By Erin Sorensen
Let’s have a look at how the Legends division will flesh out in 2011. The competition in the will be fierce with arguably four teams able to be top dog.
The 2010 season was a rough one for the Minnesota Golden Gophers who finished with a 3-9 record overall and a 2-6 record in the Big Ten. By the end of the year, head coach Tim Brewster was dismissed and Minnesota was sitting at the bottom - again. Unfortunately, 2011 does not look to be much better for the Gophers.
While new head coach Jerry Kill is a good fit for the job, he has a tough row to hoe. Minnesota kicks the season off in Los Angeles with a match-up against Southern Cal that almost guarantees to be ugly. While the Golden Gophers will play Nebraska, Iowa and Wisconsin at home, don’t expect TCF Bank Stadium's home-field advantage to mean much.
The bright spot is quarterback MarQueis Gray and the nine starters that are returning on defense. With a new coach, senior leadership and potentially strong players, Minnesota has the opportunity to improve. Unfortunately for the Gophers, that development will take more than just one season to bear fruit.
Odds of winning the Big Ten Championship: 150/1
In 2010, Northwestern was an average team. Finishing the year at 7-6, the Wildcats went from a team that won its first five games to a team that lost 35-21 to Penn State after leading 21-0. The offense failed to convert big plays into points and the defense gave up far too many yards in big games. 2010 can only be considered a disappointing year for head coach Pat Fitzgerald.
Things should be different for the Wildcats in 2011. Northwestern will be returning nine offensive starters, seven defensive starters and two specialists. The talent will be there especially with quarterback Dan Persa who may be one of the conference’s best quarterbacks.
Fitzgerald will still have a lot of work to do, but Northwestern shouldn’t disappoint. Some even believe that the Wildcats have an outside shot at the Big Ten title. While the odds of that seem low due to the competition in the Legends division, it would be a mistake to overlook Northwestern in 2011.
Odds of winning the Big Ten Championship: 40/1
The 2010 season was nothing short of interesting for the Hawkeyes. Rumors ran rampant towards the end of the season of drug use eventually leading to the dismissal of Iowa’s all-time leading receiver Derrell Johnson-Koulianos.
Shortly after 2011 began, 12 Hawkeye players were hospitalized with kidney ailments that were linked to workouts. It seemed like the drama would never end for Iowa who concluded the season 8-5 in regular play and 4-4 in Big Ten play.
In 2011, the Hawkeyes should be able to position themselves as a potential contender for the Big Ten championship game. While only returning ten starters from 2010 which is the second-lowest in the nation, Iowa will be looking to fresh talent to face new Big Ten rival Nebraska.
Iowa lucks out in 2011 with both Wisconsin and Ohio State left off the schedule. While the Legends division will be wide open and Iowa tends to thrive in low-pressure situations, it will still be a year of growth for the team. An 8-4 season seems very realistic for the Hawkeyes.
Odds of winning the Big Ten Championship: 25/1
Having already predicted the Leaders division standings, who will stand on top of the Legends?
Leaders 4-6, Leaders 1-3
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