Last week, we began the heavy crawl out of the gray slush, and ice avalanche of public perception that's weighing on the conference with an early look at what each team has going for it heading into 2009-10. Let's finish the breakdown:
Minnesota Golden Gophers
The Good News: Laughing all the way to the Bank. It's an almost unavoidable sports movie cliche: the start-up good-guy underdogs are getting ready to take the field against their undefeated/champion/unstoppable/douchebag rivals, who -- for whatever reason always seem to be of Nordic descent. As the hometown favorites are getting their pre-game pep talk in the locker room, the coach points to a number of unopened boxes and surprises the make-shifts with shiny new uniforms. The kids enthusiastically unwrap their awesome new gear, suit up, and proceed to beat the hell out of the favorites.
Fans of Minnesota, say hello to your new twelfth man: TCF Bank Stadium. 2009-10 will see Gopher Football return to the outdoors, and onto campus with the opening of a killer new venue. Whatever Minnesota does on the field, they'll look good against the steel risers, and brick architraves of their new foul weather fortress. The Rivalry, Esq. can't wait to visit.
The Bad News: Traitor Coordinators. Just as Tim Brewster managed to put together a capable assistant coaching staff, both his offensive and defensive coordinators jumped ship on the same day, forcing Minnesota to re-acclimate on the fly. The good news? There's a silver lining: Brewster managed to snag up Kevin Cosgrove, the former defensive coordinator at the University of Wisconsin.
The Good News: Momentum Metamorphosis. After a show up, stand out performance against Missouri in the Alamo Bowl -- so impressive Ivan Maisel called the Tiger's slim victory the "worst win" of bowl season, the Wildcats carry good vibes into 2009-10 on the legs of the elusive Mike Kafka -- who emerged as a capable playmaker in the Evanston spread in 2008-09.
The Bad News: Senior Sign Offs. Still, the Chicago winter isn't the only thing the Wildcats will have to weather. Starting Quarterback C.J. Bacher, and running back Tyrell Sutton are gone -- leaving serious holes for the up and comers.
Ohio State Buckeyes
The Good News: He's just a Sophomore. Fabulous Frosh Terrelle "Flyer" Pryor, who stepped into the spotlight and consistently performed throughout 2008-09, is the most explosive work in progress playmaker in the nation. As his out of the gate Fiesta Bowl performance showed, he's darn near unstoppable when he has time to prepare. Makes you wonder what eight months of studying film and hitting the weight room will do for the star. Buckeye fans can't wait to find out.
The Bad News: Bollman's Still Here. Sure, you expected me to say something about the Bucks hemorrhaging starter stand-outs James Laurinaitis, Malcolm Jenkins, Brian Robiskie, Chris "Beanie" Wells, and Brian Hartline. It's not that the heavy personnel losses won't hurt the scarlet, it's just that in this commentator's humble opinion, the talent in the wings is more than capable of reloading the barrel (see Alabama 2008-09). For my money, a better reason to be wary in Columbus is the stamp of approval Jim Tressel has given to stubborn and stodgy Offensive Coordinator Jim Bollman. Yeah, I'll give you -- he called some fine plays in the Fiesta Bowl. But the overall recent body of work from this mustached patriarch reeks. If anyone can hold Terrelle Pryor back, it's this guy.
Penn State Nittany Lions
The Good News: National Class, Stable Sidelines. At the center of a likely Top 15 national recruiting class are granite giants on both sides of the line. And Penn State continues to ebb closer to returning its Linebacker U reputation as it remains very much in the hunt for the much mentioned Jelani Jenkins (No. 2 OLB). The continued presence of a committed coaching staff will continue to propel the Nittany Lions.
The Bad News: Long Offseason. In the wake of an embarrassing Rose Bowl dismantling, the Nittany Lions will struggle to re-focus, and re-center their core grit as they again set their sights on the conference crown.
The Good News: Hope's Here. After sending off West Lafayette legend Joe Tiller, Boilermaker fans will finally get to see their new leader in action. Expect Danny Hope to bring tough offensive line play, and no frills power to his team.
The Bad News: Even Longer Offseason. After losing out on a bowl bid, and the bonus practices that accompany it, it's bound to be a long, difficult winter in Boilermaker Country.
The Good News: Nowhere to go but up. Yeah, it doesn't exactly sound like a compliment -- until you consider that literally everything that could have gone wrong, went wrong for the 2008-09 Badgers. Blown leads (Michigan, Ohio State), close losses (Michigan State), and blow outs (Penn State, Iowa, and Florida State) haunted Bret Bielema and his once vaulted team. Although, it won't take the pressure of the young coach to make something happen in Madison, Bucky enters 2009-10 with more realisitc expectations, and nowhere to go but up.
The Bad News: Over the Hill. Impact back P.J. Hill opted to jump early for the NFL, putting the load squarely on the shoulders of alternate John Clay. Here too, there's a silver lining: Clay carried for 884 yards and 9 touchdowns in 2009-09, and appears to be even more powerful than his predecessor.