Monday, August 13, 2007

College Football 2007 Conference Preview: Big Ten

The Big Ten has been very competitive in the BCS race and always produces some of the top tier teams in the country. Look for Wisconsin and Michigan to be the ones competing for a chance to play in the BCS National Championship game, with Ohio St., Penn St., Purdue, and Iowa not far behind.

Predicted Order of Finish
1. Wisconsin
The offense should be solid even after losing QB John Stocco and T Joe Thomas. Tyler Donovan is battling with KSU transfer Allan Evridge for the starting QB job but Donovan looks to have the upper hand. Donovan has some experience replacing Stocco while he was injured last season. Heisman Candidate PJ Hill returns at RB, he rushed for 1,569 yards and 15 touchdowns while he led the Big Ten in all-purpose yards. They also return a solid WR corps and one of the best TEs in the land in Travis Beckum. The defense should be rocking with 8 starters back that includes DE Matt Shaughnessy, CB Jack Ikegwuounu, and LBs Jon Casillas and DeAndre Levy.

2. Michigan
There is no question Michigan's offense will be able to score at will this year with QB Chad Henne, RB Mike Hart, WR Mario Manningham, and T Jake Long all returning. But the defense lost a lot and still has some question marks. On that side of the ball they lost DT Alan Branch and DE Lamar Woodley, two of the best defensive linemen in the country last season. DE Rondell Biggs is gone too along with two very good LBs in David Harris and Prescott Burgess. The secondary will be hurting as well after losing All-America CB Leon Hall and FS Willis Barringer. If they want to compete for that BCS National Championship again this season they'll need to find some play makers on the defensive side.

3. Ohio St.
The Buckeyes lost their top players in Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith, WRs Ted Ginn Jr. and Anthony Gonzalez, and RB Antonio Pittman. They will need to rely on the defense more as that seems to be their strength, returning LB James Laurinaitis, CB Malcom Jenkins, and DL Vernon Gholston. They have a fairly easier schedule this year, especially non-conference wise which should get them into a decent bowl game.

4. Penn St.
The Nittany Lions should be improved by a game or two this season. They return 15 starters and should have a solid offense. QB Anthony Morrelli returns after throwing for 2,424 yards and 11 TD. Morrelli struggled at times last season and will need to be more consistent if PSU wants to win the Big 10 Title at all. They return all of their WRs and should have one of the best WR corps in the land with Jr. Derrick Williams (How did Florida let him get away?), Jr. Jordan Norwood, Sr. Terrell Golden, and So. James McDonald all back. The offensive line returns 3 starters, but losing T Levi Brown will be a huge loss. Also, the defense returns some good players in LB Dan Connor, All-Big Ten Safety Anthony Scirrotto, and CBs Justin King and A.J. Wallace. But replacing Paul Posluszny is inevitable.

5. Purdue
With plenty of experience back and playing Iowa at home, I think that will get Purdue the 5th spot. They return 18 starters and have a favorable schedule not playing Wisconsin and getting Ohio St., Iowa, and Michigan St. at home. QB Curtis Painter is solid and one of the most underrated QBs in the conference. RBs Kory Sheets and Jaycen Taylor also return which will put a smile on many Purdue fans' faces. And WR Dorien Bryant returns, plus three offensive linemen return as well; pretty impressive for the offense. Now the defense does indeed return 9 starters, but they did give up some hefty point totals last season, if they can pick it up, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio St. Penn St., and Iowa will be in for a surprise.

6. Iowa
Iowa returns plenty of experience with 14 starters back and they have an easy home conference schedule. How the hell did they miss out on playing Michigan or Ohio St. this year? Lucky Hawkeye fans! They'll need to replace QB Drew Tate, but Jake Christensen looks like a decent replacement, plus he'll have a great WR tandem in Andy Brodell and Dominique Douglas. The defense is in good shape with 8 starters returning that includes LB Mike Klinkenborg and DE Bryan Mattison.

7. Minnesota
They have some voids to fill at QB and WR but every other position should be okay. The O-Line returns a lot of veterans with 4 starters back. The defense has 9 starters back and should be average. They have a new coach in Tim Brewster and he has a lot of work to do though. They do have an easy early non-conference schedule which could help them get back to a bowl game. But they will once again fold when their tough conference schedule comes around. (The Gophers will also play North Dakota St. again this season, I went to the game last season where they escaped with a 10-9 win. I will be attending the game again and it should be another hard fought battle.)

8. Michigan St.
The Spartans had a tough '06 season and finished tied for 10th in the conference. 13 starters return but new head coach Mark Dantonio has plenty of work to do. They'll need to replace QB Drew Stanton, who had a good career at MSU. Jr. Brian Hoyer looks to be his successor and was pretty impressive last season while filling in for Stanton when he was injured. One bright spot is at RB where Javon Ringer returns. Three key WR's are gone but they do return some experience back at that position. Dantonio has proclaimed that WR will be one of their strengths this season. The defense returns just 6 starters and has plenty of holes all over the field.

9. Illinois
Ron Zook has recruited well at Illinois, which should help the program continue to improve. He got one of the school's best recruiting classes ever landing WR Arrelious Benn and LB Martez Wilson. QB Juice Williams returns and should put up more respectable numbers. The defense has improved drastically over the last few seasons. With DT Chris Norwell, LBs J Leman and Antonio Steele, and CB Vontae David all returning, the Illini will have a very athletic defense.

10. Northwestern
15 starters return for the Wildcats. They'll need to find a QB once again, replace WR Shaun Herbert, and find some depth on the o-line. But one of the top RBs in the nation, Tyrell Sutton, returns. Sutton rushed for 1,000 yards last season. The defense returns 8 starters and no doubt has talent at every position. Northwestern has the potential to make some noise in the Big Ten and should not be taken lightly by anybody.

11. Indiana
IU's offense returns some good experience with QB Kellen Lewis, WR James Hardy, and 5 starting linemen all back. The defense was a mess last year and needs much improvement. Expect Indiana to finish last again in the Big Ten.

Offensive Player of the Year:
P.J. Hill, RB- Wisconsin

Defensive Player of the Year:
James Laurinaitis, LB- Ohio St.

Freshman of the Year:
Arrelious Benn, WR- Illinois

Coach of the Year:
Bret Bielema- Wisconsin

Games to Watch:
Penn St. at Michigan- Sept. 22

Michigan at Wisconsin- Nov. 10

Ohio St. at Michigan- Nov. 17

Iowa at Purdue- Oct. 20

Wisconsin at Ohio St.- Nov. 3

Wisconsin at Penn St.- Oct. 13


the sports lounge said...

goin out on a limb and pickin wisconsin... i like it

grittysquirrels said...

I've heard Christenson looks really good and I see their only real loss to coming to Wisconsin - I think with their supereasy schedule that Iowa will finish above Purdue and MAYBE Penn St. - that's assuming they don't f-up against Indiana or some other pushover.

Stefan Ming said...

i see Iowa going 5-3 in-conference same with Purdue but I have Purdue beating Iowa so that is why I have Purdue ahead of them.

twins15 said...

I'm going with Michigan myself... that offense should be awesome. Henne, Hart, Grady, Manningham, and a solid O-Line... that should be fun to watch.

rstiles said...

Nice job with the previews....I started mine today with a Big East preview...

Watch Purdue...they are going to stun someone this year...they have 9 guys back on offense!