Coach of the Year: In an utterly uncompetitive conference, Jim Tressel emerges as the only choice to pick up this award.
Most Likely To Strike Heisman Pose: the Heisman is a popularity contest based on media love, and the man who's been the recipient of a disproportionate amount of hype is James Laurinaitis of Ohio State. The Heisman people don't like to get away from quarterbacks and running backs, but this guy could break into the group of finalists with a flashy performance against USC and continued success throughout the season.
Last Year's Illini Will Be This Year's ???? (most improved): I really don't see one. Maybe Michigan State with a couple of breaks. Maybe Purdue if Curtis Painter grows a brain. But I see Ohio State, big gap, Wisconsin/Penn State, big gap, lots of other teams, big gap, Minnesota/Northwestern.
Upset game of the year (include non-conference): Probably not an upset right off the bat considering all the kinks that will need to be worked out but I could certainly see Utah over Michigan.
Name You'll Know In December That No One Knows In June: I have to stay within my own team for this one. It'll be presumptive Badger starting quarterback Allan Evridge. With competent receivers, a huge target in Travis Beckum, a stable of running backs to keep the heat off of him, and the weakest crop of Big Ten quarterbacks in memory, Evridge has a shot to make an impression right away. While he appears to be another in the unbroken line of caretaker quarterbacks in Madison, this guy is game tested -- he was the starter at Kansas State a few years back, and he competed for the starting job last year right up till the very end (though Tyler Donovan wound up winning out.)
Most Likely To John McLaren (aka lose it in postgame rant): If Rich Rodriguez beats him with all the wrong personnel, look for Mark Dantonio of Michigan State to melt down after the game. Yes, it seemed like the Spartans hired him solely as a contrast to the wackiness of John L. Smith, but listen to his comments here and tell me there's not a whole volcano of crazy bubbling up under the surface:
Highest NFL Draft Pick in 2009: Travis Beckum. This question came pre-filled in with Chris Wells (thanks for the help LTP!) and I can't disagree that he -- along with like ten other Buckeyes -- would be a great pickup, but let's face it: great tight ends are tough to find, and Beckum could be one for the ages. He runs, he catches, he blocks, and most of all he does this:
The Must See Game of the Year that is not Ohio State - Michigan: Woe be unto he who thinks that UM/OSU is a must-see this year; Tressel is going to welcome Rich Rodriguez to the Big Ten with an unprecedented pummeling. If Tressel didn't have more class in his fingernail than Woody Hayes had in his whole body, this would 1968 all over again. The talent gap isn't huge but the change in philosophy in Ann Arbor is. Beating the Buckeyes without a quarterback? I don't think so.
Anyway, the answer to that question is certainly Ohio State-USC, a game that will take place in California on Saturday, September 13. Hats off to both teams for saying "to hell with it, let's end someone's season in week three" and scheduling this amazing out of conference matchup. Ohio State has done a remarkable job of scheduling these marquee games over the past few seasons and is to be held in high esteem for doing so. USC and OSU will do battle on the field, but the real competition will happen in the clubs after the game when they use booster money to out-"make it rain" one another. (Prediction: Carroll wins!)