August 30, 2006

Frinklin Football Forecaster: Big Ten (or 11)

Were he alive today, Woody Hayes would wonder just what the hell has happened to the Big 10. This is the offensive league in the nation, led by a bevy of stud quarterbacks like Troy Smith, Chad Henne, Drew Tate, Drew Stanton… Let’s just say defensive coordinators will have a rough time of it. Ohio State (excuse me, THE Ohio State) starts the year at #1 in both polls despite the loss of eight defensive starters.

Yeah, it’s that kinda year here.

1. Ohio State Buckeyes
Troy Smith is Vince Young. Ted Ginn is Reggie Bush. Really all you need to know about the Buckeyes.

Okay, maybe 90% of VY and Bush, but that’s still better than just about anything around, isn’t it?

2. Michigan Wolverines
UM takes a backseat to nobody –not even OSU- when it comes to pure talent. Henne slipped a bit after a fantastic freshman season, but even a lousy year ended with a 23/8 TD to INT ratio. Mario Manningham and Steve Breaston are NFL-caliber receivers and Mike Hart is the best back in the country not named Adrian Peterson. They even have an All-America left tackle in Jake Long.

So, why don’t they win? You’d have to ask Lloyd Carr.

3. Iowa Hawkeyes
Drew Tate couldn’t do anything wrong before last season; now it seems everybody has forgotten how good he is. They Hawkeyes didn’t live up to expectations, but Tate did. He finished with over 2,800 yards and 22 touchdowns. He’s surrounded by a good tailback in Albert Young, quality tight end Scott Chandler and questions at wideout. The Hawks dull, bend-but-don’t break defense has to replace to NFL linebackers, Chad Greenway and Abdul Hodge.

4. Penn State Nittany Lions
Couple years ago Penn State fans were thinking that JoePa had lost it, that it was time to start finding a replacement. A list that included Rick Neuheisl, just to freak out traditionalists.

Funny how 11-1 changes things huh?

The Lions came back strong (insert “roaring back” cliché here if you like) in 2005, propelled by Big 10 MVP Michael Robinson. Robinson is gone now, replaced by Anthony Morelli, a stud recruit that Lion fans have wanted to see since he arrived a couple years ago. He’ll throw to Derrick Williams, a sophomore who might be the fastest man in college football.

5. Purdue Boilermakers
Purdue missed a bowl for the first time in eight seasons last year, and Coach Joe Tiller shook things up, replacing five assistants in the off-season. The names change, but the style stays the same. The Boilers continue to run a wide-open spread offense and a small, speedy defense.

6. Michigan State Spartans
John L. Smith’s ass is on fire right now. Smith, thought to be the guy who finally builds MSU into year-in, year-out contender hasn’t done so. They haven’t even come close actually, last year collapsing after a 4-0 start that included an overtime win at Notre Dame. MSU might have the best offense in the conference –really saying something there- but they might have the worst defense too. That says even more.

If they get any kind of defense, this team goes places. If it doesn’t Smith is DOA.

7. Wisconsin Badgers
Hard to see Wisconsin without Barry Alvarez, isn’t it? The Badgers were awful before Alvarez, and it’s up to replacement Brett Bielema to stop it from happening again. Bielema hired well, keeping OC Paul Chryst and picking up veteran d-coordinator Mike Hankwitz. This is a talented team coming off a very impressive win over Auburn in the Capital One Bowl.

8. Minnesota Golden Gophers
A team that couldn’t find enough space for all their running backs now can’t find enough. Lawrence Maroney left early to the NFL and Gary Russell left due to academic woes. That leaves QB Bryan Cupito to lead Glen Mason’s offense. Cupito has been adequate, but he’s never needed to win a game on his own. That will change this year.

9. Northwestern Wildcats
With the death of Randy Walker during the off-season, Pat Fitzgerald became the youngest coach in the nation. No one really knows how NW will handle this upcoming season, but Fitzgerald hasn’t made any substantial changes. Record-setting QB Brett Bansez must be replaced, but the defense is the bigger worry.

10. Indiana Hoosiers
In his first year in Bloomington, Terry Hoeppner got off to a fast start, winning four of the first five before a lack of talent caught up with them. The Hoosiers crashed, getting blown out in each of their six losses to end the year. Hoeppner knows he has to upgrade the talent level, and he is recruiting well. Indiana, led by QB Blake Powers, can throw the ball, but everything else is questionable.

11. Illinois Illini
Ron Zook, unloved by Florida, has found a home with the downtrodden Illini. His first season was terrible, with two quick wins followed by nine consecutive losses to finish the year. Zook is an energetic – nearly hyperactive – sort that will need all of his energy to fix this moribund program. He’s off to a good start, pulling in mega-recruit Isiah “Juice” Williams to play QB. Juice will backup senior Tim Brasic. For now.


Posted by Frinklin at August 30, 2006 09:05 PM | TrackBack

Okay, Wolverine fanboy, I can see why you think Penn State will slip back to the pack (although I disagree), but what's your beef with Wisconsin? Last year, you picked them to finish 8th in the conference. This year, 7th. Surely they can at least finish ahead of sputtering Michigan State (John L. never should have left Louisville) and overrated Purdue.

Posted by: Mediocre Fred at August 31, 2006 11:04 AM

I think Wisconsin is pretty talented, but the switch to Bielema will make for a growing-pains type of year.

And yeah, I'm going out on a limb picking MSU that high, but they have a great QB (maybe the best in the conference, certainly the best pro prospect) and good wideouts. If they make any improvement at all they could win 8 games.

Posted by: frinklin at August 31, 2006 09:44 PM
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