Ah media days, the unofficial start of the college football season. Since the Big Ten will be having theirs later this week, it’s time to crank out who could, should and maybe even will be the league’s worst to best, in that order.
While this is a Nebraska-oriented site, I will attempt to be objective. Drumroll, please.
12: Penn State
While I don’t want to underscore what the NCAA has done to PSU, those actions will decimate Nebraska’s designated B1G rival for years. That the Nittany Lions don’t know who will be left on their roster after the transfers end between now and kickoff speaks volumes.
Whether you agree or disagree with what Mark Emmert did to Penn State is irrelevant – The program has been gutted. Time will tell if the situation becomes SMU II, but right now, Penn State is as far from the top of the ladder as it’s ever been.
Last year’s train wreck in Bloomington was absolutely brutal. From a lone win over South Carolina State to a conference schedule full of L’s, Kevin Wilson’s first season stank.
Losing Gunner Kiel didn’t help his cause either, so now it’s up to Wilson to figure out how to improve on a 1-11 record and reboot a team that ranked below 100 in both scoring and total defense in the FBS.
TCF Bank Stadium is nice, but the program it hosts hasn’t had much to showcase in its new digs. Jerry Kill’s first season included a stomping by Wisconsin and a loss to South Dakota State.
Quarterback MarQueis Gray, while a decent runner, led one of the worst passing attacks in FBS. As a result, Minnesota had one of the worst offenses to match one of the worst defenses in America.
Some think that Minnesota’s fresh batch of underclassmen will lead the Gophers to a bowl game. Can Kill be trusted with such a task? If the season does go bad, at least TCF allows booze.
New head coach Tim Beckman had modest success while at Toledo. The Illini need a push after a season that cost the Zooker his job. The nosedive Illinois took would make a Blue Angel blush.
Beckman can help out a defense that was fairly stout and leaves the floundering offense to two gents with SEC ties. Regardless of Beckman’s first season, Illinois isn’t even the best FBS program in its own conference, let alone its own state.
Danny Hope was a very unlucky coach last year. Winning one week and losing the next, Purdue wasn’t bad per se, but never really bucked the roller coaster ride that being so injury-riddled can provide.
That said, they did win their last two games which included taking out Western Michigan in the Little Caesars Bowl. If nothing else, they were better than a MAC team…so there’s that.
The schedule gets tough for the Boilermakers as they hit the conference slate, but if they can slap together a slightly better defense, Purdue could surprise.
I was going to put the Wildcats further down the list, but then I remembered that they have one of the better head coaches in the conference. It’s easy to see that Pat Fitzgerald does more with less than arguably any other FBS coach.
Quarterback Kain Colter was a stud backup for Dan Persa last year, but Northwestern sputtered far too often.
At one point, the Wildcats lost five straight games and were plunked by new SEC inductee Texas A&M in their bowl game. If they find some consistency, Northwestern may do more than be the B1G’s perennial spoiler.
2011 was supposed to be a rebuilding year in Iowa City. Gone were Ricky Stanzi and Adrian Clayborn. Frankly, there wasn’t much to be excited about.
Then this James Vandenberg kid threw for over 3,000 yards. However, not only does he lose his best target in Marvin McNutt, but the black and yellow defense has a tint of green to it this season.
I’m not saying that 2012 will be brutal in central Iowa, but the Hawkeyes will likely have a feeling out process with Greg Davis calling plays.
We’ve reached the 2.0 GPAs. When next we meet, we’ll discuss the heads of the class.
Follow Brian on Twitter: @btbowling