Way-too-early conference predictions: Big Ten
Since I already did power rankings for the Big Ten if Notre Dame, Rutgers, Missouri and Nebraska were to join the conference immediately, it feels like I've already done this.
But power rankings and predictions are totally different. While I like the Buckeyes' chances of running the table and reaching the BCS Championship, I don't see it happening.
Here's a way too early look at the Big Ten for 2010.
1. Ohio State (11-1, 7-1)
This is officially Terrelle Pryor's team and he proved in last year's Rose Bowl that he lift up the Buckeyes to the promised land. It's very likely OSU will go 12-0, but I'm predicting a lackluster performance at Iowa and its lone loss in the conference. The Buckeyes also have one of the top three defensive units in the league.
2. Wisconsin (10-2, 6-2)
If the Badgers finish second Bret Bielema will probably win Coach of the Year honors, denying Tressel the honor once again. Wisconsin could win the conference because of its ability to control the ball with RB John Clay and not turn it over with QB Scott Tolzien. Wisconsin probably won't win it because the defense has a few too many holes.
3. Penn State (9-3, 6-2)
If the Nittany Lions had a proven QB they could easily be considered a favorite, but that will probably cost them two conference games. It'll also be interesting to see how they respond after playing at Alabama in the second game of the season.
4. Iowa (9-3, 6-2)
This is the tough one. The Hawkeyes were so close to winning it all last year until injuries cost them a legitimate shot at Ohio State. I'm predicting an Iowa win over Ohio State, but the Kirk Ferentz' team will finally lose to Penn State. Iowa QB Ricky Stanzi is gutsy and could lead them to another run at the title. Iowa's defense could also be the best in the league.
5. Michigan State (9-3, 5-3)
I actually like the Spartans as the surprise team in the Big Ten. But history tells me to avoid picking them too high. Coach Mark Dantonio is a good coach and will probably lead them to an upset somewhere. With QB Kirk Cousins back the offense is potent, but the defensive secondary is a weak spot and could get exposed early.
6. Northwestern (8-4, 4-4)
Dan Persa has the difficult task of replacing Mike Kafka at QB, but he does fit the Wildcats spread offense well. Northwestern is also a team that causes some of the upper echelon teams in the conference nightmares. So don't be surprised when the Wildcats upset one of them.
7. Purdue (7-5, 4-4)
The good news is Purdue will return to a bowl game in 2010. The bad news is the Boilermakers may turn the QB duties over to Miami-castoff Robert Marve. RB Ralph Bolden could take some pressure off Marve, who can be a bit inconsistent.
8. Michigan (4-8, 2-6)
Is it possible the Wolverines will have a third-consecutive losing season under Rich Rodriguez? It's very likely. Michigan has added a number of athletic players since RichRod took over, but something just isn't right in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines do return QB Tate Forcier, but he may lose the starting job to Denard Robinson, who has been compared to Pat White. Losing to Ohio State again won't be easy to take either.
9. Minnesota (4-8, 1-7)
The Gophers have one of the Big Ten's worst offenses, and probably not enough on defense to salvage this season. Tim Brewster could also be on the hot seat if 2010 unravels this way.
10. Illinois (3-9, 1-7)
It's hard to believe the Illini represented the conference in the Rose just three years ago. Illinois fans weren't happy when Ron Zook was given one more season. How do you think they'll feel around mid-October? However, by then he may be gone.
11. Indiana (4-8, 0-8)
The Hoosiers are getting better under Bill Lynch, right? Well the non-conference schedule should help this season and if Indiana can ride the confidence from those wins who knows. The Hoosiers have some talent at receiver and QB Ben Chappell has some skills. Unfortunately, Indiana will be lucky to win a conference game.