It's almost here! The media days have taken place, the first practices are about to begin and baseball is mired in yet another summer of steroid scandals and "why bother?" shrugs from small market fans as the playoff teams appear to, once again, be those with big market bucks. But don't reach for that clicker and turn to golf, cars going in circles or "extreme" skateboarders in a desperate search for sport-like programming … football season is here!
And with the oncoming kickoff of the greatest season of the year, it's time for another look at the Big Ten and who will edge ahead in that race for Pasadena (and no, it's not Boise State). The 2009 season may appear to be a flashback to older times for many fans as the league can once again be referred to as the "Big Two" – except that instead of Michigan, it is Penn State who has become a legitimate rival to Ohio State for the top spot.
But that characterization would also be a bit unfair to the programs "bubbling under" who are ready to breakout. A better comparison for 2009 Big Ten football might be the 2008-09 Big Ten basketball season.
The league won't get much respect nationally because of a few years of postseason slump … like the hardcourt Big Ten, we'll get a small mention for a couple teams on top and there will be a clear cellar dweller (same team), but there will also be an underrated horde of quality and improving teams in the middle who won't get much notice during the season, but will show their strength in the postseason and be ready to usher in a resurgent era next year. But just like in basketball, most of the national media probably won't catch on until late in the year and then finally realize that losing a road game in this league (as long as it's not in the state of Indiana) is not an indictment against the team's bowl worthiness. I'll certainly put the Big Ten's middle tier against any other league in the country and it may look like massive mess of 4-4 league records at the end, but it will be much more than that.
So without further delay, to the Sit Big Ten predictions for 2009 -- Starting Tomorrow with the Bottom 4.