It's safe to say that despite the chaos that has occurred in college football's first week of the offseason, America-loving Heartlanders who fill the stands of Big 10 stadiums let out a mighty collective yawn in response. Drawings of penises on large painted rocks and (surprise!) a Texas school hiring a whiney head coach elicits zero excitement when compared to the prospects of Big Televen football returning to glory this coming fall. So, without further ado, I present to you the Crystal Ball-a-thon, a completely subjective and likely off-point glimpse into what could possibly happen in Big 10 conference football next season.
The Fightin' Zooker's out of conference schedule is much more favorable in 2010, but with what looks like an extrememly mediocre (see: awful) recruiting class coming in and key losses on both sides of the ball, victories over NIU and SIU are probably the best case scenario. A win at Fresno St. would be good redemption for the Illini after a heartbreaking if not hilarious loss in Champaign at the end of the '09 season, but at this point it could be wishful thinking. The conference schedule also looks grim, with away games at Penn State, Michigan State, Michigan and Northwestern (although it's highly likely that Illinois fans will be able to muster up 16+ fans to outnumber the jNW contingent at Ryan Field). If the start of '10 doesn't look promising, Zook is likely to be canned, in which case he can spend more time carving the wake.
Projected Illinois record for 2010: 3-9 (1-7)
While Bill Lynch is sure to have many signature moments in the upcoming season, there's reason for hope in Crimson and Cream land. The Indiana squad should be much improved in 2010 despite losing a large chunk of their defense, as the offense returns the majority of it's key producers, most notably WR Tandon Doss and QB Ben Chappell. The Hoosier's out of conference schedule is not entirely complete at this time, but currently they face Towson in Bloomington and travel to Central Michigan (who will be Lefevour-less). The in-conference schedule is somewhat favorable for the Hoosier's, who should be able to lock up three of four wins (largely contingent on how they play in Washington in a neutral field game against Penn State). Assuming Indiana schedules one more potential pushover, the Hoosiers could be hovering around .500 at the end of November.
Projected Indiana record for 2010: 6-6 (3-5)
Ok, all bias aside, Iowa is gonna dominate everyone... no seriously, no bias. The Iowa squad loses some very important players on defense and on the offensive line, but of all the teams in the Big 10, Iowa is at the top in terms of replacing top players. Jordan Bernstein should slide in to the CB spot vacated by Spievey, and Tyler Nielsen and Jeff Tarpinian look to be the favorites to replace Pat Angerer and AJ Edds at LB. While the departures on offensive line open up solid starting positions for Julian Vandervelde and Riley Rieff, the offensive line is the biggest concern. Counterbalancing the concerns, however, is the return of all starting four defensive linemen, TMFS, a healthy Jewel Hampton, and damn near every skill position player not named Terry Stross or Tony Moeaki. The Hawkeyes are poised for a run at the Big 10 title, but need to overcome obstacles against Arizona in Tucson and against lesser Big 10 opponents like Indiana and jNWU on the road who routinely give them trouble. Having home games against Penn State, Wisconsin, Michigan St. and Ohio State certainly helps matters, and a trip to the Rose Bowl could very well be on the line on November 20th against the Buckeyes. If the Hawks come out with a chip on their shoulder, a decisive victory against OSU is most certainly attainable. A strong incoming recruiting class could help shore up vacancies, but we'll likely have to wait past 2010 to see the effects of this class. One thing to watch out for is the possibility of a much improved Iowa offense. The depth at RB could prove to be Iowa's offensive identity, and with the most productive receivers returning, Iowa could actually put together a few sure thing wins this next year.
Projected Iowa record for 2010: 11-1 (7-1)
*PART 2 COMING SOON. CHAMPION WILL BE PREDICTED IN LAST INSTALLMENT.*
*2010 Big 10 Schedules were perused at FBSschedules.com. Specific wins were not listed, but projected records were derived after thoroughly looking through each team's schedule.*