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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Big Ten Power Rankings 10-20

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1. Iowa (7-0, 3-0)

They are the best team in the Big Ten, and the most boring. They have plenty of talent all around, but quickly name three players on the squad…you can’t can you. There’s nothing flashy or exciting about any of their skill position players. And if you look at their team rankings in all the major categories, nothing jumps out at you. They’re in the middle of the pack or bottom half in pretty much everything. It all makes it a mystery as to how they remain undefeated

2. Penn State (6-1, 2-1)

They’re not as good as you might think- really. Their running game has truly been tested only once (Iowa) at it failed miserably there. I could see this team finishing 10-2 or 9-3, and then getting absolutely ROLLED by a SEC or Big 12 team on New Year’s Day

3. Ohio State (5-2, 3-1)

Come January, another OSU title game appearance would really suck for ratings, because we would have to watch them got destroyed by another 50 points to a bigger, faster SEC team yet again. But that won’t happen this year. Thanks Purdue!

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4. Wisconsin (5-2, 2-2)

Tolzien is coming back down to earth playing like we thought someone with out any prior starting experience would.

5. Michigan St. (4-3, 3-1)

They seem to “get it” now and appear to be streaking. It won’t be THAT MUCH of an upset if they give the Hawkeyes their first loss.

6. Michigan (5-2, 1-2) To quote TSB Michigan correspondent H. Jose Bosch

“Call me the cranky Michigan fan but there is no reason to be that excited about this win.” You beat Delaware St. 63-3, congratulations, what do you want a cookie?

7. Minnesota (4-3, 2-2)

Somebody has finally found a way to slow down Eric Decker. sort of.

8. Northwestern (4-3, 1-3)

Mike Kafka is REALLY great at doing two things: completing passes and giving horribly trite, rehearsed answers to questions. He’s pass completed 72% or more in 3 games this season, and I think I’ve heard him say more than 50% of my 11 phrases that should never be broadcast or published. To his credit, his performances look all the more special when you consider he has the worst offensive line in the league. They’ve “protected him” by being 10th in conference (87th nationally) in sacks allowed. And the OL has “opened running lanes” to create a rushing attack ranked 97th in the nation.

9. Purdue (2-5, 1-2)
So they are truly better than they’re record states- but only for this past week.

10. Indiana (4-3, 1-2)

The last time they beat Illinois this badly, was in another “Pillow Fight Supreme” back in ’97 when the 1-10 Hoosiers spanked the 0-11 Illini. My favorite part of that game was when Illini play-by-play man Brian Barnhart said “we’re making heroes out of all sorts of people this year,” in reference to D. Hogan (Dennis?? David) some tailback so obscure I doubt this mother has even heard of him. He rushed for 140 yards in that game.

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11. Illinois (1-5, 0-4)

Congratulations! The loss to Indiana, now gave Illinois a 11-41 Big Ten record since ’03 (and that includes the fluke Rose Bowl year) good for last place, now that the Hoosiers are 11-40 in the same span. The last time Illinois played Illinois State in a season, was actually 2003. And ISU was their only victim in a 1-11 season. This year, Illinois St. is their only victory this season. Therefore…..

Big Ten Football Power Rankings

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By Paul M. Banks

1. Iowa (6-0, 2-0)

Now won 10 consecutive. The Hawkeyes’ 10-game winning streak is the second-longest active streak among all Football Bowl Subdivision schools behind Tim Tebow’s army of Christian Crusaders. The last time Iowa had a streak like this was when the program won 20 in a row 1920-1923.

2. Ohio State (5-1, 2-1)

I hate their fans as much as I hate the fact that Jim Tressel gets all the credit (and way too much credit) for all that they do. Spike.com aptly summarized why their fans are so annoying:

This is a team whose main cheer consists of spelling their state in repetitive succession. OH-IO…OH-IO… We get it! You passed remedial English and are really excited to show off your basic grasp of the language to the three attractive girls from Ann Arbor who actually visited the Columbus campus over the weekend. Yes, it’s adorable that every one of your alumni is playing a 52-year-long game of “I bet I can annoy everyone I meet today,” but maybe it’s time to get a life and stop idolizing some geek in a sweater vest who just crossed out “get horribly outcoached in two straight BCS Championship games” off his bucket list.

3. Wisconsin (5-1, 2-1)beilema

The Bielema Bowl awaits! as Coach takes on his alma mater, Iowa Saturday. Wisconsin has won at least five of its first six games for the seventh time in the last eight seasons, including a 5-1 start in 2007 and a final mark of 12-1 in 2006, Bret Bielema’s first year as head coach of the Badgers.

4. Penn State (5-1, 1-1)

Did you see the redneck reporter take JoePa to task on his ultra-soft scheduling? We know why their schedule contains more cupcakes than an obese 6 year old’s birthday party. Paterno is trying to further cement his legacy by being the first and only to reach 400 wins, and make certain he finishes ahead of Bobby Bowden, which looks like a done deal given the discontent afoot in Tallahassee.

5. Minnesota (4-2, 2-1)
How do you get out-gained by 120 yards and still win by 15? Because you have a very less than awe-inspiring 7-5 team in the making here, perhaps even less exciting than last year’s 7-5 team that got rolled in their bowl game.

6. Michigan (4-2, 1-2)

Why did Rich Rod sound like a major douche in his postgame press conference? Why was Denard Robinson in there instead of Tate Forcier when the game was on the line? Maybe Rodriguez realized he made a mistake? Or maybe there’s an injury we don’t know about?

7A. Northwestern (4-2, 1-1)
So far QB Mike Kafka pretty much is the entire offense, as the O Line still has not shown up and done anything productive this season. When they couldn’t open up running lanes against Miami of Ohio, one of the worst teams in all of FBS, you could understand why Fitz was so upset. Yet as horrendous as their wins have been this season, the schedule still shapes up to be 7-5 or 6-6. The Little Caesars Pizza Bowl is calling!

7B Michigan State (2-3, 1-1)

Beating Illinois proves nothing. I guess the superior of the 7th place logjam will establish themselves Satruday. Behind quarterbacks Kirk Cousins and Keith Nichol, MSU ranks first among Big Ten teams in passing offense (280.3 ypg) and passing efficiency (143.37 rating). The Spartans also rank first among league teams in sacks allowed, giving up just one sack per contest

For these schools….basketball practice begins this week!

Of course, the Hoosiers are going to be awful at that sport this year as well.

9. Purdue (1-5, 0-2)

I’m tired of people saying “they’re so much better than their record.” No, you are your record. Period. If they were any good, they would learn not to throw and fumble the ball away. The Boilers are to committing turnovers what Caucasian women aged 18-35 are to watching “Grey’s Anatomy.”

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10. Indiana (3-3, 0-2)

They were absolutely destroyed by Virginia, a team so fierce that they lost to an FCS team, William & Mary in the season opener. In other words, everything I said about how much Indiana actually sucked back when they were 3-0, was proven ultimately right.

11. Illinois (1-4, 0-3)

As an alumnus, I must refrain from commenting on this phantasmagoric train wreck. Well I guess I just did. But in the future I need to stay objective as a journalist.

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