Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Conference Blast: Big Ten (but really twelve) Legends Division

Very professional.

Nebraska - I like the Huskers to roll this division in 2011. I do think they'll drop their first B10 game against cross-division for Wisconsin, but beyond that, they'll be favored across the board. Ohio State is not the threat they were before Tressell-gate, but I do think NU could drop either the late season game at PSU or the Friday after Thanksgiving match-up with Iowa. Call it the Pelini factor. Still, if they do end up with two conference losses, it'll still be enough to get to Indy and the B10CG.

Michigan State - Man am I hesitant to call this. On one hand, I feel like Sparty can build on last year's success and should be able to compete for the division; Cousins is a great game manager and returns alongside 2010's leading rusher. However, I cannot help but recall the trick plays and lucky breaks of 2010 or the heinous Alabama beat-down in the Cap.1 Bowl. As I was going through the schedules making picks, I realized that the Spartans are fairly even with Iowa and a strong Northwestern team next season. That leaves me with a 3-way traffic jam at the two-spot in this division and I see all three teams having 3 conference losses. It will be a dip for MSU, but with the schedule, I think that's fair.

Had to include this:

Iowa - Like I said, I see a 3-way tie for the second spot in this division. I think Iowa will lose to Michigan State, but beat Northwestern. I also think they'll lose away games at Penn State and, most likely, Nebraska (but something tells me they could catch the Huskers slipping). If the Hawkeyes were returning a little more talent, I'd be more likely to pick them outright in the 2-spot. But, with only nine starters back - 4 on D - this is more of a stability choice than any real vote of confidence in the team itself.

Northwestern - If recruiting to Evanston were easier, this would be the Wildcats year. As it stands, Northwestern will be competitive, maybe even better than the last two seasons, and with a surprise win or two, could claim the 2-spot outright. I do see b2b losses at Iowa and hosting Penn State, as well as at Nebraska later. I have gone out on a limb and called for an upset win over Michigan State in the season finale, but that would still leave them with three losses.

Michigan - Brady Hoke's first season will be a challenging one. He does have a realtively full cupboard, but the Wolverines will once again be implementing new systems. I do stand behind Denard Robinson as the truth, but 'Shoelace' will not be enough to win every game. In fact, I see5 likely conference losses, including a season-ending rivalry loss to Ohio State.

Minnesota - Jerry Kill is another first year coach, but he's got a lot more work ahead of him than Hoke does. The defense could be much improved with 8 returning starters, but the offense will be new. I think the Gophers could surprise a team or two, but the schedule's not very forgiving overall. I think they'll struggle to get past one or two conference wins.

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