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Big Ten Roundtable #1

As I mentioned before, a group of us Big Ten Bloggers have joined forces for a series of roundtables to cover the upcoming Big Ten football season. And you can bet there is going to be a little smack talk involved. Badger Sports offers the initial round of questions. Make sure you go check out his answers to his own questions. He has some interesting things to say about our beloved Nittany Lions.

The press and the coaches will be predicting the Big Ten champ at the Hyatt Regency in Chicago on Wednesday. That's fine, but overdone. In lieu of boilerplate predictions of who will come out on top, which Big Ten team will be the most surprising? Remember, surprises can be good or bad; the underdog who comes out of nowhere to share the title is just as surprising as the favorite who winds up with five losses and no bowl bid.

In honor of Badger Sports for coming up with these questions, I'll say Wisconsin, though probably not in the sense he wants to hear. Everyone looks at the Badgers' 12-1 record last year and their Bowl game win over Arkansas and picks them as a top ten team and possible darkhorse to win the conference. But then they didn't play anyone tough out of the conference last year. And they didn't play Ohio State at all while getting Penn State at home. Their one difficult test was Michigan, and they lost.

This year it's a different story. They have to go to Ohio State and Penn State. John Stocco isn't taking the snaps anymore. Joe Thomas isn't pancaking defensive ends and linebackers. P.J. Hill didn't play in the spring with yet another injury. His backups have been suspended. And I'm starting to think Bret Bielema has John L. Smith potential. This team is by no means a slam dunk to finish first or second in the conference. I think they will have three or four losses.

Imagine it's December, and the consensus in the media is that your team's season was "surprising." Is this a Good Thing or a Bad Thing? What would have to happen for you to consider your team's season surprising?

That will be a very good thing. Most people pick Penn State to finish fourth behind Michigan, Wisconsin, and Ohio State. So if they say we were "surprising", that probably means we're 11-1 or 12-0 and we're playing in a BCS Bowl. Of course, Phil Steele wouldn't be surprised. He ranks the Nittany Lions #10 in the nation and thinks they will be favored in every game except Michigan.

A preseason player of the year will also be dubbed in Chicago. For your team to succeed, which player or unit is going to have to put forth a "player of the year" performance? What's the one position that would take your team to the next level if it performs above expectations?

Without a doubt, our season rests on the arm of Anthony Morelli. If he has a breakout season and throws for 2700 yards and 25 touchdowns, we're going undefeated.

As an honorable mention I'll say Austin Scott. If he can stay healthy and carry the load to the tune of 1500 yards we will have a very good offense.

Which Big Ten team's out-of-conference schedule would you most want to have this year? Why? Do you think your team will have out-of-conference losses this year?

Honestly, as a fan, I don't like any of them. Everyone schedules weak competition to guarantee six wins and a bowl game. It's a sin that the SEC and Big Ten can't get together for even one marquee game. I guess if I had to pick one I would say Michigan. They always have Notre Dame on the schedule, and this year they also play Oregon. That's probably the toughest out of conference schedule in the conference even though they also play Appalachian State.

As for Penn State, considering we play Florida International, Buffalo, and Temple, I think the chances of us skating through the non-conference schedule unscathed are pretty good. The one test will come September 8th when Notre Dame comes to Happy Valley. Without Brady Quinn, Walker, McKnight and Samardjzjiziia I'm expected them to be pretty impotent on offense. Penn State should avenge their loss from last year. I just hope Joe runs up the score on them like Charlie did to us in South Bend.

Here's a chance to look like a complete genius in a few months: pick the biggest in-conference upset that will happen this season. Justify your prediction!

Go ahead and call me a homer, but Penn State is going to beat Michigan in Ann Arbor this year. I know about the eight game losing streak. It ends this year. Joe hates to lose and he wants that game bad. And it is not outside the realm of possibility. The Big House is not that intimidating of a place to play.

Penn State has played pretty well in Ann Arbor in recent years. In 2005 we held the lead with 0:01 to go before Henne hit Manningham in the endzone. In 2002 we took them to overtime and would have had a chance at a last second field goal to win the game in regulation had the referees not called Tony Johnson out of bounds on a catch the replay clearly showed was a legal catch.

Last year for all the talk about how great Michigan was and how crappy Anthony Morelli and Penn State were, we only lost 17-10 with our third string quarterback playing much of the second half. This year they flip it around and end the streak.

Say something nice about the Big Ten school whose name precedes yours alphabetically. Say something mean about the one that comes after.

Ohio State? I have to say something nice about Ohio State? Thinking...thinking...I'm drawing a blank here. In fact, it's so bad I just cheated and read RUTS and There Is No Name On My Jersey to see what they have to say. I like TINNOMJ's answer: They beat Michigan, which is more than I can say as a Penn State fan. They also win championships and stuff.

Now I have to say something bad about Purdue? That's like asking me to badmouth puppies. Does anyone hate Purdue? And if so, why? Their fans are some of the nicest in the conference. They're just a quiet engineering school that minds their own business and kindly takes their lumps in football. I guess that's kind of a mean thing to say. They suck at football. There. And that big drum is the kind of stupid thing I would expect from a school of engineers that have never been laid. Wow, now I'm on a roll.

USC: great football program, or greatest football program? Also, how about that SEC? Damn, those guys are fast!

They are great, but I get so tired of these "greatest of all time" debates ESPN is always taking up five minutes of Sports Center with. Let's just say they are a good team that should have had four or five championships in this decade by now.

And SEC speed? Are you intentionally trying to get my blood pressure up? This isn't a track meet we're talking about. It's football. It's just as much about preparation, technique, play calling, and power. Speed is just one part of the equation. Ask Arkansas and Tennessee what their southern speed got them against the Big Ten in bowl season.

Man, that Purdue question really got me going.