Hawks Off the Radar

May 4, 2011

Written by Jon Miller

Hawkeye Nation

This is the time of year when we start to get teased with daily releases of preseason Top 25 rankings by the magazines. Athlon is first out of the box as you can see at this link. They released their #23 ranking today and it was the Wisconsin Badgers. More on that in a bit.

Adam Rittenberg is a blogger for ESPN focusing on the Big Ten. He has filed a comprehensive and entertaining post Spring wrap up piece where he has listed his own set of Big Ten Power Rankings heading into next season.

Here are his rankings:

1. Ohio State
2. Nebraska
3. Michigan State
4. Wisconsin
5. Penn State
6. Northwestern
7. IOWA
8. Michigan
9. Illinois
10. Purdue
11. Minnesota
12. Indiana

I am going to put something together along these lines later in the week so I don’t want to steal too much thunder from that, but Wisconsin at four and at #23 for Athlon is interesting.

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One, this league is not going to be as good across the board as it was last year, at least in my opinion. Before the season began in 2010, Ohio State, Iowa and Wisconsin were in the BCS conversation. This year might see the Big Ten as a one-bid BCS team, where they have had two BCS bids in the vast majority of the years of the BCS.

Wisconsin must replace two NFL offensive linemen in Gabe Carimi and John Moffit. They must replace TE Lance Kendricks and WR/Returner David Gilreath, a two year starter at quarterback in Scott Tolzein and RB John Clay. Clay is the easiest player to replace, as the Badgers have a full running back stable. Kendricks was their leading receiver, with Gilreath 4th. Carimi and Moffit were beasts…yeah, I give the Badgers the benefit of the doubt on the OL the way I do Iowa, but not the benefit of the doubt they are going to have two players step in at that level…plus, the quarterback situation is a total wild card and their heir apparent was not in place the way it is at Iowa.

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On defense, they lose JJ Watt and their other two top tacklers from one year ago, but do return three DL starters…just one LB, and they lose SS Jay Valai and Nile Brinkley. Iowa loses a load on defense as well, more than Wisconsin.

That being said, I don’t see a great deal that separates these two teams, save one thing; the schedule.

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Wisconsin does not play a road game until October 22nd and only has four all year. They host UNLV, Oregon State, South Dakota, Nebraska, Indiana Purdue and Penn State at home, with a game against Northern Illinois in Chicago. The best friend for a young quarterback is the home crowd and a running game and Wisconsin will have both. Whomever wins their QB job just needs to be an adequate game manager and not someone that is going to have to go out there and win some games the way that Scott Tolzein was able to do last season (16-6 TD/INT ratio). They have an 8-4/9-3 schedule, but they are a 7-5 team. It will be interesting to watch it play out.

Look for HawkeyeNation.com’s preseason Big Ten Power rankings soon.

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