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bama4256 08-10-2002 05:26 PM

Will the Big Ten Be Competitive in their Search for Another National Championship?
In the 1997 the Michigan Wolverines were crowned the National Champions of college football. Will they be in the hunt for that coveted title in 2002/2003? How about the Ohio State Buckeyes, who hasnít won an undisputed national title since 1968, under head coach Woody Hayes?

The Big Ten was once considered one of the most powerful and feared conferences in the nation. It seems they have been replaced by the Big 12 and the SEC. The Big 12, which is led by the Oklahoma Sooners or the Texas Longhorns is considered by many experts to be the toughest conference in the business.

Oklahoma under head coach Bob Stoops enjoyed an undefeated season in 2000 and was crowned national champs by the BCS in 2001 after beating Florida State 13-2 in the Orange Bowl.

Last season the Miami Hurricanes of the Big East were the national champions.

Does the Big Ten have a team or teams that will finish in the top ten this season? Or is there a team that can compete for a national championship? Letís take a good look at the teams that stand a chance.

The Ohio State Buckeyes seem to be the frontrunner in the Big Ten to compete for a spot in the top ten. Michigan may have a chance if quarterback John Navarre performs well this season. His back-up Spencer Brinton could take the helm if Navarre falters. More about Michigan in just a little bit.

The sporting magazine, Sports Illustrated predicts Ohio State to be ranked no higher than number 12 this season, and Michigan is predicted at number 20. Now the other major sporting magazine, the Sporting News predicts Ohio State at number 10 and Michigan at number 15.

I believe defense will separate the Buckeyes from the rest of the Big Ten this season. They figure to be Big Ten champs this season. But donít bet your house that the Wolverines believe that.

Ohio State has the best pass defense in the conference. They held opponents to an efficiency rating of 107.6 in 2001. Defensive coordinator Mark Dantonio will deploy the Buckeyes in less press man coverage. During the spring he brought his seniors in for regular 7 a.m film study. Then they would pass what they learned to their underclassmen.

Strong safety Mike Doss led the team in tackles with 87. He also recovered four fumbles.

The defensive front line is solid. Senior outside linebacker Cie Grant(6-2-220) started 10 games at corner last season, but returns to weakside linebacker this season. When heís playing they have 4 Ĺ defensive backs and when they are in the nickel they have five. Free safety Donnie Nicky(6-3-203) is solid at his position and anchors the defense with Grant. Nicky is well known for his intelligence. Junior defensive tackle Tim Anderson(6-4-289) made 38 tackles last season and was a pleasant surprise for the defense.

The Buckeyes have one weakness on defense and that exists at cornerback. Derek Ross left for the NFL. Young corners could make the Buckeyes vulnerable.

On special teams punter Andy Groom is one of the best. He ranked fourth nationally last season with an average of 45 yards per kick.

Head coach Jim Tressel, who won four Division I-AA titles at Youngstown State before getting the job at OSU did one thing real well in 2001. He beat Michigan 26-20. Ex-coach John Cooper could not do that. Buckeyes finished 7-5 in his first year. Losing to South Carolina in the Outback Bowl 31-28. Every loss last season was real close, except for the loss to Illinois, which they lost 34-22. I see Ohio State finishing in the top 15.

Now we come to the Wolverines. They finished 8-4 under head coach Lloyd Carr. Losing to Tennessee big time in the Citrus Bowl 45-17.

Carr led them to a national championship in 1997, but donít look for that to happen this season or anytime soon again.

One important fact is, the Wolverines have won 20 straight Big Ten openers. Last time they lost was in 1981.

The Michigan defense is nothing to sneeze at. Seven starters return from the elite defense that allowed 19.8 points and 318.4 yards per game. Both, best in the Big Ten.

Defense wonít be a problem this season. Senior Dan Rumishek(6-4-277) and junior Shantee Orr were ends on the line that help produce a conference high 50 sacks. Senior linebacker Victor Hobson(6-1-244) had 80 tackles and five sacks. He is very good at blitzing.

The main problem this season will be the offense. Wide receiver Marquise Walker(86 receptions for 1,143 yards and 11 touchdowns last season) leaves an already struggling offense in a bind.

Offensive coordinator Terry Malone will do his best to establish a respectable ground game this season. The rushing game only averaged 3.6 yards per carry in 2001. Senior fullback B.J. Askew(6-3-228) will be asked to carry the load. He rushed for 902 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. Junior Chris Perry(6-1-235) will be the tailback. He rushed for 495 yards in 2001.

Quarterback John Navarre will take the helm again this season, but he made some poor decisions last season. He completed only 53.8% of his passes in 2001. He threw 13 interceptions. Junior Spencer Brinton has a strong arm and could takeover if Navarre struggles as I stated earlier.

If Navarre excels at his position and Michigan gets the running game going strong they also could be a top 15 team or even better.

Defending Big Ten champs the Illinois Fighting Illini could do well again this season. They run that two back pro-style offense that uses a tight end and a traditional drop back quarterback. Some pro scouts say Illinois has one of the most complicated offenses in college football. That style helped Illinois win the Big Ten last season at 10-2. They lost to LSU in the Sugar Bowl 47-34. Of course, that was with quarterback Kurt Kittner. He is gone now. The pressure is on junior Dustin Ward now. The tight end position is another spot for concern. Brian Hodges is gone.

Brandon Lloyd and Walter Young, who combined for 1,718 yards and 14 touchdowns in the regular season form one of the best duos in the Big Ten.

Senior running back Antoineo Harris(6-1-221) will handle the running duties.

Defensive coordinator Mike Cassity installed an aggressive defense in his first year last season. He wasnít shy to turn that front seven loose on the quarterback. They produced a school record 40 sacks.

Cornerback Eugene Wilson made numerous All-American teams last season after leading the nation in passes broken up with 30. Junior cornerback Christian Morton was second with 26.

If Illinois can return as Big Ten champs head coach Ron Turner and defensive coordinator Cassity will look like geniuses.

As for the Wisconsin Badgers, led by head coach Barry Alvarez may compete if running back Sophomore Anthony Davis(5-8-183) has another big year. He led the Big Ten in rushing with 1,466 yards. But remember the Badgers finished the 2001 season 5-7. I donít see them improving that much.

The Michigan State Spartans could be explosive on offense again this season. They finished 7-5 in 2001 under head coach Bobby Williams. They beat Fresno State and quarterback David Carr 44-35 in the Silicon Valley Bowl. Junior quarterback Jeff Smoker will lead the offense. He was the Big Tenís most efficient passer(162.8), throwing 18 touchdowns against seven interceptions. Wide receiver Charles Rogers has blazing speed(4.3 seconds in the 40-yard dash). He will create some big plays. He averaged 21.1 yards per catch in 2001.

The Spartans defense is pretty solid. Their secondary is deep and experienced. Junior linebacker Mike Labinjo(6-1-254) made 64 tackles, including 17 for losses. He will only improve. Cornerback Broderick Nelson led the team with five interceptions.

Of course, you canít count out head coach Joe Paternoís Penn State Nittany Lions. Paterno begins the season with 327 NCAA career wins. More than any other head coach. They will operate from a pro-style offense. He key to their success is establishing a solid running game. They ranked 10th in the league last season. Senior Larry Johnson will try to become the Lions first 1,000 yard rusher since 1997.

Stopping the run usually isnít a problem at Penn State. Very well known for producing some of the best linebackers in the nation. But Penn State runs a 4-3 scheme, surrendering 206 yards per game on the ground in 2001. Their linebackers look like a weak point again this season. I donít see Penn State finishing better than 6-5. Their second game of the season on Sept. 14th will be against Nebraska. Not good. They have a brutal big Ten road schedule too.

As for the rest of the teams in the Big Ten I donít see any other being a threat to finish in the top 20.

In closing, it is very unlikely that a Big Ten team will win a national title this season or finish in the top five. Especially with Oklahoma, Miami, Tennessee and Florida standing in the way. See you at the game.

I OWN THIS 08-10-2002 07:20 PM

Ohio State is the only team I can possibly see making the top 5 from the Big Ten. Michigan and Michigan State are about deadlocked for the 2nd place slot in that Conference in my estimation. And I agree the Big 10 has been down when compared to years past. They may just shock us all this season, but I look for another steady but not exciting year from the Big 10!


Marc 08-10-2002 09:52 PM

I feel this is really a downtime for the Big 10, as it has been for the last 2-3 years. OSU is looking good but Michigan is not that national power they used to be and there just isn't a lot of depth I can see in this conferece.

Shock1011 08-10-2002 11:43 PM

Big 10 wil not win the NC, but I think OSU or MI has the best chance.

Richard the Lionheart 08-11-2002 11:13 AM

I don't think a Big Ten team has a real shot to win the title this year, but next year, watch out for the Buckeyes. We're on the rise!

Shock1011 08-11-2002 11:27 PM

Yeah they do have a great class comming in this year.

ThE_RaZoR_MaN 08-27-2002 02:31 AM

I'd have to say the Buckeyes look very good, yeah you could say Texas Tech wasn't that good of a team , but jeez, you gotta think Kingsbury was running like a chicken with his head cut off trying to get away from OSU's defensive front, I think the Buckeyes could win the Big Ten , but not the national title , next year though, I think they could make a push.

I OWN THIS 08-27-2002 09:44 AM

I definitely agree with that! Will Smith and Grant had Kingbury worried in the pocket all day last weekend! Ohio State should win the Big 10 fairly easily as long as they get consistent play out of their Qb, and he doesn't make costly turnovers!


NickHammy 08-27-2002 12:40 PM

I was so happy w/ the way my Buckeyes played this weekend...hopefully they can keep this up...Clarett for heisman anyone?

#47 08-27-2002 01:37 PM

Buckeyes did look very good against a decent team in TT. I also think there game with Washington St. on 9/14 may be the key to there National title hopes. If they win that game(and it is at home for them), they very well could run the table this year. The 2 other probable top teams in the Big ten this year are Michigan and Penn St. and they both have to travel to Columbus this year. I dont think anyone else can beat OSU in the Big 10.

It would not surprise me at all to see the Buckeyes run the table........and NO im not a Buckeye fan, just an observation on there schedule and the fact I cant see anyone else in the country, except maybe Oklahoma, going undefeated this year.

Here's hoping my Trojans make a big splash in prime time Monday night against Auburn on ABC!

Marc 08-27-2002 04:40 PM

You all should watch Kentucky/Louisville on ESPN2 this Sunday night. It's an intense rivalry in-state and features two NFL-bound QBs. Who doesn't want to see a 300 lb. QB knock over lineman? :D

#47 08-27-2002 05:19 PM

Marc, I think the loyalty you have towards Kentucky is admiral and I would love to see them knock off Louisville, just for your But I honestly do not think Lorenzen is an NFL caliber QB. I know the stats he has put up, especially the last five games of the season last year, but I think that is mostly due to the system he is in and the fact they are always playing catchup, he's chucking alot, helps in the area where stats are concerned.

But I do not believe he sees the whole field and nor do I believe he checks off his pre snap reads. But I wouldnt mind seeing a QB knock over some

LedgerSko 08-28-2002 10:39 AM

Ohio State is a good team. The problem with the Big 10 the last few years is they have had a lack of dynamic QB's. Ohio State had Bellisarri. Since Henson left Michigan has struggled. Penn State is coming back. Orton did ok for Purdue last year. Bollinger looks like a freshman again for the Badgers. Once the Big 10 gets a great QB again they could be tough. Michigan has alot of good young players. Look for Matt Guttierez in 2 years at Michigan and Justin Zwick at Ohio State. Those players had tremendous prep careers and were highly touted.

If Michigan State had coaching they could contend. They have the players like Rogers and Smoker and Dortch.

As for this year Ohio State is gonna have to be the banner carrier.

Marc 08-28-2002 06:37 PM


Originally posted by #47
Marc, I think the loyalty you have towards Kentucky is admiral and I would love to see them knock off Louisville, just for your But I honestly do not think Lorenzen is an NFL caliber QB. I know the stats he has put up, especially the last five games of the season last year, but I think that is mostly due to the system he is in and the fact they are always playing catchup, he's chucking alot, helps in the area where stats are concerned.

But I do not believe he sees the whole field and nor do I believe he checks off his pre snap reads. But I wouldnt mind seeing a QB knock over some

Have you seen him play? Obviously not every game like I do (yes, I order every game on the dish and watch them lose!), but any game? Mel Kiper has said he is a future first-round pick in 2004. I think he has the credentials provided he stays in better shape. He has a gun for an arm, he's extremely mobile and agile for his size, and then there's his size. I can see Kentucky winning 5 games this year. :eek:

#47 08-28-2002 08:12 PM

Actually yes Marc I have seen him play several times and the last person I listen to when it comes to judging players is Mel Kiper. I have nothing personal against Kiper but he has absolutely no background of ever playing football. If you have noticed over the years Kiper is the Butt of many jokes among pro football personnel. He rose to his position thru good fortune and ESPN, not his experience playing football.

As for judging a QB's. The most important aspect a QB brings to the table is his ability ro read defenses and master the complexities of a playbook(something Kiper would know nothing about, he never played even college football). He needs to be able to get his team out of huddle and to the line of scrimmage with time to be able to make pre snap reads, thus being able to audible. A QB has to have the ability to recognize a false zone or a cover 2 or man to man drops at the snap of the ball.

There are tons of QB's who have guns for arms or are great atheletes, but the ones who make it at the next level are the ones who can play with there heads first. And if Lorenzen was even close to being that good, he would have figured out how to lead KY to at least a couple more victories then he has. His stats are padded because he generally is always playing from behind and when teams get you behind they usually play soft zones(which are easy to throw against) until you reach the red zone.

I have seen Lorezen play and I do not think he has the ability to get to his second read very often and never his third read. NFL QB's have to be able to do this.

Now if someone like Herbstriet says he can play in the NFL then maybe I'll pay attention, but Kiper, no.

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