Hacks College Football guru Chach Wirtz has been kind enough to offer his Big-11 football preview. A little early, you ask? Never.
Yes, it’s getting to be that time again folks. In less than three months, the college pig (the only pig that matters) starts flyin’. Last year, with starting QB’s returning on practically every team, the Big 10 blew its collective wad with 7 bowl teams. Unfortunately, all but Wisconsin and PSU jizzed all over themselves as the Big 11 finished 2-5 in their bowl games. The OSU and Michigan bowl games were especially messy affairs. The 2007 season promises to be one filled with surprises. Big holes exist at QB for several traditional Big 11 powers, both Michigan and OSU have been gutted by the NFL draft, and thanks to draconian measures meted out by the walking corpse Joe Paterno, PSU players will be more concerned with post game cleanup at Happy Valley than the actual game itself (click here if you haven’t heard). With that, let’s take a quick early look at the 2007 Big 11 (projected conference record in parenthesis).
1) Wisconsin (7-1). Our D’s a bitch and Bielema is a god. Is there anything else to say? Oh yeah, we need a QB. I’m guessing Ty Donovan to gets the call first but Allan Evridge finishes out the year. I don’t care who gets it, just no musical QB’s please. I have concerns about every offensive position other than RB and TE. We need WR’s to step up. I’m not “down” with Swan or Hubbard. And if our O-line plays like they did against Arkansas, we are in much more trouble than most people think (good thing they don’t have to go against SEC speed every week, HA!). Although we have to replace our brains at safety (Stelly will be missed), I’m confident Bielema will find someone to fill the void (Time to step up Shane Carter). If this team doesn’t meet lofty expectations, it will be because of the offense.
Guaranteed loss: Illinois. Guaranteed win: Michigan.
2) Michigan (6-2). Does any team consistently do less with more than Michigan? “Go Blue, it’s a Saturday tradition” should be replaced with “Losing to teams we should never lose to because we’ve got 5 star players at every position, it’s a Saturday tradition.” Seriously, lock Carr up for another 10 years, the whole conference will cheer. If they ever get a decent coach, they’d be…. well…Ohio State. The good news for Mythigan fans is that the big 3 on offense look to return for yet another season. Henne and Hart are working hard on becoming those players that seem like they spent a decade playing college football. However, enthusiasm for the offense should be tempered somewhat if pending disciplinary actions for big time WR Adrian Arrington results in his removal from the team. There’s also the fact that Michigan’s Oline seems to get beat like a rented mule in every big game. Defensively, UM will be in rebuilding mode as only four starters return from last season.
Guaranteed loss: Wisconsin. Guaranteed win: Ohio State.
3) WE ARE........Penn St. (6-2). If their offense ever comes out swinging like Scirrotto and Co., Penn St. would win the Big 11, no contest. Alas, it appears to be the same ol’ Penn St. squad. Nails on D’, governor set at 25 mph on O’. Which is too bad for PSU fans, as the team has a plethora of talent at the skill positions. It starts and ends with the QB. Perhaps this is the year Morelli puts it together. Perhaps this is the year I nail (insert hottest it-girl of the moment). Aside from QB play, the key to PSU in 2007 will be the lines. Tackle Levi Brown is in the “league” and PSU has holes at the guard position as well. Additionally, PSU lost three starters on the D-line. However, PSU has recruited well recently and should be able to mitigate most of those losses, especially on the D-line.
Guaranteed loss: Michigan. Guaranteed win: Iowa.
4) I-O…WAAAAA! (5-3). Breaking in a new QB (either Jake Christianson or Arvell Nelson), which typically doesn’t bode well record wise. However, provided either one actually shows improvement over the course of the year, they’ll already have accomplished more than Drew Tate, who was worse as a senior than he was as a sophomore. Fortunately for the young QB’s, Iowa’s schedule has two glaring omissions, no OSU or Michigan. Additionally, Iowa returns some salty players on the defensive side of the ball, particularly on the DL. It won’t be enough to contend for Big 10 supremacy, but it will get them back in 8 to 9 win territory. Plus, I just love the Steelers uni’s they sport (Did I just say I liked a team because of its uniforms? Take my man card away).
I got a trifecta on the Guaranteed loss(es): Wisconsin, PSU and Purdue. Guaranteed win: Illinois
5) Purdon’t (5-3). Let me be up front about Purdue. I really don’t know jack about this team, other than I thought Painter looked pretty decent at QB last year. And traditionally, I’ve hated this team, I mean HATED this team. Actually, I believe the correct verb is loathe. Maybe it was Mushburger and his “Cool Brees” crap, maybe it’s that lame “boiler up” chant, and PROBABLY it’s the “Summer’s Eve” offense they run. So the following is rather shocking for me to say, but I think Purdue could be a dark horse for the Big 11 championship. Why you say? Well, apparently, they are returning 18 starters, nine on each side of the ball. Hmmm. Returning starting QB, returning 81% of their starters from a team that went 5-3 in the Big 11 last year, sounds like a pretty good squad. Alas, it is not meant to be. Their schedule is brutal and their kicker sucks. They play Notre Dame, Ohio St. & Michigan consecutively……not good. Guaranteed loss: Penn St. Guaranteed win: Iowa.
6) Ohio St. (4-4). I know that Ohio St. “reloads”, but it wasn’t that long ago that “reloading” resulted in a 4-4 season. In fact, it was 2004. The Buckeyes simply lose too much, particularly on offense, to contend in this watered down Big 11. Brand spanking new QB with no game experience is typically not the stuff of Big 11 contenders, especially when paired with young receivers. Their D will keep them in games, just long enough for the offense to break their hearts. Sorry sweater vest, not this year. You need a couple of your borderline academic casualty recruiting classes to season a bit (majoring in Katzenmoyer Studies makes Communications look like Physics). Check back in ’08 or ’09 for another monster Bucknut squad.
Guaranteed loss: Michigan. Guaranteed win: Illinois.
7) Illinois. (4-4). The “Juice” is loose (and running down the inner thigh of a hot Illini coed)! Illinois football has officially been “aroused”. Led by the electric Juice Williams, Illinois is poised to take a giant leap back towards respectability in the Big 11. Give a mobile QB such as Williams a big, fast target like Arrelious Benn (who will be billed as the best receiver in the Big 11 this time next year) while returning 4/5ths of the starters on the O-line and you have the potential for a very potent offense. Oh, did I mention that 9 starters return on D as well? This team is young and hungry. Zooker the recruiter will keep stocking the shelves with grade A talent. Zooker the coach just needs to subscribe to the Mack Brown style of “coaching”.
I’ve got a daily double on the Guaranteed loss(es): PSU & Iowa. Guaranteed win: Wisconsin
8) Indiana. (3-5). Indiana was a surprisingly tough out last year. The team embodied the fighting spirit of their head coach and was banging on the door of bowl eligibility late last year. This is the year they take the next, albeit baby step. They return 8 starters on both sides of the ball including potential All Big 11 WR James Hardy. Apparently Indiana schedule makers were copying off of their classmates from Iowa, as neither Michigan nor OSU shows up on the 2007 schedule. Absent those guaranteed losses, Indiana should be able to match last years Big 10 win total and land a Bowl bid for the first time since 1993.
Guaranteed loss: Purdue. Guaranteed win: Illinois
9) Northwestern. (3-5). After a tough opening set, second year head coach Pat Fitzgerald, who was stoning runningbacks in the hole when we were all in college, looks to borrow a little Gary Barnett magic and morph his band of Tri Lams into Alpha Beta butt kicking studs. He’ll need to as the Tri Lams, err Wildcats start off the Big 11 season with back to back games against Ohio St. and Michigan. Even though the uber geeks return 15 starters, including stud RB Tyrell Sutton, I don’t foresee many Big 11 coaches uttering the infamous Coach Harris line: “You just got your asses whipped by a bunch of goddamn nerds!” I’m adding 1 conference win to the total from last year for returning experience and because the Big 11 is so wide open (which is a kind way of saying “average”).
Guaranteed loss: Purdue. Guaranteed win: Indiana.
10) Michigan St. (1-7). I’m sure MSU fans thought last year was as bad as it can get. I mean, seriously, even for Sparty, the choke job against Notre Dame was legendary. I would love to know how much Drew Stanton made on that game. Nevertheless, 2007 promises more beatings for “Sparty Pride”. New head coach Mark DAntonio (who turned Cincinnati into a salty little program) will be trotting out one of the least experienced teams in the Big 10. Additionally, Michigan State has a brutal Big 10 schedule with games against Wisconsin, Iowa, Ohio St, Michigan and Penn St. Throw in a game against Notre Dame and you have the perfect recipe for a young team quitting on its first year coach. But, what doesn’t kill ya only makes you stronger. I think the future looks pretty bright for Sparty. DAntonio is a good coach (He was the DC on the 2002 OSU Championship team) and a very good recruiter.
Guaranteed loss: (pick a team, any team, except for Northwestern). Guaranteed win: Northwestern
11) Minnesota (0-8). The Glen Mason years are over. Say what you want about him, but he made Minnesota consistently average for most of his 9 seasons there, which was light years better than anything the Goofs had seen in a long time. In fact, his career winning percentage was .535. You have to go all the way back to the George Hauser years of 1942-1944 to find a more successful Minnesota coach. In 2007, first year head coach Tim Brewster takes the reigns. He’s surrounded by experience on defense (although given the Texas Tech game I don’t think that counts for much) and a solid ground game. However, Brian Cupito, a 3 year starter at QB, stud TE Matt Speath, and their leading receiver Logan Payne all must be replaced. That’s a lot of offense to lose, especially when the only winnable games on the Big 11 slate appear to be Northwestern and Indiana. There’s a lot of excitement being generated in the Twin Cities by new coach Tim Brewster. I think the air gets let out of that balloon real quick. How’s that Cinderella song go? Don’t know what ya got, till it’s gone………How about a little binary for the Guaranteed win: 0. Guaranteed loss(es): 11
There you have it folks. Your 2007 Big 11 season. Let the BS media spin begin “It’s the toughest conference in the nation; the teams just beat up on each other!”