If it's the middle of June, it's time for one thing - Big Ten prognostications! Here's how I think the Big Ten will sort itself out, with a few simple equations:
1. Ohio State: 1st last year + 20 returning starters = craziness to pick anyone else to occupy this spot. However, I can see them dropping a game in conference.
2. Wisconsin: Ohio State+Penn State @ Home = .500, as in they should win 1 of those 2 games. Even with a new QB, they have to go to UM when the Wolverines will be working out kinks, they'll face an Iowa team that struggled to score last year, and an MSU team which will give...God only knows. PJ Hill (#3 returning YPC), Matt Shaugnessy (DE, 2nd team All-BT '07), and an always stalwart OL will make the transition to a new QB as smooth as possible.
3. Penn State: Offense - Morelli+ (Devlin+Clark) = Competence. The defense took a huge hit when Sean Lee went out, but still returns most of its starters to get the #3 spot. Why they're #3 instead of #2 - road trips to Wisconsin and OSU at night, possibly the two worst home environments Penn State can possibly visit, especially breaking in new QBs.
4. MSU: 2008 D-Line = 2007 D-Line. The Defensive line got hit hardest by graduation, especially with the departures of Jonal St. Dic and Ervin Baldwin. Luckily, they're getting Trevor Anderson (HM All-Big East '06), and Tyler Hoover showed high production in the spring game. Hoyer should still be decent, Ringer will still be gnarly, and 4th is what the Spartans will be this year.
5. Illinois: 2008 Juice Williams - Rashard Mendenhall = 2006 Juice Williams. This is not a good thing. Especially when you have to replace J Leman as well. However, there's too much talent on this team not to fall down too far.
6. Purdue: Purdue's Offense = 1/Purdue's Defense. Curtis Painter will probably be the All-Time Big Ten passing leader when this year is said and done, but to get any farther up in the standings, the defense will have to crack down a bit harder. Thus, the mediocre defense is the reciprocal of their explosive offense, and the Boilermakers will go as far as their defense takes them.
7. Michigan: 4 wins < (New Spread Offense - Mobile QB + Above Average Defense) < 11 wins - Honestly, who knows what'll happen here. Best case: Steven Threet has a 3:1 TD:INT ratio, UM's running backs (MCGUFFIE!) hold onto the ball behind their gelled OL, and they finish 10-2 (1 OOC loss, and the loss to OSU - you'll beat them eventually, just not this year.) Worst case - the OL doesn't come together, the RB combined average 3 YPC, Threet has an even TD:INT ratio, and 6-6 is their record, even with their best defensive efforts. Somehow, 7-5 seems about right (remember where this blog came from!)
8. Northwestern: sin(Bacher)*cos(Sutton)/tan(Defense) = You NW grads should be able to understand that equation. I feel Bacher's still going to make mistakes (19 Ints last year), and the Defense won't show a great improvement. However, I feel like I'll regret this ranking the most, and NW could finish as high as 4th this season (covering my ass!)
9. Iowa '07 * Police = 2/3 Iowa '07 = Iowa '08. Iowa tried to remake themselves into the late '80s Miami Hurricanes by losing the City Boyz Inc. , a couple of other players due to sexual assault charges, and, honestly, losing Jake Christensen to jaywalking wouldn't surprise me at this point. Having turmoil at RB (no returning scholarship players at that position), Iowa might be headed for a slightly down year. Why I could be massively wrong: The OL and DL should still be good, and when a team's good in the trenches, good things can happen.
10. Indiana: Offense - James Hardy + Rusty Kellen Davis = whuh-oh. Indiana rode the Believe Train all the way down to Arizona for the Insight bowl last year. However, with the defection of James Hardy to the NFL, and the suspension of star QB Kellen Davis, Indiana might be back to the old days of Indiana football. The Big Ten's returning sack leader, Greg Middleton, will do all in his power to make sure that doesn't happen, but look for a slump this year.
11. Minnesota = WORST TEAM EVAR IN '07 + Promising recruits = Contender...in 2009. Minnesota was either a hair's breath away from winning 4-5 games last year or pulling a gopher (pun intended) in the win column. New Dual-Threat QB MarQueis Gray might get a chance to start immediately, and should fit well in Tim Brewster's system. They'll win more games than last year, but it's still going to take a year or two for Goldy to climb out of the cellar.