This is the last season with the Big 11 format before the conference moves to the Big 10 with a twelve in the logo. Then the divisions will change the scheduling and league games (maybe 9 league games) and the championship game will make this a little harder to pick. The De facto Big Ten title game is Ohio State at Iowa in late November.
1. Ohio State: Easy pick here. Terrelle Pryor could be an All-American QB if he can throw the ball better. The defense will be very good as usual and Saine should be a very good RB for OSU, not legendary like Beanie, Zippy, and the other cute nickname runners. Iowa is the only one who has a shot to get the title.
2. Iowa: Ricky "Captain America" Stanzi can probably put together his game manager, screw up just enough to keep games close style and keep the team rolling. The Oline isn't going to be as good but then again Kirk Ferentz just produces talent.
3. Wisconsin: A typical Wiscy team takes the field this year. A huge offensive line, a big physical running back, a stout defense, a solid special teams and a game managing Quarterback who has a few weapons. I love how old school Big Ten team this is. They should be just below OSU and Iowa this year, and with a few breaks they could be in the Rose Bowl.
4. Penn State: Evan Royster is darn good, but with no Darryl Clark we need to see how good the offense can be. The defense usually reloads well after losing linebackers. Penn State has a difficult time breaking in new Quarterbacks recently. Don't count out JoePa.
5. Michigan State: With an electric offense featuring Kirk Cousins, Larry Caper, Edwin Baker, Keyshawn Martin and company, the Spartans could be making a very good bowl this season. If the secondary and offensive line improve at all, this team could be very good. Some good players must be replaced (Trevor Anderson, Brett Swenson) but Dantonio's recruiting classes need to come through.
6. Purdue: Beating Ohio State and finishing strong has this team looking up. Danny Hope had a tough go in his first season, but gets rescued a bit with Robert Marve transferring to play QB. Purdue will make a bowl this year, mostly on their offense.
7. Northwestern: The Wildcats played in the most exciting bowl game last season but must reload at QB. Luckily for the Wildcats, they have a very good coach in Fitzgerald and they can get another good QB very quickly. Look at the list of successful Wildcat QB's. They'lll be all right.
8. Michigan: The offense should be very good this year as long as the QB play is better. The defense will be very awful. The schedule is a little easier for them, and they will make a bowl. But it won't be enough to have RichRod keep his job and they will lose to OSU again. But it could be the change they need.
9. Minnesota: Adam Weber is back, and the talent level is higher. The new stadium is beautiful, and USC is coming to town this year. But the Gophers play a tough smaller school non conference schedule and the Big Ten will improve. They will snap their 2 bowl streak.
10. Indiana: Ben Chappell and the pistol will be pretty solid this season. And the Hoosiers have a fairly easy schedule this season. They could sneak up on people and make a bowl with a few breaks, but the Hoosiers should be expecting another 4-8 season.
11. Illinois: Ron Zook is in a make or break season, but is realying on new coordinators and a new QB. Benn is gone, and Zook's miracle recruiting classes must step it up huge. I can't see a way Illinois wins more than 5 games tops. The non conference starts with the Slaughter in St. Louis vs Missouri and two weeks later a game versus a strong Northern Illinois team. Zook will be looking for a new job.
When Nebraska joins the league in 2011, the Big Ten (who I bet keeps their name, not changing to the Big-Midwest or anything like that) will split into two divisions. I see the divisions being named the Hayes and Schembechler divisions. They will split up U of M and OSU to keep the balance level. I have heard that 9 conference games will played, meaning 3 non conference games (everyone can still play Notre Dame weeeeee!!) and you'll play the 5 teams in your division and 3 intra-division games. Here is how I see it shaping up:
Both conferences are a little top heavy, but every rivalry can be kept intact. Michigan vs Ohio State should not be played the last week of the season, to avoid a possible rematch in the championship game. It should be prime time earlier in the year to get people interested in this game again. The last decade has been lackluster. This format is good too for when the Big Ten goes to 14 teams, as they can split the new teams and add one each. The championship game will be in early December. I would like to see a bye week to help get attention. The Big Ten will announce their plans in the next few weeks.