Big 10 Preview Exchange I

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By Paul M. Banks & David K.
Let’s look at the media consensus projected gold, silver, and bronze medal winners. We’ll start with #1 Ohio State:

They are loaded with returning talent, including All-Universe and All-Galaxy Linebacker James Laurinitis, The best experienced QB in conference with Todd Boeckman who’s backed up by the #1 recruit on Earth, Terrelle Pryor. Is the conference just theirs for the taking? Who are the other playmakers in Columbus?

I would be very surprised if the Buckeyes don’t take the Big Ten title.  Although, their schedule is not a walk in the park (at Wisconsin and at Illinois), they have more talent returning than any team in the conference. 

THE Ohio State University struck gold when likely NFL first-round picks Laurinitis and CB Malcon Jenkins decided to return for their senior seasons and anchor a defense that was first nationally in yards allowed.  Offensively, they are loaded with Boeckman back under center, Heisman hopeful Beanie Wells at running back, and Brian Robiskie and Brian Hartline at wide-out.  

It will be interesting to see how the Vest works Pryor into the offense.  At Big Ten Media Day, he said Pryor would occasionally spell Boeckman, almost in a Tim Tebow, Florida-like way.  Whatever the case may be, he is clearly too big of a talent to be sitting on the sidelines and he will find playing time in some fashion.

The real question; is the third time the charm for making the National Championship game and actually not getting embarrassed?

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 I agree. This season in Columbus will only be judged by what happens in January. Anything short of possessing the crystal football is a disappointment. Next is predicted #2 Wisconsin. You’re the Badger geek, so go to town telling us all about them…

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In typical Badger fashion, this team is going to punish you on the ground.  They have four of their five offensive linemen back and a three-headed monster in the backfield with bruising junior P.J. Hill, sophomore slasher Zach Brown who was impressive at the end of last season when Hill was injured, and red shirt freshman John Clay who can do a little bit of everything.  QB is a question mark, can Allen Evridge can be productive in replacing Tyler Donovan?  Good thing Evridge will be throwing to the best tight end in the country, Travis Beckum.  Outside of sophomore Kyle Jefferson, their returning wide receivers combined for four whole catches in ’07.

The defense will make or break this team.  This group allowed 30 or more points in six different games last season and has had its’ share of nagging injuries all off-season. 

By the way, Jim Rome has given coach’s nicknames based on what they where on the sidelines.  Bill Belichick is “The Hoody.”  Jim Tressell is “The Vest.”  I’m officially dubbing Bret Bielema, “The Windbreaker” since he wears his red Badger windbreaker during every game regardless of how hot or cold it is.
 
Good call. That works for him and I could see this as a fun group Halloween costume to do this fall. I could wear my Pats hoodie, I know a million dudes who would wear a Ditka throwback sweater; add in the Tressel sweater vest, get somebody to sport a Les Miles of LSU white baseball hat and (this one is a bit lesser known, but equally good) Jack Del Rio of Jacksonville and his leather jacket.

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My Illinois Fighting Illini are predicted to finish third. But as I’ve learned in 2002, 1995, and 2000, Illinois can’t seem to put together back-to-back winning seasons. I’m not too concerned about replacing the graduation losses in the secondary and linebacking corps. The Zooker’s 5-star recruits are ready to step in there, led by Chicago’s very own Martez Wilson. The offense is where I’m worried, the Zookster’s rock star wideout recruits need to finally get healthy and step up to complement Arrelious Benn and ease the development of QB Juice Williams. The line will be plugging in a couple new starters with a smooth transition. But who will replace Rashard Mendenhall, this year’s version of Brady Quinn at the NFL Draft? Last season’s #2 on the depth chart Daniel Dufrene will battle it out with #3 Troy Pollard who should have been given a medical redshirt last season. There’s also some incoming fresh blood with Jason Ford (who defected from Iowa to sign here after having the greatest rushing season in Illinois high school football history) and Mikel LeShoure, a Champaign product who wears #5, just like the great one. Will the Illini have “Juice like Williams” this season?
 
 I don’t see any reason why the I-L-L………….I-N-I shouldn’t be near the top of the Big Ten standings again this season.  It will interesting to see if Juice can develop his game as a passer and work the electrifying Arrelious Benn into the offense a little more, especially with Rashard Mendenhall now in the NFL.  But with the way Ron Zook buys his recruits, Illinois should again be a major player in the conference.

Easy there! This is the University of Illinois where hard work and integrity reign, not Eastern State (the fictional setting from The Program) My boys run the spread-option, the offense that’s sweeping the nation and pretty much the whole Big 10 these days. Your thoughts on the system?

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With football players becoming more and more athletic and versatile, the spread offense seems to be “sexy” and sweeping the nation and conference (Penn State and Michigan will be running a more spread offense this season).  I personally love seeing a team spread the offense because of the excitement it presents, but is it really a winning formula?  A team like Wisconsin thrives off punishing defenses with their ground game and can wear a team out in the fourth quarter to put away games and eat clock.  The Big Ten seems to be a more physical conference than a super-athletic one like the SEC.  And don’t forget the old adage, “defense wins championships.”
 
How about Penn State as a sleeper to take the conference crown?
 
How about Joe Paterno sleeping on the sidelines of a Penn State night game?  I wouldn’t doubt it happening.  This is the man who called Bret Bielema, “Brian” three different times during media day.  But hey, I certainly shouldn’t hate.  I hope I can be his age and still doing what I love, even if someone else is pulling the strings and I’m just out there for show.

As for the Nittany Lions as a contender; I don’t see it.  Having to play at both Wisconsin and Ohio State should eliminate any serious thoughts of them winning a ring.  As I mentioned, they will be running a more spread offense but will have to replace QB Michael Robinson and RB Tony Hunt, and probably Paterno’s hip as well.

It would be cool to have dinner with JoePa, Marv Levy and Wilford Brimley sometime. Of course, that dinner would start at 3:30 PM ET.
 

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Comments

  1. paulmbanks says

    I really like the way this turned out! Part two (which I’ll have up tommorrow) as well

  2. paulmbanks says

    Juice like Williams! God I love Big Ten network

  3. Peter Christian says

    I liked Big Ten Network a lot better when I was in the elite class because I had it and all those Comcast slummers didn’t. Now everyone can watch it and it is soooo summer 2007.

  4. we still don’t get BTN in Madison of all places unless u have DirectTV… so I’m still slummin’

  5. paulmbanks says

    The upside to that Pete, is now you can make jokes about the same PSAs promos and commercials that they run OVER and OVER again. Like the annoying Penn St. comemrical with that awful pop song, I think its Michelle Branch or someone who sucks just as bad and is equally sugary.

    and the promo with the soundbite “she is a highlight reel all by herself. yes, all by herself.”

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