July 29, 2010

Thursday Question: 2010 Preseason Big Ten Rankings

Be sure to vote in the polls at the end of this post, where you tell us your No. 1, 2 and 3 teams!
Next week begins the annual Big Ten Kickoff festivities. Each year, the Big Ten media votes on its preseason top-three teams in the conference, which always draws a ruckus from the message boards and (ehem) blogs. So, naturally we thought here at Linebacker-U.com to give our own preseason top-three teams. That's the topic for this week's Thursday Question, and should be a fun one.

But first, here is the consensus vote from all five of your favorite LBU writers. It was very close for first, as the Hawkeyes got one more vote than the Buckeyes.

Linebacker-U.com 2010 Preseason Big Ten Rankings

1. Iowa
2. Ohio State
3. Wisconsin

Our individual picks...


I know this is probably going to rub some of the avid readers of Linebacker-U the wrong way but my top three does NOT include Penn State. When the dust settles I see the Big Ten race finishing like this:

1. Iowa
2. Ohio State
3. Wisconsin

Iowa – last season was a great season for the Hawkeyes and I don’t know why they would slip. The offensive line is supposed to be a weakness but when was the last time Iowa couldn’t plug in a couple of their corn-fed road graders and be at least an above average line? The defense will be outstanding with one of the best defensive lines and defensive backfields in the Big Ten. Adrian Clayborn will destroy people and Tyler Sash is always in the right place at the right time. They get their toughest opponents (Penn State, Wisconsin, and Ohio State) all at home.

Ohio State – I would have put THEosu at the top but they have a few more weaknesses than Iowa including the schedule; they have to travel to Wisconsin and Iowa. A lot of Ohio State’s success will be determined by the passing of Terrelle Pryor, if he can continue to improve they may run the table. Unfortunately that’s a big “if” and I think he’ll slip up once or twice, especially against good defenses like Iowa’s. The secondary is a concern and while the offensive line has experience and talent they haven’t lived up to Big Ten champion status. The Buckeyes will win a lot of games, I just think Iowa will edge them out.

Wisconsin – I know expectations were high for the Badgers last season and they really didn’t meet them but they still had a great season. They return 18 starters and, once again, a smash-mouth offensive line and a deep backfield. If QB Scott Tolzien can continue to improve they will have an offense that will wear opponents down. The defensive line is a tad suspect and the linebackers aren’t fantastic, although they are experienced, but they should be rested with their ball controlling offense. Just like Penn State the Badgers are suspect on special teams but they don’t play PSU and they get OSU at home for a night game. A trip to Iowa and a late season jaunt to Michigan could be the difference between a top 3 finish and a middle of the pack season.


At the top of the Big Ten I'm going to have to go somewhat against the grain and name Iowa my favorite to win the conference. Why Iowa, when the popular opinion is Ohio State?It's as simple as I've got more confidence in Stanzi leading a team than I do in Pryor at the helm. Both defenses should be stout and while Ohio State should have the more potent running game, Ricky Stanzi is the chip that puts Iowa over Ohio State.

After that, I'd have to say Wisconsin probably takes the third spot, but if a lot of unknowns fall into place Penn State certainly could be in the mix. The Badgers didn't take the losses at so many key positions from last year, however several teams could realistically be in play here. It's always dodgy looking at things this early when a down has yet to be played and injuries and breakout players have yet to emerge, that being said, the top two seem to be a level up on the rest of the conference.


1. Iowa
2. Ohio State
3. Wisconsin

I was so incredibly concerned putting Iowa on top, but as much talent as the Buckeyes have going into the season, I'm just staring at Ohio State's trip to Kinnick Stadium on November 20. If Iowa wins that game, does it mean overall for the season the Hawks are the best team in the conference? Not really. But Iowa is returning eight starters on a defense that just got better last year. As a Penn State fan, I'm actually more concerned about Iowa's defense than Ohio State's defense, considering both those games are away.

So Iowa and Ohio State are a draw for me, but that's kind of a cop-out; I pulled the trigger on Iowa, and I'm sticking with it.

As for Wisconsin, I was going to try another cop-out here, putting Wisconsin and Penn State as "tied" for third place. But again, that's stupid. Wisconsin is returning 10 offensive starters, including all five starting offensive linemen. The defense isn't better than Penn State's but the offensive line alone will win the Badgers a few games this season.


Top Three Big Ten Teams:

1. Ohio State -- As much as it may pain me to say it...this is the year we really regret not signing Terrelle Pryor. His third season as a starter, this is the year he lives up to the hype and delivers for "The University of Ohio State." They bring back the overwhelming majority of their starters on both sides of the ball, and are the clear favorites to win the conference.

2. Iowa -- We saw how good the Iowa running game could be last year, and Adam Robinson and Brandon Wegher were only freshmen. Now sophomores, the ground game should be even better this year. Combine that with a senior quarterback and beastly Adrian Clayborn, and this team should be a BCS contender yet again.

3. Wisconsin -- Third one is a tough one. Penn State could be in the mix, but I'm counting them out. John Clay is back for his third season in Camp Randall, and if last year is any indication this is the year he can push Wisconsin over the proverbial hump. But like here in Happy Valley, strong quarterback play is a concern in Wisconsin as well. Scott Tolzien returns as a second year starter, but he's going to have to improve on his 16/11 touchdown to interception ratio to give the Badgers a chance at the title.


1. Ohio State
2. Iowa
3. Penn State

I believe I deserve props for thinking outside of the box on this one…Terrelle Pryor turned a corner towards the end of last season and his solid performance in the Rose Bowl only helped to solidify my beliefs. The Buckeyes also return defensive end Cam Heyward, who made life a living hell for Daryll Clark and the Penn State offense in last year's embarassment at Beaver Stadium. The Buckeyes are loaded at just about every key position and until somebody can prove otherwise on the field, I see no reason why they should be ranked anywhere but #1 in the Big Ten.

Sure, Iowa returns most its key players including punter swallower Adrian Clayborn, safety Tyler Sash, all of their tailbacks including newly healthy Jewel Hampton, and yes dare I say it - Ricky Stanzi. With that being said, if Iowa plays as many tight games as they did last year, especially due to numerous 'Stanziballs''being thrown, they will not be as fortunate as they were last year and will likely suffer a couple more losses than many of us expect.

I'm just not sold on Wisconsin being in the top three at season's end. I admittedly haven't been reading my Phil Steele magazine as of late so this is coming off a total hunch and can't back it up based on which starters are returning, but I feel very hesitant to put them in the top three. To be fair, Penn State is a shaky top three prospect as well, especially given the brutal schedule plus the quarterback situation which has been documeneted more than Tiger Woods and LeBron James combined.

I know I predicted an 8-4 season for PSU in an earlier TQ segment but I feel when push comes to shove, they will emerge in a distant third. The senior-laden offensive line will gel together rather quickly which means everything depends on that QB situation getting settled. If in fact, a decent QB emerges from the pile, a nine or perhaps even a ten-win season is possible. Plus, who else besides PSU or Wisconsin is worthy or a top three preseason ranking? Michigan State will be improved but they just don't have the horses to win 9 or 10 games, especially with one of the worst secondaries in college football, and the rest of the Big Ten teams that I haven't mentioned all have fatal flaws of their own that will prevent them from being anything more than a middle of the pack team this year.

2010 Preseason No. 1 Big Ten:

2010 Preseason No. 2 Big Ten:

2010 Preseason No. 3 Big Ten:

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  1. Ohio State, Penn State, Iowa.

  2. 1. Texas
    2. Kentucky Fried Chicken
    5. Ford.

  3. Rick says 1. Ohio State 2. Iowa 3. Wisconsin
    No way Penn State finishes with less than three regular season losses with the green QB's they have.

  4. Yup, Rick. Newsome is almost as green as MRob in 2005 or Clark in 2008.