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2011 Big 10 Preview - Legends Team Breakdowns
Michigan WR Roy Roundtree
Michigan WR Roy Roundtree
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jul 29, 2011


Preview 2011 - CFN Big Ten Legends Team By Team Quick Looks and Predicted Finishes


Preview 2011

Big Ten Legends Predicted Finish


LEADERS
- 2011 Illinois Preview | 2011 Indiana Preview | 2011 Ohio State Preview
- 2011 Penn State Preview | 2011 Purdue Preview | 2011 Wisconsin Preview

LEGENDS
- 2011 Iowa Preview | 2011 Michigan Preview | 2011 Michigan State Preview
- 2011 Minnesota Preview | 2011 Nebraska Preview | 2011 Northwestern Preview

- 2011 Big Ten Preview
- CFN Thoughts on the Big Ten | 2011 Big Ten Unit Rankings
- 2011 CFN All-Big Ten Team & Top 30 Players | 2011 Big Ten Schedules & Picks
- 2011 Big Ten Leaders Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish
- 2011 Big Ten Legends Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish
- 2011 Big Ten Media Days - Coaches Quotes | 2010 Big Ten Preview

Note: Predictions based on team talent and schedules.

1. Michigan
Predicted Overall Record: 9-3
Predicted Conference Record: 6-2

Offense: The offense worked. It died against Ohio State and it went bye-bye after the first quarter against Mississippi State, but it worked finishing first in the Big Ten and eighth in the nation in yards and averaging 33 points per game. The running game was dominant, the passing game was efficient and effective, and now the new coaching staff is going to try to change it up. Denard Robinson was phenomenal, even after he cooled off, but he was always getting banged up. New offensive coordinator Al Borges wants more dropback pocket passing and more power running, but that’s not exactly what the personnel is equipped for. Robinson isn’t Peyton Manning and the line isn’t huge, but head coach Brady Hoke always seems to find ways to get the backs in wide open spaces. The receiving corps is loaded with veterans, the line gets four starters back, and the backfield has several excellent rushing options. But it all comes down to Robinson and his ability to adapt to the new style and also stay healthy.

Defense: The defense was a complete and utter disaster, finishing last in the Big Ten in total defense, scoring defense, and pass defense. More than that, everyone looked disorganized and confused, with the last straw coming in the embarrassment against Mississippi State. Expect massive changes in style and production as defensive coordinator Greg Mattison should be a night-and-day improvement over Greg Robinson. To start, the D is going to a 4-3 after Robinson played around with a 3-3-5 and a 3-4, and the defensive linemen appear to be much happier. Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen lead a good front four that’ll benefit by being coached by a coaching staff full of D line experts. The linebackers are small, but they can move, and the secondary that struggled so mightily last year now knows what it’s doing.

2. Nebraska
Predicted Overall Record: 9-3
Predicted Conference Record: 5-3

Offense: Simplify, simplify, simplify. It’s not like the Nebraska offense required a Ph.D. to figure out last year, but the attack was inconsistent and didn’t do enough with the passing game. Enter new offensive coordinator Tim Beck, who plans to make everything easy to understand and easy to do so that everyone can operate faster. This isn’t going to be Oregon when it comes to tempo, but Beck would like to get the running game to speed up enough to keep defenses on their heels. Really, it all comes down to the health of QB Taylor Martinez. If his ankle is fine, the offense should be terrific even if he’s not the most consistent downfield passer in the Big Ten. If he’s off, like he was at the end of last year, the dynamic changes. Rex Burkhead leads a good group of quick backs, but they need a solid line to work behind. The front five is big, and there will be a steady rotation, but a sound starting lineup has to be found. The receiving corps has promise, but the untested prospects are better than the returning proven veterans. The tight end combination of Kyler Reed and Ben Cotton is terrific.

Defense: Defensive coordinator Carl Pelini didn’t put together quite the killer of a defense he had in 2009 – losing Ndamukong Suh will do that – but the Huskers finished 11th in the nation in total defense and ninth in scoring defense. Even though the overall numbers were great, the pass rush was mediocre and there weren’t nearly enough big plays made. Now the D will go from a versatile 4-2-5 alignment that changed by the week to more of a basic 4-3, and that’s a plus with the potentially great linebacking corps waiting to shine. Lavonte David is one of the nation’s best tacklers, while Sean Fisher is back from an injury and Will Compton should be great with a bigger role. The line needs pass rushers on the outside, but Jared Crick and Baker Steinkuhler form one of the nation’s best tackle tandems. The secondary takes the biggest personnel hit and needs some help at corner, but it’s a big group that’ll be fine in time.

3. Michigan State
Predicted Overall Record: 8-4
Predicted Conference Record: 4-4

Offense: The offense was good last year, but it wasn’t quite as dominant as it might have seemed. Yes, QB Kirk Cousins is a good talent who knows what he’s doing, and he spread the ball around well, but he has to cut down on his interceptions after throwing ten. The running backs rotation of Edwin Baker, Le’Veon Bell, and Larry Caper is strong, but the running game disappeared at times with Bell and Caper non-existent for stretches. The receiving corps should be solid with several excellent options and a potentially special tight end situation, and with Cousins under center, the passing game should be even more efficient and effective if, and it’s a huge, glaring if, the line can come through. The front five was just okay last year, and it’ll be good at guard, but the tackle situation is up in the air and there’s a fight for the center job. Everything will work out and the passing game will be good enough to make up for a slew of problems, but the nation’s 53rd ranked offense of last year might not be appreciably better even with all the returning experience.

Defense: The meltdown against Alabama put an ugly cap on a terrific year. There wasn’t a pass rush and there were a few problems against the better passing teams, but the defense came up with a nice season against the run and did enough to get by. There weren’t too many high-octane offenses on the schedule, but the Spartans did a nice job against Wisconsin and Michigan and shut down Illinois and Penn State. Now the defense has to replace two phenomenal linebackers in Greg Jones and Eric Gordon, but there are plenty of good, hard-hitting athletes ready to step in. The strength will be at defensive tackle where Jerel Worthy is ready for the NFL right now, and enough size and strength from the rest of the tackles to be tough against the run. Johnny White is about to become an All-America caliber corner who’ll lead a good-looking secondary, but the defensive backs need help from more of a pass rush that finished 90th in the nation. The line has to do more to get into the backfield, and that means big, talented ends William Gholston and Tyler Hoover have to do more.

4. Iowa
Predicted Overall Record: 8-4
Predicted Conference Record: 4-4

Offense: It didn’t really seem like it, but the offense was actually a whole bunch better last season than it was in the 11-2 campaign. There weren’t the heart-stopping comebacks of 2009, but the attack worked averaging 383 yards and 29 points per game after finishing 89th in the nation in total offense and 86th in scoring. The pass protection was better and the passing game was far, far more efficient, and now there’s some rebuilding to be done. The line will be among the best in the Big Ten and will be a major strength if everyone can stay healthy around left tackle Riley Reiff and center James Ferentz, and that’ll be a huge plus for new starting quarterback James Vandenberg. The running game will be Marcus Coker, Marcus Coker, and Marcus Coker, and the passing attack will revolve around Marcus McNutt. The key to the offense will be finding a good No. 2 running back and a steady second and third receiver.

Defense: Despite finishing 25th in the nation in total defense and seventh in scoring D, defensive coordinator Norm Parker’s group was a had so many stars that it should’ve done a bit more. NFL defensive linemen Adrian Clayborn, Karl Klug, and Christian Ballard are gone and losing safety Tyler Sash is a killer, but there’s hope. Everything starts at the corner with Shaun Prater and Micah Hyde, if he doesn’t move to safety, should be among the nation’s best tandems, while end Broderick Binns and tackle Mike Daniels have all-star potential. The linebackers are way too small and they’re relative unknowns, but led by James Morris in the middle, they’re solid and should put up the stats to get the job done behind a retooling defensive front.

5. Northwestern
Predicted Overall Record: 6-6
Predicted Conference Record: 3-5

Offense: The offense moved the ball, but for the second year in a row the points were hard to come by. The Wildcats scored 30 points or more in the three games against non-BCS teams, and rallied to put up 38 in the wild comeback attempt against Texas Tech, but they failed to hit the 30 point mark against everyone else. The season all comes down to the Achilles heel of QB Dan Persa, which is expected to be fine going into the season, but is still a question mark after blowing it out in mid-November. The line gets everyone back, and is big and experienced, but it has to be far better, especially in pass protection. The running backs might be mediocre, but the receiving corps should be quietly terrific with Jeremy Ebert and Drake Dunsmore two dangerous targets to work around … with Persa hopefully being the man to deliver the ball for a full season.

Defense: Seven starters return to a defense that got run over by the teams that could pound away, and was way-too-easily bombed on by the good passing attacks. Illinois ran for 519 yards and five scores, and Wisconsin ran for 329 yards and five touchdowns the week after, while four teams threw for 300 yards or more; teams exploited the NU weaknesses. Vince Browne is a big-time end who needs help to improve the anemic pass rush, while the linebacking corps has the potential to be terrific if David Nwabuisi can be a major factor in the middle. The secondary gets back three starters, led by tackling machine safety Brian Peters and speedy corner Jordan Mabin, but it has to start shutting more teams down after struggling to keep the better passing teams down. Overall, the experience is there, but the production has to follow after finishing 97th in the nation in total defense .

6. Minnesota
Predicted Overall Record: 5-7
Predicted Conference Record: 2-6

Offense: Offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover knows how to get the ground game moving. He has been head coach Jerry Kill’s main man for years, and he’s largely responsible for turning Northern Illinois into an unstoppable MAC machine – just ask Gopher fans about last year’s loss. He has good tools to work with, led by QB MarQueis Gray, the one-time superstar recruit who should be in the right fit. There will be a good rotation of backs with some bright young players to mix in with the established veterans, and WR Da’Jon McKnight and TE Eric Lair are among the best at the Big Ten at their respective positions. The key, though, will be the line that gets just two starters back, but is athletic and should be good with little bit of time. Limegrover also coaches the offensive front.

Defense: Considering the pass rush was the worst in the nation – generating a mere nine sacks – and there was major turnover in the linebacking corps, the defense wasn’t all that bad. The potential is there for a big boost all across the board with eight starters returning, and that doesn’t include safety Kim Royston, who’s back after missing all of last year with a broken leg. Defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys wants to be aggressive, aggressive, aggressive, but that means the veteran defensive front has to find a way to hit a quarterback on a regular basis. The linebacking corps that was a concern throughout last year should be a strength with Florida transfer Brendan Beal adding more talent to a veteran mix. The secondary has a nice mix of veterans and rising athletes, and it has the potential to be solid if it gets a little help from the defensive front.

LEADERS
- 2011 Illinois Preview | 2011 Indiana Preview | 2011 Ohio State Preview
- 2011 Penn State Preview | 2011 Purdue Preview | 2011 Wisconsin Preview

LEGENDS
- 2011 Iowa Preview | 2011 Michigan Preview | 2011 Michigan State Preview
- 2011 Minnesota Preview | 2011 Nebraska Preview | 2011 Northwestern Preview

- 2011 Big Ten Preview
- CFN Thoughts on the Big Ten | 2011 Big Ten Unit Rankings
- 2011 CFN All-Big Ten Team & Top 30 Players | 2011 Big Ten Schedules & Picks
- 2011 Big Ten Leaders Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish
- 2011 Big Ten Legends Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish
- 2011 Big Ten Media Days - Coaches Quotes | 2010 Big Ten Preview