Dublin Saab

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Monday, August 11, 2008

Big Ten 2008: Top 3

#1 Ohio State Buckeyes

I could almost cut and paste my write up for Michigan last year into this post. A very good season last year that could have been great if not for 2 late season loses? Check. Widely believed to be the most talented team in the Big Ten? Check. A team loaded with seniors that shunned the NFL for one more shot? Check. Preseason top 5 ranking? Check. Opening the season with a 2A(FPS) squad? Check. Talk of being a legit national title contender? Check.

Now I don’t say these things because I think the wheels are going to come off OSU this year but… they could. We have the same team back as we had last year, and they lost a BIG game and a game they should not have (shit non calls from the refs that have now been fired aside). And this is something all the Buckeye faithful that have dreams of Beanie running over Georgia defenders need to keep in mind.

Prediction: 10-2 (7-1) Close loses @USC and @Illinois but winning the Big Ten thanks to head-to-head over Wisconsin puts Ohio State into the Rose Bowl where they spank ASU as Tressle gets his mojo back.

Best Case: 12-0 (8-0) And an undefeated Pitt team as an opponent.

Worst Case: 8-4 (5-3) Loses @USC, @ Wisconsin, @ Illinois and at home to a wide open RichRod lead Michigan team leads spoiled Buckeye fans to register firetressle.com

#2 Wisconsin Badgers

Bucky Badger fans have the feeling that they are the most BSC snubbed team in the land. This year coach Brett Bielema has one of the most loaded teams to ever suit up at Camp Randell, sadly for Badger fans they are not going to be getting over the BCS hump this year.

The defense is a solid and capable unit – I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few shutouts – and the offense is built to play the power game in a way most teams simply won’t be able to handle. This years Badgers will be favorites in every game they play, except one. And it is this one that will keep the BCS door closed for yet another season, because the one team that can handle their power game is the one team in the Big Ten with even more talent. Oh how ol’ Wiscy will hate the Buckeye.

Prediction: 11-1 (7-1) 11 wins and the CapitolOne Bowl, sucks to be you.

Best Case: 12-0 (8-0) Handle Ohio State and you can make the BCS promised land, but may be shut out of the NC game by a 2 lose SEC team.

Worst Case: 8-4 (5-3) If unproven QB Allan Evridge turns out to be a dud this could be a long season of mediocrity.

#3 Penn State Nittany Lions

The only thing around Penn State football that is older than legendary coach Joe Paterno is jokes about Joe Pa’s age. However, as Paterno enters his 456th year at Penn State I’m happy to poke fun. What won’t be fun for most of the Big Ten is playing the 2008 addition of the Nittany Lions as the Morelli era is over and PSU looks to be heading back to the spread offense that Michael Robinson ran to a 12-1 record, BCS victory and #3 finish in 2005. The only real question facing the offense is can Daryll Clark be as productive as Robinson was. On the defensive side of the ball things stack up to be as good, or even better than last years impressive unit.

But a black cloud hangs over Happy Valley and that black cloud wears a police badge. The Lions have had an off season so fraught with legal and other “team rule” issues that even as a Buckeye fan I have begun to feel sorry for them. Have the issues and player suspensions taken the teeth from a potential monster? Or is this team going to fail to come together and create greatness? I’m leaning towards the latter.

Prediction: 10-2 (6-2) Congrats on 10 wins, but don’t even dream of a BCS bid.

Best Case: 11-1 (7-1) @ Ohio State will keep the Lions from threatening a NC game spot.

Worst Case: 8-4 (4-4) The Michigans may make this team an afterthought.

Big Ten 2008: Middling 4

#4 Illinois Fighting Illini

Illinois was the feel good Big Ten team last year. No one saw them beating #1 Ohio State in the Shoe or getting a BCS bid. However, everyone saw them get spanked by USC. The lesson is that all feel good stories come back down to Earth at the end and the end was back in January.

Zook was able to build Illinois from cellar dweller to threat with great recruiting that hinged on the ability to offer highly rated HS players the chance to start as a freshman. For example, Juice went with the Zooker over Tressle because he could play from day one in Champaign vs. red shirting behind Troy Smith. The flaw with this recruiting method is that after the first few years there are no more spots to give way to youngsters that want to play form day one.

This is the wall that Illinois has hit. Zook has turned the Illini into a team that can threaten to win the Big Ten, which isn’t quite the same thing as being a team that can win the Big Ten. Add into the mix a tough schedule and the Illini might be hard put to get the 9 wins I am predicting.

Prediction: 9-3 (6-2) @ Mizzou, @ Penn State and @ Wisconsin leads to a second 9-3 season.

Best Case: 10-2 (7-1) Seriously, the Illini aren’t getting away with fewer than 2 loses from the above 3 games.

Worst Case: 7-5 (4-4) The lose of players like Leman and Mendenhall might hurt more than the Illini faithful are hoping.

#5 Michigan State Spartans

‘Lil brother looks to claim coup over the big bad Wolverines this year as Coach Mark Dantonio enters his second year at the helm of the Spartans with a full cupboard (for MSU anyway). With players like Hoyer and Ringer on offense and a solid linebacker core this is a MSU squad that is looking to make a lot a noise and finally put the late season collapsitis behind them.

With a lot of talent, a good coach and a very nice schedule this is a Michigan state team that has the chance to swell Spartan nation with great pride. If Dantonio can play power ball in their opener at Cal and beat a flaky Bear team then Sparty may be setup for a great year.

Prediction: 9-3 (5-3) Yes, the schedule is that easy.

Best Case: 10-2 (6-2) Yes, this could be a 10 win team.

Worst Case: 6-6 (3-5) Yes, this could be the Michigan State we have all come to know and love.

#6 Michigan Wolverines

Before the season started last year Michigan was considered to be a legitimate contender for the national title. Wolverine fans had their hopes crushed right out of the gate and then watched as one of their most talented teams ever wandered through a season of mediocrity. Michigan fans this year can relax without any fear of having their hopes dashed again, as there is little hope for this team, at least not by Michigan standards.

RichRod (Michigan’s 3rd choice for coach) enters his first season in Ann Arbor after an embarrassing departure from WVU and a massive defection of players who knew they didn’t want to be part of the new régime. We are 19 days away from Michigan’s opening game with Utah and no one has any idea who will be standing in the QB slot wearing Maize and Blue. What we do know is that they will be true freshman green, have questionable skills, may not fit in well with RichRod’s offensive scheme and be surrounded equally unproven skill players. Jr RB Brandon Minor is the only bright spot.

Meanwhile things aren’t so bad on defense, except for the fact that last year Michigan’s defense wasn’t all that good. All these negatives aside Michigan will still be heading to a bowl game, after all, a bad year for Michigan is still better than most.

Prediction: 7-5 (3-5)

Best Case: 9-3 (5-3) If RichRod is the wizard Michigan hopes they have purchased then he might be able to out coach and out fox his young guys into a great opening year finishing with a win over the Buckeyes leading Michigan fans to say, “Lloyd who?”

Worst Case: 4-8 (2-6) Yes kids, the concerns at Michigan are this big. If things don’t jell and opposing teams smell blood then this year could see the end of Michigan’s winning season and bowl appearance streaks.

#7 Northwestern Wildcats

As coach Pat Fitzgerald enters his 3rd year with the Wildcats the long shadow left form Randy Walker’s death is finally fading. This is the year when Fitzgerald will be looking to fully begin his era and put his influence into the team. That influence begins and ends with QB CJ Bacher and RB Tyrell Sutton. Both are veterans and both have the ability to put up all Big Ten numbers. This will be the key to the team’s success this year and where Bacher and Sutton lead the Cats will follow.

Combine this potential with a favorable schedule that misses both Wisconsin and Penn State and you should get a season that will put Fitzgerald into his first bowl game. That said I wouldn’t be fully shocked if the wheels fall off as this is still Northwestern and their coach has yet to prove he can win.

Prediction: 7-5 (3-5)

Best Case: 9-3 (5-3) If Bacher and Sutton have superb seasons and the defense tightens up this could be a shocker top 25 team at the end of the season.

Worst Case: 5-7 (2-6) If there is no improvement over last year this is more likely to be the outcome.

Big Ten 2008: Bottom 4

#8 Purdue Boilermakers

In Joe Tiller’s previous 11 seasons at Purdue he has built some solid top shelf teams and brought a lot of excitement to the Big Ten and this, his 12th season, will be his last. Purdue has been a regular in the bowls under Tiller and I’d like to think that his boys will be playing extra hard to see that their coach goes out on a high note. But.

Beyond QB Curtis Painter there are too many weakness, too many questions and too pours a defense for me to be bullish on the Boilers. I feel that Purdue has been slowly slipping for years now and I think that slipping will continue this year and into Danny Hope era that begins at the end of this season. The talent is just not there.

Prediction: 5-7 (3-5)

Best Case: 8-4 (5-3) If the Boilers win all the games they are capable of coach Tiller will be out on a high note.

Worst Case: 3-9 (1-7) If the Boilers lose all the games they are capable of new head coach Hope won’t have to worry much about Tiller’s “shadow”.

#9 Indiana Hoosiers

Of all my predictions form last year Indiana was the one I nailed. Well, almost. I had them winning their first bowl game in 15 years. Anyway, as nuts as it was to say IU was bowl bound last year I’m going on a limb again and saying they are headed to a bowl again. Indiana bowling 2 years in a row? Yup.

But don’t get too excited my Hoosier pals, this isn’t the result of Indiana having turned the corner and building into an emerging power. No, it’s merely the result of a very favorable schedule. And to illustrate the point you can see that Purdue, with a worse overall record outranks IU with a better conference record. Indiana should handle Western Kentucky, Murry State, Ball State and Central Michigan. After that they only need to pick up 2 from conference play and with Minnesota and Iowa on the slate, they will. So enjoy your 2nd bowl game in as many years, but don’t get comfortable.

Prediction: 6-6 (2-6)

Best Case: 8-4 (4-4) If improvements to Indiana’s defense take root and they get good QB play this lofty record is attainable.

Worst Case: 4-8 (1-7) If those improvements fail then this more traditional IU record is also attainable.

#10 Minnesota Golden Gophers

Last year everyone and their idiot brother had the Gophers in last place, unfortunately for the Gophers, everyone was right. After an awful 1-11 season coach Mike Brewster has his entire young team from last year back along with a top 25 recruiting class. So with more experience and better incoming talent the big question on everyone mind is can Brewster translate that into success. Maybe.

After last year getting to a bowl would be a big step in the right direction and get Gopher nation feeling positive. However this team still has a way to go and the schedule isn’t all that kind (@ Wisconsin, @Illinois and @Ohio State). The Gophers will be better, but they won’t be good.

Prediction: 4-8 (1-7)

Best Case: 6-6 (3-5) On paper this can happen and how Gopher fans will be praying that it does.

Worst Case: 2-10 (0-8) On paper this can happen and how Gopher fans will be praying that it does not.

#11 Iowa Hawkeyes

For the last three years Iowa has made everyone predicting them to do well (including myself last year) look bad by playing like shit. Now gentlemen, it’s time for us to make you look bad. Iowa does have good talent on the team but with proven underperformance, horrible off field issues (14 players arrested this summer) and a coach that instills less faith than the UN my gut tells me this is a cellar dweller of a team even if my brain says middle of the pack.

That talent the Hawks have has some people saying that this could be a 10 win team with a schedule that misses Michigan and Ohio State. Sadly, those people are simply fooling themselves. This team is going nowhere. Fast.

Prediction: 3-9 (1-7)

Best Case: 9-3 (5-3) This happens if Iowa plays up to their talent potential. They won’t.

Worst Case: 2-10 (0-8) Iowa has too much skill to possibly be this bad you exclaim? Right. 5 will get you 10 coach Ferentz already knows who he will be using to list his home for sale.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Starting strong.

This year the US Men's basketball team competing in China have the same standard of success as the Buckeyes do. Win it all or fail.

LeBron says, "再見"

While the Buckeyes have a few weeks till they begin towards possible redemption, the US Mens team has started well with a 101-70 route of host China. Go get'em boys!