Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Final Big Ten thoughts

I've said it several times this year, but to reiterate: the Big Ten was not good this year. The best team is unimaginative and has lots of holes. The worst team is the winningest program of all time. Lots of mediocrity in the middle. Hopefully Big Ten football can get back on track, like basketball has.

1. Ohio State. Good team. If I were a Buckeye fan (and thank goodness I'm not, couldn't look in the mirror), I would be incredibly frustrated with the offense. Yes, Jim Tressel's uber-conservative philosophy wins games and such, but they don't beat elite teams that way. They probably have the talent to do so, but not the temperament. If I'm Terrelle Pryor, I watched that Oregon-Arizona game Saturday night, saw what Jeremiah Masoli was doing in that offense, and kicking myself for casting my lot with the modern day Woody Hayes.

2. Iowa. Only scoring 12 points at home against Minnesota? Ugh. Nasty defense, though. Let's hope Kirk Ferentz jumps to Notre Dame or the NFL, he has the Hawkeyes rolling again.

3. Penn State. Saturday showed that they are clearly better than Wisconsin, because of their defense, best in the league in points allowed. Offense led the league in third down conversion perentage. Also, they won in Evanston.

4. Wisconsin. Us or Northwestern in this spot? I think we beat them by two touchdowns in Madison, one on a neutral field. We didn't beat a team that ended with a winning conference record this year. I like that we led the conference in time of possession again.

5. Northwestern. They do it with smoke and mirrors. If they jump us in the bowl selection process, it would not be undeserved.

6. Michigan State. The conference's most disappointing team. What happened? They ranked just behind Minnesota in penalties this year, shades of the Same Old Spartans. Greg Jones is the best player in the conference.

7. Purdue. I feel bad that they didn't qualify for a bowl. Their game at Camp Randall aside, they were much improved this year, but still a long way from contending for a conference title.

8. Minnesota. This is progress? In three years under Tim Brewster they've gone 1-11, 7-6 and are now 6-6 with the chance for a bowl win looking slim, whoever they play. They lose Eric Decker, and their offense was awful without him. Like Rich Rodriguez is doing at Michigan, Brew will probably make thinly veiled references to poor recruiting by his predecessor, but Glen Mason was winning consistently until he was fired. Here's what would trouble me: the Gophers were the most penalized team in the conference this year, and they sure don't have enough talent to overcome that. That's a reflection on the coaching, as it was on UW in 2008.

9. Illinois. You could say they were the most disappointing team in the conference because of all the talent on that roster, but this is what you expect from a Ron Zook team.

10. Indiana. I bet they make a bowl game next year. Like Purdue, they're not far from six or seven wins. But while their passing game is nice, their defense may be even worse next year, and it was pretty bad this year.

11. Michigan. Watched the second half of the Ohio State game Saturday, and the announcers were talking about how RichRod had shared with them that Tate Forcier was struggling academically, and discussed how Forcier's brothers had both transferred. Forcier's play declined this season, but aside from Brandon Graham, he was the lone bright spot for Michigan this season. If he leaves, they start all over again at quarterback again, which means they'll struggle again. Rodriguez talks about underperforming in February, but per Rivals, their recruiting classes have ranked (nationally) eighth in 2009, 10th in 2008, 12th in 2007, 13th in 2006, sixth in 2005. Ohio State is the only Big Ten program that has been comparable. It's coaching, dude.

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