2011 Big Ten Spring Football

 
Big Ten football fans

College Football 2011Post- Spring Ball Analysis

 

 

This is not your father’s Big Ten Conference. The league most wedded to tradition and resistant to change has undergone a substantial makeover in just one year. After speculation for months that it would add Missouri, the Big Ten successfully swung for the fences and added national power Nebraska as its twelfth member. With twelve schools in 2011, the league will split into the universally-lampooned “Leaders” and “Legends” divisions and play its first championship game in Indianapolis. The addition of another member and the beginning of a championship game shows that the Big Ten leadership is serious about competing with the other BCS conferences by finally having games of national significance after Thanksgiving and eliminating the impossibly long layoff its champions have traditionally faced between the last regular season game and its BCS bowl.



Until something changes, all Big Ten football discussion begins with Ohio State. The Buckeyes have won or shared the Big Ten title each of the last six seasons. The 2011 season, however, will present the most difficult challenge to that streak, but not because of any on-field events. The Buckeyes will be without five players, including quarterback Tyrelle Pryor, as well as head coach Jim Tressel, for the first five games of the season. Assistant Luke Fickell will coach the Buckeyes in his stead. Tressel and the five players will return in time for the heart of Big Ten play, but by then it will be difficult to tell how much of the season will be lost. Tressel won’t be rusty, but his players will be.

Luckily for the Buckeyes, there’s not a likely challenger in the Leaders Division. Penn State enters its second straight season with uncertainty at quarterback. Wisconsin loses its long time field general Scott Tolzien, a man who, like most Wisconsin quarterbacks, did just enough to punish teams for ganging up on the run. The Badgers also travel to Columbus, where they typically struggle. Unless the wheels completely come off the short-handed Buckeyes, they should still play in the inaugural conference championship game; Illinois, Indiana and Purdue are unlikely to pose a challenge.

 

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The Legends Division should be much more competitive. New coaches Brady Hoke at Michigan and Jerry Kill at Minnesota should see their squads improve immediately. Hoke promises to bring defensive intensity that Michigan lacked in the three years under Rich Rodriguez. Michigan State maximized its senior laden team (and luck of not having to face Ohio State) in 2010 by winning a share of the Big Ten title. Much of that squad is gone however, and one of the nation’s best quiet coaches, Mark Dantonio, will once again have to build a quality football team out of what remains. Nebraska played for the Big XII championship its final two years in the league and will be led by superstar quarterback Taylor Martinez, who is entering his sophomore season. Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini is a defensive wizard and his coaching style should help the Cornhuskers compete for the Legends Division title in their first season in the league.

The Big Ten took a chance by adding Nebraska and hosting a championship game in December. If that title game features top-10-ranked Ohio State and Nebraska, the conference brass will be elated with its experiment.

 

 

By: Matt Zemek
Big Ten Fans Staff Writer