The 2011 Big 10 Football season promises to be one of the most exciting in recent memory. The biggest reason for anticipation revolves around the addition of the Nebraska Cornhuskers to the conference. The former Big 12 football powerhouse should fit in nicely and will form some nice natural rivalries with Wisconsin, Penn State, and The Ohio State University. This season the Big Ten will bump up to 12 teams. The 12 teams will be broken into two divisions: The Legends & The Leaders. The Legends Division will be comprised of Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Northwesterm. The Leaders Division will feature Ohio State, Illinois, Indiana, Penn State, Purdue, and Wisconsin.
If that wasn’t enough of a change to build up excitement for the upcoming season, the fact that the race for the Big 10 Championship is probably more wide open that ever certainly will. Perennial favorite, the Ohio State Buckeyes will likely fall back to the pack this year as they lost head coach Jim Tressel and star quarterback Terrelel Pryor to the “TattooGate” scandal. The likely fall of the OSU program will open the door for several other strong teams such as the Wisconsin Badgers, Michigan State Spartans, Penn State Nittany Lions, Northwestern Wildcats, and of course, the new addition Nebraska Cornhuskers. Although there are a lot of question marks and unknowns at this point in the season, below we rank the top Big 10 College Football Programs.
1. Wisconsin Badgers
The Wisconsin Badgers have been one of the strongest programs in the nation but the perennial BCS title contender Ohio State Buckeyes have always been in the way. Despite the fact that the Badgers lost quite a bit of top talent, they have plenty of depth, especially on offense,that should be able to step right in. This season should be an opportunity for the Badgers to take control of the control of an unusually weak conference with their strong running game and tough defence.
2. Nebraska Cornhuskers
Although there will likely be some bumps along the way for NU as they adjust to the Big 10, the Huskers defensive prowess should keep them in the mix for the Big 10 title. If coach Pelini can make some defensive adjustments and Quarterback Taylor Martinez builds upon his success in 2010, the Huskers have a shot at the Big 10 title in their first year and a BCS Bowl game. The only thing holding them back is a brutal schedule that includes a non-conference game against the Washington Huskies and Wyoming Cowboys, as well as tough road games against Penn State, Michigan, and Wisconsin.
3. The Ohio State Buckeyes
The Ohio State Buckeyes are still extremely deep and talented but its hard to imagine the pressure and scrutiny not getting to them. New head coach Luke Fickell will have his hands full finding a replacement for Terrelle Pryor and continuing to deal with distracting allegations following TattooGate. If coach Fickell can take what he learned from Jim Tressell he might be able to minimize the damage and have OSU ready to compete for a title- they certainly have the talent!
4. Michigan State
The Michigan State Spartans are the Wildcards of the Big 10. They have the talent and ability to be title contenders but they have plenty of question marks. Namely, they need continued development and improvement out of Kirk Cousins. They also need to address who will Eric Gordon and Greg Jones at Linebacker.
5. Penn State
After a down 2010, the PSU Nittany Lions could take a big step forward. The question is how big of a step are they able to take. A lot will be riding on who wins the quarterback competition.
The Northwestern Wildcats always seem to be the underdog in the Big 10. If Dan Persa continues to build upon his impressive 2010 campaign and the defense improves, NU could shock the Big 10 world.
After an impressive Insight Bowl win, the Hawkeyes look like they are on the up and up. However, this isn’t the year for Kirk Ferentz’s squad to put it all together.
The Illini will have a lot of rebuilding to do on defense but they look to have found a quarterback in Nathan Scheelhaase.
New head coach Brady Hoke will have his work cut out for him but if Denard Robinson and spread offense can put it all together the Wolverines could be a dangerous team.
The Purdue Boilermakers are a sexy pick as a sleeper team in the Big 10 but they still have lots of question marks on defense.
Another new head coach, Jerry Kill will have his work cut out for him. He does have some talent to work with but it will likely be a few years before this program starts making some noise.
Kevin Wilson does have a plan but it will likely be a few years before the Hoosiers are anything but Big 10 bottom feeders.
No matter how these teams end up finishing out the season, there is not doubt 2011 will be an exciting year for Big Ten Football. For all your college football needs be sure to check out our wide selection of College Football Tickets!