2011 Season Preview
If your summer has been at all like mine, you are so busy that weeks and weekends blend together. You could use more vacation time to make every weekend the four day variety. You have given little thought to football season in the midst of a good old fashioned heat wave.
As I am all three, my previews are going the way of an overall snapshot this year. Maybe, maybe if there is time in August, I will delve a little deeper team by team, but for now, this will have to do.
As always, I've assigned each and every game for all twelve teams a win or loss to come up with this look. I won't say who I picked where, with the exception of a game here or there. Maybe I will find the time later to give you a more in depth analysis.
6 - Minnesota Golden Gophers: Minnesota has some talent but will take time to adjust to a new coach and system. If anything, I'm aiming low here but hey, not everyone can win at once. Most likely upset win? Illinois. Most intriguing game? Nebraska. Final record... 3-9 (0-8 Big Ten); No bowl game.
5 - Michigan Wolverines: Michigan will respond well to Coach Hoke but like Minnesota, is going to need time to plug the right talent into a new system. Shocking prediction of the preseason? A win against Ohio State. Toughest loss of the season? Notre Dame or Michigan State. Final record... 7-5 (4-4 Big Ten); Ticket City Bowl berth.
T3 - Northwestern Wildcats: The season hinges on the health of Dan Persa. Everyone wants to anoint this team as a dark horse, but with an Achilles injury? I'm not totally sold. Best win? Penn State. Toughest loss? Michigan State. Final record... 8-4 (5-3 Big Ten); Texas Bowl berth.
T3 - Iowa Hawkeyes: Iowa is another one that is a bit tough to peg. On one hand, they replace a solid long-time starting QB and some key contributors. On another - Iowa always reloads with solid pieces and parts. The schedule is favorable for Iowa. Best win? Northwestern. Toughest loss? Nebraska. Final record... 9-3 (5-3 Big Ten); Capital One Bowl
T1 - Michigan State Spartans: MSU has a tough, tough schedule. October is particularly brutal. The offensive weapons are there, but what about the O-line? The defense will be good, but what about the linebacking corps? Biggest win? Wisconsin. Toughest loss? Ohio State. Final record... 10-2 (6-2 Big Ten); Outback Bowl berth (jumped by Iowa due to two appearances in the past three years)
T1 - Nebraska Cornhuskers: Welcome to the Big Ten, Big Red! NU gets Michigan State, Ohio State and Iowa at home. Two road games loom large for Nebraska but I think the Cornhuskers make a big splash in their first season. Biggest win? Ohio State. Toughest loss? Big Ten opener at Wisconsin. Final record... 10-3 (6-2 in Big Ten plus loss in inaugural title game); Orange Bowl berth
6 - Indiana Hoosiers: Another program breaking in a new coach. Indiana won't be as bad as it has appeared in some seasons, but has a tough slate. The Hoosiers could surprise someone, but I'm not banking on it. Best chance for an upset win? Northwestern. Most anticipated game? Purdue. Final record... 3-9 (0-8 Big Ten); No bowl berth
5 - Purdue Boilermakers: Purdue is one of those teams that could really prove me wrong this season. Then again, there is a reason I have them here. I will admit, I originally had the Boilers losing to IU and tying for last in the Leaders Division, but felt that might be too bold. Biggest game? Notre Dame. Toughest contest? at Wisconsin. Final record... 5-7 (2-6 Big Ten); No bowl berth.
4 - Illinois Fighting Illini: The Fighting Zookers saved their coach his job last year and return some solid talent. The OOC slate stacks up nicely to bring the Illini momentum heading into Big Ten play. Illinois is a few players away from contending for the division title. Biggest win? Purdue. Toughest loss? Michigan. Again. Final record... 7-5 (3-5 Big Ten); Little Caesars Bowl berth
T2 - Penn State Nitanny Lions: One prediction I know will come to fruition? The when will JoePa talk will not cease. The Nits have a very back loaded schedule and that will bring them back to the pack. The visits from Alabama and Nebraska are very cool and certain white out games (best look from a stadium in college football). Biggest win? Nebraska. Toughest loss? Ohio State. Final record... 8-4 (5-3 Big Ten); Insight Bowl berth.
T2 - Ohio State Buckeyes: Win for the "Luker" will be the battle cry for the embattled Buckeyes this fall. New coach. New QB. Missing other key players for five games. Who knows, maybe even the knowledge that the post season is not gonna happen for the next year or so. Don't be fooled - this team is still loaded and last I checked, you don't win or lose games with off the field stuff. Biggest win? Michigan State. Toughest loss? Michigan. Final record... 8-4 (5-3 Big Ten); Gator Bowl berth (please Coach Fickell, don't punch a Clemson Tiger!)
1 - Wisconsin Badgers: The arrival of a one year rental at QB solidifed this for me. UW plays most of the big boys and aside from a scary payback trip to C-bus, along with a venture to East Lansing, where MSU will be hungry for another win over the Badgers, the toughies are at home. Biggest win? Nebraska. Twice! Toughest loss? at Michigan State. Final record... 12-1 (7-1 Big Ten plus a win in the title game); Rose Bowl berth
Big Ten Title Game:
Nebraska versus Wisconsin in a great rematch of an excellent Big Ten opener. This thriller goes into OT with the Badgers prevailing.
Stay tuned for some preseason award predictions... in the meantime, chew on this and let me know what you think.