Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team
Football season commences in about three weeks, and Chicago is the capital of Big Ten Country, so it’s time to sort the league’s macho men from the weaklings. Of course these rankings are highly subject to change. In-depth previews of Chicago’s two teams (Illinois and Northwestern) coming soon!
1. Ohio State
Once again it’s re-loading, not re-building in Columbus. With Boom Herron filling it for Beanie Wells and a whole slew of new talent filling in at key defensive positions, the scarlet and grey will have a new look this fall. Although the Bucks have looked terrible in January bowls lately, they’re still the class of the league, and look for the “sweater vest” to maintain that.
2. Penn State
Like President Barack Obama said, “it’s not enough to change the players, you have to change the game” and the 82 year old Joe Paterno and his staff have innovated the “Spread HD” enough to make the Nittany Lions consistently win again. QB Darryl Clark, LB Sean Lee and DT Jared Odrick are all ballers, and if this team can find some good replacements at OL and CB, the BCS could come calling.
3. Michigan State
It all depends on how well they replace Javon Ringer. They’ll also be breaking in a new starter at Quarterback, but you can tell the new QB, “Dude, you’re getting a Dell,” WR Mark Dell, one of the best in the league. Throw in an outstanding defense led by Preseason Defensive Player of the Year Greg Jones, and they’ll be solid.
Sure, they have to replace everybody at the offensive skill positions, but the new starter at QB, Mike Kafka, is an upgrade. With a QB rushing record already on his resume, he’s more of a dual threat (and less of an interception risk) than C.J. Bacher. Not to mention the heart and soul of this team (the defense) returns mostly in tact from last year- when they set a school record for stopping the run. And the easy schedule (Towson, Eastern Michigan, no Ohio State or Michigan) just screams ten win season.
They have some big, dominating corn-fed boys on the O line who can go to-to-toe with just about any front seven. But losing some of their defensive playmakers (and trying to replace RB Shonn Greene with Jewel Hampton) will take its toll. If their Jewel is IGI Certified, not a Cubic Zirconia 8-4 or better looks reasonable.
A program with no consistency. The orange and blue often falter under high expectations and only seem to thrive when people don’t take them seriously. This fall, projections are mixed, so 7-5 and a third-tier bowl sounds about right. With the combination of QB Isaiah “Juice” Williams and WR Arrelious “Rejus” Benn (go to 7-to-9.com), the offense will shine brighter than the diamond in Juice’s right ear. However, defense was lacking last season, and they lost their best playmakers, so mediocrity is imminent.
For the Full Conference Power Rankings click here
See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at the Washington Times, Walter Football.com and The Sports Bank
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