Posted on 21 January 2010.
In Part 2 of our three-part coverage, College FootBlog continues our breakdown of the top six BCS conferences from the 2009 season. In case you missed it, we ranked the fifth and sixth conferences earlier this week (see link). We continue our analysis by providing a recap of last season and an outlook for next year for conferences #3 and #4 in our Power Rankings.
4. Big 12
Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh was one of very few bright spots in the Big 12 in '09 (google images)
If not for Texas making it to the BCS National Championship Game, the Big 12 would have ranked fifth or sixth in the ’09 Power Rankings. Nebraska came out of nowhere, but their offense was anemic. Oklahoma lost Sam Bradford and never really got on track all year. Add in Mizzou and Texas Tech not living up to high expectations coming off successful 2008 campaigns, and the Big 12 didn’t have much to talk about beyond Colt McCoy, Jordan Shipley and Ndamukong Suh.
2010 outlook: Next season will likely be more of the same for the Big 12. Although the loss of Colt McCoy in the first quarter of the BCS National Championship was a huge blow, it provided valuable experience to Freshman Garrett Gilbert. Oklahoma’s offense should be improved with Landry Jones having a year of experience under his belt, but their dominant defense will likely take a step back. The Sooners lose six defensive starters, including both corners and projected first-round DT Gerald McCoy.
Texas Tech will likely take a year or two before they truly integrate to Tommy Tuberville’s system, Oklahoma State will have to replace starting quarterback Zac Robinson and will lose WR Dez Bryant to the NFL. Mizzou loses playmakers on each side of the ball in WR Denario Alexander and projected first round linebacker, Sean Weatherspoon. Add to that, Nebraska’s departure of Suh (who many project as the number one overall pick in April’s draft), and the Big 12 North will have trouble keeping points off the scoreboard.
3. Big Ten
2009 Recap: The major reason the Big Ten did not claim the #2 spot in the ’09 Power Rankings was depth. Iowa surprised many experts by effectively shutting Georgia Tech’s offense down, thanks in large part to All-Big Ten DE Adrian Clayborn, who is planning on returning for his senior year. Terrelle Pryor saved his best performance for last, as he dominated in Ohio State’s Rose Bowl win over Oregon.
The Big Ten finished with a bowl record of 4-3, with a surprising win from Wisconsin over Miami and a Penn State victory over an offensively inept LSU team. A more in depth look at the top two teams from the conference, however, shows a couple of teams that were far from juggernauts.
Iowa had one of the best defenses in the nation, but their offense was nothing to write home about. The Hawkeyes struggled to beat Arkansas State at home and had to depend on two blocked field goals at the end of the game to defeat another FCS opponent, Northern Iowa 17-16 in Iowa City.
The Buckeyes nearly lost their opener to Navy at home and fell to a struggling USC team, and they later fell to 5-7 Purdue.
Look for Terrelle Pryor to have a huge year in 2010 (google images)
Look for the Big Ten to make a serious run at the #2 conference in the country next season. Jim Tressel continues to put great defenses on the field for the Bucks and the offense should take a huge step forward with the return of running backs Brandon Saine and Boom Herron. And if Terrelle Pryor’s Rose Bowl performance was a sign of things to come, the Bucks will be the real deal come fall.
Iowa is also very young on offense–the ‘Hawks will return both freshman running backs, quarterback Ricky Stanzi and wideout Marvin McNutt, who exploded onto the scene in 2009. Couple that with Adrian Clayborn and several returners on an already dominant defense, and the ‘Hawks could make a serious run in 2010.
Three other teams from the Big Ten to keep an eye on next year are Northwestern, Wisconsin and Michigan. Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald is one of the most underrated coaches in the country. Wisconsin’s John Clay took full advantage of being the work horse last year, and expect more of the same in 2010, and watch out for the Wolverines. This will be Rich Rodriguez’ third full season in Ann Arbor, and Tate Forcier will have a spring to put some much needed weight on. If UM can assemble an average defense, the Big Blue will be bowling again at year’s end.
Look for the breakdown of the top two conferences in College FootBlog’s countdown in the next few days…