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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

College Football: Big 10 Preview

Wild on Sports
College Football: Big 10 Preview
Ohio State and ...
By Wild on Sports Analyst Bryan Ridall

For the past 20 years, Big 10 football has had plenty of peaks, including Michigan and Ohio State winning National Championships, and plenty of lows, which include the Penn State and Ohio State scandals. This year, however, could be the worst football year ever for the Big 10, with only Ohio State even being considered as a National Championship contender. With Maryland and Rutgers joining the conference next year, the current Big 10 teams need to impress on the football field, or this year will sound the same as the last few.

For those of you who want to argue that Ohio State should have been in the National Championship game and would have won it, you are wrong. Ohio State’s out-of-conference schedule was pathetic, like it is every year, and because the Big 10 was awful, Ohio State’s record made it look like they were a better team than they were. Now that the self-imposed sanctions have expired, Ohio State will be a team talked about for a national title, but the records of teams from other divisions will dictate whether or not the Buckeyes will play in the last BCS National Championship game. In Urban Meyer’s second year, the Buckeyes will lean again on Braxton Miller, a Heisman candidate for much of last year, to lead them at quarterback. Miller is an undersized dual-threat quarterback, but proved he can lead the team with both his legs and arm, and is poised for another big season, and possibly another run at the Heisman. Ohio State’s spread offense is filled with athletes at the receiver and running back positions, while still having a big offensive line, long the staple of Big 10 teams. Ohio State’s defense will be even better in Meyer’s second year, and is also filled with a ton of speed allowing their linemen and linebackers to disrupt plays with a very veteran and opportunistic secondary behind them. Ohio State’s schedule again is incredibly weak, with only 1 non-conference game away from home, and only two AP-ranked teams on their schedule. If Ohio State isn’t undefeated going into their late season matchup with rival Michigan, the season should be considered an extreme failure because of the weakness of the Buckeyes’ schedule as well as the fact they won’t play Nebraska or Michigan State, two of the Big 10’s better teams.

The real question surrounding the Big 10 is who else will be competitive toward the end of the year and into Bowl Season. Teams like Michigan, Michigan State, and Wisconsin have all been strong in the past, but all have major questions surrounding them moving forward. Michigan has lost QB Denard Robinson, the electric playmaker that kept defensive coordinators awake at night. Replacing him will be receiver-converted-quarterback Devon Gardner, who has a big body and big arm and is capable of leading Michigan to a conference title if surrounded by the right talent. State lost starting running back Leveon Bell, and will have to replace his production in order for their offense to be productive. State will have a competition to determine their starting quarterback, between last year’s starter Andrew Maxwell and Connor Cook, who may have the inside track because he led the team to victory against TCU in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. Wisconsin is in an interesting position because of the coaching change that occurred in the offseason, with coach Brett Bielma leaving for Arkansas, and Wisconsin hiring Gary Anderson. Wisconsin also lost RB Montee Ball who set the NCAA record for rushing touchdowns as well as total touchdowns in a career, and will need to find someone to take his place, since Anderson has a power-running mentality to his offense.

Believe it or not Nebraska and Northwestern may be the teams with the best opportunity to take the Big 10 from Ohio State. With the Legends and Leaders divisions still intact for one more year, Nebraska would only get the opportunity to play Ohio State in the Big 10 Championship game. Quarterback Taylor Martinez is entering his senior year and has shown flashes of greatness, but needs to put together a consistent season if he wants to be considered as an NFL prospect. Bo Pellini is a talented coach who needs to identify talent to put around Martinez as well as change the offensive schemes to allow TMart to use his legs (this is what happens when he does http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FaciycdzhXo). Northwestern might be the most unique team in the Big 10 because of their implementation of a classic two-quarterback system since Dan Persa graduated. Both Christian Siemian and Kain Colter split playing time last year, and coach Pat Fitzgerald has shown no sign of opting for one over the other. Northwestern’s program has been one on the rise, and with the talent of their roster as well as their opportunity against the Big 10’s best, Northwestern could be the biggest surprise in both the Big 10 and college football.

The Big 10 needs to have a strong year this year or else risk holding their place as one of the punching bags of college football and its pundits. In order for any Big 10 team to be considered for the national championship game, they will need to go undefeated, as well as get help from other teams suffering bad losses. Unless two teams can have impressive seasons, it is likely that only the Big 10 champion will be in a BCS bowl game in 2014.


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