Big Ten Preview: Part I

Let’s see here… Watford has a big game against West Ham today, the Tories just opened up a nine point lead in the polls over in the UK, and the White Sox got “Red Soxed” by the Tigers last night. Not good times… unless Watford wins. Oh and the Pakistanis may pull out of an international test with England in cricket because they’ve been accused of doctoring the balls. Yep, it’s pretty much crazy over there in the Kingdom that is United, but we’re done with them. It’s time to talk some Big Ten football.

That’s right! VFLOAB’s favorite conference, which featuring our favorite team (the Wisconsin Badgers), plays the most entertaining and fun football throughout the fall, and has story lines that the good people of Bristol can only dream about. Yeah, we know, the SEC is pretty diesel too, and maybe we’ll ‘compare’ the two conferences later, but for now… let’s Big Ten it up. (Update: Here's Part II if you care about the umm, good teams in the Big Ten?)

Illinois Fighting Ilini
Last Rose Bowl Trip
– 1984 (though they did go to the Sugar Bowl in 2002 winning the Big Ten title).
What Happened Last Year – (2-9) In Ron Zook’s first season the Illini sucked, but if you talk to the Illini faithful, well first they’ll tell you how great Bruce Weber is, and then they’ll tell you how Zook is a great recruiter and that some day they might even beat Michigan
Number of Returning Starters – 10 on Offense and 10 on Defense
The Good – Their Offense isn’t that bad… Rashard Mendenhall is only a sophomore.
The Bad – How about that defense, eh? Passing on the Illini shouldn’t be too hard to do.
Heisman Hopeful? – Rashard Mendenhall is probably two years away from even thinking about that New York.
A Typical Saturday… - I know a number of Illini alums, I grew up in Chicago, and I can’t remember anyone really caring much for Illinois football. Sort of a shame, but let’s face it, when you have unis as ugly as these guys, why should anyone care? Wake ‘em when basketball starts.
If They Were A Real World Season The Real World: Chicago… like this season, the Illini are a fairly uneventful and unmemorable team where no one really cares about them a year a few months after the season ends. Lacking star power and over all talent, all any remembers with want Tonya did after the show… sort of like Simeon Rice and eventually Rashard Mendenhall.
Bowling For… - Nothing. The Illini will be lucky to win two Big Ten games this year.
Final Random Thoughts – Seriously, these are really ugly… It’s weird seeing a coach like Zook in downstate Illinios, and as always with the Illini, most of the talent in the state is around Chicago. Can Zook get those guys to come south?... Methinks No… If Zook can some how get them to five wins, they’ll have a ton to build on for 2007. But this looks like a three win team and at least a year away from even sort of scaring anyone in the Big Ten.
Rose Bowl Chances – 3,000 to 1

Indiana Hoosiers
Last Rose Bowl Trip -
What Happened Last Year – (4-7) They some how jumped out to a 3-0 start, and then beat Illinois to get to 4-1. And then naturally they lost their next six games and finished 1-7 in the Big Ten. On top of that, Indiana hoops were average at best.
Returning Starters – 8 on offense, 7 on defense
The Good – Their D shouldn’t be as bad as Illinois! James Hardy is only going to play football and looks like he could be a top ten NFL draft choice! Hey, going 3-1 out of conference looks likely!
The Bad – Aside from the Illini, there doesn’t look to be a win on the Big Ten schedule. They don’t have a running game. I’m not kidding; their leading returning rusher is the quarterback. And to make matters worse, their offensive line is shaping up to be the worst in the Big Ten. And that defense… umm, let’s move on.
Heisman Hopeful? – Hardy probably won’t be on anyone’s long list, but the kid can play.
A Typical Saturday… - Honestly, I’m not sure anyone has paid more than five minutes to Indiana football since Randle El left.
If They Were A Real World Season… The Real World: London… Forgetful in every way, you’ll never find anyone saying, I’d love to watch me some Real World London today!
Bowling For… - If they got to six wins, Hardy’s probably on his way to New York and at least two so-so Big Ten teams fell apart.
Final Random Thoughts – Hey look! The Red Headed Step Child of the Big Ten!!! Seriously no one cares about Indiana football... Indiana sucks, it's that easy, never go there unless you're driving though... ESPN2 never even shows their games unless they’re playing the Badgers, Michigan, or OSU. I have nothing to add besides that the Badgers better beat ‘em.
Rose Bowl Chances – 2,000 to 1

Iowa Hawkeyes
Last Rose Bowl Trip
– 1991 (though they made it to the Orange Bowl in 2003 only to be destroyed by USC).
What Happened Last Year – (7-4) High expectations that lead to a disappointing season over all. The Hawkeyes lost to Iowa State early on and never seemed to get on track after that. A loss at home to a bad Michigan team probably best sums up last year.
Returning Starters – 7 on both offense and defense.
The Good – They have some real talent on offense, Drew Tate and Albert Young might be the best QB/RB combo in the Big Ten (depending on what you think of Ohio State). They’ve got a solid D-line. And they’ve got a coach that everyone in the NFL seems to love in Kirk Ferentz, who, we might add, can recruit.
The Bad – They need a receiver to step up big time and they lost some nice players on D (especially at linebacker) from last year.
Heisman Hopeful? – Although Young might be the better player, Drew Tate is more likely to find himself in New York this year. Don’t count on it though.
A Typical Saturday… - You know, I don’t know to be honest. Iowa’s one of those teams that you see a lot but never get a feel for what it’s like to hang out there. I hear it’s sort of a good time, but I’ve never really met anyone who went there so yeah, I guess their big in state. And they sort of tailgate… and I’m moving on.
If They Were A Real World Season… - The Real World: Seattle… a season that everyone remembers, but it is never the first to pop in anyone’s mind, much like Iowa. But if you’re sitting around talking about the Real World and were to say “Seattle” people would nod their heads and say, ‘yeah, that was a good season’. This was also one of the few seasons were everyone wasn’t insane… well besides that Stephen dude who wasn’t gay, but was picked up for prostitution a few years ago. But you don’t hear about Iowa football players getting arrested and acting like morons that often.
Bowling For… - Hey with Tate and Young and a few breaks, the Rose Bowl isn’t a totally insane possibility… but most likely they’ll end up playing a close game with some SEC team in the Capital One Bowl.
Final Random Thoughts – If you’re looking for a Big Ten team to beat Ohio State, this might be that team, since they play the Buckeyes early and in Iowa. They do have to go to Ann Arbor and a bizarre game verse Northern Illinois sits there in the middle of the schedule and screams upset… If Ferentz were a girl, and the NFL a boy, the NFL would be at the point were they’d just written the girl off completely, only to see her a little buzzed two weeks later and flit with her all over again only to go home with nothing… Two years ago it seemed like every single player from the Chicago ‘burbs decided to go to Iowa… They own Wisconsin… For all those ‘quality’ recruiting classes and hype, they’re not Ohio State or Michigan or even Wisconsin for that matter. They always seem to find a way to lose a game or two here or there in the Big Ten… Since everyone loves Ferentz, odds are they’re overrated… again.
Rose Bowl Chances – 15 to 1

Michigan Wolverines
Last Rose Bowl Trip
– 2005
What Happened Last Year – (7-4) They lose at home to Notre Dame, then at Wisconsin and sit 2-2 with a trip to a hot Michigan State team… they win of course. The next week against Minnesota at home… Michigan loses and sits 3-3 with undefeated Penn State coming to town. What do they do? They win of course. Yeah, that’s what it was like rooting for the Wolverines last year. Some how they finished 7-4 and went to a bowl. All things considered, things could have been a lot, lot worse. Oh yeah, they were ranked #4 before the season started… they didn’t finish in the top 25 last year.
Returning Starters – 6 on offense and 8 on defense
The Good – Chad Henne has to be better right? And Mike Hart is healthy with some quality back ups just in case. The defense was pretty good last year and should be a bit better this year.
The Bad – If Henne doesn’t improve, they’re in trouble. They should be okay at wide receiver, but you never know. And their offense line always seems to under perform. Oh yeah, can they beat a Jim Tressel Ohio State team?
Heisman Hopeful? – Mike Hart… if you believe his freshman year production was the real thing.
A Typical Saturday… - Wake up, watch some early Big Ten games, make your way over to Michigan Stadium, jam yourself into the stadium, and sit on your hands. Turn the other way and stick your nose up in the air while the rest of the Big Ten tells you to get bent.
If They Were A Real World Season… - The Real World: San Francisco… come on. Who else? Always enjoyable, though overrated and not nearly as important as you and everyone else remembers it as. Yeah Puck was insane. Yeah Pedro’s story was somewhat moving. But come on? Jud? Cory? Muhammad? Does anyone even think twice about these people? This was all about Puck and once Puck left, was this even watch able? But San Fran is the gold standard, just as Michigan is in the Big Ten.
Bowling For… - The Rose Bowl… it’s hard to see this team running the table with trips to Notre Dame, Penn State, and Ohio State plus visits from Wisconsin and Iowa.
Final Random Thoughts – They’re going to beat Notre Dame, mark it down. These teams have a nasty habit of doing that to each other when they play. If one team is ranked really high, it seems like the ‘underdog’ wins… Oh yeah, don’t let anyone tell you that the Doomers biggest rival is someone other than Michigan… Lloyd Carr might be the worst coach in the Big Ten… Just in case you don’t know, everyone in the Big Ten hates Michigan, I mean pretty much everyone has them as their biggest rival… Don’t be shocked if this is Carr’s last season in Ann Arbor… There’s basically no chance that they struggle again… I must say, they do have sweet unis… Expect them to lose three games, maybe two, and disappoint just about everyone… again… I can’t get a feel for this team, which basically means they’re like any other team under Lloyd Carr in the last ten years.
Rose Bowl Chances – 4 to 1

Minnesota Golden Gophers
Last Rose Bowl Trip
- 1962
What Happened Last Year – (7-4) They finally beat Michigan after blowing games to them two years in a row… but once again the Gophers seem to be stuck in Big Ten purgatory. They went 4-4 in the Big Ten, which all in all, was a disappointment. They beat everyone they should have beat, but couldn’t pull off an upset over Iowa, Penn State, or Ohio State, and a loss to the Badgers didn’t help matters. Up 34-31 with just seconds to play, Minnesota is lines up to punt to the Badgers and force them to go at least fifty yards in under twenty seconds… and the punt is blocked. Wisconsin recovers in the end zone for the win. If this had happened in the ACC we would never hear the end of it.
Returning Starters – 7 on both sides of the ball
The Good – They’re okay once again, and set at the QB position with Bryan Cupito and they have their top three receivers coming back… They finally got a deal to build them a stadium so they don’t have to play in the Metrodome any more in a few years.
The Bad – Running back Gary Russell won’t be playing for them this year… which means if Amir Pinnix doesn’t step it up, this team will be going nowhere fast… their offensive line is a work in progress… Their defense is nothing to get excited about and that D-line could be pretty bad… Special teams may kill this team again.
Heisman Hopeful? – Ummm, unless Laurence Maroney or Gary Russell come back, no one.
A Typical Saturday… - Let’s see, it’s 10am, I’m hung over from a long Friday night and no you want me to make my way across the Twin Cities to catch a Gopher game in the big, ugly, and boring Metrodome? I’ll just chill in the dorm.
If They Were A Real World Season… - The Real World: Philadelphia… talk about a season that still doesn’t make sense. Did anyone get alone with anyone in this season? Does anyone even care about this season? Then again this is the season that Landon pulled a knife on one of his cast members… but over all it seemed to lack the “it” that a great Real World season needs… much like the Gophers. They have some talent and send that talent along to the NFL or Challenges, but over all… it just doesn’t have “it”.
Bowling For… - A New Year’s Day bowl would be nice, but unlikely if the running game doesn’t come together. So San Antonio looks like a good bet.
Final Random Thoughts - This is a classic team that needs a big win to get over this hump they’ve been stuck at for what seems like five years now… Playing in the Metrodome KILLS this team imo. They’re stuck in a big, indoor stadium that isn’t on campus which makes it one of the more quite places to play in the Big Ten. The sooner they get out of there the better, so 2009 can’t happen fast enough… I’ve got to admit, I sort of like the Gophers as long as they’re not playing the Badgers… Paul Bunyan’s Ax is pretty cool… GopherForIt…If they don’t make a bowl, Mason might be fired, he’s gotten them competitive, but no over the hump at this point… Minnesota is basically Wisconsin Lite… It would be sort of cool if they changed their logo to this.
Rose Bowl Chances – 250 to 1

Last Rose Bowl Trip
– 1995 (1994 had to be the most bizarre year in sports… no Jordan in basketball, no baseball because of the strike, Northwestern beats Notre Dame and wins the Big Ten, Rangers win the Cup… weird year).
What Happened Last Year – (7-4) They scored a lot of points, allowed a lot of points, and won enough games to lose to UCLA in the Sun Bowl after being up big. Then in late June head coach Randy Walker passed away of a heart attack… major bummer for everyone. RIP Randy.
Returning Starters – 8 on both Offense and Defense
The Good – They know how to rack up yards and points. Tyrell Sutton was awesome running the ball as a freshman last year.
The Bad – They’re defense is Illinois and Indiana like ‘good’… who’s going to be the quarterback?... Is Pat Fitzgerald ready to be a D-I coach?... They play a really tough schedule, maybe the toughest in the Big Ten.
Heisman Hopeful? - Tyrell Sutton could get some love from a random writer in the middle of October.
A Typical Saturday… - A bunch of smart kids with more social skills than their ‘rivals’ south of them at the University of Chicago wake up, look around, realize that they’re in Evanston on a kick ass campus, maybe get some grub at Clarke’s or in Roger’s Park, then hit up Ryan Field throwing frozen marshmallows at each other with their shits off. In other words, they don’t fit into the whole ‘Big Ten’ thing. (Shocking but true, but only Northwestern and Minnesota can say they have an ‘urban’ campus in the Big Ten; unless you consider Columbus as a place to be seen).
If They Were A Real World Season… - The Real World: Paris… Flashy at times and filled with a bunch of beautiful people, Northwestern’s offense is much the same. They even throw some drama at you just for the hell of it and the people on the show/team are sort of interesting in a ‘woah, these guys aren’t complete morons’ kind of way. But they do have a problem… it’s called holding your interest. And in the end, no one cares… not even your home city. (FYI, this is one of VFLOAB’s favorite Real World Seasons).
Bowling For… - To be honest this team should just be looking to get to 6 wins.
Final Random Thoughts – This team is sort of like the 2005 New Orleans Saints… no one has any clue what’s going to happen with them. The death of Walker is a major blow. Former Wildcat ‘great’ Pat Fitzgerald takes over as head coach. He’s young and was probably five years away from becoming a head coach. I have no clue how this is going to turn out… I’ve got to say, I’m rooting for Mike Kafka to get some playing time unless he wakes up as a bug tomorrow… The funny thing about Northwestern is that the good people of Chicago probably dislike them more than anything else, yeah the alums like ‘em and they got a few fans here and there, but most people in Chicago are either rooting for Notre Dame or one of the other Big Ten teams (Wisconsin, Michigan, or Illinois)… I have little love for NU, if they win fine, but they annoy me with their gimmick offense and habit of beating the Badgers.
Rose Bowl Chances – 75 to 1

(Yeah I realize Michigan State comes before Northwestern, but I forgot that one on another computer so you’ll just have to deal with it. And yeah this clocked in at over 3,100 words, expect more of the same in Part II).


Frank the Tank said...

In Ron Zook’s first season the Illini sucked, but if you talk to the Illini faithful, well first they’ll tell you how great Bruce Weber is, and then they’ll tell you how Zook is a great recruiter and that some day they might even beat Michigan…

As an Illini, I can tell you that this sentiment is completely accurate. Our uniforms aren't that ugly though, are they?

sechooooooo said...

Just to clarify, Northwestern played in the Rose Bowl at the end of the 1995 season, on January 1, 1996. In 1994, NU went 3-7-1 and most definitely did not beat Notre Dame.

SchrockStar said...

Raise your hand if you've never been to Bloomington, Indiana

Author raises hand

Otter said...

Yes, guilty as charged on that one, never been to Bloomington... but in my defense I've never ever had even a 30 second conversation about Hoosier football. And I've known plenty of people that went to IU.

I assume that it's cooler than West Lafayette and South Bend?

Anonymous said...

Last year, Iowa City was named the best place to watch a college football game. It's an amazing city. Forget anything you have in your mind concerning Iowa.

Some of your other comments are truly bazarre? Iowa is barely Wisconsin? Are you kidding? Look to see who has the most wins in the Big Ten over the last 4 years.

Otter said...

I'll give you that Iowa has been better over the last four years, but don't forget the Sconnies run in 2004 (and yeah, I know Wisconsin beat them). Over the last ten year though, both have two Big Ten Championships; and Wisconsin's 84 wins are more than Iowa's 65. Yeah, Ferentz like Alverez has built Iowa into a minor national power (and a major player in the Big Ten); but over the last ten years, Wisconsin has been much more successful.

Otter said...

Sorry Iowa beat Wisconsin in 2004.

Gregory Dowell said...

I'm not saying they're not ugly but the Fighting Illini have new uniforms this season (http://store.fansonly.com/marketplace/store/Vendor180/fullscale/2524103nv-c.jpg and http://store.fansonly.com/marketplace/store/Vendor180/fullscale/2524103-c.jpg) The team photo has the navy jersey matched up with white pants. I think orange pants have been dropped from the possible combinations. The navy/white combo looks pretty cool.

Frank the Tank said...


I stand corrected here. WTF are they doing?! I didn't realize that we were going to that Miami-esque piping on the blue jerseys - those are simply hideous.