Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Big Ten thoughts

Last week I was watching the Big Ten Network, and the studio analysts were debating a simple question: is it good for the Big Ten if Ohio State wins it every year?

One guy said yes, it's good to have a team in the national hunt every year. The other guy said no, it's better if other teams rise up and get their shots on a regular basis.

You would think that my take on this would be aligned with the latter view, and for the most part that's true. But on the other hand, Iowa, along with Minnesota, is the Big Ten program most like ours. Our states' demographics are similar, we recruit many of the same areas out of state, our staff has many Iowa connections. If they win the Big Ten, they strengthen their position relative to Wisconsin. If Ohio State wins, so what? It's like the Yankees winning the AL East. They should win the conference every year anyway, as the lone big-time school in a talent-rich state.

Saturday's Iowa-Ohio State game was much better than I thought it would be, a great credit to Iowa. A Facebook friend of mine posted a link to a good story, and I found a similar one:

Everybody a loser in Ohio State's disgusting 'victory'

Thorny victory for OSU

Ohio State is a most uninspiring conference champion and BCS qualifier, only headed to Pasadena because of a dearth of elite Big Ten teams. Their very good defense has no stars. Their most celebrated player, Terrelle Pryor, is more hype than production -- he threw for 93 yards. OSU's saving grace is they won't be embarrassed in the national title game, and since the Pac-10 also stinks this year they have a good shot to win the Rose Bowl.

Here's how I see the conference with one week to go.

1. Iowa. If Ricky Stanzi's healthy, they win in Columbus. But give that Vandenberg kid credit, he showed some guts and poise. Wish Kirk Ferentz would have had the guts to go for the win at the end of regulation.

2. Ohio State. Yawn.

3. Wisconsin. It's crazy, but if Michigan somehow beats Ohio State we would win a share of the conference title. I'd take that in a second. As long as we're picking nits on every other team, though, do we have a win over a quality team this year? Fresno State may be the best team we've beaten.

4. Penn State. It's hard to differentiate between us and PSU, but why are they ranked ahead of us? We lost to the same teams, but they lost both at home, while one of ours was on the road. We have similarly ho-hum non-conference resumes. I suppose their defense is better than ours.

5. Northwestern. They lost to Syracuse and Minnesota early, but have gotten consistently better since. My respect for Pat Fitzgerald and his staff remains the same as it was before the season.

6. Michigan State. Hope they beat Penn State, but if they don't this season has to be considered a disappointment. It may be already. Their biggest win this year is over a terrible Michigan team.

7. Minnesota. Huge win over South Dakota State. Wonder where that one will rank on Tim Brewster's resume when he needs to dust it off in another year or two. Apparently the win made the Gophers bowl eligible, so we should hope they beat Iowa on Saturday so we can possibly finish ahead of the Hawks. Fat chance of that happening, though, Minnesota looks awful now.

8. Purdue. Can't finish. Marginally better in first year under Danny Hope.

9. Illinois. Fire Zook?

10. Indiana. Can't finish. Marginally better than they were last year, Bill Lynch should be safe.

11. Michigan. I love it when Michigan-Ohio State is a no-lose situation for people who hate both teams. If Ohio State wins, Michigan fails to qualify for a bowl. If Michigan wins, we have a chance to tie for the Big Ten title. Fat chance of that happening, though. Michigan's defense is so bad even Pryor should be able to move the ball against them.

The Big Ten stinks this year. But by my count, so does the Pac-10, Big East, Big 12 and ACC.


Tim said...

Not so sold on Iowa + Stanzi winning at Columbus. I've seen Stanzi throw five picks, but I haven't seen him look all that much better than Vandenburg played on Saturday. Stanzi's injury might have cost them the NU game, but I think the young QB was well prepared Saturday, has a stronger arm than Stanzi, got through his progressions faster than Stanzi, and got rid of the ball faster than Stanzi - all factors that are at a premium against a fast defense.

On the flip side, if OSU doesn't drop a sure INT late in the game or give up a 96 yard KO return - it's not even a close game.

To me, to give Iowa a "what-if" victory is a little bit Iowegian of a view.

Scott Tappa said...

Yeah, you're probably right. I guess Iowa was such an underdog I wanted to believe they were/are the better team, but Ohio State is probably the cream of a mediocre crop.