It's a Northwestern football fan's favorite time of year -- the preseason, when they haven't yet been torched by Duke and spirits aren't quite at Carrie Nation-era lows in Evanston (har!) As such, Lake the Posts is going full throttle and has tasked the Big Ten Bloggers to come up with their picks for preseason all-conference teams. Here are mine (I didn't pick special teams because that's really out of my realm):
2008 Big Ten College Football Preseason All-Conference Selections
Quarterback: Todd Boeckman, Ohio State
Running back: Beanie Wells, Ohio State
Running back: PJ Hill, Wisconsin
Receiver: Brian Hartline, Ohio State
Receiver: Greg Mathews, Michigan
Receiver: Arrelious Benn, Illinois
Tight End: Travis Beckum, Wisconsin
Center: AQ Shipley, Penn State
Guard: Kraig Urbik, Wisconsin
Guard: Steve Rehring, Ohio State
Tackle: Alex Boone, Ohio State
Tackle: Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin
Easiest picks: The easiest pick here was Beckum. It's still a mystery to me why he's back in Madison this year; did the draft analysts really believe he would fall past the first round? Maybe if Beckum builds up sufficient hype he could be a top-five kind of guy this year. Beyond that, Wells was a no-brainer and Shipley, Urbik, and Boone are coming off of all-conference seasons.
Toughest picks: I didn't have solid answers for the receiving corps. Arrelious Benn was the Big Ten Freshman of the Year last year despite having Juice Williams throwing to him and playing on a team that had Rashard Mendenhall eating up touches. He could absolutely blow up this year. Greg Mathews looks ready to continue the unbroken line of astounding Michigan receivers (how far back can YOU go? Manningham, Avant, Edwards, Walker, Terrell ...), leaving room for only one pick between Ohio State's duo of Robiskie and Hartline. Also, this appears to be very much a down year at the quarterback position the Big Ten. A lot of people are probably going to wind up picking Curtis Painter as their first-teamer, but I just can't put my faith in a guy who routinely leads his team to late-season meltdowns. Since the other names up for consideration are Juice Williams, Kellen Lewis, and CJ Bacher, I went with Boeckman, a man whose job won't even be secure if Terrelle Pryor lives up to the hype immediately. People might also take issue with PJ Hill, especially since UW has four proven running backs returning this year, but the (presumably) popular pick of Javon Ringer smells distinctly of tokenism to me.
End: Maurice Evans, Penn State
End: Greg Middleton, Indiana
Tackle: Terrence Taylor, Michigan
Tackle: Mitch King, Iowa
Linebacker: Jonathon Casillas, Wisconsin
Linebacker: James Laurinaitis, Ohio State
Linebacker: Marcus Freeman, Ohio State
Linebacker: Martez Wilson, Illinois
Cornerback: Malcom Jenkins, Ohio State
Cornerback: Donovan Warren, Michigan
Safety: Anthony Scirrotto, Penn State
Safety: Stevie Brown, Michigan
Easiest picks: Laurinaitis, of course. And the entire defensive line: three first-team all-conference picks return, and the guy who wasn't first team, Taylor, was a second-teamer. Those are big dudes who want to devour you.
Toughest picks: I engaged in a little homerism putting the mildly-inconsistent-but-improving Casillas on my list. I'm not sure there's a consensus #2 cornerback in the conference so I think I'm sticking my neck out a little bit by tapping Donovan Warren. Indeed, it seems like almost all of the talent among the deep men has departed the Big Ten, as I was positively scrambling to choose safeties. Could be a big year for airing the ball out in the Big Ten with inexperienced secondaries appearing to be the rule.