Pick your surprise team for the Big Ten this year. If your team's year is "surprising," is that a good thing or a bad thing?
Answers were all over the board, with bloggers pegging Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, and even Minnesota(!) for better-than-expected seasons. Those who chose to focus on teams that would finish in disappointing fashion seemed to go with Ohio State. Additionally, with bloggers representing Northwestern, Indiana, and the Minnesota Gophers, it should not be a big shock that most fans thought that a "surprising" season for their team meant a very good season indeed. Even the Penn State fans thought that "surprising" meant good. Leave it to the guys from Happy Valley to be dissatisfied with the media dubbing their team a consensus top-four pick in the conference.
Which player/unit on your team needs to put forth a "player of the year" effort for your team to contend for a title?
Lots of quarterbacks on the list, obviously, but also a few actual interesting answers. According to Hawkeye State:
The defensive line will make or break Iowa in 2007. Norm Parker's one-play playbook is predicated on the pass rush, especially with a thoroughly mediocre secondary. When we have it (Matt Roth, Aaron Kampman, etc.), we win. When we don't, we lose. It's been that simple for 7 years. With Mattison and Iwebema on the ends, and the enigmatic Mitch King in the middle, they certainly have the capability of doing just that.
Representing Michigan, Maize n Brew also focuses on defense:
Safety Jamar Adams. Adams was burnt crispy by both Ohio State and USC. Bad angles. Bad reads. He and Willis Barringer looked horrible at the end of last year. Safety is as important a position on defense as you can get. A screwup on zone coverage and all of a sudden your corner gets posterized. As a result, Hall and Trent looked pretty bad at times when the fault was not their own.
If Michigan is a serious national title contender Adams will have to be Michigan’s rock in the defensive backfield. He'll have to improve is reading of the field and balls in the air. He's definitely got the talent. He just needs to harness it. Look for Stevie Brown to make an impact as Safety soon as well.
Lots of focus on the running back as well. Buckeyes in particular are singling out their RB as the guy who must step up. As Eleven Warriors explains, "A lot of talk is around the quarterback position, but this coach won a national championship with Craig-Freakin-Krenzel." Point taken. (My opinion? OSU will be fine. "Beanie Wells" is one of those names that, just by its very sound, seems destined to go down in Big Ten history. You don't come this far with the name "Beanie" to be forgotten.)
Whose out-of-conference schedule appeals to you?
Responses came in two varieties: the "give me 4-0 guaranteed" crew cited Illinois and Indiana for cupcakishness in the first degree, whereas the "give me some football I actually want to watch" contingent generally grumbled about scheduling and then picked Michigan. Gopher Nation joined me in lauding Michigan State's schedule, and a couple Ohio State bloggers singled out Wisconsin, noting that while a road game against UNLV may not make for compelling football, at least it's a hell of a destination.
Pick the Big Ten's biggest upset!
Looks like a lot of people went with the tried and true formula:
- See who everyone's picking as the weakest of the "strong teams"
- Check out that team's schedule
- Pick one of the "pretty bad" teams to beat that team
- Justify with a cliche like "momentum" or "trap"
Other upsets: Gophers beat Wolverines (in Ann Arbor!); four picks from Run Up the Score include Indiana over Iowa, Northwestern over Michigan, and Michigan State over Ohio State; Minnesota over Ohio State; Penn State over Michigan; Michigan State over Michigan; and Illinois over the Badgers.
Now it's time to hand out some awards. The last two questions were basically throwaways, with bloggers being required to say nice things about certain conference foes and mean things about others.
The Damning with Faint Praise Award goes to Hawkeye State, whose assignment was to say something nice about Indiana. Quoth the Hawkeye:
Indiana gave us Myles Brand, who is known far and wide as a scholar and a gentleman. His visionary leadership gave us the NCAA you know today.
Note to Hoosiers: ouch.
The Acknowledgment of a Cold, Brutal Reality Award is handed to Around the Oval, who recognizes the following about the rest of us as compared to Northwestern alumni:
It's all right, it's okay, we'll all be pumping their gas someday.
The I Haven't Been Paying Attention Since 2001 Award recipient is Lake the Posts. After a long tirade about classless, academically-deficient Ohio State fans, we get this:
Have fun complaining this year with your 50+ days off - you'll have plenty of time to gripe about how you got jobbed by the refs after getting smoked by Michigan.
Note to LtP: John Cooper is essentially a grease stain on the driveway of Ohio State and has been for better than half a decade.
The Man Award is destined, clearly, for the Hoosier Report, who questions Iowa's technique:
There's something profoundly insecure about a program that has to paint the visiting locker room pink.
And now on to the most important awards a blogger can receive. The Crown Their Asses award goes to Maize n Brew for their recognition of the USC Trojans as, in the words of Michigan's favorite alumnus Jim Harbaugh, "the greatest team in the history of college football."
After an exceedingly humbling throttling at the hands of USC, as a Michigan fan I must say greatest football team in the history of the multi-verse. When Pete Carroll is done saving starving orphans in China he dabbles in time travel and dimension swapping in an attempt to bring the finest humanitarian talent to Southern California.
Please note that for the purposes of the Trojans, college football started in 2001.
And finally the SOUTHERN SPEED Award goes to Around the Oval, whose profound statements help you think the Proper Thoughts about the SEC:
As for SEC speed, I understand that SEC players are so fast that when they get out of bed to shut off the light, they get to the switch only to discover they'd already beaten themselves to it. Then they are so fast that they can get back in bed before their past selves can even turn off the lights. The space-time continuum means nothing when southern speed is involved.
His thoughts on USC also make me want to subscribe to his newsletter; after awarding Southern Cal the national title at the beginning of the season, "we could just spend Saturdays watching Shelley Smith report on Pete Carroll and the Trojans having fun and being awesome."
Thanks to everyone who participated, great answers!