Monday, July 21, 2008

Return game

How much does experience matter in college sports? Tons, frankly. The difference between an 18-year-old boy and a 22-year-old man is huge, especially in a sport like football with such an emphasis on strength.

Without giving it too much thought, I imagined that most teams return roughly half to two-thirds of its starters. It appears that, this year at least, that’s on the low end. According to Athlon, here are the Big Ten’s returning starters in 2008.

Ohio State: 18
Minnesota: 17
Penn State: 17
Wisconsin: 17
Michigan State: 16
Iowa: 15
Northwestern: 15
Indiana: 14
Purdue: 13
Illinois: 13
Michigan: 12

Like all numbers, these can be deceiving. Minnesota returns 17 starters who contributed to one win in 2007. Michigan will have 10 new starters, but odds are they were all Parade All-Americans. We return 17 starters, but none of them are quarterbacks, which puts a big question mark by the Badgers’ title hopes.

Next year, that number for Wisconsin might come in at around 10, which could make for a bumpy 2009.

Since the numbers were readily available, I also ranked the Big Ten by returning letterwinners.

Ohio State: 52
Iowa: 52
Indiana: 51
Wisconsin: 48
Northwestern: 47
Michigan: 45
Illinois: 44
Minnesota: 43
Purdue: 41
Michigan State: 37
Penn State: 35

Of course, letters won are even more widely subjective than who would be considered a returning starter. If you covered a kickoff against Florida International, you probably earned a letter, same as your all-conference teammate.

It is interesting, though, that Penn State returns 17 starters but just 35 letterwinners. Guess that mean JoePa has a short bench. Or he's stingier than LeRoy Young in giving out letters.