Big Ten Tournament Preview, Predictions

msu dance team

By Jeff Ghiringhelli, Paul M. Banks, David Kay, Jake McCormick

It’s all about the NCAA Tournament bubble. That is typically the main storyline in power conference tournaments such as the Big Ten. The teams at the top of the conference (Ohio State, Purdue, Michigan State, and Wisconsin) are all locks for the Big Dance. Teams such as Illinois and Minnesota will likely need two wins or more over the weekend to give themselves a chance for an at-large bid. There is a lot on the line for these teams, and it should make for some must-see TV in Indianapolis.

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Big 10 Power Rankings 3-5


By Paul M. Banks

Sadly, this will be the final edition of power rankings for the 2009-10 college sports season. Next week, the tournaments will start settling the power ranking arguments on the court. See you again in July after Big 10 football media day!  

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Big 10 Power Rankings 2-18

By Paul M. Banks

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Big 10 Power Rankings 2-11

By Paul M. Banks

1. Purdue (20-3, 9-3)

yes, the Spartans still didn’t have a 100% Kalin Lucas, but winning at the Breslin Center is still winning at the Breslin Center. And the Boilers, winners of five in a row, now look like the conference team positioned to make the best tournament run in March.

2. Michigan State (19-6, 9-3)

Every team hits a rough patch at some point of the season. Better to get it over with now than during the tourney, right? At least no one can used the tired “they’re peaking too soon” cliche on State.

3. Ohio State (19-6, 9-3)

Can we start calling Evan Turner “His Royal Smoothness”? Given the extreme shortage of really good nicknames in this generation, we need this one.

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Big Ten Power Rankings 12-30

By Paul M. Banks

1. Purdue (12-0, 1-0)
Now that conference play has started for what seems like the earliest point in history, it’s time to decide who the conference favorite is, and it’s pretty obvious as the Boilers are off to their best start since the Glenn “Big Dog” Robinson era

2. Michigan State (9-3)
They are a tad overrated. Even in this specific power rankings, I probably gave them to much credit. But I have a feeling Izzo’s benching of Kalin Lucas might wake them up. By the way, backup (sometimes starting) F/C Derrick Nix is shooting 3-28 from the charity stripe this season. No, that’s not a typo.

3. Northwestern (10-1)
Ranked in the Associated Press poll for the first time in 41 years and winners of nine straight, the #25 Wildcats have done it all without injured star Kevin Coble. That’s got to make Bill Carmody the Coach of the Year award front-runner so far

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Big Ten Power Rankings Start of Conf Play


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.


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 available again?


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

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.

Big Ten Predictions


By the TSB Staff

1.Ohio St.
2. Michigan State
3. Penn St.

It will be tight at the top once again this year.  Ohio State’s Terrell Pryor is going to come into his own this year; combined with an always stout defense, the Buckeyes will be hard to keep from the title.   Michigan St. returns 14 starters and will compete for the title if they can find suitable replacements at quarterback and tailback.  Penn St. will have a solid year, but overall their losses on defense will be too much to overcome unless young players step up quickly.

Offensive Player of the Year: Terrell Pryor-QB-OSU

Defensive Player of the Year: Greg Jones-LB-MSU



1. Ohio State, 2. Penn State, 3. Northwestern

Offensive Player of the Year: Terrelle Pryor, QB, OSU.

Defensive Player of the year Navorro Bowman, LB, PSU

OK, so my picks for conference champ and runner-up are not exactly un-orthodox, but can you blame me?

Last year’s top two have lost some key players to the NFL, but are still loaded with talent- highlighted by my picks for Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year. There’s a reason that Buckeye sophomore Pryor has received so much hype over the past few year. I expect him to be a force both running and passing. Bowman, a junior, is coming off a breakout year in which he was consensus All-Big 10 and can only benefit from the healthy return of fellow linebacker and team captain Sean Lee. south-park-jim-tressel1

After the “Big 2”, it looks like a bit of a toss-up for third place. Maybe it’s a Chicago bias, but I’m going with Northwestern. The Wildcats were impressive last year and coach Pat Fitzgerald seems to be doing a great job with the program. Scheduling could be another plus- NU doesn’t face Ohio State and gets to play Penn State in Evanston. They’re certainly not expected to challenge for the conference title, but the Wildcats definitely can grab 3rd.


Ohio State is a slight favorite because they get Illinois at home and don’t have to play Michigan State. Even though they travel to Penn State, I think they take the title. Penn State is No. 2. The third spot for me is tricky. People love Illinois, but they have a wicked stretch of games (@Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan State) that they won’t survive. I think Michigan State surprises at No. 3. Terrelle Pryor is going to dominate and be the conference’s top offensive player. Sean Lee will be the best defender.


For my predictions, see my power rankings.


The big question in the Big Ten Conference this year is: will the conference rise again to be what it was in previous decades? Last year, the Big Ten recorded a 1-6 bowl record and the Big Ten has also lost the Rose Bowl (and by more than just a few points) the last three years.  So will this year see resurgence? Probably not.

But Penn State and Ohio State are sure to go head-to-head once again for the Big Ten title.  The big difference between the Nittany Lions and the Buckeyes is that the Nittany Lions have an easier schedule.  Their non-conference opponents include Temple, Akron, Syracuse, and Eastern Michigan.  While the Buckeyes have to play the reigning Rose Bowl champions, the USC Trojans.  With Iowa, Michigan St. and Northwestern all capable of having a winning season, Big Ten fans should find plenty to cheer about this upcoming season.

TOM LEA:ill4

The Ohio State University will once again sit atop the pedestal (as low as that may be in national perception) of the Big Ten conference, when all is said and done this fall. Even though they lose a multitude of key players: Beanie Wells, James Laurinaitis, Malcolm Jenkins, the team still has the mega-hyped Terrelle Pryor entering his second season. At times last year, it seemed as though Pryor had no idea what he was doing yet still made plays. Imagine what will happen when he actually has a clue as to what’s going on.

1.) Ohio State
2.) Penn State
3.) Michigan State

Offensive Player of the Year: John Clay

Defensive Player of the Year: Sean Lee


Football pundits are once again drooling over the SEC and overlooking the Big Ten when discussing the best teams in the country. The top tier of the Big Ten can play with anyone in any conference, and they’re going to prove it once bowl season rolls around. Some schools have extended their schedules in order to cut down the time between their last game and a potential bowl game, while others have scheduled a more difficult non-conference schedule to show their talent in a national spotlight. However, the two best teams in the conference, Penn State and Ohio State, are simply going to beat almostgophercheerleader
every team they play.

They have more than enough talent in their respective stables to keep the success of both evil empires intact. It’s a coin flip between the two teams to see who finishes first, but I think the experience Terelle Pryor accrued last season will push the Buckeyes over the top.

The third place team is a little harder to find. Although Michigan State is the favorite, I think Northwestern can and will give them a run for their money. Although NU lost their QB, RB, and three WRs, MSU is without last year’s starting battery, Brian Hoyer and Javon Ringer in 2009. The replacements for the Wildcats, Mike Kafka and Stephen Simmons, both had extended playing time over the last two seasons.

As far as offensive and defensive MVPs go, Terelle Pryor of OSU and Greg Jones of MSU were awarded the pre-season titles. But there will be some surprises. Look for Juice Williams to run (and pass) wild all season long, putting up massive numbers, while watching his defense give up even more touchdowns in. He has the feet and the arm to lead his team to the endzone, and will do so with the same regularity as Pryor.hoosiers

On the other side of the ball, offensive tackles will practically disappear when the massive Corey Wootton runs through, or by them on his way to the quarterback. After a spectacular junior season, Wootton is only getting better, and has fully recovered from the Alamo Bowl knee injury, according to Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald.  This freakishly athletic bruiser should put up double digit sack numbers again on his way to the first day of the 2010 NFL Draft.

Big Ten Power Rankings


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, 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.