Athlon's 2011 Big Ten Predictions
Silas Redd hopes to lead Penn State back into Big Ten title contention.
By: Steven Lassan | 7/6/11, 7:06 AM EDT
Big Ten Rankings
Forecasting the 2011 Big Ten race is no easy task, given the uncertainty present from the top down. Ohio State enters the fall with much to prove, despite claiming back-to-back BCS bowl wins and winning or sharing the past six Big Ten championships. The Buckeyes face their most serious challenge in recent memory, one that could end their reign atop the league. Coach Jim Tressel resigned and five players, including quarterback Terrelle Pryor, create plenty of distractions for at least the first five games of the season. Pryor decided to end his collegiate career in Columbus, which only adds to the uncertainty surrounding this team in 2011. Ohio State has the talent to survive, particularly on defense and along the offensive line, but whether the seniors can provide the necessary leadership with several of their classmates sidelined remains to be seen.
With Ohio State's troubles, Wisconsin is the frontrunner in the Leaders Division, thanks to the arrival of quarterback Russell Wilson from NC State. The Badgers aren't without question marks, but return one of the nation's top running back duos in James White and Montee Ball. Wilson's experience should be valuable when Wisconsin hits the road for key games against Michigan State and Ohio State in late October.
Nebraska enters its new league as an immediate contender, thanks to a dynamic defense led by All-America candidates Jared Crick, Lavonte David and Alfonzo Dennard. The Pelini brothers — head coach Bo and defensive coordinator Carl — know the Big Ten and will have the defense prepared. There are more questions on offense, which begins a new chapter under coordinator Tim Beck, and the Big Ten did Nebraska no favors with the schedule.
Michigan State tries to build on its first league title in 20 years and returns a solid offense headlined by quarterback Kirk Cousins and running back Edwin Baker. The Spartans must replace standout linebackers Greg Jones and Eric Gordon and reload in the secondary, although their most critical task is raising both lines to elite levels.
Penn State and Iowa both could challenge in their respective divisions. The Nittany Lions are loaded at the skill spots and could make a run if a quarterback emerges and they upgrade both lines. Iowa seems to thrive under the radar and returns exciting young players like running back Marcus Coker, cornerback Micah Hyde and linebacker James Morris.
Athlon's 2011 Big Ten Previews
|Ohio State||Michigan State|
Rodriguez got the axe because he went 0–6 against Ohio State and Michigan State, Michigan’s top two rivals, and didn’t fare much better against squads like Iowa and Penn State.
Most Popular Articles
Sign Up For Our Newsletter
Get the latest news and find out what our Athlon Sports experts have to say each week.
Contests & Promotions
Athlon Sports Fantasy Racing!
Enter the Athlon Sports Fantasy Racing game. Just head over to athlon.myfantasyracing.com and register for your chance to win a chance to watch a 2014 race from the grandstands. You'll also have a chance to win other amazing prizes such as an autographed Kyle Busch helmet.