I read somewhere that there's seven stages of grief: 1. Shock and denial, 2. Pain and guilt, 3. Anger and bargaining, 4. Depression, reflection, loneliness, 5. The upward turn, 6. Reconstruction and working through, and 7. Acceptance and hope.
In our continuing attempts to rid ourselves of stages 1-5, and to bathe in the transformative halo that is Nos. 5, 6, and 7, we're shifting gears on The Rivalry, Esq. That's right, it's time to talk about next year in the Big Ten. Let's start with an apperetif of sorts: Part 1 of a quick rundown of the best and worst things each school has going for it, heading into 2009-10:
Illinois Fighting Illini
The Good News: Juice is back. Sure, he made about as good as decisions as GM in 2008, but this marquis set of legs should continue to develop his arm -- it couldn't come too soon, Williams threw 16 interceptions in 2008.
The Bad News: Bon Voyage, Vontae. Two-time first team All Big Ten selection, Junior cornerback Vontae Davis left early for the NFL. Davis contributed a conference first 78 tackles, 10 pass deflections, and 2 interceptions for the Illini. He leaves a big hole in the middle.
The Good News: There's nowhere to go but up. After an abysmal 3-9 season, including losses to Ball State and Central Michigan, the team Terry left continues to struggle. That being said, they've got an opportunity to open the season 3-0, with probable wins over Eastern Kentucky, Western Michigan, and Toledo. Then, they'll be forced to defend the rock on the road against Michigan and at home against Ohio State.
The Bad News: The basketball team sucks too. Oh yeah, leading rusher Marcus Thigpen is gone, leaving quarterback Kellen Lewis to fill the void.
The Good News: Ferentz is back. The Hawks won six of their last seven games en route to a 9-4 record, including a 31-10 rout of South Carolina in the Outback Bowl. Six starters are expected back on offense. All of the pomp and circumstance led ESPN's Mark Schlabach to rank Iowa 13th in his initial preseason evaluation.
The Bad News: Greene went for green. Shonn Greene, the Heisman calibur running back that churned up 1,850 yards and 20 touchdowns is headed for the other side.
The Good News: They have a quarterback that fits the system in Tate Forcier. Sure, he's short; but the kid can throw, and run -- fast. As ESPN U describes "He has excellent speed for the position, but he's really a passer who happens to be athletic enough to run a spread or read-option attack with ease. Has a style similar to that of Jeff Garcia, another riverboat gambler who finds ways to get the job done." Not that it won't be a little bittersweet losing Threet behind center.
The Bad News: They're still green. As the Rod-Type blood transfusion continues the Wolvernies will be forced to rely on youthful exuberance in skill positions.
Michigan State Spartans
The Good News: Top 15 Class. Yes, it's true. Captain Solidarity Mark Dantonio himself has welded an elite bundle of talent with 10 current commits averaging a Rivals 3.32 star rating. Combined with Dantonio's hard nosed knack for discipline, the right storm appears to be brewing in East Lansing.
The Bad News: Replacing Ringer. Leading running back Javon Ringer is gone, leaving a 1637 yard, and 22 touchdown hole in the backfield. Dantonio's offense depends on the pure versatility and stamina Javon delivered. Replacing him with an all-weather back won't be easy.