Have you ever seen the movie Night of the Hunter? There's a classic speech about Love and Hate. And how love always ends up winning. Robert Mitchum made the speech. It's on YouTube. It's like the only good part. And on this day of all days, it feels apropos.
For you see, while I have hate in my heart for certain elements in this conference. I also have respect. I can find enjoyment in the ennui of Minnesota and UNLV. I'm one who will not deny the existence of Purdue football. I can find beauty in the most obscure of things. Get me drunk enough and I will tell you about the Buffalo Bulls linebacker corps that never was.
I do have one rule. My aim is not to be obvious. While Denard Robinson is a respectable element? He's clearly obvious. Montee Ball is another one. I mean, you'd laugh me off the blog if I asked you if you heard about that Montee Ball?
So who are the guys who you will end up saying "I hate you, I hate you with the fiber of my being and the power of seven suns...but I damn sure respect you?" Well, there's a jump. You've got to click it.
Illinois: The Illini were great at generating sacks last year, and while Whitney Mercilus has gone onto the league, his tag team partner last year (Michael Buchanan) remains. He's always found a way to get into the backfield as the underrated half of a pass-rushing tag team. This year, he's got a chance to break into becoming something bigger.
Indiana: Stephen Houston and Kofi Hughes may not be the skill position players of world renown, but both have value. Kofi Hughes got about half of his season stats in the final three games of the season. Stephen passed the century mark in three games last season. If they can get to four or five wins, Houston and Hughes are integral building blocks.
Iowa: I dare invoke the rage of AIRBHG. Despite all the drama and rage that has come out of the position in the past few years, they have Andre Dawson. He's the same name of the immortal Cubs and Expos outfielder. But that being said? He's going to have his knee rob a liquor store. I apologize in advance.
Michigan: Michigan has a pretty good cornerbacking group. But I'm going to throw my begrudging respect to Blake Countess. Why? Because JT Floyd doesn't have a hilarious last name. That and he was the nickel corner last year and did a lot of things. So many pass breakups. Like 6.
Michigan State: Ugh. I really put myself in a corner. One of the advantages of how good the defensive line was how linebacker Denicos Allen was in the backfield disrupting things entirely too often. But he'll stop that this year. On account of Michigan State going winless. Which they will.
Minnesota: A mark of a team that's not up to code talent wise, is a secondary that leads the team in tackles. But Minnesota's Brock Vereen isn't a player that wouldn't be making plays if there was a front seven that for which was worthwhile. He's a valuable free safety.
Nebraska: In the previous ten years, Nebraska's offensive line fell off from their previous reputation. It's been a while since a Cornhusker's done something in the NFL as a blocker. That should change soon as they have a guard named Spencer Long. He was an all-conference sophomore, and will make the rushing attack go-go.
Northwestern: It's not often Northwestern gets a freshman that's so good that they pull a three year starter off the position. But last year their center was. Brandon Vitable crashed a highly-experienced offensive line and played well. As a sophomore he should show continued improvement.
Ohio State: Lost in the midst of the Fickelling that took over the Buckeye's offense is that they actually do have a pair of athletically gifted receivers. Bitterness and a lack of a real nickname preclude me from making mention of one. But Corey Brown? He's kind of a thrilly from Philly.
Penn State: In a year where Penn State players had an easy out, Jordan Hill and Gerald Hodges stayed. And while everything above the field had a certain taint to it, they still have a good front seven. Whatever good comes out of the Nittany Lions season, it will come from the effort of the front seven.
Purdue: Along with Kyle Orton, Purdue football's defensive line has invented a lot of professional level talent. Last year Kawann Short had to fight through offensive lines game planning for him, and he still put up good numbers (6 sacks, 10.5 TFL). This year he'll have a supporting cast. Next year he's in the NFL.
Wisconsin: I was going to say Peniel Jean, but his injury's going to slow him up. So I mentioned him yesterday, but if you'll allow me to go all Jon Gruden, this guy, this Beau Allen. He's a beast inside. Just powerful as all get out. He's great. So so great.