Just curious on a slow news day on your general thoughts on the top 7-8 Big 10 teams aside from UM, MSU, and OSU which we discuss a lot. Reading through some previews on each team there are a lot of holes out there and with OSU potentially being a 3(4?!) loss type of team this year the calls of the "Big 10 sucks" might really ring loud this year in the bowl season - again. If we had even an average OL right now I'd consider UM with a very high chance for 2nd best team in the conference when I see what has been lost on other squads... even though other teams have more favorable schedules.
A quick glance at the "bowl type" teams - along with UM, MSU and OSU this would give us a top 7:
- Wiscy - they play LSU early on a neutral field. I am not sure how good LSU is in a general sense but they should be solid and Wisconsin lost 9 defensive starters including stud Borland. Anderson is supposed to be a defensive whiz but...9 starters. LSU is favored by 7 but if LSU blows out Wiscy it puts another nail in the Big 10 perception. This will be a team that relies on offense, and running game (4 OL and Gordon return) as usual but I see a lot of people penciling them in as favorites because...Wisconsin. That is a lot of experience to replace. Stave does not inspire. On the positive side, another easy schedule - outside of LSU, @Iowa seems to be their 2nd most difficult game with Neb at home.
- Iowa - maybe the easiest schedule in America among BCS schools; they avoid almost everyone and play Wisconsin/Neb at home late. Might be the least inspiring 9-3 type team in the country. Their strength last year were their 3 LBs, all 3 graduated. They had a 1st team Big 10 CB, he graduated. It will be a team that relies on offense it appears. And their QB is not all that. They play Iowa State and @Pitt as their 2 "tough" games - a trip up against either would prove this team to be a mirage.
- Neb - took some key injuries here these past few weeks on defense. They bring in a sorta meh Miami program (YTM) as their premier non conf game. They have upset potential for a road game @ Fresno State. Fresno is not all that (lost to USC by 20+ in a bowl) but its a west coast game for a conference that usually sh**s the bed in the PST time zone. Vegas only has Nebraska as a 4 pt fav here. Neb has a schedule like us where the toughest opponents are all on the road - @MSU, @WIscy, @Iowa. They bring back a premier RB, premier WR (Bell) and a premier DE. Armstrong should improve at QB with a year under hise belt. Defense only brings back 3 players - similar situation as Wiscy. Nebraska actually reminds me a lot of UM in that it could be a better team than 2013's version but faced with a tougher schedule so the W-L doesn't change much.
- PSU - yes Hackenberg but... this team doesn't wow when you look closely. UCF lost its QB but was a pretty damn good team last year and potential exists for an upset early if the volcano allows the game to be played. PSU is a small favorite in Vegas (2.5ish). Looking at their depth chart they seem to return only 1 OL - that's not cool for them. Allen Robinson is gone. The RBs should be very good but you need an OL to open holes. Defense took a hit with DaQuan Jones but should be decent. Schedule is favorable - they bring in OSU and MSU, only tough road game really is @UM. @Indiana, @Illinois, @Rutgers are their 3 other conf road games - manageable. So schedule is favorable so it could be a team like Iowa that benefits more from schedule than being world beaters.
I will leave it at those 4 teams - we could throw Minnesota or Northwestern in there but at this point those would be the 8th/9th place teams in the conf unless they move ahead of the 7 above and generally your conference will be viewed on how the teams above do in non conf/bowls versus what Minnesota does. Quick thoughts though - NW has crossovers with Michigan/PSU but gets Wiscy/Neb at "home" (I assume Ryan Field gets overrun with Badgers and Cornhuskers). Minnesota has an easy non conf highlighted by a 4-8 TCU team - but ends on a run of Iowa, OSU, Nebraska, and Wisconsin. Good luck with that.
TL;DR - the Big 10 does not inspire me this year. Worried about some bad non conf outcomes that make the conference look bad yet again in national perception.