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Thursday, April 28, 2005

Welcome to mgoblog's unified Big Ten season preview page. As of right now, we have just the barest outlines of the goofy-ass glory that is to come. Each team will get a full season preview. Michigan, of course, will get coverage that should frighten and alarm Lloyd Carr. He may want to take out a restraining order.

Before giving me both barrels, be sure to check out this explanatory post.

Update 5/23: Indiana preview up.
Update 5/30: Minnesota is done.
Update 6/13: Penn State. Yo.
Update 7/11: Michigan State. Goddammit I need to do these faster.
Update 7/14: Iowa.
Update 7/26: Northwestern. A note: the text on this page was written before any of the previews and thus represents some ignorance, especially re: NU. I will fix when complete.
Update 8/7:
Update 8/17: Ohio State.
Update 8/28: Wisconsin.
Update 9/01: Michigan.

To start, let's shamelessly steal from Bill Simmons. I've grouped the teams into three tiers, given them snappy names, and assigned each an official quote from The Big Lebowski, the official movie of mgoblog.

Indiana: Hoep for the Futuer?
Official Big Lebowski Quote: "Shut the f*** up, Donny."
Why? Because they're out of their element, that's why! Because they have no frame of reference, that's why! Because the rest of the Big Ten can treat them with the same respect that Walter treats Donny... that's why. Gerry DiNardo is out and Terry Hoeppner is in, but the forecast for Indiana football remains mostly cloudy with a 10 percent chance of bowl.

Official Big Lebowski Quote: "Yeah, well, that's just, like, your opinion, man."
Why? Ron Zook got run out of Gainsville on a rail but landed on his feet... well, knees in Champaign. He'd love to prove those guys at wrong. Real darn tootin' wrong. Starting this year? Uh... probably not.

Wisconsin: Divest Your Stocco
Official Big Lebowski Quote: "Five thousand years of beautiful tradition from Moses to Sandy Koufax? You're goddamn right I'm living in the past!"
Why? On November 12th, 2004, the Badgers were 9-0, #4 in the polls and riding an intimidating defense to either the national championship game or the Rose Bowl. Badger fans would do well to wistfully remember that moment. Wisconsin was annihilated 49-14 by MSU the next day and proceeded to lose its next two games to finish 9-3. This year? That intimidating defense is in the NFL, smoking pot, or smoking pot in the NFL. Wisconsin's entire starting defensive line and three-quarters of their secondary was lost to graduation. Brett Bell, the only returning starter in the secondary, tore his ACL in January. Only five starters return on the other side of the ball, and one of them is quarterback John Stocco, who sucks. Close your eyes and think of Koufax, cheeseheads, because this year is going to be ugly.

Northwestern: Spectacularly Average
Official Big Lebowski Quote: "Jackie Treehorn treats objects like women, man."
Why? Northwestern appears to be relying on Brett Basanez's shaky arm (53.8 completion percentage in '04) to win games next year. They are confused. Basanez is "heady" and "a gamer" but in his case those are just nice ways to say "incapable of throwing straight." The vastly underrated Noah Herron is gone and Northwestern will badly miss his pass receiving and knack for squeezing out just enough yards. The bad parts of a horrendous defense return (so does injured DE Loren Howard, however, giving Wildcat fans some cause for hope). Never fear, Wildcats, there's always basketball season... uh, the hockey team... um... alums bashing everybody in newspapers nationwide. Yeah. That's the ticket.

Penn State: Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Robinson
Official Big Lebowski Quote: "Phone's ringing, dude."
Why? Penn State is entering its fifth year of attempting to deny the plainly obvious fact that Michael Robinson is a wide receiver. Robinson is scheduled to bounce passes five yards in front of his intended receivers for the Nittany Lions this year, and no amount of eye-closing, ear-plugging, and "I can't hear you"-screaming will transform him into anything resembling a quarterback. The good news is that the paper version of PSU's defense is a monster and staggeringly fast WR recruit Derrick Williams got drunk on root beer and faxed his LOI to Penn State. Expect Williams to throw his hands up in frustration a lot this year, just like Beaver Stadium attendees. Also expect a lot of repeats of the Iowa game, a 6-4 abortion that had viewers nationwide clawing their eyes out.

Michigan State: O Stanton Without Whom We Are Naught
Official Big Lebowski Quote: "Nobody f***s with the Jesus."
Why? If there's a Jesus in this conference, it's Drew Stanton. The Spartans will live and die on the feet and arm of Crazy Legs Drew. With him, they're an explosive offensive team capable of hanging 51 on you and overcoming their awful defense. Without him, they're Indiana. John L. Smith should tranquilize Stanton until the fall, and then wrap him in styrofoam before sending him out on the field. Expect Michigan State to win a game or two it shouldn't, lose to Kent State or Indiana, and finish in the middle of the pack, just like always.

Minnesota: Take The Over
Official Big Lebowski Quote: "Stay out of Malibu, Lebowski! Stay out of Malibu, deadbeat!"
Why? Minnesota has made it a yearly habit of approaching the bare-bosomed promised land of conference championships and New Year's Day bowls without ever actually coming anywhere near them. Expect this year to be no different. Glen Mason will hop out to a hot start and crumble under the bright lights of teams without two or three directions in their name. Pasadena (which is metaphorically Malibu for purposes of this conversation) will remain forbidding and aloof.

Purdue: Quaker Oat Rampage
Official Big Lebowski Quote: "Jeffery. Love me." "Maude? That's my robe."
Why? Purdue recieved a gift from the gods above when both Michigan and Ohio State rotated off their schedule for the next two years. That alone won't make them a contender, but combine it with the return of every defensive starter and the makings of a promising offense and you have a team will surprise unobservant pundits nationwide.

Iowa: Not So Fast, My Ferentz
Official Big Lebowski Quote: "That rug really tied the room together."
Why? Iowa's stingy defense was built around its defensive line. All four starters graduated, causing chaos in Iowa's spring practices instead of opponent's backfields. Iowa returns Drew Tate, a potent passing offense, and two incredible linebackers, but... that rug really tied the room together. Iowa will have to find a new rug or get run over by Michigan, Minnesota, and Ohio State. A shaky ground game almost has to improve but Iowa will live and die on Tate's arm and keeping blockers off of Abdul Hodge and Chad Greenway.

Ohio State: OMGINN
Official Big Lebowski Quote: "Say what you want about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, but at least it's an ethos."
Why? Ohio State began last year fully committed to offensive nihilism. Midway through the year they converted en masse to to the Church Of Ted Ginn. The Buckeye's season depends on whether Ginn can morph from a freakish drag-racing novelty act (25 catches in '04) into the centerpiece of an effective offense. There is no established running back. The quarterback position is still up in the air--Troy Smith annihilated Michigan and then immediately got into booster trouble, leaving Justin Zwick to annihilate Oklahoma State. AJ Hawk and the defense should be able to shepherd the offense through some early-season growing pains, but when Tate, Stanton, and Henne come calling Ohio State will have to score often to win.

Michigan: A Tale Of Two Units
Official Big Lebowski Quote: "The Dude abides."
Why? The Dude has abided at the top of the Big Ten standings the past two years, but there has been something missing for Michigan fans. The program has reverted to its standard operating procedure after its 1997 national championship... consistently very good, never great. Can this change? Yes. Michigan returns more offensive talent than most teams see over the course of four years. The special teams look to be a strength. The consistently underperforming defense has the raw material to be an intimidating unit. But Michigan always seems to blow it. The next two years will either see Michigan emerge into a true national power or feature more teeth-grinding frustration. The Dude can't just abide any longer--he has to excel.