As last year’s football season came to its end, the Big Ten conference shunned away from being the familiar obedient dog that rolled over and played dead, particularly upon January’s arrival.
Guess there won’t be Ubu (of 80’s sitcom fame) earning any endorsement deals as the future Big Ten mascot.
Certainly, the conclusion of the 2009 season was a positive one, what with Ohio State and Iowa reeling in BCS victories, Penn State knocking out the SEC’s LSU Tigers on New Year’s Day and other teams pushing teams to the brink during the bowl period.
Entering 2010, there are a handful of Big Ten teams that are considered to be in the mix for the national championship game – specifically The Ohio State University, plus teams such as Iowa and Wisconsin could be darkhorses, too.
So what are some possible factors that could keep the door shut on the Big Ten conference’s chance at a national championship? These first came to mind:
7 Factors That Could Lock Big Ten Champion Out of BCS Title Game
Let’s face it: The majority of voters covet the SEC powers like JaMarcus Russell craves two-dozen donuts washed down by an ice-cold glass of “purple drank”.
That’s why there’s a likely shot that unless the conference beats itself to a pulp – trading loss after loss – the SEC will flill in one of the title game spots, leaving the doorway that much smaller for the Big Ten champ.
Specifically, there’s a deep pool of talent in the SEC again – with many critics picking Alabama and Florida to again face off in the SEC title game.
Boise State Runs the Table
Let’s toss out some numbers that will further cement the idea of Boise State heading to the big game. First, it’s likely that the Broncos will start the season ranked in the top five.
Next, Boise State returns 21 starters from last season – and yes, that’s no typo. Only five lettermen are departed from last year’s team – which is a stat that puts the “smurfy” in Idaho’s “Smurf Turf”.
To top it off, if Boise State knocks off its two legit BCS opponents in Virginia Tech and Oregon State, that further adds credibility to the team’s strength of schedule.
Afterward, it would be a cruise through the conference schedule leading to November, when the Broncos will need to get by Fresno State at home, followed by Nevada on the road.
TCU Goes Undefeated
Like Boise State, the Horned Frogs are a talented bunch that will likely land themselves near the top of the polls when the season begins – likely in the top ten.
TCU returns 17 starters from last year’s team and also has Oregon State on its pre-conference schedule (the Beavers are a glutton for punishment, apparently).
Then on, the Horned Frogs’ biggest roadblocks are October 16th vs. BYU and a November 6 road game at Utah.
Oregon Dominates the Pac-10
Sure, while the gifted troublemaker Masoli is gone and there have been a number of other off-the-field distractions, the Ducks are still loaded with talent – returning 17 starters, including the beastly back LaMichael James.
With the Trojans bagged from the postseason – and chock full of their own issues – the doorway is open for Oregon to take control of the conference, potentially going as far as the national championship game.
The biggest challenge for the Ducks will be its road schedule, featuring Tennessee, Arizona State, USC, Cal and – you guessed it – those pesky Oregon State Beavers again.
Miami Clinches ACC, Hands Buckeyes A Loss
The ‘Shoe is a tough place to play, but road teams can and do win there – and it’s possible to clip the Bucks early in the season when the team isn’t quite in sync yet.
The Miami Hurricanes – a team that hasn’t had a double-digit winning season since 2003 – are becoming relevant again.
This very talented ‘Canes team has a legitimate chance to upset the Buckeyes in Columbus – but only if QB Jacory Harris can limit his mistakes and post one of the best games in his career.
Combine that win with being the class of the ACC, and the Hurricanes – with their tough schedule – could pass any of the Big Ten powers in the polls.
Big 12 Champ Finds A Way
It’s no secret that the Big 12’s elite teams have lost significant pieces from last season – Oklahoma losing Sam Bradford and Jermaine Gresham, Texas losing Colt McCoy and Jordan Shipley and Nebraska losing Ndamukong Suh.
However, each team features loads of talent heading into 2010 – and any of these three could emerge as a clear conference title winner – potentially pushing it to the big game.
Specifically, Nebraska still has a loaded defense, plus a schedule that doesn’t feature Oklahoma, yet has both Missouri and Texas at home.
Texas QB Garrett Gilbert got priceless national championship experience when McCoy went down – and can translate that onto the field in 2010.
Finally, Sooners QB Landry Jones also got plenty of experience and has 8 other starters returning on the offensive side of the ball.
The Big Ten Beats Itself
Finally, there’s the roundabout reason that the Big Ten gets locked out of the championship game – that being that the conference beats itself.
Look at some of the obvious choices for the Big Ten’s best teams and what will likely keep them from the national championship:
Penn State: Inexperience at QB, plus a brutal road schedule that features 3 BCS winners from last year in Alabama, Iowa and Ohio State.
Wisconsin: Returning 17 starters and not having to face Penn State is a PLUS, but returning only 6 defensive starters and facing Ohio State and Iowa during back-to-back weeks is going to be a major challenge.
Iowa: Sure, the Hawkeyes have all the conference powers at home this season, but this is a team that escaped a number of times in 2009 – and that good fortune may not translate to the 2010 squad.
Ohio State: The home game against Miami will be tough during the second week, and road tests against Wisconsin and Iowa are no cakewalk either.
* Also posted to my Bleacher Report page