Big 10 Preview

By on August 8, 2010

Ohio St. Buckeyes

No big surprise here. The Buckeyes return nine starters on offense and seven on defense from a team that dismantled Oregon in the Rose Bowl. Terrelle Pryor had his knee fixed up over the offseason, so he should be even more elusive and make opposing defenses look even more helpless. With depth all over, except left tackle, and standouts at the skill positions, this offense will be lethal. On D, Cameron Heywood anchors one of the best lines in the country. With all conference candidates littering this side of the ball, Tressel’s always good D should once again be one of the best in the country. Games at Iowa and Wisconsin could be potential road blocks to BCS title game appearance.

Iowa Hawkeyes

The Hawkeyes could have been playing for the national title last year, had Ricky Stanzi not been injured. He is back and healthy and has a pounding running game led by Jewel Hampton. Adrian Clayborn leads what is possibly the league’s best defense, and they should be nearly impossible to run against. The rebuilt offensive line could be the only thing that keeps them from a perfect season; they only return four starters on offense, by the way. This team should wind up in a BCS bowl, but Iowa traditionally slips up where you least expect it. If they can clear the Penn State, Michigan, Wisconsin gamut to start Big Ten play, that November 20 visit from Ohio State could be the game that decides the Big Ten Champ and possible title game representative.

Wisconsin Badgers

 

The Badgers return their entire offensive line to block for John Clay, and lead the way for an offense that averaged over 200 yards rushing and receiving last year – one of only six teams in the country to do so. Now about that defense… If they can find a way to shore up a pass defense that allowed more bombs than the Middle East, then they might have a chance. I doubt it, though. Losing defensive leader O’Brien Schofield doesn’t help the cause. With some luck they might be able to sniff the conference crown, but they don’t have the D to play with the Bucks and Hawks, whom they face, back-to-back. Ouch!

Penn St. Nittnay Lions

Linebacker U lost their best LB, Navorro Bowmen; best DL, Jared Odrick; and first QB in school history to pass for over 3,000 yards, Daryll Clark, to the draft. That is a lot to replace, so asking them to compete for a conference title might be a little much, even with Evan Royster and the starting WRs returning. Sophomore Kevin Newsome currently leads the pack to replace Clark, but if they want to compete, a competent QB must be found. On a side note, Joe Pa had Lasik surgery in the off season, so Halloween mask sales in Happy Valley should be brisk. He probably got it done because when he looked at the schedule and saw, “at Alabama”, “at Iowa”, and “at Ohio State”, he must have thought his glasses were broken. Another 11-win season seems very unlikely.

Michigan St. Spartans

The always underachieving Sparty, look to get back on track in 2010. Their 6-7 record in 2009 was very disappointing. Former Cincinnati head coach and Spartan defensive coordinator, Mark Dantonio, should get the defense back on track with his rough and tumble hard-hitting style.  LB Greg Jones surprised some by delaying his departure for the NFL and returning for his senior year. Sparty can’t compete with the big boys for a conference crown, but the experienced defense should be able to avoid the meltdowns that cost them some games. Six of their losses were very winnable games, after all. On offense, Junior Kirk Cousins returns at QB and he has an experienced WR core at his disposal. The running game will have to improve if Sparty wants anything better than eight wins.

Purdue Boilermakers

 

 The Boilermakers look to build on their late season success. They won four of their last six, including a shocking 26-18 victory over Ohio State. Danny Hope takes over for Joe Tiller, and his first order of business is fixing a putrid run defense. They gave up 173 rushing yards per game while surrendering 29 ppg. You can see the problem when the offense averages 27.8 ppg. As usual the offense will score again in 2010 behind strong QB plays from Sophomore, Caleb TerBush, and strong running from Junior, Ralph Bolden, who looks to improve on his 4.7 YPC. Thanks to a weak schedule that features three MAC teams and avoids Ohio State and Penn State, Purdue fans can plan a winter vacation somewhere warm. That is, as long as they can avoid the GMAC bowl and another MAC team. Expect seven wins, maybe more, if they can pull an upset or two again.

Northwestern Wildcats

The Wildcats’ lost Senior QB, Mike Kafka – the clear team leader – to the NFL. Senior, Dan Persa assumes the QB responsibilities from Kafka. He has the entire offensive line returning, but they weren’t that great last year. If the wildcats have a chance Persa will have to be as quick on his feet as Kafka because they have a reliable, if unspectacular, stable of WRs and a do everything RB Drake Dunsmore. The defense also lost its best player in DE Corey Wooten. To compound the problem, they also lost three DBs to graduation, so the Big Ten teams that do have a passing game, could have a field day. The schedule is very week to start, and 5-0 is a very real possibility before Purdue visits in week six. Lose one of those first five and the season could be lost, because wins will be tough to find after that.

Michigan Wolverines

Will the Wolverines finally respond to Rich Rodriguez, or will they fail again and have to start all over again? They started strong with a 4-0 record and then finished a miserable 1-7. Anything short of a decent bowl, and Rich Rod is history. The Maize and Blue would be ecstatic with Lloyd Carr’s ‘disappointing 9-4 record. They return 15 starters and should be able to score with Tate Forcier under center. The question is, can they stop anybody? Looking at their schedule: they will have to avoid any upsets and better have a few of their own to avoid another 5-7 campaign, and a lowly two Big Ten wins. A bowl appearance may hinge on their final two games, Wisconsin, and then Rodriguez’s swan song in the Horse shoe.

Indiana Hoosiers

 The Hoosiers stay out of the basement with their pinball offense! The talent at the bottom of the Big Ten is severely lacking and anything out of them will be surprising. If anything, Hoosier games should be exciting, as they should be able to score on all but the elite defenses, namely Iowa and Ohio State. Problem is, most high school offenses would be able to score on the defense. An extremely light nonconference schedule gets them to four wins, maybe. Look to see more no-huddle offense due to elite speed at the skill positions, and Senior QB Ben Chappell under center. Their only shot at a conference win comes in week eight at Illinois.

Minnesota Golden Gophers

 The Golden Gophers keep out of the basement by returning nine starters on offense, including senior signal-caller, Adam Weber. That means they have to get better, right? Last year they averaged just 21.6 ppg, 97 rushing yards, and a woeful 198 passing yards per game. So really, they can’t get any worse. The defense allowed a respectable 24.6 ppg in 2009, but returns only two starters. Repeating last year’s six victories isn’t going to happen. They have three, soft, non-league games they should win. Barring any major upsets, their lone shot at a Big Ten victory will come week 11 at Illinois.

Illinois Fightin' Illini

The good news for the Illini? They return 14 starters. The bad news? Those starters won just three games last year, and their three best players are now in the NFL. Ron Zook appears to be pinning his job on redshirt freshman, Nathan Scheelhaase. Junior RB Mikel, looks to improve on his 6.8 YPC, but he no longer has Guard, Jon Asamoah, road-grading for him. Opposing defenses no longer have to account for Juice Williams or Arrelious Benn, either.  Eight starters return on a defense that is devoid of talent. The Illini better pray they can beat one of the directional Illinois squads or ‘the Zookster’ may be out with a big fat ZERO in the win column.

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