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(wins BCS bid)
Conf. record: 7-1
RB P.J. Hill, Soph.
offense wasn't always pretty, but it produced. Now it welcomes back nine
starters, led by power runner P.J. Hill working behind a deep and
talented offensive line. The receiving corps is loaded with deep threats
with Paul Hubbard, Luke Swan, and top pass-catching tight end Travis
Beckum returning. It's all there to have a huge season as long as the
quarterback situation is settled. Tyler Donovan and Allan Evridge are
each good enough to start, but one has to break free and take the job by
the horns. While this is one of the deepest Badger offenses in a long
time, most of the top reserves are untested. That isn't going to be an
issue for the line or the backfield, but it could be a problem if
injuries hit the receiving corps.
Defense: Seven starters return to the Big Ten's best defense that
finished fifth in the country. The corners will be terrific with Jack
Ikegwuonu and Allen Langford back on the nation's second best pass
defense (and first in pass efficiency defense), but the safeties have to
be replaced. Shane Carter is a future star at free safety, but strong
safety is a question mark. The front seven might not have any sure-thing
stars, but it'll be terrific as long as Elijah Hodge plays up to his
potential in the middle. The overall depth is talented, even though it's
young and relatively untested.
Conf. record: 7-1
RB Mike Hart, Sr.
LB Shawn Crable, Sr.
coordinator Mike DeBord didn't change things up much in his first year,
and there aren't going to be a lot of bells and whistles for an attack
with all the stars returning. Chad Henne, Mike Hart, and Mario
Manningham form the best skill trio in America, while tackle Jake Long
and quarter Adam Kraus form one of the nation's best left sides. The
only issue is depth, which is stunning undeveloped or a program like
Michigan. Of course there are talented prospects waiting in the wings,
but there will be major problems if injuries strike early on.
Defense: Defensive coordinator Ron English did a fantastic job in
his first season sending the dogs loose to attack more than previous
Michigan teams. Now the hope will be for overall speed and athleticism
to make up for the lack of experience and a few gaping holes. This won't
be the nation's number one run defense again, and it won't be fourth in
sacks, but it will create plenty of turnovers and force a ton of
mistakes. It'll also give up too many big pass plays. The safeties are
fine, the linebacking corps won't be an issue, even without David Harris
to anchor things anymore, and the line, in time, will grow into a
strength. The biggest issue will be at corner, where Morgan Trent isn't
a number one lockdown defender, and there are several untested prospects
waiting to get their chance to shine.
Conf. record: 7-1
QB Anthony Morelli
LB Dan Connor
being button-down conservative, now it's time for Penn State to open the
offense up. At least, that's what it has to do to play to the team's
strengths. The receiving corps has the potential to be the best in the
league with three great targets in Deon Butler, Derrick Williams and
Jordan Norwood, and an all-star-to-be in tight end Andrew Quarless. If
senior quarterback Anthony Morelli is consistent and gets the ball to
his speedy receivers deep, the passing game will be fantastic. The line,
despite the loss of Levi Brown, will be excellent with the expected
emergence of tackles Dennis Landolt and Gerald Cadogan, but the real
question mark will be running back Austin Scott. The one time star
recruit Austin Scott has to finally show he can be the workhorse for the
running game. If not, it'll be throw, throw and throw some more.
Defense: As always, the defense will revolve around the
linebackers. Paul Posluszny might be gone, but Dan Connor, who'll take
over in the middle, could turn into a better all-around playmaker, and
Sean Lee will be an All-Big Ten performer. The line doesn't have much
experience with only one starter returning, but there's plenty of
promise on the inside in beefy tackles Phil Taylor and Abe Koroma. The
secondary will be stellar if Anthony Scirrotto gets past his
off-the-field legal troubles. If not, corner Justin King and safety Tony
Davis, who moves over from corner, will keep the pass defense from
sliding after a good 2006.
Conf. record: 5-3
RB Albert Young, Sr.
DE Ken Iwebema, Sr.
Christensen era starts after four years of the Drew Tate regime, but
backup quarterback Arvell Nelson is a terrific prospect who could push
hard this fall. With the 1-2 rushing punch of Albert Young and Damian
Sims, the ground game will be strong if the questionable offensive line
pulls out a better season than last year (when injuries were a major
problem). Dominique Douglas and Andy Brodell are emerging targets, and
they'll shine with a passer like Christensen winging it. As good as
Christensen might be, the offense will try to run first.
Defense: You basically know what you're getting with the Iowa
defense. It's not going to do anything fancy, it's not going to bring
any funky blitzes, and most teams should be able to get yards through
the air without a problem. However, everyone can hit and there are few
mistakes made. Eight starters return, led by end Ken Iwebema and one of
the Big Ten's best lines, while the replacements for the departed
starters are good. Forcing more turnovers, making more plays behind the
line, and generating more pressure are all vital to coming up with a
Predicted record: 9-3
Conf. record: 5-3
OT Alex Boone,
James Laurinaitis, Jr.
get better after losing Ted Ginn, Anthony Gonzalez, Antonio Pittman,
and, oh yeah, some quarterback who won a Heisman and owned Michigan.
While many will predict doom and gloom, the offense might crank out
close to as many yards as last year when it was 26th in the nation as
long as Chris Wells holds up and becomes the running back everyone's
expecting him to be, and new starting quarterback Todd Boeckman is
merely above average. The receiving corps is talented, but untested,
while there's plenty of reason to be excited about a line that'll field
one of the best starting fives in the nation. Tackles Alex Boone and
Kirk Barton and guard Steve Rehring will be first day draft picks.
Welcome back to Tressel ball with more running and fewer shots taken
down the field.
Defense: A question mark last year thanks to a ton of turnover,
the defense reloaded and should be fantastic as long as the tackles and
safeties shine and a second corner emerges on the other side of Malcolm
Jenkins. There are stars to build around, with Jenkins, LB James
Laurinaitis and end Vernon Gholston among the best in the country, while
there are emerging stars, as always around OSU, in like linebackers
Larry Grant and Ross Homan and end Lawrence Wilson. Don't expect too
many bells and whistles; this D will beat teams by simply being far more
Conf. record: 4-4
WR Dorien Bryant, Sr.
DE Cliff Avril, Sr.
Purdue offense was like a big budget action movie with a ton of fireworks
and explosions, but had a plot that goes nowhere. It cranked out yards
in bunches but did absolutely nothing against the big boys scoring three
points against Wisconsin, seven against Maryland, 17 against Iowa, and
was shut out by Penn State. It'll be in the top ten in the nation in
yards again with Curtis Painter getting a jaw-dropping good receiving
corps to work with led by the amazing Dorien Bryant in the slot. The 1-2
rushing punch of Jaycen Taylor and Kory Sheets is the best yet in the
Joe Tiller era, while the right side of the line, Sean Sester at tackle
and Jordan Grimes at guard, along with center Robbie Powell, will be
dominant. The left side of the line is a concern and there's no
developed depth anywhere, but the starting 11 should move the ball at
Defense: The Boilermakers haven't played defense for two years,
and now the hope is for experience to turn into production with nine
starters returning. Stopping the run will be priority one after
finishing last in the Big Ten allowing 191 yards per game. The porous
secondary should be better with all the young, inexperienced prospects
of last year ready to shine as veterans. Overall, the pillow-soft D
needs to find a nasty streak and start to play far tougher.
Conf. record: 3-5
Offensive Player: QB Juice Williams, Soph.
LB J Leman, Sr.
Has there ever been so much of a buzz for an offense that's done
absolutely nothing? Juice Williams led the way to the nation's most
inefficient passing attack, the O struggled to average 20 points a game,
and never, ever came up with a clutch play. Chalk it up to youth, but
this year's offense is still insanely young, and getting younger with
the best receiver, Arrelious Benn, a true freshman. Even so, all will be
fine as long as the starting 11 stays healthy. If injuries strike,
things will go in the tank with no one to rely on behind Williams, no
solid number two running back behind home-run hitter Rashard Mendenhall,
and little developed depth behind an average line with four starters
Defense: The defense never got any credit for a not-that-bad
season. It was good at not giving up long drives or tons of yards, but
it never, ever, ever came through with a key stop. How strange was the
Illini D? It was 33rd in the nation allowing 310 yards per game, but
allowed 26.75 points per game. This was going to be a good defense
returning with J Leman tackling everything in sight at middle linebacker
and Chris Norwell staring at tackle, and now there's actual talent to
get excited about with the addition of mega-star recruits D'Angelo
McCray on the line and Martez Wilson at linebacker. It'll be an
interesting mix of good senior veterans and more talented underclassmen.
Conf. record: 2-6
RB Amir Pinnix, Sr.
DE Willie VanDeSteeg, Jr.
offensive coordinator Mike Dunbar and his spread offense might seem like
a radical departure for the Gophers, but the pieces are there, for the
most part, for the thing to work right away with small, athletic
linemen, quick running backs, and big receivers. The one thing missing
is a steady quarterback who can hit the open receiver on a regular
basis, meaning the Tony Mortensen vs. Adam Weber battle will go on until
fall. Basically, the offense will undergo a change to achieve the same
rushing results with a less effective passing game.
Defense: What the Gophers lack in talent they'll try to make up
for in intensity and experience. For good and bad, ten starters return
along with loads of experienced reserves to give hope for a big jump in
overall production after finishing 113th in the nation in defense.
However, there was a method to the old coaching staff's madness as the D
allowed yards, but went for the big play forcing 32 turnovers. The new
regime will be far more aggressive and take far more chances; they can
do that with a veteran group like this. The linebacking corps will be
the strength, while Willie VanDeSteeg and the line should get into the
backfield more often. Can the Gophers shut down a power running attack
or a high-octane passing game? No and no, but it'll be better in all
Conf. record: 2-6
RB Tyrell Sutton, Jr.
DE Corey Wootton, Soph.
a year of trying to get the quarterback situation straight, mostly due
to an injury to C.J. Bacher early on, the offense should start to shine
as long as there aren't major injury problems up front. The line, with
four good starters returning led by center Trevor Rees and tackle Dylan
Thiry, will be one of the most effective in the Big Ten, but the
developed depth isn't quite there yet. Tyrell Sutton will once again be
one of the nation's best all-around backs and should be a lock for 1,000
yards for the third straight season. The big improvement should be in
the passing game, as long as Bacher is healthy, with an interesting and
promising group of receivers ready to emerge.
Defense: Even though there wasn't much in the way of a pass rush,
there weren't any plays in the backfield, and the run defense struggled,
the defense made major strides after a disastrous 2005. Now this should
be one of the better Wildcat defenses in years with a big, talented
front four that should start generating some sort of consistent
pressure. Adam Kadela leads a decent linebacking corps, while the safety
tandem of Brendan Smith and Reggie McPherson should be rock-solid. This
isn't a fast defense and it's thin in key areas like free safety and
tackle, but there's enough all-around talent to keep the mediocre
offenses under wraps.
Conf. record: 1-7
Offensive Player: WR James Hardy, Jr.
CB Tracy Porter, Sr.
spread offense has the pieces in place with rising star quarterback
Kellen Lewis about to come into his own as a leader, and a good
receiving corps to put up big numbers, led by James Hardy. There's speed
at running back, but Marcus Thigpen and Demetrius McCray have to be more
productive. The X factor is the line, which the late Terry Hoeppner did
a great job of putting together in the 2006 recruiting class. Rodger
Saffold and Pete Saxon are just two who should upgrade the front.
Defense: The IU defense has struggled over the last few years to
slow anyone down, but now the youth movement should produce results. The
goal is to bend but not break, and now there has to be less breaking.
It's still a young overall group, but there's experience and potential,
especially at corner where Tracy Porter and Leslie Majors should be
among the Big Ten's best. There's little proven pass rush up front,
while the linebacking corps is small and quick by design.
Conf. record: 1-7
RB Javon Ringer, Jr.
FS Otis Wiley, Jr.
with the overall belief system of the new coaching staff, the offense
will try to become more physical and should play to the strength, which
will be running the ball. The line is big, and now has to start hitting
to open things up for the speedy duo of Javon Ringer and A.J. Jimmerson
and the pounding Jehuu Caulcrick. All eyes will be on Brian Hoyer, who
might not be Drew Stanton talent-wise, but should be a more consistent
quarterback as long as the receiving corps, which loses the top three
targets, becomes productive right away.
Defense: The aggressive, attacking approach didn't work under the
old regime, and now the new coaching staff will want to play it a bit
closer to the vest to start, and then will start to make big plays as
everyone figures out their roles. There won't be too many bells and
whistles in the basic 4-3, but some chances will need to be taken, and
head coach Mark Dantonio is great at adjusting and forcing teams out of
their gameplans, after not doing much to generate any pressure in the
backfield last year. A pass rusher has to emerge, but the overall
potential is there to be better with Otis Wiley and Nehemiah Warrick
good safeties to build around, while the linebackers should be one of
the team's biggest strengths. The line is the key after a few awful
years of doing a lot of nothing.