>"They Got Like A High School Stadium"

>That title my friends, was an actual quote of a Big Ten player in reference to Ryan Field. In one of the only polls of its kind I’ve ever seen, AnnArbor.com’s Dave Birkett polled actual Big Ten players for both positive and controversial questions. Of course, he granted anonymity to all eleven players he polled which is good, because a)I can’t ever pronounce the word anonymity so I’m glad this is written and b)I don’t want to know which player’s grammar makes mine look good. As you can see in the poll, Ryan Field received nine votes as the worst atmosphere. With the exception of Terrelle Pryor as the most exciting player, this slam on us was the most one-sided, consensus among the league. Only Indiana even received another vote and based on the fact you couldn’t vote for your own team, stadium or coach, one would assume that vote was from an NU player.

I actually love this kind of poll as it gives you as much as a pulse of what player’s really think as you’ll see. Granted, the sample size isn’t quite up to muster, but it is fun nonetheless. I was surprised that Kirk Ferentz was the winner of the answer to “Which Big Ten coach would you most like to play for?” Fitz only received one vote which shocked me. Although, he is in pretty heady company. Here are the results:

Kirk Ferentz, Iowa – 4
Comment: “They just always have such a well-coached team.”
Joe Paterno, Penn State – 3
Jim Tressel, Ohio State – 3
Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern – 1

Now would be a good time to revisit the stadium series I guess. Let’s book it for tomorrow. In the meantime, here are some thoughts on the Big Ten from a conference wide perspective. We’ll call it a poll of one – LTP. I’ll try my best to invoke the same rules – I can’t vote for NU in any category.

Best Home Schedule

Minnesota – USC, Penn State, Ohio State and Iowa all trek to TCF Stadium. Oh yeah, and Northwestern. For the record, Tim Brewster referenced this fact at the Big Ten luncheon and noticably omitted Northwestern’s name from his home schedule that he was bragging about. I didn’t forget Tim and it’s payback time after the egg we laid against the Gophers.

There are two other non-conference games (South Dakota and Middle Tennessee State) but those names will be sure to keep ticket scalpers very busy in the Twin Cities.

Schedule Best Set-up For Success

Northwestern – There. I broke the voting rules. And – I jinxed us. However, NU needs to learn how to put teams away and throttle the jugular. Overcoming and LTP jinx is third in line. The ‘Cats will likely be favored in at least six of their first eight games and potentially all eight- @Vanderbilt, vs ISU, @Rice, vs Central Michigan, @Minnesota, Purdue, Michigan State, @Indiana. With Mavre at Purdue, and Cousins and his WRs back in Spartyland and my surprise pick of the year with Indiana, it won’t be easy. However, big picture, when you look at our talent and the schedule, I can’t remember it setup better for success. Ever.

Surprise Team Of The Year – Good Version

Indiana – As you’ve read here, I’m high on the Hoosiers in 2010. Yes, the defense has more question marks than players, but I’m likening this team to the 2005 ‘Cats. A high-octane offense with a proven QB (Chappell is our “Baz”), a money wideout (Tandon Doss) and an electrifying RB – Darrius Willis (the Hoosiers’ Tyrell Sutton). Throw in a non-conference schedule that makes NU’s seem tough (IU has Towson, Western Kentucky, Akron and Arkansas State) and there is reason for bowl expectations in Bloomington.

Surprise Team of the Year – Bad Version

Penn State
It is all relative, but “bad” in Happy Valley is when you don’t reach a BCS bowl. I expect an 8-4 season, but the Nittany Lions are looking at a likely 3-2 start with a road game at defending national champ Alabama and a road Big Ten opener against their nemesis Iowa. They also play at Ohio State in November so the season finale in the Land Grant could be there make or break game.

Favorite Non-NU Player
Tie – Darrius Willis (Indiana), Terry Hawthorne (Illinois)
Darrius Willis might not be a name most ‘Cats fans remember. The reason? He had blitzed the ‘Cats for an 80-yard TD before most of you were in your seats last year. The electrifying RB for the Hoosiers was dinged up last year and still was a human highlight film. The theme in Bloomington this year is “finish” and with Willis they will. Separately, the Illini’s Terry Hawthorne earned my love for this amazing run down last year in the “never give up” category.

Sexy Opening Weekend Upset Pick
This is as in “gets upset” not, pull the upset. Purdue over Notre Dame is another, but the Wolverines pulled a Northwestern in scheduling by scheduling UCONN. The Huskies are still a team that gets no respect nationally, although a lot of sympathy based on last season’s tragedy, yet are consistently competitive every season. This is akin to scheduling Nevada. You win, the average fan “expects” it, but to those who know, UCONN will be a tough out. The game is in the Big(ger) House and if there is a team that has cornered the season-opening news making loss, it is Michigan.

Most Feared Defense
Michigan State
This is through a Northwestern fans eyes. Greg Jones and his fellow LBs just stuck it to NU last year. It was as if they were getting to Kafka and our RBs as we handed off the ball. I’m still having nightmares about the way the controlled our line last year and the Spartans return the bulk of the business on D.

Most Feared Big Strike Play
Tie – Iowa, Michigan State
The combo of seasoned QB and wily veteran WRs is a dangerous combo. When you throw in our less than proven secondary and solid front seven, you know we’ll be tested deep often. The Stanzi to DJK threat is one that we’ll be talking about all the way up to the November 13 game against the Hawkeyes. Similarly, Kirk Cousins has his pick between Dell and Cunningham both of whom, I fear, will add to the long list of Spartan ‘Cat killers.

Quickest Hot Seat
Tie – Ron Zook, RichRod
If RichRod loses to UCONN it is all but over for him. The Irish are the week two opponent and playing at Indiana who will be the equivalent of Iowa waiting for NU in terms of payback (hey, what do you think gum sales will be at that game?) setup for a potential disaster if he doesn’t take care of business. The Illini face Mizzou (loss) in the opener and then after wins over Illinois directionals open with the gauntlet of Ohio State at home and then @Penn State and @Michigan State. That’s 2-4 to open the season and Zook will be trying to hang his team together in hopes that they can rebound against middle-to-lower of the pack teams.

We’ll have much more or these types of Big Ten overview posts coming in the next few weeks. Have at it…

  • Alvious

    >Regarding Zook and U of I, I think you're jumping the gun a bit by giving them two wins. I got a feeling NIU might jump up and beat 'em.

  • Lake The Posts

    >@alvious – great point.

  • Look Good In Purple

    >To be fair, the worst thing Illinois has working against it is new coaches and inexperienced players. They are definitely talented, and frankly the coaches have to be better than what they were last year. From all accounts Mikel LeShoure is the real deal and this Scheelhaase has gotten good reviews.

  • Lake The Posts

    >@LGIP – agree in full, but still doesn't necessarily equate to wins.

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