Big Ten: Stephane Ngoumou
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Sean from Cary, N.C., writes: I'm usually one of a few guys who stick up for Adam here, but he deserves a mild criticism for going back on some of his "predictions" from the past month (Penn State to "win" the Big Ten, Michigan to climb up to the middle of the pack, Ohio State second). It was three weeks ago, give or take, that you went on to say "Penn State should be the favorite going into 2009." You were the only one. You stated Michigan too will get back to the middle of the conference; their 9th in the "Power Rankings". Now there's this prediction, which is based on what? Recruiting last week? How the season ended? That's how you broke it down, and it's abstract. You should explain what these rankings are based on with more detail, because you set yourself up here. I suppose this is the reason why predictions -- or opinions -- are just that. I just don't understand the flop months before even the spring games start. Tisk Adam... you're better than this; I'm saddened to see you going back on your opinions before early February. Keep up the good fight, and please don't morph into one of these journalistic goons who predict on clouds. Still your friend in NC, Sean
Adam Rittenberg: Sean, thanks for the note, and I understand your criticism. We do several rounds of these way-too-early predictions during a very long offseason, and they're somewhat designed to "set us up," as you put it. It's hard to really know how things will pan out until the season gets a bit closer.
I put Ohio State at No. 1 largely because of the Buckeyes' recruiting class, which boasts several players who should make an immediate impact this fall. Also, Penn State lost two key contributors (Aaron Maybin, Maurice Evans) at defensive end, giving the team another hole to fill after the departure of a large and productive senior class. Ohio State also lost a lot of seniors, but the Buckeyes began their youth movement a bit last fall and will accelerate it in spring practice.
Penn State also brought in a solid recruiting class, but most Nittany Lions fans would acknowledge it's a notch or two below Ohio State's haul. I'm not saying the Lions won't develop their freshmen into standout performers, but there's just a bit more uncertainty there right now. Also, multiple personnel losses on the offensive and defensive lines are, in my opinion, more significant than replacing an oft-injured star running back like Chris "Beanie" Wells.
The bottom line is that these predictions could go either way, and given how often we roll them out, expect more changes before Sept. 5. As for Michigan, the Wolverines could work their way back to the league's midsection, but they have too many question marks right now to warrant being any higher than ninth in the power rankings.
Phil from Columbus writes: You keep talking about how Purdue got a bunch of recruits from Florida to upgrade their speed and athleticism. I was wondering if perhaps you might actually analyze those recruits instead of saying in effect "they're from Florida so the *must* be faster and more athletic".
Adam Rittenberg: Phil, I never wrote that Purdue's ability to lure Florida recruits automatically makes the Boilers faster and more athletic. But that's certainly what head coach Danny Hope has in mind with this year's class. I would say Purdue's recruiting class is the biggest mystery in the Big Ten. Most of the prospects weren't highly rated, so the Boilers hope they've found some diamonds in the rough from the Sunshine State.
I would say there's a decent chance Purdue will be a faster team in 2009. A better one? The jury's still out.