2011 Big Ten Preview - Thoughts on the Big 10
Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez
Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez
Posted Jul 29, 2011

Preview 2011 - Thoughts from the CFNers on the 2011 Big Ten season

Preview 2011

Thoughts on the Big Ten

- 2011 Illinois Preview | 2011 Indiana Preview | 2011 Ohio State Preview
- 2011 Penn State Preview | 2011 Purdue Preview | 2011 Wisconsin Preview

- 2011 Iowa Preview | 2011 Michigan Preview | 2011 Michigan State Preview
- 2011 Minnesota Preview | 2011 Nebraska Preview | 2011 Northwestern Preview

- 2011 Big Ten Preview
- CFN Thoughts on the Big Ten | 2011 Big Ten Unit Rankings
- 2011 CFN All-Big Ten Team & Top 30 Players | 2011 Big Ten Schedules & Picks
- 2011 Big Ten Leaders Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish
- 2011 Big Ten Legends Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish
- 2011 Big Ten Media Days - Coaches Quotes | 2010 Big Ten Preview

E-mail Pete Fiutak
Follow Us ... http://twitter.com/ColFootballNews

- I didn't vote for Nebraska to join my Big Ten. Nebraska should be playing Oklahoma on Thanksgiving weekend with fans throwing oranges on the field after every big score. I want my Big 8 back.

- I'm joking. In terms of fan interest, Nebraska vs. Iowa vs. Minnesota should grow into a tremendous regional series in the Legends.

- Calling your divisions the Leaders and Legends is like naming your kid Enis or Dick. If the other kids make fun of them, that's on you.

- Not a chance. Right now, without looking, list the six teams in each division. Not … a … chance.

- There's no inside info on this or anything, but watch out for Missouri and Rutgers to join the Big Ten by 2014. Mizzou can't get out of the Big 12 Presented by Texas fast enough, and the Big Ten, sorry, the BTN, is salivating over the idea of selling to advertisers on the New York/New Jersey markets.

- Urban Meyer will be the next head coach at Penn State. Ohio State might seem like the better fit, but Joe Paterno loves Meyer.

- The police blotter at Florida under Meyer's reign … nothing to see here.

- Speaking of sweeping things under the rug, it's impressive how fast the world blew off the Iowa too-hard workout thing.

- I'll be stunned if Brady Hoke doesn't do special things at Michigan.

- Call it women's intuition, or the burrito I had for dinner, but I have this Ron Zook-put-together-2006-Florida feeling that Rich Rodriguez will soon get some semblance of credit for the success Hoke is about to have.

- Luke Fickell doesn't get a free pass. If the NCAA is saying that the ills of Ohio State were cured with the departure of Jim Tressel and the banishment of Terrelle Pryor, then it's business as usual and there's no grace period. The Buckeyes still have more talent than anyone in the conference, and anything less than a Big Ten title has to be seen as a failure.

- Why do the Ohio State players get to keep their gifts, hardware, and t-shirts from a Sugar Bowl they supposedly didn't win? Either you vacated the win or you didn't. It's not supposed to be easy.

- Can the OSU players sell or trade their Sugar Bowl gear now that the win never happened?

- There's a lot of buzz and a ton of hope around the healthy return of Purdue running back Ralph Bolden. It would be a great story if he gets back to form, but the guy only had two really good games at the beginning of 2009, and one was against a horrible Toledo defense.

- The Big Ten might have the label of being a rushing conference, but six teams finished in the top 29 in America in passing efficiency. Four teams finished in the top 14 in rushing.

- Fine, I'll be the one who says it; the whole Russell Wilson thing is weird. I get the rule and I get the loophole, but if one player can be a free agent, then all players should be free agents.

- Watch out for Wisconsin linebacker Chris Borland. He's going to be the defensive star who makes up for the loss of J.J. Watt on the defensive front seven.

- The conference championship is a bad thing. It was bad for the other conferences and it'll be bad for the Big Ten. Oh sure, gobs and gobs of money will be made, but leagues are better when everyone plays everyone.

- Commissioner Jim Delany gave all the coaches a talking to about not doing anything to embarrass the conference. But they can ask for an increased stipend for the players.

By Richard Cirminiello

You can never go wrong with geographic labels for league divisions. East, West. North, South. Legends and Leaders? Seven months later, I'm still scratching my head over those designations.

Was it really just a couple of years ago that the Nebraska D was in disarray? The Pelini brothers continue to do a phenomenal job with the Blackshirts, once again molding a group that's championship-caliber.

No single Big Ten player is more valuable than Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez. Electrifying, yet injury-prone in his first season, he's the difference between the Huskers being a Legends Division contender and a darkhorse national championship contender.

By this time next year, it's better than 50-50 that Luke Fickell is still the head coach at Ohio State. The bottom won't fall out in Columbus, as many are expecting, which might be enough to keep the program from initiating an exhaustive, paparazzi-fueled coaching search.

The only concern with Wisconsin's signing of QB Russell Wilson is that it happened so darn late. He's a potential difference-maker and a savvy student of the game, but he has little time to digest his surroundings, an unfamiliar offense and an entirely new set of opponents.

Michigan is shifting gears on offense, which is fine, but the staff will be nuts if it can't properly employ the athletic ability of QB Denard Robinson. For transformational players with his unique skills, you massage the ideology for the next two seasons.

With each passing day, Brady Hoke looks like a terrific hire for Michigan. His personality fits the school's, and his recruiting has been terrific. And don't forget that this is still the guy who helped turned Ball State and San Diego State into a winner.

Michigan State's Kirk Cousins is underrated by just about everyone except his coaches and NFL scouts. The senior will be surrounded by some of the league's best skill position talent, with which he'll team up to improve his draft grade.

While most eyes will be on the battle between quarterbacks Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin, it's the two lines that'll determine Penn State's fate. The Lions crave salary run years from their seniors, Quinn Barham and Johnnie Troutman on offense, and Devon Still and Jack Crawford on D.

My money is on Marcus Coker's 219-yard Insight Bowl effort turning out to be a harbinger of things to come. The sophomore is gearing up to become the next big-time back to play for Iowa.

Is Purdue about to catch the rest of the league off guard this season? Even without Ryan Kerrigan, there's a lot of returning talent D, and the offensive backfield will be in far better shape than in 2010.

Time is all Jerry Kill needs to turn things around at Minnesota. The coach has shown a penchant for winning no matter where he puts down stakes.

By Matt Zemek

Russell Wilson this, Russell Wilson that. Football fans, let's realize that Russell Wilson repeatedly failed to win a very winnable ACC Atlantic Division over the past few years, committing untimely mistakes and failing to get North Carolina State over the hump. The Tom O'Brien division title drought continued under Wilson, an undeniably dazzling talent who does not make great decisions in the heat of competition. If Wilson does become a more disciplined game manager, yes, Wisconsin's in for a big year, but if this year's Russell Wilson is last year's Russell Wilson, the Badgers will lose three games and fail to claim the Big Ten title. The key point to realize is that Wisconsin's fate depends not on what Wilson will do, but on what Wilson will avoid. Sorry to go all "NFL" on you, but in Wilson's case, it really is true: The lad needs to make fewer mistakes; he doesn't need to add to the highlight reel.

Here's the two-pronged case against Michigan State: 1) Alabama in Orlando. BOOM! EXPOSED! 2) Northwestern won't be dumb enough to get fooled on a fourth-and-11 fake punt MIDWAY THROUGH THE FOURTH QUARTER (still can't believe how Northwestern-educated men could snooze at the wheel like that) for the second straight season.

Yes, Michigan State got some breaks last year, but let's acknowledge that Sparty hasn't typically turned good fortune into top-shelf results. Last year, Michigan State should have been in the Rose Bowl (thank you, Jim Delany, for your worship of the BCS, over and against Mike Slive and much of the college football world; thank you, Big Ten member coaches, just as shortsighted as the coaches in the Big 12…). The loss to Alabama in the Capital One Bowl was embarrassing, but it was also the product of a rotten situation. The team had to have been disappointed by a BCS bowl snub. Moreover, Alabama had steam coming out of its ears after choking against Auburn in the Iron Bowl.

The game did not set up well for Sparty at all. While acknowledging that there are multiple reasons to view 2010 as an aberrational season in East Lansing, one can still counter with the claim that this program's mindset is changing. The fact that Kirk Cousins (give me him over Russell Wilson any day of the week) is back for one more season should lend stability and ballast not just to MSU's offense, but to the Spartans' locker room. If this team doesn't have to depend on faked kicks to win two games and can establish more of an advantage heading into the final seven minutes of each game, it should produce another double-digit-win season and validate the progress made last year. The sense here is that Mark Dantonio is changing the subculture at Michigan State, but that can't be an affirmed truth unless or until 2011 proves as much.

Tell me: If you were Taylor Martinez, would you be a confident quarterback right now? If you were Taylor Martinez, would you enjoy playing for the sometimes-unhinged Bo Pelini, who should shut his mouth a lot more often, entrust his offense to a superstar coordinator, and focus on doing what he does best (coach a defense)? When Steve Spurrier chewed out a quarterback at Florida, he did so from a position of knowledge and mastery – he was the man calling the shots on offense, a man who knew what he was doing.

If Bo Pelini screams and rages at members of his defense, that's fine (within reasonable bounds, of course) – Pelini knows how to teach that part of the sport. Berating a young quarterback, though, shows a profound lack of wisdom; think of how Buddy Ryan – in his NFL coaching stops – undermined the confidence of his quarterbacks. It's no surprise that in his three playoff games as an NFL head coach, Ryan's offenses generated an average of 8.3 points. Bringing the focus back to Nebraska, then, until Pelini gains that extra degree of understanding (which Ryan never had the humility to seek), Nebraska won't win conference championships. The Huskers will annually contend, but they won't take the final step. Everyone, not just the defense, needs to own complete confidence and trust – in their own selves, in each other, and in the coaching staff. Martinez will not be the fully confident player he needs to be to lead Nebraska to the Big Ten title this year. You can thank Pelini for that.

Urban Meyer's three head coaching stops: Bowling Green (MAC), Utah (Mountain West), Florida (BCS conference / brand-name program). Brady Hoke's three head coaching stops: Ball State (MAC), San Diego State (Mountain West), Michigan (BCS conference / brand-name program). Both men became known for turning around programs in two years. Michigan, this year won't be a breakthrough year, but the coming decade is yours to take in the Big Ten.

A few words were said above about Michigan State's 2010 season being an aberration. We'll know more about that come December. One thing that can be said with total confidence right now: The 2007 Illinois football season most definitely was an aberration. Your move, Zooker.

Iowa has never made the Rose Bowl under Kirk Ferentz. To be fair, Iowa should have made the Rose Bowl in 2002. Still…

I'd say something about Ohio State's 2011 prospects, but since the NCAA thinks that a lack of institutional control did not exist in Columbus – this, after the very same NCAA allowed OSU Athletic Director Gene Smith to chair the Division I Men's Basketball Committee and hand the championship trophy to Jim Calhoun in Houston – I think I'll exhibit a lack of laughter control in response. Sorry, I can't write any more words.

Wisconsin will win the Big Ten, with Michigan State and Nebraska making valiant charges at the flag. Badgers over the Spartans in the first Big Ten Championship Game.

By Barrett Sallee
Follow me on Twitter: @BarrettSallee

- Yes, Russell Wilson makes THAT much of a difference for Wisconsin. His presences vaults the Badgers to legitimate national title contention.

- Ohio State will struggle this season. Karma has to count for something.

- Nebraska will come in and immediately vault itself to one of the leaders - er, legends - in the Big Ten. Taylor Martinez has the speed and ability to go neck-and-neck with Michigan's Denard Robinson as the conference's most exciting player.

- While Nebraska will be the odds on favorite to win the Legends division, don't sleep on Michigan. The offseason drama in Columbus has re-energized the Ann Arbor fan base, and Brady Hoke has the staff and talent in place to contend for a conference title.

- Ron Zook will not be the head coach at Illinois by the time we hit November.

By Russ Mitchell
Follow me on Twitter @russmitchellcfb

- Ron Zook's not going anywhere. Illinois hasn't seen this many kids from Florida since...ever. It's like a reverse retirement migration. Young football talent from the south moving north for the winter. You know what kind of sales job that takes? Have you ever been to Champaign? I'VE been to Champaign; followed the cows. If you can build a competitive football team at the basketball school that is Illinois, and occasionally compete for a championship and/or go to a nice bowl game, your job is safe.

- The fashionable consensus has Nebraska rolling into the Big 10, kicking tail and taking names. Even though the Legends division isn't exactly stout this year, it's still a step up from what the Huskers have faced in the Big 12 North for the past two to three seasons. Plus new brings with it distraction. New cities. New stadiums. New teams. New sights and smells. All bring with them distraction. A lack of focus at this level kills.

- Ohio State's not going anywhere. They'll struggle more because of a rookie quarterback than the loss of Jim Tressel, and sure, it's unlikely they'll win the conference this season with a stacked Wisconsin team looming over them. But tOSU is going to be fine - maybe even by next year. The cupboards are stocked and they will continue to be able to land top recruiting classes. If it turns out head coach Luke Finkell needs a bit more seasoning, the Buckeyes will do just fine landing a top-flight new coach, sanctions be damned. This is tOSU, not UNC. The administration in Columbus is football-centric, as is the alumni, community and state. tOSU has history, can recruit virtually any prep in the land, and $4+ mln a year to wave around. Might take a year or two, but tOSU is going to be fine.

- The 2011 Wisconsin roster is a thing of beauty. Given that and the troubles at Michigan and OSU, one thinks if ever there was a season for a national championship, this is it. But year in and year out there's always "something" with the Badgers. They always seem to trip - to let us down. They're the Clemson of the north.

- Keep an eye on Indiana. First year head coach Kevin Wilson brings an offense slightly spicier than the conference is used to, and in case you haven't noticed, he can recruit. He reminds us a little of the Bobby Petrino hiring in Arkansas. Works well with quarterbacks and the passing game. Has a fertile recruiting ground next door (Texas/Ohio). And let's face facts: Indiana's no longer a basketball school. Egads, is that true Hoosiers? Has the time finally arrived for football to suppliant basketball in Bloomington?

- Don't kid yourself, Buckeye faithful - Brady Hoke will turn around Michigan football. Michigan football would have turned itself around by sheer gravity alone had RichRod not tried to change the poles in Ann Arbor (not that that's HIS fault, by the way - you knew what you were getting when you hired him, Michigan).

- 2011 Illinois Preview | 2011 Indiana Preview | 2011 Ohio State Preview
- 2011 Penn State Preview | 2011 Purdue Preview | 2011 Wisconsin Preview

- 2011 Iowa Preview | 2011 Michigan Preview | 2011 Michigan State Preview
- 2011 Minnesota Preview | 2011 Nebraska Preview | 2011 Northwestern Preview

- 2011 Big Ten Preview
- CFN Thoughts on the Big Ten | 2011 Big Ten Unit Rankings
- 2011 CFN All-Big Ten Team & Top 30 Players | 2011 Big Ten Schedules & Picks
- 2011 Big Ten Leaders Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish
- 2011 Big Ten Legends Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish
- 2011 Big Ten Media Days - Coaches Quotes | 2010 Big Ten Preview