Big Ten Preview 2006 - Top 5s
CollegeFootballNews.com 2006 Big 10 Preview
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1) The five
games that will shape the Big Ten race (in order)
at Ohio State
It'll be hard to match one of the roughest, most brutal-hitting Big
Ten games of last year, but it'll still be the first really big battle
of the Big Ten season.
The Buckeyes could be the nation's top team going into the trip to Iowa
City. A Hawkeye victory would shake up the Big Ten race.
Hopefully this year's clash of titans will be half as good as last
year's thriller when the Wolverines won in the final moments.
If the Hawkeyes can pull off the home upset against Ohio State, this
might be the last true obstacle between them and the Big Ten title.
It's Michigan vs. Ohio State. It's always important.
Five non-conference games that Big Ten teams had better take very, very
Purdue at Hawaii, Nov. 25
There could be major problems for the Boilermakers if they need a
win in Honolulu to go to a bowl.
2. Northern Illinois at Ohio State, Sept. 2
Yeah, the brand new Ohio State defensive back seven should be fine,
but dealing with NIU star RB Garrett Wolfe and the strong Huskie line
will provide a nasty test right off the bat.
3. Iowa at Syracuse, Sept. 9
The Syracuse defense should be fine while the offense can't be any
worse. If Iowa is looking ahead to Iowa State, an upset wouldn't be a
4. Minnesota at Kent State, Sept. 2
Who starts out a season at Kent State? The Gophers should be able to
run over the Golden Flashes, but Michael Machen and the KSU passing game
will provide a puncher's chance for an upset.
5. Indiana at Ball State, Sept. 9
Ball State should be much better than it was last year. If IU plays
like it did early last season when it struggled to get past Central
Michigan and Nicholls State, it'll get tagged.
best Big Ten pro prospects
Wisconsin OT Joe Thomas, Sr.
The former defensive end and tight end has grown into a top pro
prospect. Used as a part-time defensive lineman in the Capital One Bowl
win over Auburn, he tore up his ACL killing and possibility of leaving
school a year early. The 6-8, 306-pound senior is expected to be back
later this summer and should be an All-American.
Michigan State QB Drew Stanton, Sr. - 236-354, 3,077 yds, 67%, 22 TD, 12
INT, 121 carries, 338 yds, 2.8 ypc 4 TD
The only possible knock is that he tries too hard. Other than
that, he should grow into a big-time pro prospect if he has a
huge senior season. Arguably the best quarterback in college
football over the first four games of last year after starting out
throwing 13 touchdown passes, he cooled off big time having
problems with interceptions when he tried to carry the
inconsistent offense. When he's on, there are few better and
with his combination of 6-3, 230-pound size, accuracy, running
skills, and experience, he's the total package. If he can stay healthy, this should be
the year he puts it all together and becomes an All-American.
Ohio State DT Quinn Pitcock, Sr. - 28 tackles, 1 sack, 3 TFL
One of only two returning starters, Pitcock should be one of the Big
Ten's best defenders and an All-American candidate. He has the speed to
be a dangerous end, but at 6-3, 295 pounds he's a true tackle. While
he's not flashy and he isn't going to get his name called a lot, he'll
require two blockers on every down.
LaMarr Woodley, Sr. - 48 tackles, 7 sacks, 14 TFL
Part linebacker, part defensive end, the 268-pound All-Big Ten star
has 11 tackles and 30 tackles for loss over the last two seasons. While
he's active against the run making 70 stops in 2004, he's better used on
the line when he gets to fly into the backfield. While he didn't see too
much time this spring, he appears on the verge of making a jump to
Michigan CB Leon Hall, Sr. - 61 tackles, 2 sacks, 3 TFL, 4
interceptions, 9 broken up passes
Hall always had the potential to be a star, but he didn't put it all
together until last year when he was one of the Big Ten's best
all-around defensive backs. While he's not huge at 5-11 and 193 pounds,
he has decent size to go along with his 4.42 speed. He led the team in
interceptions and turned into a safety-like tackler finishing fourth on
the team. He'll be the team's number one cover corner and in the hunt
for the Thorpe Award if he has another season like last year.
Five biggest Big Ten shoes to fill
1. Penn State QB Anthony Morelli for Michael Robinson
O.K. hotshot; time to shine. The star recruit of a few years ago
wasn't anything special early in his career, but he appears
ready to become the steady passer now that he has been in the
system for a few years. At 6-4 and 220 pounds, he has the size,
the athleticism, and now, the poise to be a great leader for the
offense. With the weapons he ahs to work with, he should put up
fantastic passing numbers. While not Robinson running
the ball, he can move.
2. Ohio State LB Marcus Freeman for A.J. Hawk
The superstar recruit of a few years ago appeared ready to make a huge
impact even with all the stars in last year's linebacking corps, but he
suffered a knee injury and missed the season. He's 230 pounds and fast,
fast, fast on the weakside. This might sound like blasphemy, but if he's
100% healthy, he might be almost, almost, as good as Hawk. He has that kind of talent.
3. Minnesota RB Amir Pinnix for Laurence Maroney
While not the typical Gopher running back, the extremely quick
Pinnix will be a featured back in a rotation if he's not the
outright number one. He saw mop-up work early on and carried the
load against Michigan State rushing 32 times for 206 yards and a
touchdown in the team's final win of the year. He hasn't caught
any passes, but that will change.
4. Iowa LB
Mike Humpal for Chad Greenway
The 232-pound junior has to replace Greenway on the weakside and has the talent to put up big numbers. While he's nowhere
near the athlete Greenway is, he's very fast and should be great in pass
coverage. Staying healthy has been his problem so far. If he can stay on
the field, he'll be one of the team's top tacklers.
5. Wisconsin RBs P.J. Hill, Jamil Walker, and others for Brian
There's not a speed back like
Calhoun who can turn the corner on a dime, but P.J. Hill, Jamil Walker and
Dywon Rowan will move the pile. The real excitement comes this
fall when star freshman Lance Smith comes in; don't be shocked
if he takes over the starting job.
Five Big Ten breakout players
Ohio State OT Alex Boone, Soph.
Considered by some to be the best Buckeye lineman prospect in over a
decade, the 6-8, 315-pound sophomore has first round draft pick written
all over him. He had a nice first season in the program, and now the
spotlight is on to see if he can up his game and be the type of
devastating all-around blocker the offense can revolve around.
2. Ohio State LB Larry Grant, Jr.
Originally a running back coming out of his school, the 225-pound JUCO
All-American has 4.4 speed and should make a big impact on the outside.
He was unstoppable for City College of San Francisco and should add an
instant dash of attitude and athleticism to the corps.
3. Iowa LB Mike Klinkenborg, Jr. - 11 tackles
While he's not going to be Abdul Hodge in the middle, the 240-pound
junior is tough and athletic enough to be one of the team's leading
tacklers. He's an academic All-American who'll have few problems with
his familiarity of the defense. He's a natural enough pass rusher to be
disruptive in the backfield.
4. Wisconsin RB P.J. Hill, RFr.
Hill was the star of spring ball taking over the number one spot
after being buried deep on the depth chart. While he doesn't
have anywhere near the speed of recent Badger backs like Brian
Calhoun and Anthony Davis, he brings more power at 235 pounds
and is quick enough to be effective behind the big line. Even
though he won't catch 53 passes like Calhoun did last year,
he'll be a solid receiver. The key is his health. He suffered a
broken leg last season and had a dinged up neck this spring.
5. Wisconsin CB
Jack Ikegwuonu, Soph. - 26 tackles, 3 interceptions, 3
broken up passes
Coming off a strong freshman season when he tied for the team lead in
interceptions, the 6-1, 199-pound sophomore should be the team's top
corner with a great combination of size and quickness. While not a
burner, he has the all-around skills against the run as well as against
number one receivers to be in for a strong year if he doesn't have
problems with a hamstring injury.