2013 Big Ten Preview - Legends Team Breakdown
Michigan RB Fitzgerald Toussaint
Preview 2013 - CFN Big Ten Team By Team Quick Looks and Predicted Finish
Big Ten Legends Team By Team
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T1. Michigan State
2013 CFN Prediction: 10-2
2013 Big Ten Prediction: 7-1
Offense: The Spartans won't have Le'Veon Bell around to carry the offense anymore. The painfully inefficient passing game will have to start pulling its weight, and it'll start with the receivers catching everything coming their way. On the plus side, all the top wideouts are back, and while the quarterback situation has to be settled, there's plenty of talent and enough experience to expect more from an offense that finished last in the Big Ten and 112th in the nation in passing efficiency. Losing Bell hurts, but the rotation of smallish, quick backs could combine to do even more. The biggest positive is a line that should be among the best in the conference if everyone can stay healthy. With the return of tackle Fou Fonoti, technically, five starters are back for a unit that should be a force for the ground game.
Defense: The expectations were high after finishing sixth in the nation and first in the Big Ten in total defense, and the Spartans more than met them finishing fourth in the nation in total defense allowing just 274 yards per game. There wasn't much of a pass rush, but the run D didn't suffer a lick giving up just six scores and 1,282 yards – expect more of the same. Linebacker Max Bullough leads a nasty front seven that should continue to dominate against the ground attack, but a steady pass rusher has to emerge. The secondary is loaded with a good combination of experience and promise. The corner situation might be even stronger with the emergence of some great young prospects, while Isaiah Lewis and Kurtis Drummond form an all-star caliber safety tandem.
2013 CFN Prediction: 10-2
2013 Big Ten Prediction: 7-1
Offense: The offense that was so devastating and consistent on the ground should be even better with the return of quarterback Taylor Martinez and a strong group of backs led by the ultra-quick Ameer Abdulah and the strong Imani Cross. Not the typical Husker attack, Martinez has grown into a stronger passer, and he has the receiving corps to take advantage of his skills with Kenny Bell, Quincy Enunwa and Jamal Turner forming a terrific trio. Tight end is a slight concern after losing Ben Cotton and Kyler Reed, but Jake Long should be good with more attention. The line has a good foundation starting with all-star candidate Spencer Long at guard, but it needs to be a bit more consistent in pass protection.
Defense: The defense was hit-or-miss last season, and while most of the world remembers the meltdown against the Wisconsin running game and the disaster against the Georgia passing attack to close down the year, things weren't all that bad. However, it's going to take some work to revamp a defensive front that loses all the starting linebackers and needs to find a pass rush from the outside. It'll be a work in progress at linebacker, but the ends should be fine with a little bit of time. The tackles aren't huge, but they're quick; now they have to start getting into the backfield. The secondary is the biggest strength with too many good corners to know what to do with. There are holes at safety, but finding veteran defensive backs to fill the void shouldn't be much of an issue.
2013 CFN Prediction: 9-3
2013 Big Ten Prediction: 6-2
Offense: The production will be fine, but this is a stepping-stone season to what should be a phenomenal 2014. However, now the coaching staff gets to do what it wants. It's not like anyone was crying about having Denard Robinson at quarterback, but the coaching staff had to adjust to a style it didn't really want to run. With Devin Gardner taking over late in the season, he started to show what the Michigan offense could potentially do. The passing game should be even crisper and more dangerous, even with a slightly above-average receiving corps that should be decent, but not elite. The running game depends on several X factors including the health of Fitzgerald Toussaint and the emergence of true freshman Derrick Green working behind a promising line that needs to revamp the interior.
Defense: After the disasters in the Rich Rodriguez era, getting good defensive production is never taken for granted. Coordinator Greg Mattison has done a nice job, but it's going to take some patience and some work to make a decent D a lot better with top pass rusher Jake Ryan hurting with a torn ACL and with few true superstars to rely on right away. The talent is there, but it's in the form of underclassmen who need time and seasoning. For this year, there's a nice base to work around with a potentially strong rotation on the ends around a good tackle pair in Quinton Washington and Jibreel Black. The secondary will be decent statistically, but it only finished fifth in the nation against the pass because there weren't many offenses on the slate that could throw. Overall this will be a very good, very sound defense that needs to force more turnovers and has to find more disruptive parts, but it could get exposed by a hot offense. On the plus side, the future is tremendous after a phenomenal recruiting class to build on an already exceptional base of young talent.
2013 CFN Prediction: 8-4
2013 Big Ten Prediction: 4-4
Offense: While the offense didn't explode, it was extremely effective. Offensive coordinator Mick McCall got less out of the attack than he did two seasons ago, but the running game was terrific thanks to Venric Mark and quarterback Kain Colter. They're both back along with Trevor Siemian, quarterback No. 1A in tandem with Colter, and all the top receivers return. It wasn't an efficient passing game, but it dinked-and-dunked its way down the field when it had to. The problem this year is a line that needs some major rebuilding and retooling around left tackle Jack Konopka and center Brandon Vitabile.
Defense: After a stunningly disappointing 2011, the defense came up with a whopper of a 2012 with the youth rising up right away to create more of a pass rush and be far more disruptive. This is still a young defense, but now it's experienced led by a terrific group of linebackers. Damien Proby and Chi Chi Ariguzo will once again best statistical stars behind a decent line that can get into the backfield on a regular basis. Tyler Scott is one of the Big Ten's best pass rushers, and he'll get help with athletes up front at the other three spots. Corner Nick VanHoose and safety Ibraheim Campbell are two of the league's top defensive backs, and once the cracks are filled in around them, the secondary should be a strength.
2013 CFN Prediction: 6-6
2013 Big Ten Prediction: 2-6
Offense: Enough of this fancy-dancy, tippy-tap stuff; it's time to get nasty. Offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover also oversees the line, and he has a good one returning as all five starters from the end of last year are back. The call has gone out for the attack to be more powerful and more brutish, and the pieces are there to do it with the veteran line paving the way for big backs Donnell Kirkwood and Rodrick Williams Jr. The passing game needs to be more efficient and more effective, hoping for Philip Nelson or one of the other young options to take charge of the quarterback job and be The Guy to build around. The receiving corps is big and physical – perfect for the new-look attack – but it has to be more dangerous.
Defense: Defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys is doing a wonderful job of cranking out decent defenses without a ton of top-shelf talent. The pass rush that was the worst in the nation in 2010 came up with 26 sacks last season and was far more aggressive, and overall the progress showed finishing 33rd in the nation in total defense and 12th against the pass. The holes going into this season might have been patched in a hurry, helped mostly by JUCO transfers De'Vondre Campbell and Damien Wilson at linebacker. Defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman has the potential and talent to be an All-Big Ten star to work around, but the ends have to apply the pressure Claeys is looking for. In the secondary, corner is a bit of a question mark, but the safeties should be terrific.
2013 CFN Prediction: 5-7
2013 Big Ten Prediction: 1-7
Offense: Offensive coordinator Greg Davis has to come up with more pop. The receiving corps didn't get downfield enough and it needs to be stronger and more dangerous with a new starting quarterback trying to get his feet wet. It'll be a fight for the starting gig until the finish, and the new guy should get time to work behind a decent line that could be great at tackle but needs experience in the interior. For the first time in a long time, the running game doesn't appear to be a problem with three healthy and able bodies – a rarity for the Hawkeye backfield. However, everyone has to stay in one piece to form a good rotation. Tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz is a talent who needs the ball in his hands more.
Defense: Second year defensive coordinator Phil Parker got a decent first year out of a D that wasn't ripped apart, but it didn't do too much to change games around. The linebacking corps should be the team's biggest strength with three excellent starters in Christian Kirksey, James Morris and Anthony Hitchens, but they have to be more disruptive to help a line that was woeful at getting into the backfield and hitting the quarterback. Corner Micah Hyde is done, but three starters are back in a serviceable secondary that avoided the big bomb but got dinked and dunked on.
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