We're taking the bold step into the realm of fantasy football this season. Like many of you, we have created teams in ESPN's College Football Challenge.
Our teams consist only of Big Ten players and units, and earlier Thursday, we held a draft. We'll track our teams throughout the season, making adjustments if need be, and then see who comes out on top. The winner gets the old Cy-Hawk Trophy.
Neither of us are fantasy football experts, but we do have a pretty good grasp on Big Ten talent, and we thought this would be a fun feature this season.
First, the team names.
Rittenberg: The Trombone Shorties
We flipped a coin and Bennett won, earning the right to pick first.
Here's how the draft went down:
No. 1 (Bennett): Wisconsin RB Montee Ball
Rationale: The first rule of thumb in fantasy football is to grab a dominant running back. Ball scored 18 touchdowns last season and looked even better in camp this year. I'd say that's dominant.
No. 2 (Rittenberg): Iowa RB Marcus Coker
Rationale: Ball was dominant, Bennett, but he also shares carries with James White, while Coker is in position to be Iowa's featured back. He's a bruiser who showed in the Insight Bowl he can do special things. The next Shonn Greene, perhaps?
No. 3 (Rittenberg): Wisconsin RB James White
Rationale: Speaking of White, I'm picking him here because he brings explosiveness to the backfield. Any time he touches the ball, he can go to the house, whether it's on a rush, a reception or a return.
No. 4 (Bennett): Michigan QB Denard Robinson
Rationale: The guy who led the Big Ten in total offense and who accounted for 32 touchdowns is still available for the No. 4 pick? Yes, please.
No. 5 (Bennett): Michigan State RB Edwin Baker
Rationale: I fill out my backfield with the Big Ten's leading returning rusher among tailbacks. Baker has pledged to increase his 1,201 yards and 10 touchdowns this year. I'd be happy with a repeat of those numbers.
No. 6 (Rittenberg): Illinois QB Nathan Scheelhaase
Rationale: You want numbers? Scheelhaase accounted for 22 touchdowns last season (17 pass, 5 rush). He's a tremendous athlete who has made strides as a passer during the offseason and plays behind one of the Big Ten's best lines. Get ready for the points parade in Champaign.
No. 7 (Rittenberg): Iowa WR Marvin McNutt
Rationale: McNutt has made big plays throughout his career, and he'll continue to do so as Iowa's clear-cut No. 1 receiver this season. He's a bona fide NFL prospect with eight touchdown receptions in each of the past two years.
No. 8 (Bennett): Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez
Rationale: My passing numbers might not be the greatest with Shoelace and T-Magic as my quarterbacks, but man will I ever churn out the points for rushing.
No. 9 (Bennett): Northwestern WR Jeremy Ebert
Rationale: Needed a receiver here and was happy to take the guy who led the league in receiving yards per game a year ago. Now I just need a healthy Dan Persa to get him the ball.
No. 10 (Rittenberg): Michigan State QB Kirk Cousins
Rationale: Cousins once again has plenty of weapons at his disposal. He threw 20 touchdown passes in 2010 despite being limited by injuries in the second half of the season.
No. 11 (Rittenberg): Penn State WR Derek Moye
Rationale: I'm taking another big-play receiver in Moye, who averaged 16.7 yards a catch in 2010 and scored eight touchdowns. He'll be even better this season with more polished quarterbacks throwing to him.
No. 12 (Bennett): Indiana WR Damarlo Belcher
Rationale: Took a slight flier on Belcher, but I think he can put up huge numbers in Kevin Wilson's offense. He needs to do better than last year's four TD catches, and I believe he will.
No. 13 (Bennett): Nebraska defense
Rationale: Defense. Nebraska. 'Nuff said.
No. 14 (Rittenberg): Ohio State defense
Rationale: The Buckeyes' defense is as reliable as beer and brats at Big Ten tailgates. Until proven otherwise, I'm taking a group that limits yards and points and forces takeaways with the nation's best.
No. 15 (Rittenberg): Michigan State kickers
Rationale: Special teams vaulted Michigan State to a Big Ten co-championship in 2010. Stud kicker Dan Conroy returns after missing only one field goal attempt and one extra point try all season.
No. 16 (Bennett): Wisconsin kickers
Rationale: So what if Philip Welch is hurt? Even if I'm only getting PATs, that will come in handy in those games when Bret Bielema's bunch is scoring 70 or 80 points.
Here are the teams ...
THE TROMBONE SHORTIES
QB: Nathan Scheelhaase, Illinois
QB: Kirk Cousins, Michigan State
RB: Marcus Coker, Iowa
RB: James White, Wisconsin
WR: Marvin McNutt, Iowa
WR: Derek Moye, Penn State
Defense: Ohio State
Kickers: Michigan State
QB: Denard Robinson, Michigan
QB: Taylor Martinez, Nebraska
RB: Montee Ball, Wisconsin
RB: Edwin Baker, Michigan State
WR: Jeremy Ebert, Northwestern
WR: Damarlo Belcher, Indiana
Who do you think has the edge?
James White, Wisconsin