I continue my Big Ten unit rankings with a look at the receiving/tight end corps. There is no shortage of good targets, with Big Ten newcomer Maryland featuring a monster collection of pass-catchers.
Ask any coach, and he’ll tell you games are won in the trenches. So, that means teams ranked highly on this list should be in store for good seasons, right?
The dog days of summer are settling in. That means two things: The Cubs’ season is officially over, and it’s time to look at the Big Ten units. I’ll begin with a look at the offensive backfields. And, as you’ll see, there is a lot of talent at running back—as well as some top-flight quarterbacks.
Often, the most popular player on campus is the backup quarterback. The guy holding the clipboard and wearing a baseball cap typically is perceived as being the answer to every struggling offense. On that note, here’s my ranking of the Big Ten backup quarterback situations.
There are some nice defensive backfields in the Big Ten. And none is better than Ohio State’s. In fact, the Buckeyes may have the top secondary in the nation, which is one of many reasons why Ohio State is a legit national title contender. Here’s my ranking of the Big Ten defensive backfields.
The last two seasons, no Big Ten defense has played as well as Michigan State’s. A big reason for that has been the play of the linebackers. And that unit should continue to excel and be the bellwether of the conference’s linebacking corps in 2013. Here is my ranking of the Big Ten linebacking units.
The biggest difference between the SEC and Big Ten isn’t speed at the skill-positions on offense. Nope. It’s on defense—along the line, in particular. The Big Ten has some big fellas who can make plays and get up the field—just not the depth and breadth of the SEC. But, the situation is improving. Here is my ranking of the Big Ten defensive lines.
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It all begins up front. Ask any coach. Without good blockers, skill talent is diminished—and offenses flounder. The Big Ten has some potentially strong blocking units, which has hopes high in several precincts. Here’s my ranking of the Big Ten offensive lines, starting with two of the conference’s biggest powerhouse programs.
When you think of Nebraska, you don’t typically think of receivers. You think ground-pounding offenses that play physical football behind big lines and star running backs. Well, this year’s edition of the Cornhuskers has some very good receivers. In fact, it’s the best collection in the Big Ten. Here’s my ranking of the Big Ten receiving units.
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The Big Ten lost its top two rushers in Michigan State’s Le’Veon Bell and Wisconsin’s Montee Ball. And Nebraska standout Rex Burkhead also is gone. But most of the conference’s other top running backs are back. Here is how I rank the Big Ten running back units, and it’s my latest look at how the various football teams units stack up by position. Read the others right here. Agree? Disagree? Tell me in the comments below, email me about here, or track me down on Twitter (@BTNTomDienhart).
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Quarterback play hasn’t been at an elite level in the Big Ten in recent years. In fact, many feel that’s one reason for the conference’s struggles. But this year’s collection of passers teems with potential.
It’s the third component of every team. It’s also the most overlooked component. It’s special teams. And it’s often the difference between winning and losing. So, pay attention to these rankings, from 1 to 12, of the Big Ten special teams. Oh, and don’t forget about all of my 2012 unit rankings. Don’t agree with the rankings? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment box at the bottom of the post or tweet me: @BTNTomDienhart.
Big Ten defensive backfields are loaded with talent, including cornerbacks like Michigan State’s Johnny Adams, Iowa’s Micah Hyde and Purdue’s Ricardo Allen, along with safeties like Ohio State’s C.J. Barnett, Michigan State’s Isaiah Lewis and Michigan’s Jordan Kovacs. And some of the units figure to rank among the best in the nation, including those at Ohio State, Michigan State and Nebraska.
Linebacker play in the Big Ten should be strong this season, led by players like Wisconsin’s Mike Taylor, Penn State’s Gerald Hodges, Illinois’ Jonathan Brown and Michigan’s Kenny Demens, among many others. But which Big Ten schools have the best linebacking corps? Find out in my Big Ten unit rankings in this post. Don’t agree? Leave your thoughts in the comment box at the bottom of the post. Also, don’t forget about all of my 2012 unit rankings.
The trenches are where games are won–ask any coach. And the Big Ten, led by a strong crop in the Leaders Division, has some good defensive fronts that will rate among the best in the nation. Where does your Big Ten school’s defensive line rank? Check out my entire list in this post. Don’t agree with my rankings? Leave your thoughts in the comment box at the bottom of the post. Also, don’t forget about all of my 2012 unit rankings.
For any good offense, it all begins up front. It’s not an oversimplification to say the teams with the best offenses typically feature the best lines. Knowing that, Michigan State and Wisconsin have to be happy entering the 2012 college football season. I like the Spartans and Badgers’ front lines, to the point where they rank 1-2 in my Big Ten offensive line unit rankings. Where does your school’s line rank? See the entire list in this post. Also, check out all of my 2012 unit rankings.
Lots of questions loom on receiving corps across the Big Ten. The top seven pass catchers from 2011 are gone: Illinois’ A.J. Jenkins; Iowa’s Marvin McNutt; Northwestern’s Jeremy Ebert; Michigan State’s B.J. Cunningham; Wisconsin’s Nick Toon; Michigan State’s Keshawn Martin; Minnesota’s Da’Jon McKnight.
When Montee Ball opted to return for his senior season, he solidified Wisconsin as a Big Ten favorite and himself as a Heisman Trophy front-runner. Ball also cemented the Badgers’ status as having the Big Ten’s top collection of running backs. And perhaps the best collection in the nation. Here is how I rate the Big Ten running back units, which are a strong collection of talent with 12 of last season’s top 14 rushers back.
Every championship team needs a good quarterback. And it’s also helpful to have a decent backup, as injury often is commonplace in this era of running signal-callers.