Leaders Division Breakdown

The Leaders Division has definitely had the most drama during the off season. Topping that list would be the mess that is thee Ohio State University with player suspensions, Tressel suspending himself, and suspending himself again, and then getting shown the door before the NCAA could come in and drop the hammer1. Oh, and Terrelle Pryor left the team to go pro. Then there is Wisconsin, who gained a standout QB in Russell Wilson, who transferred from NC State. Illinois lost it’s three best players early to the NFL draft. Even Penn State had a little drama late this summer when Joe Paterno took a hit in practice and injured his shoulder and hip. And then there’s Purdue and Indiana who, well, continue to be Purdue and Indiana

6. Indiana Hoosiers
The Hoosiers have a new head man at the helm in former Oklahoma O-coordinator, Kevin Wilson. He has his hands full with a team that only went 1-7 last year in the Big Ten and only returns 9 starters. Ben Chappell is gone, and so is pretty much all hope at a decent season. They came within an eyelash of beating Iowa last year, with the unluckiest drop in their team’s history, but if that happens this year I’m turning in my fan card and giving up all hope of Iowa doing anything significant ever again. This team has zero shot at even making mild sound, let alone any noise. Wilson may be the right guy to help them turn it around, but not this year. Vegas has their over-under on wins set at 4 1/2, and they won’t hit that. They will lose every Big Ten game. (0-8)

5. Illinois Fighting Illini
As previously noted, Illinois lost their three best players to the NFL draft. But they do get back sophomore QB Nathan Scheelhaase, who proved last year he can run as well as he throws. This has Illini fans all excited, thinking they could win the Leaders division this year. We would like to remind them that their head coach is Ron Zook. The Zooker2 will prove once again that he may be able to bring in talent, but can’t seem to coach ‘em up enough to win3. They may be able to score, but in the end they won’t have the defensive front seven to hang with the big boys. And Danny Hope and Purdue will remember them running it up last year and get payback this year, dropping the Illini to a fifth place finish. (2-6)

4. Purdue Boilermakers
I thought Purdue would be my darkhorse in the Big Ten race, but they just don’t have enough horses yet. Sure, they are getting 15 starters back, but if those starters couldn’t play last year then does it really matter how many you get back? The fact is, we still have no idea if sophomore QB Rob Henry can throw, and if he can he really has no one to throw to. And he has no one to hand the ball off to, as he led the team in rushing last season. And he replaced senior QB Robert Marve after an ACL injury, so who’s to say Henry will even start. I’d look for Purdue to make strides and give some teams hell, but they are still a year away from being a contender. They’re still young and improving. Just don’t try and rise up and beat your alleged rival, Iowa, towards the end of the year4. (3-5)

3. Penn State Nittany Lions
This is the team that I thought would be passed by Purdue, but I couldn’t do it. So why not? The home schedule looks good. I would have had them losing to OSU and Wisky no matter what, but those are road games, so the Nittany Lions get the benefit of having a lot of winnable games at home. Like it or not, Happy Valley is still one of the tougher places to play in college football5. I see swing games against Purdue, Illinois, Nebraska, and yes, even Iowa going Penn State’s way. For any of this to happen, they’ve got have consistency at the quarterback position. Matt McGloin started hot, but then turned into an interception machine late in the year. And then there’s sophomore Rob Bolden, who was talking transfer until JoePa said no to that idea. Bolden was inconsistent in his freshman year, and was dominated by Iowa in primetime. But that Iowa game this year is huge. Penn State welcomes Alabama in week two, and will likely suffer a beat down in that one. Their next test is the Hawkeyes, and if they are humbled in that one again, things could go downhill in a hurry. But if they win, the schedule sets up for them to roll. That is until those back to back roadies at Columbus and Madison to close out the season, which will end up costing them the division title. (5-3)

2. Ohio State Buckeyes
You all know what happened this off-season, right? No reason to rehash? Okay then, moving on. People think that OSU is done, but I would like to remind everyone that they are still OSU. Former linebackers coach and co-defensive coordinator Luke Fickell is your new head man in Columbus, and he’ll have some work to do early in the year. Now it’s only 4 guys that are suspended for the first five games, as Terrelle Pryor got out ahead of the mob and went pro. But those other 4 are pretty damn good players as well, and they will miss games at Miami and home vs. Michigan State. But OSU will still win most of their games based on the stock-piled talent at every position they’ve been acquiring over the past four years6. We may not know much about their QB, but their O-Line will likely be the best in the league, and their D-line will just reload as well. I see them dropping that MSU game, but rebounding in Lincoln when they get their studs back7. But the showdown game for the division will be held on October 29th against Wisconsin. I feel they will drop that game as well, and then run the table. Too bad for Buckeye fans that Wisconsin will not do them any favors and only lose one game, and they’ll fall one game short of winning another Big Ten title8. (6-2)

1. Wisconsin Badgers
I didn’t really like the Badgers chances of winning the Big Ten, let alone winning the Leaders division over Ohio State. But that was back in April when Jim Tressel was still a coach, Terrelle Pryor was still a quarterback, and Russell Wilson was still pondering on what school to go to. And then Tressel admitted to being a liar, Pryor admitting to being a quitter, and Wilson chose Wisconsin. I’ve always believed that quarterback play is everything, and the Badgers had a good one fall into their lap. In his three years at NC State, Wilson threw for 8,545 yards, with 76 TD’s to 26 INT’s. And he’s fast as hell and a real run threat. And he has quite the cast, too. It’s crazy that you can lose a John Clay and still have the best stable of backs in the league (see Montee Ball and James White). And that offensive line looks to be as formidable as ever, despite losing two All-Americans to the pros. Fact: there is not an offensive lineman on their roster under 300 pounds. The defense if fit to be dominant as well. They lose JJ Watt on the D-line, but the rest of the line returns intact. Linebacker could be a bit thin, but they get back 2009 Big Ten freshman of the year, Chris Borland from injury. I’ll say this without a doubt: no one is winning in Madison this year. Nebraska opens their Big Ten life at Wisconsin on October 1st, and they won’t be walking out with a warm welcome. The true test for the Badgers is back to back roadies at MSU and OSU. As long as they don’t lose them both, they win the division by a game, and will likely win the title game in Indy as well. Remember when they named Bielema the successor to Alvarez, and we all thought he was a meathead? Seems like a long time ago now. Alvarez won at least 10 games 4 times at Wisconsin. Bielema has done it 3 times, and will make it 4 this year. (7-1; Leaders Division Champions)

So there you have it for the Leaders division. The two best teams play in this division, and the October 29th contest will likely decide who gets to the title game. If you’re looking for a team to come out of nowhere, I’d go with Purdue. Henry could be good and allow them to snag some upsets. If you’re looking for a team to go in the opposite direction, I’d pick Penn State. The QB play could be inconsistent and things could snowball if the Hawks should find a way to win yet again in Happy Valley. OSU and Wisky are both 25-1 to win the national title. If forced to bet, I’d pick the Badgers without hesitation on that one. They seem to have the players at every position, but some really good players at positions that count the most. I feel much more comfortable about picking them in the Leaders division than any of the picks I’ve made in the Legends.

  1. We’re still waiting NCAA. Anytime this decade would be swell. And if you don’t drop the hammer, so help me God I will come down there and…oh, sorry. You can continue reading now. []
  2. I will forever call him Zooker on this site, because Zooker sounds like hooker and that makes me laugh. []
  3. Did you know Zooker actually got a raise after last season? How in the F is that even possible? []
  4. That game has trap written all over it and scares the piss out of me. []
  5. Unless you’re the Iowa Hawkeyes. Not so happy in the valley when we come to town, is it fellas? []
  6. It’s apparently easier to bring 5 star recruits into the program when they know they get free tats and cars. []
  7. That’s right, Nebraska. We’re not exactly sold on you just yet []
  8. I guess they didn’t win it last year since they gave those wins back, huh? []
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