Big Ten Preview

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I gave this interview to college football zealots.com who asked me to preview my alma mater, the University of Illinois for them.

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Top 10 Big Ten Football Players of the Decade

By Paul M. Banks

To conclude the 2006 Big Ten regular season, bitterest of rivals Ohio St and Michigan met as #1 vs. #2, and both undefeated for the first time in the well decorated history of the series. Basically, if you weren’t excited about that game, you were a terrorist. And unlike your typical game of the century, it actually lived up to the hype!  However, Big Ten football in the 2000s has been like the life story of Benjamin Button, it peaked somewhere in the late middle, and then descended horribly. Both the Wolverines and Buckeyes got utterly destroyed in their BCS bowl games that year, starting a nightmarish trend for the league.

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Live! From the Press Box! It’s the Illini Football Exchange!!

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By Paul M. Banks and Paul Schmidt

10:30 AM – YAWN.  What in the world are you doing here now??  Even Red Grange Statue is still sleeping….and he stands on one leg!  In front of Memorial Stadium!!!

Anyway, PB and I will be back here in roughly 4 hours bringing you all the news that’s fit to print from the aforementioned Memorial Stadium, maybe with some campus stories earlier than that (You ever stand in line at a Follett’s on game day?  Yeah, I didn’t think so…).

So sit back and relax, maybe read why Paul and I are so disappointed in this football season.  Or check out my college picks against the spread.  I call this week my own personal “Battle to get to .500.”  If mediocrity can’t drive us, really, what can??

And don’t forget, we’ll see you in 4 hours!  I-L-L!!

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3:00 til game time: Shockingly, the weather is crappy here at beautiful Memorial Stadium, but it’s sold out!  Well, at least in terms of ticket sales, anyway…it’s probably about 2/3rds full by my estimation.  Some space shuttle action here today.  Woo.

Late prediction is a Penn State route, 31-7.  On the plus side, Illinois gets on the board for a score in Big Ten play…on the down side, they get killed again and a fan base revolts….PS

Illinois 0, Penn State 0, 10:13 left 1q
Interesting start to the game, and special teams are failing the Illini early.  TERRIBLE kick catch interference penalty by Jeff Cumberland and then terrible positioning from Jarred Fayson on the ensuing punt left Illinois backed up to their own three-yard line, when they could have had Penn State similarly backed up.  The Illini offense has shown some early life, but two stupid mistakes that are becoming symptomatic of the Ron Zook era. PS


Illinois-Penn notted up at 0, 6min 1st qtr

My prediction is closer than that. I’ll say PSU 26-17. But that score again is only that close, because I think ILL will score a lot in garbage time. At least Juice is now throwing ahead of his receivers instead of behind them, so that’s progress right? Well it’s a start. JoePa are doing a great job taking away the deep ball. He’s had to go all check-downs and safety valves

Clay Nurse is having a big game again..early at least he’s getting to the ball. Not many guys on ILL def we can say that about. Clay Nurse is a great name for an emo punk band. Maybe an indie emo punk band. “Dude I saw Clay Nurse when they were openers and unsigned 5 years ago man. Now they’re all corporate sounding man..since they play arenas these days. Clay Nurse sold out”

PMB

Illinois 0, Penn St. 0 1:41 left 1Q
The Illini defense deserves some credit for their start to this game, as they’ve done a really nice job of shutting down a good, if not great, Nittany Lion offense.  They’re dynamic, and they do have a lot of weapons, but so far they aren’t looking anything other than shaky.

It’s difficult, at this point, to say whether or not they ARE just shaky or whether or not the Illini D is playing UP to their competition.  Either is possible (though the former is more likely).  No turnovers yet though for either side.

Something that is slightly depressing is that I’m thinking the Illini offense is looking lively, and that’s simply based on the fact they have 64 yards of total offense in the first quarter….PS


Illinois 0, Penn State 0 End 1Q
Well, for Illinois fans, you have to feel as though the first quarter was a success.  You’re not down two scores already, you don’t look overmatched, and, for the first time this season against FBS competition, it looks like your team showed up ready to play today.

The offense has been a little sketchy, but don’t underestimate the effect of the wind and weather on today’s game.  Illinois really didn’t effectively throw the ball into the wind, and Penn State’s Darryl Clark had a lot of trouble throwing the ball WITH the wind.  It looks as though the running games of both teams are going to be extremely important this afternoon. PS

Penn State 7, Illinois 0 11 min 2nd qtr

Well, there you go, the first major offense of the day, as PSU’s 2nd back Stefon Green breaks off a 52 yd TD run. At least Illinois bottled up Evan Royster. the rain has been on and off, I agree that this battlefield’s contest will not be decided in the air, but on the ground. It’s a shame…cuz Juice Williams and Darryl Clark are essentially very similar. both dual threat QBs that have led their team to a Rose Bowl…both got destroyed by USC in that Rose Bowl. I was hoping for total offense show between the 2 today PMB

Penn State 7, Illinois 3 7:16 left 2Q
A beautiful pass over the middle to Rejus Benn (remember him??) for 49 yards — more than doubling Benn’s receiving yards for the season — set up first and goal for the Illini.  Who promptly gained one yard and had to kick a field goal.

Juice Williams also became the total offense leader at Illinois with the Benn pass. Which proves just how meaningless that record really is.  LONG LIVE KURT KITTNER! PS

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Penn State 7, Illinois 3 2:28 left 2Q
Penn State is driving and just got an unfortunate call on an incomplete pass that they challenged, because the catch looked pretty good from where we were and on replay.  Perhaps just not enough to overturn the call.

However, that may not matter as the Illini can’t seem to stop the Nits when they throw the ball.

Nice play by Donsay Hardeman over the middle on a deep ball though, and Illinois holds and will take over on their own 1 yard line with 1:31 remaining in the half. PS

PSU 7, ILL 3, 33 sec in half

Those were some good YACs there by Rejus. And now the pass sets up the run. Juice QB draw this IS what we signed on for. This is why we came down here on a 100 degree in August for Media Day to see offense like this drive, or the last one. PMB

Why did they just play Garth Brooks “Friends in Low Places”? not really a football song. more like a drinking with pick-up trucks and gun racks song…

Dufrene looked almost Pierre Thomasesque on that run. Sort of.

I love this ref, and his authoritarian announcements. He’s the college Ed Hochuli.PMB

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Penn State 7, Illinois 3 HALFTIME
Wild end to the first half as Penn State got a looooong run back on an interception on the last play of the half.  Stephon Morris made that run back everything that it was, because the Illini had that pretty well contained around midfield.

Of course, he could have taken it back to the house and it wouldn’t have mattered because of the block in the back, but still.

All in all, if you’re an Illinois fan, coach, player or whatever, you have to feel really good about that first half of football.  Solid job on defense (if not spectacular) and a nice effort on offense that got the Illini over 200 yards of offense in the first half.  Arrelious Benn has 84 receiving yards already, continuing his assault of Penn State over his career here.

The rushing attack has been adequate for the Illini, but they’ve made their bones passing the ball and running an occasional option pitch.  That’s what the offense needs to look like in the second half to remain successful.

Also, as a side note, the hurry-up was a nice addition this far, and has really kept Penn State on their heels thus far.  PS

Penn State 7, Illinois 3 13:50 left 3Q
Quick post to say that the Illini kick coverage has been excellent today.  Typically Penn State has moved the ball out of that field position easily, but still, it’s nice to start them backed up.

Nice 21 yard carry from Darryl Clark, easily the most confident he has looked with the ball today.  Nits at midfield. PS

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Penn State 7, Illinois 3 11:49 left 3Q
And the Illini get an all important hold!  Wayne Ellington came in out of nowhere on Penn State’s Derek Moye and put his hat right on the ball to force a fumble, and Evan Frierson made the recovery.  It’ll be first and ten Illini on their own 30.

It’s also important to note that this is the Illini’s quarter WITH the wind…look for Juice to come out passing early and often this quarter. PS

Penn State 7, Illinois 3 9:14 left 3Q
What looked like it could be good for the Illini has turned very, very bad…

First, the Illini’s last drive was 4 plays for -5 yards.  Ouch.

Then, on 3rd and 6 in Penn State territory, their QB, Daryll Clark, ran a designed QB draw for 51 yards, deep into Illinois territory, and now the Nits are knocking on the door.  A complete swing of momentum at Memorial Stadium, and it is very, very quiet in the stands here. PS

Penn State 14, Illinois 3 6:34 left 3Q
And as quiet as it was about a minute ago, you could hear a pin drop now.  The crowd doesn’t even look like it is moving.

The score came on second down, a one-yard vertical dive from Daryll Clark, but the damage was truly done on his 51 yard scamper just three plays before.  It was the longest run of Clark’s career.

The crowd isn’t even getting up for “Heyyyyyyyy Baby…” with the band…they sound defeated right now.  Let’s hope the Illini have more fight. PS

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PSU 14, Illinois 3 3:25 3rd qtr

Is that the same Wayne Ellington from UNC hoops? and the NBA Draft last year? Ever since ESPN started banging us over the head with Greg Paulus coverage, the idea has popped into my mind. Mehhhh. This game flew by in the 1st half. Getting more blah as it goes on though. Illini are getting hard to watch on offense PMB

Lions are running it right down Illini throats right now. UI running game? looks decrepit PMB

start of 4th qtr. Penn State 14, Illinois 3

PSU is right near the Illini goalline. A TD here pretty much seals the deal. Cuz an 18 pt lead in a game like this, is like a 40 pt lead in a regular game. PMB

TD State 17-3 now 14:28. And you can put a bow on this….Juice Williams HAS STILL NOT THROWN A TD PASS THIS SEASON! And we’re getting to Mid October!

Remember when Jim Everett of the early 90s L.A. Rams didn’t throw a TD pass until like week 8 or something crazy like that one year? And Wayne Gretzky didn’t score a goal for the Kings until unexpectedly late into the season? But still scored ahead of Everett, that’s how this feels? PMB over to you PS

Penn State 21, Illinois 3 12:43 left 4Q
I guess this is how that feels, PB, but I thought that those Rams teams won some games.  That’s not exactly the greatest example.  At least I don’t think.  Plus I think they had Eric Dickerson or Jerome Bettis or someone at running back…they had people who could score for them.

Right now, the Illini don’t.  Another uninspired 3 and out for the Illini, and Penn State just picked up 22 yards on their first play from scrimmage on the ensuing drive.  To put that in perspective, that’s more yards than the Illini have in the entire second half — only 16 for Illinois.

It should be mentioned that Ron Zook, at halftime, said that that last drive of the first half, the way it all went down, was deflating.  That should have been a tip for how the Illini were going to come out in the second half — Deflated.

Also, Penn State outgained the Illini 208 yards to just eight in the third quarter.  An all-around fail for the Illini.

This is going to wrap up our in-game content…I will be back with a post game summary and some comments from the presser.  For now, this is shaping up as another Illini debacle.  Truly a stomach punch for the team and the fans. PS

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Penn State 28, Illinois 10 8:46 left 4Q
Ok, I lied….but Juice just threw his first TD pass of the season.  I had to check in.

Of course it was against Penn State’s second string…and they were in a prevent defense…but still!  His first TD pass of the year!!!

AND IT’S OCTOBER!!!!!!!!!!

Oy. PS

Penn State 35, Illinois 17 FINAL
Sooo…I guess the Illini showed some life in the final minutes with the wind at their backs.  That’s great.  What I was looking for today was some life.  In the end, it didn’t really matter, because they fell to 0-2 in Big Ten play, effectively ending the Big Ten season before it began.

All in all, the defense played pretty well, but was hung out to dry by an offense that didn’t wake up until the fourth quarter.

Again, from Champaign, your final was an underwhelming 35-17 victory for Penn State, effectively keeping them in the Big Ten race.  PS

Big Ten Power Rankings Start of Conf Play

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By Paul M. Banks

This will be the  final week that I can feature only one set of records beside each name. It’s the start of conference play! Meaning I’ll soon be including Big Ten records. Through three weeks of play, the Big Ten is the only Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) conference to feature five 3-0 teams. Four of the Big Ten’s undefeated teams will square off on the opening Saturday, including Indiana playing at Michigan and Iowa facing a primeti me game on the road at Penn State. A re-match from one of last year’s most noteworthy and exciting intraconference tussles.

1. Penn State (3-0) We still can’t say for sure if they’re for real given how their schedule has been about as challenging as the puzzles on a Denny’s kids menu. But their defense has been much more impressive than even Nittany Lion optimists would have predicted. Not many would have prognosticated they would hold each of their first three opponents to less than a touchdown. JoePa said it best at Big Ten Media Day, when asked if he was worried about this team, “when that phone rings on Sunday, I shake!”

2. Ohio State (2-1) Saturday has all the makings of a “trap game.” In years the Illini are mediocre or better, Illinois has owned them at the Horsehoe. Remember ’07 when Illinois beat a #1 squad for the first time in a half-century? In seasons that OSU has had a major talent advantage over Illinois, it’s what you expect: Ohio State 77, Illinois 0. Or something like that. But this year, expect a tight game. Buckeyes need to make a statement if they want to get their 5th straight conference title.

3. Michigan (3-0) Last week everyone learned the name Tate Forcier. This week it’s Carlos Brown becoming a household name for college football geeks. I guess no one’s talking about illegal practice sessions anymore? They could soon start discussing New Year’s Day bowl games soon instead.

4. Iowa (3-0) You know all about the OL and defensive stalwarts. The next name you should become familiar with is the man filling Jewel Hampton’s shoes (who was supposed to fill Shonn Greene’s shoes). RB Adam Robinson who posted his first career 100-yard effort with 101 yards on 18 carries (5.6 avg.) 2 TDs against Arizona.

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5. Wisconsin (3-0) In the words of TSB Badger correspondent Jake McCormick, “Scott Tolzien continues to grow into the starting quarterback position by completing 15-of-20 passes for 159 yards, two touchdowns, and no turnovers. The running backs were another story, but I’ll get to that later.”

6. Minnesota (2-1) For a half or three quarters, you could say they hung with one of the best teams in the country. And did you see that TD reception of Eric Decker’s? How he hung on to it after that bone-crushing hit. If he choose to pursue MLB instead of the NFL after graduation,  I would be scared for outfield walls everywhere.

7. Northwestern (2-1) Is Syracuse trying to join the Big Ten? Their schedule says yes. If so, congratulate the Orange, and ESPN’s new favorite player Greg Paulus, on their first in-conference win. The good news for Northwestern- they’ve found a couple receivers, and their QB Mike Kafka is indeed a dual threat. The bad news, their defensive line and secondary have no depth, and is currently riddled by injuries. By the way, coming to Evanston this week is the best WR in the Big Ten, Eric Decker. How’s that going to work? Perhaps similar to when the two teams met in ’07, 49-48 OT.

This is the “When does Basketball season start section?” These traditional basketball powers look very shaky so far.

8. Illinois (1-1) If we don’t learn what they’re about this week in Columbus, we’ll surely learn the following week when they host Penn State. With 61 rushing yards against Illinois State, senior running back Daniel Dufrene went over 1,000 yards for his career. He is the 35th player in Illinois history to reach the 1,000-yard milestone, and the Zooker should have made him the unquestioned starter since the day Rashard Mendenhall left. If they keep giving more carries to Jason Ford and Troy Pollard instead of Dufrene…hey, is that infamous domain name fireronzook.com available again?

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9. Indiana (3-0) Can I register this domain name: indianafootballisnowherenearasgoodastheirrecord.com? If it’s taken, let’s try hoosierswillfinishlastinthebigtendespitetheirgoodnon-conferencestart.com

10. Michigan State (1-2) Perhaps they’ve found their answer at QB in Kirk Cousins. He put up some big numbers, but made some crucial mistakes. MSU made a nice rebound from a disastrous start at ND. But ultimately, they accomplished little more than help Jimmy Clausen’s NFL Draft stock.

11. Purdue (1-2) Is Notre Dame trying to join the Big Ten? Their schedule seems to say so. I think the bowl bid train has left the station already. But you can believe in (Danny) Hope, right? After all, that’s the message marketed in the Presidential Election last fall. The Era of Hope will bring wins, just not now.

Ranking the Big Ten Football Venues

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By Paul M. Banks

Our friends over at Midwest Sports Fans.com have ranked the atmosphere at all 11 Big Ten football Stadiums. And Chicago’s two teams, Illinois and Northwestern, did not place well. Actually, their showing was pitiful, 8th and 11th respectively. If you can use the term “respect” in regards to what the writer thought of the Wildcats and Illini home fields- at least in these rankings. Of course, these rankings were compiled by an Indiana University graduate/fan, so take it with a grain of salt. Then again who would know more about crappy, unexciting football than an IU alum?

Either way, be sure to check out the full list by clicking here. There’s lots of cool pictures, YouTube videos, and even the clip of Brutus the Buckeye getting into a fight with a Michigan fan on the sidelines of Ryan Field. Good times indeed.

University of Illinois Fighting Illini Season Football Preview, Part 1

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By Paul Schmidt

The 2009 University of Illinois Fighting Illini football team is likely to be something of an enigma.  It seems that any time expectations are heaped upon the school, they never live up to those expectations, and when they have no one thinking highly of them they tend to over-perform everyone’s opinions.

Does that mean that this year’s team will fail, again, to make a bowl game as many experts are projecting the Illini to a middle of the pack finish in the Big Ten?

Hopefully, this preview can answer some of those burning questions. First we’ll go over why Illini fans should be optimistic, the offense, and then tomorrow preview why they should be nervous (the defense).

OFFENSE


There will be one thing that will never be said about the 2009 incarnation of the Fighting Illini — they couldn’t score.  This team will boast one of the nation’s highest scoring offenses and will be one of the most
juiceentertaining teams to watch in the country every Saturday.

Things will begin and end with Isiah “Juice” Williams. One of two Illini dark-horse Heisman candidates, Williams has to have a great season for the Illini to go far. The question on the minds of many Illini fans is whether or not we’ll see the Juice of his sophomore season (that guided the Illini to the Rose Bowl) or whether it’ll be the inconsistent Juice of 2008.

For his part, Williams is focused on the company line for the upcoming campaign.

“We all have to do our job, gotta count on the next man to do their job, and you gotta have all the parts of the machine really come together and operate,” Williams said. “Once you do that, that’s when you get the passing yards, and the rushing yards, and the W’s most importantly.”

Consistency is obviously a big key for Williams and one of the things he needed to work on as a QB was his touch — as in acquiring one.

“My problem was my first two years I really didn’t know a lot of stuff that was going on, so I did what I did best — throw it as hard as I can,” Williams said. “Obviously, that really hurt pass percentages, and hurt a few receivers’ hands. Once I got into the offense and started to understand the position and the concepts that we were trying to run through each play, I was able to go out there and really throw it.”

Williams’ ability to ‘really throw it’ will be made all the easier with an incredible group of wide receivers that may be the nation’s best.  Not among the nations’ best — they very well could be the most talented group of wide receivers lining up in college football.

Arrelious “Rejus” Benn headlines the talented group as the Illini’s other darkhorse Heisman hopeful, but the talent hardly stops there.  Florida transfer Jarrod Fayson looks to step in and contribute immediately, and offensive coordinator Mike Schultz likes what he sees of the young man. benn

“Jarrod is really a big strong kid,” Schultz said. “He’s a great route runner and has great hands. He’s not a guy that will beat defensive backs deep, but he can definitely get by them and stop and come back.”

Benn and Fayson will be joined by A.J. Jenkins, Jeff Cumberland, Chris Duvalt, Cordale Scott and Fred Sykes, along with much-heralded newcomer Terry Hawthorne.

The biggest challenge is going to be on Schultz this season as he is tasked with getting everyone enough catches to keep the entire receiving corps happy.

“I got a way to keep everyone happy, but I’m not telling anybody,” Schultz said with a laugh. “Right now we have everyone learning a couple positions, both at wide and split ends.”

With all of the concentration on the pitch-and-catch combinations, this is a team that in 2007 led the Big Ten in rushing and had one of the most prolific rushing attacks in the nation.  Now, Rashard Mendenhall was a big part of that, and he has been in the NFL for a year already, but there still is a lot of talent in the backfield.

Setting aside the obvious speed threat of Williams running when he can’t find someone open to pass to, the Illini will feature three talented players in the backfield.

Daniel Dufrene, Jason Ford, and Mikel LeShoure will all split time at running back, as Illinois head coach Ron Zook has repeatedly said that he not only doesn’t think that a team has to have a featured back, but that he feels all three will be able to contribute given the situation.

Dufrene, however, may emerge as the most important runner for the Illini as last season he led the Illini in yards-per-carry, despite having a season marred by personal troubles and some injuries.

Big Ten Power Rankings

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By Paul M. Banks
Now that Big Ten Football Media Days in Chicago are over, and the cases have been made for the strengths and weaknesses of the league’s 11 teams in the “City of Broad Shoulders,” it’s time to sort the league’s macho men from the weaklings. And, of course these rankings are highly subject to change.

Last year’s record (and when applicable, bowl appearance) is in parentheses


1.    Ohio State (10-3, 7-1, Fiesta Bowl loss to Texas)
Once again it’s re-loading not re-building in Columbus. With Boom Herron filling it for Beanie Wells and a whole slew of new talent filling in at key defensive positions, the scarlet and grey will have a new look this fall. Although the Bucks have looked terrible in January bowls lately, they’re still the class of the league, and look for the “sweater vest” to maintain that primary position again this season. Preseason Offensive Player of the Year Terrelle Pryor will be fun to watch.

2.    Penn State (11-2, 7-1, Rose Bowl loss to USC)
Like President Barack Obama said, “it’s not enough to change the players, you have to change the game” and the 82 year old Joe Paterno and his staff have innovated the “Spread HD” enough to make the Nittany Lions consistently win again in spite of turnover. Offseason defections hurt again, but there’s still plenty left. QB Darryl Clark, RB Evan Royster, LB Sean Lee and DT Jared Odrick are all ballers, and if this team can find some good replacements on the OL, and possibly another CB, the BCS could come calling.

3.    Michigan State (9-4, 6-2, Citrus Bowl loss to Georgia)
It all depends on how well they replace Javon Ringer. They’ll also be breaking in a new starter at Quarterback (Kirk Cousins or Keith Nichol) but you can tell the new QBs “Dude, you’re getting a Dell,” as in WR Mark Dell, one of the best in the league. With him, as well as an outstanding defense led by Preseason Defensive Player of the Year Greg Jones, this team will be very good.

4.    Northwestern (9-4, 5-3, Alamo Bowl loss to Missouri)
Sure, they have to replace everybody at the offensive skill positions, but the new starter at QB, Mike Kafka, is an upgrade in my opinion. With a QB rushing record already on his resume, he’s more of a dual threat (and less of an interception risk) than C.J. Bacher. Not to mention the heart and soul of this team (the defense) returns mostly in tact from last year’s campaign- when they set a school record for stopping the run. And the easy schedule (Towson, Eastern Michigan, no Ohio State or Michigan) just screams ten win season.mikekafka

5.    Iowa (9-4, 5-3, Outback Bowl victory over South Carolina)
Wow! Do they have some big, dominating corn-fed boys on the O line. Their hogs up front can go to-to-toe with just about any front seven. But losing some of their playmakers on defense (and trying to replace Shonn Greene with Jewel Hampton) will take its toll. If their Jewel is IGI Certified and not a Cubic Zirconia then another 8-4 looks reasonable.

6.    Illinois (5-7, 3-5)
This program has no consistency at all. The orange and blue often falter under high expectations and only seem to thrive when people don’t take them seriously. This fall, projections are mixed/somewhat positive so 7-5 and a third-tier bowl sounds about right. With the combination of QB Isaiah “Juice” Williams and WR Arrelious “Rejus” Benn (go to 7-to-9.com), the offense will shine brighter than the diamond in Juice’s right ear. However, the defense was lacking last season, and lost its best playmakers, so mediocrity is imminent.

7.    Wisconsin (7-6, 3-5, Champs Bowl loss to Florida St.)
Can you feel that seat getting warmer and warmer, Mr. Bielema? Wisco will once again have plenty of talent at the RB and TE positions, but questions abound at QB and all-over-the-place on the defensive side of the ball. They have enough talent to surprise, but another 6-6 level season looks more likely.

8.    Michigan (3-9, 2-6) There is talent on this roster, but there’s also a hot mess at numerous positions; including quarterback which as you know, is quite an important position. They’ll take a step forward this year, but then again how could they really take a step back?gophercheer

9.    Minnesota (7-6, 3-5, Insight Bowl loss to Kansas)
It’s hard to find a team that had a more bipolar season than the Gophers in ’08. They were golden in the first 8 games, but far from a precious metal in November and the postseason. With local boy and baseball star Eric Decker at WR they have one of the best offensive players in the league, and the guy throwing to the Big Ten’s Wes Welker, Adam Weber isn’t half-bad either. But after that, the roster isn’t that overwhelmingly impressive.

10.    Purdue (4-8, 2-6)
Transitions are very tough, but they don’t often last very long. Joe Tiller left a very favorable mark on this program, and there is lots of “Hope” for Danny his successor, just not this year. I’m not sold on QB Joey Elliot, the least signal-caller we’ve seen in West Lafayette in quite some time. Don’t expect anything resembling “basketball on grass” this fall.

11.    Indiana (3-9, 1-7) It looks bleak for the two Big Ten football teams in “the crossroads of America.” But hey, it’s a basketball state anyway. At least the Hoosiers can boast quite possibly the most interesting man in college football. DE Jammie Kirlew, is more than just a stud lineman, he’s spent summers interning for the Obama campaign, producing movies, and learning Italian while studying abroad in Florence. By far, my favorite part of media days was discussing the Renaissance and European culture with him. Seriously.