Iowa's last outright title was in 1985. Iowa celebrates twenty-five (1985 team) and fifty year (1960 team) anniversaries of Big Ten championship titles in 2010. It was twenty years ago (1990 team) this season, that Iowa last represented the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl, when Iowa won the tiebreaker on a four-way tie at 6-2 in the conference. Iowa is 2-3 lifetime in the Rose Bowl and The Gazette is projecting Iowa to represent the conference in The Granddaddy this season.
The Gazette projections for the 2010 football race:
Iowa 11-1 7-1
Wisconsin 11-1 7-1
Ohio State 10-2 6-2
Michigan State 9-3 5-3
Penn State 8-4 5-3
Michigan 7-5 4-4
Purdue 7-5 4-4
Illinois 6-6 3-5
Northwestern 6-6 2-6
Minnesota 3-9 1-7
Indiana 4-8 0-8
- Rose — Iowa vs. Oregon State
- Sugar — Wisconsin vs. Auburn
- Capital One — Ohio State vs. Florida
- Outback — Penn State vs. Georgia
- Gator — Michigan State vs. South Carolina
- Insight — Michigan vs. Missouri
- Texas — Purdue vs. Texas Tech
- Dallas Football Classic — Illinois vs. Oklahoma State
- Little Caesar’s — Northwestern vs. Northern Illinois
Will the Big Ten fill every bowl slot in 2010? Many preseason magazines don't go that far, since the Big Ten has a history of beating up on itself throughout the season plus the OOC slate will play an important factor for many teams. The Big Ten does lead all conference in BCS bids. Not reaching the BCS Championship Game for the third straight season would be a disappointment, but a fair projection heading into 2010. Ohio State had excellent games vs. Iowa and vs. Oregon in the Rose Bowl, but is this an elite Buckeye team heading into 2010?
Our analysis of the Big Ten in 2010 ...
- Illinois - Coach Ron Zook is on the hot seat and fall camp has lead to some concern about the Fighting Illini secondary, with injuries. Can the Illini get to 6-6 and 3-5 in the Big Ten or would it be 6-6 and 4-4 in the Big Ten? Redshirt freshman Nathan Scheelhaase steps in for four-year starting QB Juice Williams. As The Gazette points out: "The offensive line comes together and ... Scheelhaase can run the offense effectively" the Illini may have a chance for a bowl game. The Illini have six new assistant coaches, including both coordinators and three others on the offensive side of the ball. This very well could be Zook's final season in Champaign. Is the finale at Fresno State where Zook and the Illini get the sixth win to become bowl eligible or is it his final game as head coach? Key Game: Season opener vs. Missouri in St. Louis... Zook and the Illini have lost three straight and last year's game wasn't competitive.
- Indiana - The Gazette suggests "Indiana needs a tough defense to improve in 2010" after the Hoosiers finished 4-8 and 1-7 in the Big Ten in '09. Coach Bill Lynch has been quick to suggest "we were really 12 plays away from having an outstanding season and playing in a pretty good bowl game." Despite the motivation it has provided this off season, does IU really have the talent to "finish" out of the Big Ten cellar in 2010? Key Game: Big Ten opener vs. Michigan could be the best chance to make our projections derail our projections for the Hoosiers in '10.
- Iowa - The Gazette picked the right quote: "One thing for sure if you're going to try to win a Big Ten championship, you're going to have to find a way to compete with (Ohio State) and beat them. And not many people have had much luck doing that." - Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz. The last time Iowa won the Big Ten was in '04. Iowa beat Ohio State 33-7 that season. Senior QB Ricky Stanzi will hopefully be healthy for this year's Ohio State game. The Hawkeyes have a strong returning cast from their 11-2 Orange Bowl team in '09. But, 2009 is in the books and Iowa must improve on offense running the ball and they must find a way to improve on defense stopping the run, which they did vs. Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl. Key Game: vs. Michigan State at Kinnick ... Iowa has lost games like this one at home, see Northwestern in '08 and '09. Last year, the game with the Spartans was decided on the final play of the game and in 2OT in '07 at Kinnick.
- Michigan - The Wolverines are entering the third season of the Rich Rodriguez era. Back to back losing seasons are rare in Ann Arbor. This is a program that was 5-7 last year overall and 5-3 at home. Taking care of business in Ann Arbor will be very important, if the Wolverines are going to make the step up and Rodriguez is going to continue to coach. Who will be #1 at quarterback for the Wolverines? The Wolverines need balance in the offense. Will the new 4-2-5 defense work vs. Big Ten opponents? Key Game: vs. Michigan State - back to back losing seasons are rare in Ann Arbor and so are back to back losses vs. the Spartans. Do we make it three straight years or not in Ann Arbor?
- Michigan State - The Spartans enter the 4Th year under coach Mark Dantonio. They are 0-3 in bowl games under Dantonio. The "underachieve tag" may be growing again in East Lansing. The Spartans haven't won a Big Ten title, since 1990 and only Indiana and Minnesota have had longer droughts. The Spartans were 6-2 two years ago, with a 16-13 win over Iowa at home one of the key victories. The Spartans don't play Ohio State or Indiana. Will the Spartans have better luck playing more 3-4 than the Wolverines did last season in the Big Ten? Key Game: Big Ten opener vs. Wisconsin in East Lansing could spark one of these teams for the 2010 Big Ten race.
- Minnesota - The Gazette is right: "Minnesota Coach Tim Brewster needs defensive help in 2010." However, it is schedule, rather than solid players that Brewster is speaking to as they head into 2010. "When you look at our home schedule this year, our fan base is absolutely jacked about the teams we have coming into TCF Bank Stadium. We want to make it hard on those team and I think we will." - Coach Brewster. The Gazette has the Golden Gophers likely falling in the OOC at Middle Tennessee, without starting QB now, and home vs. USC. QB Adam Weber is a likely four year starter. Like the Illini, the Gophers have new coaches, including new offensive coordinators. Key Game: Big Ten opener vs. Northwestern for Homecoming... a game the Gophers won on the road to open '09, which was a 6-7 season for the Gophers that ended with a 13-14 loss to Iowa State in the Insight Bowl .
- Northwestern - The Gazette have an odd statement suggesting "Northwestern needs to find a quarterback this season." The Wildcats have Mike Kafka's back up returning in junior Dan Persa, who played in both games at Penn State and Iowa last year. The Wildcats went 1-1 in those games. The right statement is Persa needs to step up and replace Kafka and lead an offense that ironically The Gazette says they "will score enough points to reach a bowl." Odd, when they suggest a quarterback needs to be found. The key concern is the five new starters on defense for the Wildcats. The Wildcats were 5-3 last year in the Big Ten, with every win 7 points or less, but all three losses were double digits. Key Game: vs. Michigan State for Homecoming - Wildcats lost 14-24 in '09 at East Lansing.
- Penn State - The Gazette says the following about the Nittany Lions: "Penn State will make a bowl, but its defense and quarterback play will determine the location." They will be home for the holidays, if "injuries decimate the team and if Newsome plays poorly." Is sophomore Kevin Newsome a lock for the 2010 season as The Gazette seems to be saying? Heading into 2010, Happy Valley appeared to have the most open quarterback position than any other program. The Nittany Lions have six newcomers on defense, as well as a new punter. Many suggest Top 25 rankings for Penn State are overstated, with the questions at quarterback and missing players from the 11-2, 6-2 in the Big Ten team in '09. Senior RB Evan Royster may be as good as Wisconsin's John Clay. Key Game: at Alabama in Week 2: it doesn't help towards in one's Big Ten standings, but a good showing could boost confidence for this young Penn State team.
- Purdue - Coach Danny Hope enters year two coming off a 5-7, 4-4 in the Big Ten season in '09. Junior QB Robert Marve, a transfer from Miami-FL, will move into the starting lineup. The Gazette suggests a bowl, "if, Purdue could knock off a similar number of league opponents this year. The Boilermakers play five Big Ten teams that finished .500 or worse in league play, so if they beat teams posting similar or worse league records as last year, Purdue could finish in a nice bowl." We agree. Coach Hope is a good addition in West Lafayette and will look to improve "ball security" in 2010. This is a program that lost 36-38 in Week 2 at Oregon last season. They won at home vs. Ohio State 26-18 sparked by turnovers. Key Game: at Notre Dame in season opener is as good as any to start with, but @ Northwestern in Big Ten opener is likely as important, since the Boilermakers open 3 of their first 4 Big Ten games on the road.
- Wisconsin - The Gazette suggests this "might be the best Wisconsin team ever." We will say that is a bold statement. The "new-look defensive line", with three new starters will have to clearly step up. The Badgers were 10-3 and 5-3 in the Big Ten in '09. Pass defense was suspect in '09 for the Badgers. They were extremely solid vs. run last year, but the Badgers lose their all-Big Ten DE and leading tackler and top FS for '10. Only six starters depart, but they are some good leaders for coach Bret Bielema, now in his 5Th season in Madison. We suggest defense wins championships. The Wisconsin offense should be good behind a very strong offensive line, but depth at TE is a concern in our book, with the top two TEs gone. Top notch returning TE Lance Kendricks is as good as any on paper in the Big Ten. But, the Badgers like to use multiple TEs in their offense. The Badgers don't play Penn State, but they open with four solid games in the Big Ten: @ MSU, vs. rival Minnesota (HC), vs. Ohio State and @ Iowa. The Badgers depth will be tested in the early part of the Big Ten. Key Game: vs. Ohio State, in a game that will go a long way to determining the 2010 Big Ten champion.
Our picks are leaning towards the following for 2010 Big Ten football season:
1. Iowa - Iowa has only pulled off 8-0 once. They didn't play Ohio State that year We will go with 7-1, like The Gazette. The game with Ohio State will determine, whether Iowa wins the Big Ten or not. A 6-2 four-way race, like 2010, may be more probable, than someone winning it all in 2010.
2. Ohio State - The Buckeyes have a five straight BCS bowl streak going as well. Will that end, along with the Big Ten title streak? The Miami-FL game in Week 2 could be very important.
2. Michigan State - The Spartans are a team to watch in '10.
4. Wisconsin - The Badgers last Big Ten title was in '99 under Barry Alvarez. We don't see Bielema winning a Big Ten title in '10.
5. Penn State - This may be too big of drop for the Nittany Lions, but we don't see a strong year in Happy Valley. Like '06 and '07, we see a drop off for coach Joe Paterno's boys. Will this also be Joe Pa's final season in Happy Valley? We shall see.
6. Michigan - Okay, are the Wolverines going to make it back? Back to back losing seasons and back to back losses to Michigan State haven't happened, since the 1960s. It's now or cut for the Wolverines and the current coaching staff ...
6. Purdue - Coach Danny Hope was a good hire in West Lafayette and they face an interesting schedule with a road opener in South Bend and three of the first four on the road in the Big Ten. Another team that could surprise in '10.
8. Northwestern - We respect the work of coach Pat Fitzgerald, but we do believe there will be some rebuilding in Evanston for the 2010 season.
8. Illinois - Here's to Ron Zook getting to '11 and an opportunity to most likely play Iowa again. Of course, with realignment with Nebraska, could Iowa see Illinois or Purdue off the schedule for another two seasons?
10. Minnesota - Coach Brewster loves to reinvent the Golden Gophers offense in each of his four seasons in Minneapolis and 2010 is no different.
11. Indiana - "The Pistol" offense will provide some highlights, but schedule favors many opponents in 2010. Hopefully, the Hoosiers remain undefeated in OOC play in '10.
The 2010 College Football season kicks off on Thursday. It looks like the Big Ten will have some good opportunities to make some positive noise, if they can pull off a couple upsets in the OOC. Further, maitaining wins over key opponents are always important too.