As we head into another off-season, there are many questions and doubts from just about every team in the conference. If your team did not make it to a bowl, things are not going so well. And if your team did make it to a bowl, it probably didn't go so well there either. Let's have a look, albeit a brief and off-the-cuff look, at each school and which direction they're headed for 2009.
Illinois 5-7 (3-5)
After a good 2007 season and a huge win in Columbus, hopes were high for 2008. Those hopes came crashing down after losses to Missouri, Penn State, Minnesota, Wisconsin, W. Michigan, tOSU and Northwestern. Odds are losing Juice Williams is not going to help things. 2009 is going to be tough. Expect to be in the bottom half of the conference.
Indiana 3-9 (1-7)
The worst team in the Big Ten. Bad year all around for Indiana, and you didn't even have to play tOSU. The win against Northwestern suprised everyone. But then the 4 losses to end the season suprised no one. Bad outlook for 2009.
Iowa 9-4 (5-3)
Surprise! You were the only Big Ten team to win a bowl game this year! Of course you got the luck of the draw playing South Carolina. But still, good job. You also beat Penn State and ended the season with 4 straight wins. I don't know if Shonn Greene is going to be better next year, but he is back. I expect Iowa to be a possible Big Ten contender next year.
Michigan 3-9 (2-6)
Oh dear. What a mess. I could do a huge post just on the state of Michigan football alone. But I'll summarize by saying that bigger and much better things are on the way for this team. Rodriguez does get a pass for inheriting basically nothing from the departing administration offensively. Defense was a joke with Shafer as the DC, but he's gone, and with him hopefully the array of zone coverages he used while he was here. 2009 should see a much improved squad that should be a bowl eligible team. We don't lose anyone on offense, except McGuffie who transferred. But don't expect to see Threet or Sheridan on the field much, or at all next year.
Michigan State 9-4 (6-2)
Well, Dantonio is doing things with MSU that the last couple coaches couldn't. He's making them believe they can win again. Of course, just as long they play average teams. If they line up against teams with a pulse, they lay down pretty easily. Losing Hoyer and losing Ringer are not going to help things for 2009. Expect Michigan State to return to old form next year with a .500 season.
Minnesota 7-6 (3-5)
Well, going from 1-11 in 2007 to 7-6 is a great jump forward. Too bad they were 7-1 at one point this year. 5 straight losses to end the year hurt this team going into their bowl game. Let's face it, we were all surprised to see the Gophers doing so well this year. But I'm going to go out on a limp and say that I expect Minnesota to be an upper level conference team next year. We won't play them, and I'm kind of happy about that. Gopher Nation is on the upswing.
Northwestern 9-4 (5-3)
Speaking of upswing. Hello Wildcats! You crazy academic college you! You have the benefit of playing, and winning games based on pure emotion. You can acually will yourselves to win. You held stong against a better opponent in Missouri. You went to overtime. So close. You do lose Sutton. 2009 will probably almost be just as good as 2008. But much like the rest of the middle of the Big Ten, when you play a team with a pulse, you just couldn't pull it off. The nice part of it is, you rarely played teams with pulses last year. I expect 2009's schedule is little different.
THE Ohio State University 10-3 (7-1)
Another season, another (couple) ebarrassing non-conference losses. Yes, they did get there, but is it better to get there and lose, or not get there at all? Honestly? But, what can I say...I'm so happy to see most of the defense, and hopefully Wells leaving Columbus. I'm so tired of losing to you it's rediculous. I'd say next year will be different, but I've said that before. Pryor might be the real deal, but right now he's got longer to go than most people thought before he's considered the Lebron James of college football. He has the weight of the world on his shoulders. And now all of the sudden, it seems that Tressel is taking heat for not being able to win "the big one" even though he has a BCS title and 5 straight wins against Michigan under his belt. Its not that tOSU hasn't won big games, it's just that they've struggled recently. And if that alone is enough to get a coach canned at tOSU, then it's a shame that things have gotten so bad in Columbus.
Penn State 11-2 (7-1)
What a year for Penn State. They finally knocked off Michigan and beat tOSU in Columbus. Too bad they stubbed their toe against Iowa. And also too bad they drew USC in the Rose Bowl. That was just not fair. Big Ten teams, most notably Michigan, have been getting throttled by the Trojans in the annual new years day beatdown for years now. Aside from JoPa getting 3 more years in the pressbox starring out the window, Penn State is on the right track. Royster is a star at RB and incoming QB Kevin Newsome is every bit as good (I think) as Clark is. At least he should be in a couple years. They might have a little hangover from the Rose Bowl loss next year, but I expect Penn State to contend for the conference title in 2009.
Purdue 4-8 (2-6)
Well, not quite the way Joe Tiller wanted to go out. But I expect things to be looking up for the Boilermakers. Maybe not next year, but soon. Expectations were high with Painter and Tardy in their senior years. Losing both of them will dramatically impact the Purdue passing attack. Another year in the bottom half of the conference is likely the case for 2009.
Wisconsin 7-6 (3-5)
No doubt, I thought Wisconsin was primed for a better year than this. They got to a bowl game, but anything less than a new years bowl for the Badgers has to be dissapointing. I really though PJ Hill was going to go out with a better season than what he had. He missed a few games early in the season, and never really hit his stride the rest of the way. The loss to Michigan was devastating, and it showed in their next 3 games against the Big Ten elite. 2009 hopefully will bring a renewed sense of determination after 2008 really never got off the ground. They have some good talent coming back on both sides of the ball, so expect Wisconsin to be a potential contender next year.
So...here's my VERY early 2009 prediction for order of finish for the Big Ten...
1. Penn State
3. Ohio State
9. Michigan State
|Date||Opponent||Time - TV||Result|
|9/3||Hawaii||12:00 - ESPN||63-3|
|9/10||UCF||12:00 - ABC||51-14|
|9/17||Colorado||3:30 - BTN||45-28|
|9/24||PENN ST.||3:30 - ABC||49-10|
|10/1||#8 WISCONSIN||3:30 - ABC||14-7|
|10/8||@ RUTGERS||7:00 - ESPN2||78-0|
|10/22||ILLINOIS (HC)||3:30 - BTN||41-8|
|10/29||@ MICHIGAN ST.||12:00 - ESPN||32-23|
|11/5||MARYLAND||3:30 - ESPN
|11/12||@ IOWA||8:00 - ABC
|11/19||INDIANA||3:30 - ESPN
|11/26||@ #2 OHIO ST.||12:00 - ABC
|12/30||#11 Florida St||8:00 - ESPN||-|
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