Ten Big Big Ten Questions

In concert with SBN's excellent menagerie of Big Ten minds, we bring to you nine of the most pressing questions facing Big 10 football this year...and one rodent-infused query. Will Terrelle Pryor push the Bucks to another conference title? Which coach won't survive to lead his team in 2010? What is Brutus the Buckeye compensating for with his oversized melon? Enjoy our extensive look at Big Ten football in 2009.

Who is the Big Ten's Player of the Year in 2009 and why?

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Kevin HD from Black Shoe Diaries:

What, we aren't just accepting the Big Ten media's pick?  The homer in me says it should be either Daryll Clark, Evan Royster, or Sean Lee — all players that I think are the best at their respective position. None of these guys are as far ahead of their competition, though, as Illinois' Arrelious Benn.  His game changing ability is bigger than the new Kings Of Leon album and it’s straight scary how easily and unpreventably he can change the direction of an entire game.


What 2008 Big Ten bowl team misses the post season in 2009?

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Pete Rossman from The Only Colors:

Seven teams from the Big Ten went to bowl games in 2008. Ohio State, Penn State, and Iowa are shoe-ins for the postseason. Despite question marks at quarterback and running back for the following teams, Michigan State should get there on the strength of eight returning starters on defense, and Northwestern will get to December under a solid coaching job from Pat Fitzgerald.

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This leaves Wisconsin and Minnesota, and of those teams, I feel Wisconsin underachieved (stunning loss to Michigan and an implosion at Michigan State last year), and Minnesota overachieved (4-0 in a weak nonconference schedule, and they did not beat a Big 10 bowl team last season).  Wisconsin will get luckier this season, and Minnesota less so. Thus, Minnesota will be the Big 10 bowl team that misses the postseason in 2009.


When does Michigan win their next conference championship?

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Dave from Maize and Brew:

Probably 2011. As much as I'd love to say 2010, Michigan's going to have a load of holes to fill on the offensive line next year. By 2011 Tate will be a junior, the line will have recovered from this year's coming graduations, and the defense will be veteran. Plus, it'll be year four of Rodriguez offensive system and year three of Robinson's defensive system. There are some obvious counter arguments, Pryor will be a Senior at Ohio State, Michigan State will be in year four under Dantonio, Brewster's got Minnesota on the upswing, yadda yadda. Based on Michigan's recruiting, the time it takes to implement this system, and the kids already in place I think 2011 is Michigan's first real shot since 2007 (we all know what happened then) to capture a Big Ten title.


Are the same 11 head coaches on the sideline at the start of the 2010 season?

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Adam from Bucky's 5th Quarter:

No. Ten of the 11 coaches will remain the same, but Indiana will have a new leader after Bill Lynch is let go in the off-season. He took over the IU program under tough circumstances when Terry Hoeppner passed away and whether it's his fault or not, the program has lost all the momentum Hoeppner had going. Rich Rodriguez and Bret Bielema are two other coaches that need to have good seasons, but neither will be fired after this season no matter how hot the seat gets.


Other than your own, whose mascot would you like to have walking your sideline?

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Gopher Nation from The Daily Gopher:

A little known fact:  Goldy the Gopher is actually a chipmunk with the teeth of a beaver.  One of the first cartoon depictions of the Gophers, the artist mistakenly drew a chipmunk, but it stuck and nobody really knows the difference anyway.  Here is the wikipedia explanation...

"In a comparison between Goldy and several kinds of rodent, the gopher was judged to look least like Goldy -- the results judged that his appearance was closest to a chipmunk or squirrel. Another animal Goldy is claimed to look like is the beaver, due to the buck teeth and tail. These inaccuracies are because when the gopher was declared the mascot of the University, the artist hired to create the mascot did not know what a gopher looked like. As a replacement, he drew some furry animals he saw at a rest stop."

Here is my answer to the question though: It is undeniable that there are some lame mascots in the Big Ten. Exhibit A: the Ohio State Buckeyes!  Really?  Years of a Napoleon Complex with their mascot as it's root (pun intended) is probably what led to developing such a dominant football program.  If I have to pick something other than my beloved Goldy Gopher I would go sans mascot.  While Zips, Banana Slugs, Salukis and Hilltoppers are all clever and very unique I want to stand out from the crowd by being nothing.  We would be the only team in the country without a mascot, everything would be non-descript except our dominating football team.  One can dream can't he?


Who would you rather have as your starting quarterback in 2009, Juice Williams or Ricky Stanzi?

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Toki Wartooth from Hail To The Orange:

I will be brief and to the point. Based on last season's statistics. Juice has a higher QB rating, more passing touchdowns, a higher QB rating, more completions, a slightly worse TD to INT ration (1,5 for Stanzi, 1.38 for Juice) only 2 points lower in the completion percentage, and all with an injury inflicted O-line and nowhere near the RB support that Stanzi had in Greene.

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Juice also ran for 700 yards and 5 ground TDs. He may get a bad rap based on his early seasons, but Juice is easily my choice over Stanzi.


If any Big Ten team plays for the National Championship, who is it?

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Sam from We Will Always Have Tempe:

Penn State. The schedule is simply set up for it. Both Ohio State and Iowa - almost universally considered to be two of the top three teams in the conference this year - come to Happy Valley, and the OOC schedule is Charmin Soft. Darryl Clark and Evan Royster should keep the Penn State offense at an explosive tempo, and the presence of Jared Odrick, Navarro Bowman and Sean Lee ensure that Penn State's front seven will be one of top 5 in America. If Penn State can get by Ohio State at home and Illinois on the road, there's no reason they shouldn't be playing for the national title in Pasadena.


Indiana or Purdue...who is closer to making a bowl game?

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BoilerTMill from Hammer and Rails:

Purdue, and for reasons other than me wearing Gold and Black colored glasses. If both teams are supposedly worse than last year there is no way that Purdue has fallen from that 52 point thumping they handed IU. Purdue's defense is also expected to be much, much better and one of the top units in the Big Ten. I wouldn't be surprised if Purdue squeezed out six wins and went to Detroit, Indiana is a different story, however. If both teams have five wins going into the Bucket game I am picking Purdue solely because of last year's 62-10 drubbing when both teams were "even" coming in.


If Ohio State or Penn State doesn't win the Big Ten, who is the most likely to end up in Pasadena?

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Hawkeye State from Black Heart Gold Pants:

It's Iowa, and it's not even up for debate.

Yes, we've heard the critics: Shonn Greene is gone, Mitch King is gone, Bradley Fletcher is gone. But what returns is the best offensive line in the conference, a line so good that I could rack up 5 yards per carry running behind it. What returns is arguably the best linebacker corps and secondary in the conference, 6 starters with a combined 18 interceptions between them (including last season's top 3 conference interception leaders). What returns is a quarterback who entered last season without a meaningful snap under his belt and ended the year by winning 5 of his last 6. What returns is a team drinking its own Kool-Aid, confident in itself in ways we haven't seen in 5 years. On talent and schedule, Ohio State and Penn State might be the preseason darlings. Go ahead. Give them the love before the ball has even been snapped. Once the games are played, once those snaps have been taken, someone else will be getting all that adoration. Mark my words: Iowa is taking the Big Ten.


Who wins the Big Ten?

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Law Buckeye from
The Rivalry, Esq:

Conference races are frequently defined by three personalities. There's the favorite. There's the challenger. And, there's the darkhorse.
 
What makes the Big Ten interesting this year is that there are two favorites (Ohio State, Penn State), two challengers (Iowa, Michigan State), and a wild orange Stallion (Illinois).
 
Each team will probably stumble during conference play. Ohio State has to face Penn State in State College in November. They get Iowa at home, but it's the week before they play That State Up North, up north. Both teams could run over a young Buckeye linebacking corps that (with Tyler Moeller out) doesn't have a clear speedster on the strong side. Penn State gets Iowa at home the week before it hits the road to face Illinois in Champaign. Both Ricky Stanzi and Juice Williams are capable of shooting up a weak Nittany Lion secondary that replaces all four starters from 2008. 

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Although Iowa is more experienced -- and probably more talented -- than the Spartans, the Hawkeyes have to play away at Penn State, Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Ohio State. At least one of those games will be a deal breaker. Michigan State, on the other hand, gets lucky with visits from Michigan, Iowa, and Penn State. They don't have to play Ohio State either. Finally, Illinois is the rogue outlier.  The level of talent Zook brings in is as good as anyone else in the conference, but he hasn't developed his guys to play as a team. Count on the Illini to pull at least one major upset down the stretch.
 
Ultimately though, it's Ohio State that will carry the day -- adding another entry to a resume that's already littered with four consecutive Big Ten titles. The reason is simple: Terrelle Pryor. Like Vince Young, Pryor has the size, speed, and natural instincts to pick up a team and carry it on his back. Clear gains in passing prowess over the offseason put him in a position to explode out of the gate in 2009. 
 
If he does, the absentee Buckeyes will return to Pasadena. They just won't be there on January 7 when the BCS National Championship is played.

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