Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Final Big Ten Football Power Rankings

1) No. 5 Wisconsin (11-1, 7-1 Big Ten); Last week, 1

Last week: won vs. Northwestern 70-23
Apparently there’s some big game being played in Southern California on New Year’s Day. Something to do with roses? Anyway, in our final 2010 edition of Big Ten Power Rankings, let’s dish on the all-conference teams a little bit. I liked John Moffitt and Gabe Carimi both getting first-team nods on the line, and obviously J.J. Watt was going to be there too. But Scott Tolzien deserved a better fate than coaches’ 2nd-team and media honorable mention. Tolzien and Northwestern’s Dan Persa had stupidly similar numbers - 74 percent completions (outrageous), a heavily-slanted TD-to-INT ratio, and plenty of passing yards. Didn’t look like the fact that Tolzien beat 11 teams and Persa beat seven (with a combined record of 30-53) meant anything.

2) No. 6 Ohio State (11-1, 7-1); LW, 2
Last week: won vs. Michigan 37-7
Five Buckeye defenders on the coaches’ first team is not overkill at all. What a fierce unit once again crafted by Jim Tressel and his staff - OSU allowed more than 20 points just ONCE all season long. A rematch of Wisconsin’s offense vs. Ohio State’s defense would be fun, hypothetically. However, Pryor got stiffed with his relegation to honorable mention. He makes the Buckeyes tick offensively - he’s every bit of a force as Cam Newton without two things, the flash and the cash. (As far as we know.)

3) No. 8 Michigan State (11-1, 7-1); LW, 3
Last week: won at Penn State 28-22
An impressive, we-too-belong win at Penn State probably won’t be enough to push the poor Spartans into the BCS. But Mark Dantonio - a well-deserving honoree for the Dave McClain award - ordered up some sour grapes by campaigning his team should be higher than Wisconsin just because MSU beat them (not in a tight win, but not in a rout) a few months ago. It’s a body of work, bud. Don’t lose to an Iowa team that was clearly fraudulent. Still, the two-teams-per-league rule will shut out Sparty the same way it did Bucky in 2006. Seriously, BCS, enjoy 7-5 Pittsburgh (if a few things fall into place).

4) Penn State (7-5, 4-4); LW, 5
Last week: lost vs. No. 10 Michigan State 28-22
Anybody want this fourth spot? Anybody at all? The Outback Bowl doesn’t have a lot of great choices once the big three go Rose, BCS at-large and Capital One Bowl. PSU, as my boss Don Doxsie put it, finished the season doing the least amount of damage to itself. Not to portray too much love for Wisconsin and Ohio State, but one wonders how Evan Royster’s 4.9 yards a carry and six touchdowns warranted a second-team coaches spot over the 7.0 yards a lug and 14 TDs for the Big Ten Frosh of the Year, James White. Is being a senior that important?

5) Illinois (6-5, 4-4); LW, 7
Last week: Idle
Well, the trip to Cali should be fun to finish the year. Illinois could really use the win, not just for an impressive resume-builder against 7-4 Fresno State, but also to pull even with the other 18 teams in this conference that finished 7-5 overall and .500 in conference. Mikel LeShoure has already wrapped up the rushing title, and is working on three straight 100-yard games. Another one and he’ll probably get to 1,500 before the bowl.
Next: at Fresno State, Fri. 9:15 p.m. ESPN2

6) Iowa (7-5, 4-4); LW, 4
Last week: lost at Minnesota 27-24
You just have to wonder if a guy like Adrian Clayborn is glad he came back. Well, he’s healthy and a deserving first-team defensive end who should be drafted highly next April. Rick Stanzi’s a heck of a leader and talented quarterback, but it’s hard to complain with both the coaches and media not even giving him honorable mention because he simply didn’t finish games this season. The murmurs about firing Kirk Ferentz are preposterous, solely built on quick-hit emotion after a bad loss in Minneapolis. Breathe, Hawkeye fans. It’ll be fine. Remember those Oranges from 11 months ago.

7) Michigan (7-5, 3-5); LW, 6
Last week: lost at No. 8 Ohio State 37-7
Sooooo ... Denard Robinson is an honorable mention quarterback, but the coaches gave him Offensive Player of the Year. While feeling the need to make Persa a first-teamer. Good to know those coaches are spending about 7 or 8 minutes on their ballots. Between this and the Royster thing, why make the coaches vote on a team if they’re not going to do it right?

8) Purdue (4-8, 2-6); LW, 8
Last week: lost vs. Indiana 34-31 (OT)
Hey, remember when the Boilermakers were 2-0 in conference? Neither does anyone else. Six straight losses to end the year, and Purdue allowed 34-plus points in five of them (at least 27 in every one). When you have the Big Ten consensus defensive player of the year, Ryan Kerrigan, on your side, that shows how far Purdue needs to grow as a defense.

9) Northwestern (7-5, 3-5); LW, 9
Last week: lost at No. 7 Wisconsin 70-23
Okay, so Dan Persa might be more important to his football team than any other player in the Big Ten Conference. We saw that in the way Northwestern collapsed in the final two weeks (though a missing quarterback has little to do with allowing 118 points in two games). But coaches and media aren’t supposed to vote based on value. It’s a vote based on merit. Tolzien, Pryor, Robinson, and arguably Kirk Cousins and Ricky Stanzi were better for their teams from start to finish than Persa. First-team all-conference is a gift.

10) Minnesota (3-9, 2-6); LW, 10
Last week: won vs. No. 24 Iowa 27-24
Pig out, Gopher fans. Amazing how even Minnesota was able to take advantage of Iowa’s lack of desire for a final win. Two of the three non-bowl-eligible Big Ten teams finished with wins, something that any sports fan can appreciate.

11) Indiana (5-7, 1-7); LW, 11
Last week: won at Purdue 34-31 (OT)
I just can’t lift Indiana out of last place, even with the extra-period win at rival Purdue. Obviously, the fact that IU scraped together five wins wasn’t enough to save Bill Lynch’s job. He’s a good man who was put in a tough situation after Terry Hoeppner’s death, but how long can you really give an interim coach to turn things around? Looks like the Hoosiers are stuck in building mode for at least a couple more years.

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