in both their big games last year – still have quarterback Chad Henne, wide receivers Arrington and Mario Manningham, and one hell of a running back in Mike Hart. However, they’ll really miss the presence of Lamar Woodley and Alan Branch.
There is no reason why, if they can overcome their Ohio State hoodoo and the potential banana skin of Illinois a week earlier, that they won’t run the table. All their big games of the season are at home.
Wisconsin is also favoured to go far. They showed great character in their victory over the Arkansas Razorbacks, and Tyler Donovan’s not a bad QB. We love running back PJ Hill, who’s going to cause havoc this year, as well as those near-7ft offensive linesman which will confront defenses all season long. Oh, and the defense is reliable and experience, too. Back-to-back games against Ohio State and Michigan may hurt them, though, as may an mid-October trip to State College, PA.
The potential Cindarella
Speaking of that potential banana skin, Illinois must be hoping that Ron Zook can coach as well as he can recruit. Celebrated throughout the country for getting some great talent to come to Champlain, there are high hopes for the coming season. Quarterback Juice Williams is frighteningly quick out of the pocket, but he’ll have to improve on his 9-9 touchdown-interception record. We’ll see how good they are when they go head to head with Missouri at the start of the season.
Its `The’ vs `The’
Let’s be honest — The Pennsylvania State University and The Ohio State University will probably both lose to Michigan. Although Nittany Lions fans are safe – if you can call it that – that their quarterback Antony Morelli will be taking snaps for the team, Buckeyes fans can only name one of three. But then again, the Buckeye have fab sophomore Chris Wells, while the Lions’ Austin Scott has hardly had the most wonderful career, seemingly spending more time injured than played. We love both tigerish defenses – especially Penn State’s Dan Connor. We can’t when these two get together on the 27th October.
Strange team but still a contender
Iowa is a strange team. Now that Drew Tate has finally left, Hawkeye fans must look to Jake Christensen as the new provider. And with a weakened schedule, this should be a bumper year for Iowa – if they can get through road trips to Wisconsin and Penn State.
Count them out
As for the rest, it’s a bunch of question marks. How will Michigan State do without Drew Stanton? Can Purdue come out of the obscurity and finally beat the Fighting Irish, dropping the last five of seven? Will Indiana have another upset like they did against Iowa and will Northwestern continue on their rocky road to recovery without their late coach, Randy Walker? And Minnesota drop 31 point leads for new coach Tim Brewster like they did under fired coach Glen Mason in last season’s Insight Bowl?