The 2012 football season is just 16 short days away. That can be a good thing or a bad thing. The adjective milquetoast was used yesterday to describe the creamy middle of four teams that finished 6-6 in the regular season. Yes, but the conference had a record 10 bowl bids in 2011, but that was because the middle beat each other up and everyone feasted on Indiana and Minnesota, who were a combined 2-14 in league play.
It is a good thing, however, because we all love some football. Unfortunately, only 10 of 12 teams are eligible for the championship this year because of off the field actions where diabolical masterminds were finally brought low. Ohio State got a virtual slap on the wrist of a one year bowl ban. The less that is said about Penn State, the better.
This, of course, is leading to a preseason power rankings. Given that criminal misdeeds were the theme of the offseason I'll do what all bloggers are require d by law to do when they do a Power Rankings post: I am dipping my toe into the pool of popular culture.
Breaking Bad is pretty much one of the best shows on television right now. I came to it late, as I always do with these things, but got caught up in time to begin with this final season. Sunday's episode was one of the few times I have ever stared slack-jawed at my TV for five minutes wondering if I had really seen what I just saw. I am officially hooked.
So, without further preamble, I give you the Breaking Bad Big Ten Power Rankings:1. Wisconsin Badgers - Walter White - "Nothing stops this train. Nothing"
It certainly feels like Purdue especially is run over by a freight train every time it plays Wisconsin. There is little doubt that the Badgers are the undisputed kings of the Big Ten, offing their opposition in a slow, calculating manner to the point that they are left. They even survived offseason turnover in Russell Wilson leaving for the NFL to still be the favorite. All this is like Walt taking over the void left by Gus' death (more on that later).
Wisconsin may have questions at quarterback, but they still have the best running back in college football who almost scored 40 touchdowns last year running behind a massive offensive line. I am pretty sure I could be their quarterback and hand off to Montee Ball and James White. Their defense is still going to be solid, and they may only need to hold opponents under 25 anyway.
Walt is going to have an undoing someday. So will Wisconsin. Until then, they are the king.
2. Michigan Wolverines - Jesse Pinkman - "So you understand what "asshole" means. Now go get me my phenylacetic acid, asshole."
Walter needs a sidekick and it is Jesse. Wisconsin needs a pairing in the Big Ten title game and it is the Wolverines, led by a brash, cocky coach that I can definitely see yelling, "YEAH BITCH!" on the sidelines after Denard Robinson completes another jump ball. Brady Hoke utters, "We're Michigan," as if it gives him carte blanche to do anything. That's Jesse throwing around his new found wealth left and right.
Michigan isn't as calculating as Wisconsin. They play it fast and loose with Robinson much like Jesse in his free-wheeling, meth-addled days. In fact, Jesse's experimentation with heroin in season 2 could aptly describe the RichRod era. Jesse is every bit the cook that Walter is now, however, and Michigan is every bit of a threat to win the conference that Wisconsin is.
3. Michigan St. Spartans - Sklyar White - "We're back at it? Fine. But the kids stay away, and that's that."
Think about the relationship that Michigan State has with Michigan and Wisconsin above. They played Wisconsin to a draw last season and expect to do so in two meetings again this year. That's Walt and Skylar's contentious relationship this year, where neither one has the upper hand. They need each other, but they don't like it.
With Michigan (Jesse) they see competition that does not see them as an equal and one that is getting more of Walt's affection than they used to. Michigan always disrespects Michigan State with the "Little Brother" moniker, but this year especially the Wolverines will have to balance games with the Spartans and Badgers (In Indy) if it wants to go to Pasadena.
Skylar seems like she is on the verge of a breakdown. She is either going to have a major role in Walt's eventual endgame or she is going to be kicked to the background. She knows almost everything about Walt, however, so she is one of the few that can take him down. That is Michigan State in regards of their chances of beating Wisconsin and taking the crown.
4. Nebraska Cornhuskers - Mike Ehrmantraut - "Well, you got all the answers. So you tell me, answer man: did all that even work just now?"
Mike is one of my favorite characters, mostly because he is a complete badass, but has a great, "I am getting too old for this shit" look on his face. This season he is in a reluctant triumvirate with Walt and Jesse as they take over the meth-making business. He doesn't necessarily like it, but it was out of necessity and the best he can do.
That's kind of like Nebraska's place in the Big Ten. All along the conference really wanted Notre Dame, but settling for Nebraska is not a bad idea. They have a great football pedigree and add great fans and history to the conference, but Taylor Martinez and his struggles with the forward pass feel like a handicap. That's Mike only doing just enough to keep his name clean when he would much rather keep the money he has now for his grandkids.
Also, like Mike, he is not afraid to kill anyone that gets in his way. Michigan, Wisconsin, and Michigan State should take note for their games against the Cornhuskers.
5. Ohio St. Buckeyes - Gus Fring - "Don Eladio is dead. His capos are dead. You have no one left to fight for. Fill your pockets and leave in peace. Or fight me and die!"
Ohio State was the unquestioned master of the Big Ten before their recent downfall. Last season's 6-7 season followed by the NCAA sanctions isn't quite Hector's bomb going off and killing them, but it was a serious blow to a program that seemed like it was impervious to any serious penalties. The firing of Jim Tressel, however, was definitely like an explosion in a nursing home that took out the head of the empire.
This year The Buckeyes get a year of probation where they can be coolly calculating and biding their time for revenge, much like Gus did when he took out everyone in Don Eladio's cartel with one fell swoop. Will Mike (Nebraska) and Jesse (Michigan) be standing by their side wondering trembling in a bit of fear when it happens? That remains to be seen.
As for OSU being this year, I have yet to see why they will be so OMG totally awesome this year. The defense will be good, yes, but the offense was more than one-dimensional last season with Braxton Miller running around trying to create things. They may be in for a lot of 13-7 wins.
6. Purdue Boilermakers - Hank Scrhrader - "A whole lot of questions. Not much in the way of answers. Yet."
One of the last places you would expect a scandal in the Big Ten, at least football-wise, is Purdue. We've never had a whiff of NCAA investigation into our program. In fact, we're often the law-enforcement of the Big Ten, making fun when other programs get caught (See Indiana with Kelvin Sampson). We kind of have a blind eye to everything going around us. There is potential with our program to make a major move, but we have no idea how to do it.
Hank is definitely Purdue in that he is respected by many, but he just can't put everything together yet. The man he is searching for and wants to bring down is his own brother-in-law, but he has no idea how to bring him down or even that he is a criminal.
For the record, Hank's shooting by the twins in the DEA parking lot was definitely our 2010 season, as we were left crippled severely for awhile but not dead.
7. Northwestern Wildcats - Saul Goodman - "OK, uh, speaking as your lawyer, I'm gonna go on record and say this is a bad idea."
Saul is involved with a group of misfits much like Northwestern is the stodgy private school in the midst of a bunch of public universities. Still, Saul has plenty of dirty tricks up his sleeve and can more than hold his own at times. He knows everything. He knows where the bodies are buried. He disappears for episodes at a time then pops up and makes a stunning contribution.
That is Northwestern in the Big Ten football. They are rarely as bad as they used to be and every once in awhile the come out of nowhere for a stunning victory. Need Nebraska to lose in Lincoln? Better call Saul!
8. Iowa Hawkeyes - Leonel Salamanca - " <blank stare> "
Hank's bitter, mortal enemy on the show were the infamous "cousins" of Leonel and Marco Salamanca. They were the ones that tracked him down in the parking lot of the DEA, shot him multiple times, and damn near killed him. Even after Hank killed Marco and severely wounded Leonel, it was Leonel that came after Walt despite not having legs and being in a hospital bed.
I give you Our Most hated Rival, whose crawling across the floor with bleeding stumps for legs will likely be their backup running back thanks to AIRBHG.
9. Illinois Fighting Illini - Badger - "Darth Vader had responsibilities. He was responsibile for the Death Star."
Kind of goofy, slightly clueless, yet still necessary for his work selling on the streets; Badger is one of Jesse's closest friends and a long-time member of the meth-selling force. That said, there is no real threat for Badger to move up and, in fact, he has spent a little time in jail as a result of his actions. I know some Illinois fans thought of the Ron Zook era as a jail term.
Illinois is probably not a threat to win the Leaders Division this season, but they can still be a fun-to-watch bowl team because of Nathan Scheelhaase.
10. Minnesota Golden Gophers - Marie Schrader - "Chemotherapy and marijuana go together like apple pie and Chevrolet."
No one really listens to Marie, but she is still always there. No one really thinks Minnesota is going to break the longest active drought of not going to the Rose Bowl, but they are still here.
11. Penn St. Nittany Lions - Ted Benecke - " <lies comatose in a hospital bed> "
See what I did there? It was Penn State's own fault they are in this mess, just like it was Ted's for running, slipping, and hitting his head, thus putting himself in the hospital when, if he had just taken the money and paid (Like reporting instead of covering up) they would be better off.
12. Indiana Hoosiers - Walter White, Jr. - "Oh yeah, yes ma'am, totally. My dad is my hero."
On crutches, oblivious to everything corrupt around them, not a threat at all, wishes they were just like their dad even though he is a merciless killer. Sounds like Indiana football to me!