Wednesday, July 6, 2011
Take Two: Which meek shall inherit first?
By Brian Bennett and Adam Rittenberg
Big Ten bloggers Adam Rittenberg and Brian Bennett will occasionally give their takes on a burning question facing the league. We'll both have strong opinions, but not necessarily the same view. We'll let you decide which blogger is right.
Today's Take Two topic is this: Of the current "have-nots" in the Big Ten -- Indiana, Minnesota and Purdue -- which one has the best chance of getting to a league title game the fastest?
Take 1: Adam Rittenberg
Indiana and Purdue might have an easier route in the Leaders division depending on what happens with Ohio State, but I'm going with Minnesota. When I toured the Big Ten this spring, several coaches, including Jim Tressel raved about Jerry Kill and commended Minnesota for hiring him. Kill knows what it takes to turn programs around, and his methods are proven. He takes over a program that could quickly generate momentum if it starts winning, as TCF Bank Stadium is only two years old. Minnesota also has a track record of producing offensive linemen and running backs. Kill's best teams have thrived on the ground, as we saw last season at Northern Illinois. There are legit questions about whether he can recruit well enough at this level, but his coaching skills are encouraging. Indiana is digging out of a big historic hole, and Purdue has very little buzz around the program right now. While it wouldn't shock me to see any of these three rise up, I'm going with Kill and the Gophers.
Take 2: Brian Bennett
Minnesota is a solid choice, given Kill's coaching acumen, the city and the new stadium. But surely there's a reason why the Gophers haven't been to a Rose Bowl since 1962. I don't like their chances in a division that includes Nebraska, Iowa, Michigan State and a Michigan program that could get back on its feet quickly. That's why my choice is Purdue. Yes, the Boilermakers have been down, but at least the team has been to a Rose Bowl this century (in 2001). The Boilermakers were ranked in the Top 5 as recently as 2004. They don't have the most fertile recruiting area, but the program has drawn in and developed great players like Drew Brees and Ryan Kerrigan. Maybe most importantly, as you mentioned, the Boilermakers should have an easier path. Remember that Ohio State could very well be ruled ineligible for the Big Ten title game for a couple of years if it is hit hard by NCAA sanctions. That really leaves only Penn State and Wisconsin as superpowers for Purdue to climb over. Danny Hope hasn't yet shown that he's capable of getting this team to those heights, but at least Purdue has more recent history on its side to suggest it's possible. And wouldn't Boilermakers fans love to see their team play in Indianapolis with a league title on the line?
Previous Take Two topics
The league's new premier coach?
The biggest Big Ten nonconference game?
The new Big Ten frontrunner?