Thursday, March 22, 2012
Take Two: B1G's top scoring team in 2012?
By Adam Rittenberg and Brian Bennett
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: Which Big Ten team will lead the league in scoring in 2012?
Take 1: Adam Rittenberg
This is a fascinating question after some of the changes -- both coaching and personnel -- throughout the Big Ten entering 2012. Wisconsin has led the Big Ten in scoring in each of the past three seasons, finishing in the top six nationally in both 2011 and 2010. But the Badgers lose star quarterback Russell Wilson and have major questions at the position as spring ball kicks off. Although Wisconsin returns Heisman Trophy contender Montee Ball at running back and what should be another strong offensive line, I can't see the Badgers coming close to their record-setting offensive production from the past two seasons. I'm going with the Michigan Wolverines here. The biggest reason is obvious: Denard Robinson. He's simply electric and will be in his second season in the offense and his third as a starter in the Big Ten.
Although Michigan had its growing pains last season in transitioning to a new offense, the Wolverines still ranked 26th nationally in scoring (33.3 ppg) and scored 40 points or more in five of eight Big Ten contests. Robinson made more mistakes than he did the previous season but still accounted for 36 touchdowns (20 pass, 16 rush). Michigan also returns running back Fitz Toussaint, who blossomed during Big Ten play and should only get better with experience. Although there are question marks at receiver and at center after the loss of Rimington Trophy winner David Molk, Michigan has a chance to be a more fluid and efficient offense in Year 2 under coordinator Al Borges. While most Big Ten teams are dealing with a quarterback change or a coordinator change -- or both -- Michigan's continuity should pay off on the scoreboard this fall.
Take 2: Brian Bennett
Michigan is an interesting choice and one I strongly considered. The Wolverines should score a lot of points, though that opener against Alabama might bring down their season average. I'm tempted to go the safe route with Wisconsin, because we know Bret Bielema won't take his foot off the gas pedal when the Badgers are clicking. But I'm going a different direction and choosing Nebraska.
The Cornhuskers finished fourth in the Big Ten in scoring last year, but I see a major jump in 2012. The reason is similar to what you said about Michigan: familiarity. This will be the second year in offensive coordinator Tim Beck's system, so the players should be far more comfortable. Early reviews of quarterback Taylor Martinez's work on his fundamentals have been resoundingly positive. Nebraska left a lot of big plays on the table last year in the passing game, but a stronger, more experienced Martinez and an improved receiver corps led by Kenny Bell should help that area get better. And the Huskers still have Rex Burkhead and some emerging young playmakers like Ameer Abdullah.
Nebraska had to get used to the more physical style of defense in the Big Ten last year. This season, I see Big Red putting up some big scoring numbers.