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2007 Michigan State Spartans

Collegefootballnews.com
Posted Dec 31, 2007


2007 Michigan State Spartans Season, Game Recaps, Scores and Reviews

2007 Michigan State Spartans

2007 Recap: The Spartans took a modest step forward in Mark Dantonio’s first season in East Lansing, winning seven games and earning a bowl berth for the first time since 2003.  Unlike recent Michigan State teams, this year’s edition showed some heart in November, outscoring Purdue and Penn State in the final two weeks to earn that bid opposite Boston College in the Champs Sports Bowl.  Led by complimentary backs Javon Ringer and Jehuu Caulcrick, the Spartans wasted no time adopting Dantonio’s offensive philosophy, grinding out almost 200 yards a game on the ground behind a veteran offensive line.    

Offensive Player of the Year: WR Devin Thomas

Defensive Player of the Year: DE Jonal Saint-Dic

Biggest Surprise: John L. Smith’s Spartan teams would have caved in after losing five of six Big Ten games in the middle of the season.  This year’s squad, however, battled through the adversity to land season-saving upsets of Purdue and Penn State in November.  In both cases, Michigan State was sparked by a balanced offense and the big-play ability of Thomas. 

Biggest Disappointment: To really feel the love, Dantonio recognizes that he’s got to start beating Michigan once in a while, something that hasn’t happened since 2001.  The Spartans almost pulled it off on Nov. 3, but let a 10-point lead in the middle of the fourth quarter slip through their fingertips.     

Looking Ahead: With a year in the rear view mirror, Dantonio’s no-nonsense approach will resonate even louder in 2008.  After losing all six games in 2007 by a touchdown or less, the Spartans are determined to finish stronger next fall.    

- 2007 MSU Preview 
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2006 MSU Season

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
4-8
2007 Results:
7-6

Sept. 1 UAB W 55-18
Sept. 8 B. Green W 28-17
Sept. 15 Pitt W 17-13
Sept. 22 at No Dame W 31-14
Sept. 29 at Wisconsin L 37-34
Oct. 6
Nwestern L 48-41 OT
Oct. 13 Indiana W 52-27
Oct. 20 at Ohio State L 24-17
Oct. 27
at Iowa L 34-27 2OT
Nov. 3 Michigan L 28-24
Nov. 10 at Purdue W 48-31
Nov. 17 Penn State W 35-31
Champs Sports Bowl
Dec. 28 Boston College L 24-21

Dec. 28
2007 Champs Sports Bowl
Boston College 24 ... Michigan State 21

Five Michigan State turnovers and a big bomb gave Boston College its eighth straight bowl win and its first 11 win season since 1940. Up 17-13 midway through the fourth quarter, Matt Ryan found Rich Gunnell for a 68-yard touchdown pass, but the Spartans wouldn't go away as Brian Hoyer, who threw four picks, threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Deon Curry and a pass for a two-point conversion to Kellen Davis to pull within three with 6:04 to play. BC's offense struggled to close, but punter Johnny Ayers did a good job of pinning the MSU offense deep. BC's Paul Anderson picked off an overthrown Hoyer pass to snuff out any late hopes of forcing overtime. Ryan threw three touchdown passes in all, including two to Gunnell, while Hoyer finished with two scoring passes.
Offensive Player of the Game: Boston College WR Rich Gunnell caught six passes for 138 yards and two touchdowns
Defensive Player of the Game: Boston College S Jamie Silva made ten tackles and intercepted two passes

Stat Leaders: Boston College - Passing: Matt Ryan, 22-47, 249 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Andre Callender, 12-33. Receiving: Rich Gunnell, 6-138, 2 TD
Michigan State - Passing: Brian Hoyer, 14-36, 131 yds, 2 TD, 4 INT
Rushing:
Javon Ringer, 21-101. Receiving: Kellen Davis, 4-38, 1 TD
Thoughts & Notes ... Michigan State lived on ball control offense all year long with a great running game and a mere 13 turnovers, but it gave the ball away five times to BC, only ran for 172 yards, and couldn't find much of an offensive rhythm. It didn't help that Javon Ringer and Jehuu Caulcrick each appeared to be bothered by little injuries. ... Even without Jonal Saint-Dic, who was suspended, MSU got consistent pressure on Matt Ryan and came up with three sacks. The defense did enough to win the game allowing just 276 yards with 68 coming on one play. ... BC's defense never let the great MSU backs break off the type of big runs that could've changed the game around. With QB Brian Hoyer struggling, MSU needed Javon Ringer to hit a home run or two, and he didn't. ... MSU star return man Devin Thomas started the game off with a 79-yard kickoff return leading to an early Spartan touchdown, but BC kept him under wraps the rest of the way. A few bobbles helped, but Eagle punter Johnny Ayers had a great game pinning MSU deep.

Nov. 17
Michigan State 35 ... Penn State 31
Down 24-7 at halftime, Michigan State rallied with 28 second half points on three of Brian Hoyer's four touchdown passes, and a one-yard Jehuu Caulcrick scoring run. Devin Thomas scored from 12, 33 and 26 yards out for the Spartans with two coming in the second half rally. Penn State started out hot, and kept pace for a while, with Deon Butler scoring from 37 yards out, Rodney Kinlaw getting two four-yard touchdown runs, and even getting a five-yard touchdown run from PK Kevin Kelly on a direct snap. The Nittany Lions had the ball with one final shot at pulling it out, but the drive stalled and MSU pulled out the stunner.
Player of the game: Michigan State WR Devin Thomas caught seven passes for 139 yards and three touchdowns
Stat Leaders: Penn State - Passing: Anthony Morelli, 16-35, 188 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Rodney Kinlaw, 28-125, 2 TD. Receiving: Rodney Kinlaw, 4-22
Michigan State - Passing: Brian Hoyer, 16-21, 257 yds, 4 TD
Rushing:
Jehuu Caulcrick, 22-99, 1 TD. Receiving: Devin Thomas, 7-139, 3 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Talk about overcoming a heartbreak, MSU not only got past the loss to Michigan, but it came up with two key wins of its own to assure itself of a bowl game. The running game was slowed down by Penn State, so Brian Hoyer went to work with Devin Thomas coming up with yet another strong game. The team's top receiver over the second half of the season has become unstoppable with three touchdown catches against the Nittany Lions, and now he'll go into next year as the Big Ten's hot receiving weapon. But first, there's a 13th game to prepare for. The team has earned it.

Nov. 10
Michigan State 48 ... Purdue 31
Michigan State took advantage of three Purdue turnovers, breaking the game open in the fourth quarter on a 20-yard Travis Key fumble return for a touchdown, and putting it away with a three-yard Eric Andino catch. Jehuu Caulcrick ran for two short scores for the Spartans, and Brian Hoyer threw for two scores and ran for a one-yard run. MSU needed to keep putting points on the board with Purdue's offense cranking out 517 yards. Curtis Painter ran for touchdowns from 27 and seven yards out and threw a 41-yard touchdown pass to Kory Sheets, but it wasn't nearly enough. MSU held on to the ball for 38:18.
Player of the game: Michigan State WR Devin Thomas caught ten passes for 116 yards
Stat Leaders: Michigan State - Passing: Brian Hoyer, 22-31, 266 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: Javon Ringer, 23-86. Receiving: Devin Thomas, 10-116
Purdue - Passing: Curtis Painter, 29-45, 344 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Rushing:
Kory Sheets, 6-80, 1 TD. Receiving: Dustin Keller, 7-51

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The Spartans could've gone into the tank after yet another painful loss to Michigan, and past teams would've, but this year's group cranked out an effective, efficient game against Purdue, keeping the ball, answering every home run, and converting ten of 19 third down chances to keep drives rolling. The defense couldn't handle anything Purdue wanted to do, but it took it away three times and took advantage of several chances. Now bowl eligible, it'll take a win over Penn State to ensure a 13th game.

Nov. 3
Michigan 28 ... Michigan State 24
Michigan overcame a late ten-point deficit with a 14-yard Greg Mathews touchdown catch and with 2:28 to play, a 31-yard Mario Manningham grab. The Wolverine defense hung on as the Spartans sputtered out. Chad Henne finished the game with four touchdown passes, with two going to Manningham, while Mike Hart came back from injury to get 110 yards. The Spartans cranked out 352 yards with two one-yard Jehuu Caulcrick touchdown runs and Kellen Davis making a five-yard scoring grab in the fourth.
Player of the game: Michigan QB Chad Henne completed 18 of 33 passes for 211 yards and four touchdowns with an interception
Stat Leaders: Michigan State - Passing: Brian Hoyer, 19-35, 161 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Javon Ringer, 15-128. Receiving: Devin Thomas, 7-65
Michigan - Passing: Chad Henne, 18-33, 211 yds, 4 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
Mike Hart, 15-110. Receiving: Mario Manningham,
8-129, 2 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... How does MSU possibly bounce back from this crushing late loss to the Wolverines? It all was set up so well with a fourth quarter lead and the running game working well, but in the end, the Spartans were beaten by a veteran passer in Chad Henne, who found his groove at the right time. After losing in double overtime to Iowa, and with five loses in the last six games, head coach Mark Dantonio will have to work wonders on his team's psyche. A bowl bid is still possible with another win, but going on the road to face Purdue, and hosting Penn State isn't going to be easy after this.

Oct. 27
Iowa 34 ... Michigan State 27 2OT
Iowa got a one-yard Jevon Pugh touchdown run in the second overtime, and then came up with a fourth down stop to pull off a big comeback. Up 17-3 at halftime, the Spartans appeared on their way to an easy win, but the Iowa running game took over in the second half as Albert Young scored from 26 and three yards out. Daniel Murray connected on a 47-yard field goal for Iowa's first lead of the game, but MSU was able to force overtime on a 29-yard Brett Swenson field goal with four seconds to play. In the first overtime, Jehuu Caulcrick gave MSU the lead with his third touchdown of the game, but Iowa answered with a 23-yard Paul Chaney catch. Iowa outrushed MSU 230 yards to 160, but MSU had the ball 36:26 to 23:34.
Player of the game: Iowa RB Albert Young ran 34 times for 179 yards and two touchdowns, and LB Mike Humpal made 18 tackles and broke up a pass
Stat Leaders: Michigan State - Passing: Brian Hoyer, 25-42, 308 yds
Rushing: Javon Ringer, 23-103. Receiving: Devin Thomas, 9-139
Iowa - Passing: Jake Christensen, 5-15, 53 yds, 1 TD
Rushing:
Albert Young, 34-179, 2 TD. Receiving: James Cleveland, 2-17
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The Spartans weren't able to run the ball well on the nasty Iowa defensive front, only averaging 3.1 yards per carry, but it got a great day from Brian Hoyer. The problem for the second week in a row was a run defense that couldn't handle a hot back. Last week it was Ohio State's Chris Wells who ran wild, and this week it was Albert Young. The MSU defensive line is being pushed around in the second halves of games, and that could be a big problem with Michigan and Penn State still on the slate.

Oct. 20
Ohio State 24 ... Michigan State 17
Ohio State appeared to be coasting to yet another easy win with a 24-0 lead late in the third quarter on two Todd Boeckman touchdown passes, highlighted by a 50-yard score, and a five-yard Chris Wells touchdown run, and then Michigan State made things interesting with Otis Wiley took a Boeckman pass 54 yards for a touchdown and SirDarean Adams picked up a fumble for a 25-yard score. The Spartans got within seven late on a 43-yard Brett Swenson, but didn't get any further. MSU only gained 185 total yards and nine first downs.
Player of the game: Ohio State RB Chris Wells carried it 31 times for 221 yards and a touchdown
Stat Leaders: Michigan State - Passing: Brian Hoyer, 12-23, 126 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: Javon Ringer, 18-49. Receiving: Devin Thomas, 4-77
Ohio State - Passing: Todd Boeckman, 15-23, 193 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
Chris Wells, 31-221, 1 TD. Receiving: Brian Hartline, 4-41
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The Spartans sure did make it interesting against Ohio State with its aggressive defense creating problems and making things happen when the offense wasn't going anywhere. The Buckeye defense is just that good, so for the ground game to not work for one week isn't anything to get in a twist over. After all, at the moment, this is the number one team in America MSU lost to. The Spartan defense might have been carved up by the OSU running game, but there were nine tackles for loss against a great offensive line. There's still plenty of time to make enough noise to get to a bowl, but next week's game at Iowa will be a must-win.

Oct. 13
Michigan State 52 ... Indiana 27
Michigan State dominated Indiana with 368 rushing yards to 22, 28 first downs to nine, and 41:05 on the time of possession to 18:55 thanks to 202 yards from Javon Ringer and a near-perfect passing day from Brian Hoyer, Indiana tied if at seven midway through the first quarter on a 59-yard Kellen Lewis touchdown run, and then MSU dominated until late in the third with two of Jehuu Caulcrick's three short touchdown runs, a 64-yard Ringer dash, along with a three-yard run, and a 34-yard Devin Thomas scoring catch. Ervin Baldwin and the defense got into the act with a 12-yard fumble return for a score to make it 45-13. IU got a big defensive score of its own on a 76-yard Tracy Porter fumble return for a touchdown.
Player of the game: Michigan State RB Javon Ringer ran 29 times for 203 yards and two touchdowns
Stat Leaders: Indiana - Passing: Kellen Lewis, 13-19, 171 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Kellen Lewis, 7-23  1 TD. Receiving: James Herdy, 6-121, 1 TD
Michigan State - Passing: Brian Hoyer, 20-23, 190 yds, 1 TD
Rushing:
Javon Ringer, 29-203, 2 TD. Receiving: Devin Thomas, 13-148, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... This isn't the same MSU team. Usually, it would follow up two losses with another meltdown, but the defense was night-and-day better against Indiana than it was against Northwestern, and the offense pitched a near-perfect game. Javon Ringer and the running game will likely get all the attention, but Brian Hoyer was magnificent, missing just three of 23 passes. Now it a chance to really make a statement against number one Ohio State, and if the offense plays like it did this week, it could come up with the stunner.

Oct. 6
Northwestern 48 ... Michigan State 41 OT
Northwestern QB C.J. Bacher threw five touchdown passes including a 12-yarder to Omar Conteh in overtime. Michigan State misfired on four passes, and the Wildcats pulled off the big road win. The two teams traded shots all game long, with neither getting up by more than a score in the see-saw battle. Northwestern rolled up 611 yards, with Conteh scoring three times, with touchdown runs of 11 and nine yards in the first quarter, and then it was all Bacher, hitting five different receivers for scores, including a 78-yarder to Jeff Yarbrough and a 70-yarder to Eric Peterman. Until overtime, MSU always had an answer, with Javon Ringer ripped off three touchdowns with dashes from four, 47 and 80 yards.
Player of the game: Northwestern QB C.J. Bacher completed 38-of-48 passes for 520 yards and five touchdown passes, and rushed five times for five yards.
Stat Leaders: Northwestern - Passing: C.J. Bacher, 38-48, 520 yds, 5 TDs
Rushing: Omar Conteh, 19-70, 2 TDs. Receiving: Eric Peterman, 9-141, 1 TD
Michigan State - Passing: Brian Hoyer, 17-31, 194 yds, 1 TD
Rushing:
Javon Ringer, 12-185, 3 TDs. Receiving: Javon Ringer, 6-54
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The MSU aggressive pass rush was all but neutralized by the Northwestern spread offense that got rid of the ball quickly enough to avoid taking sacks. The Spartan offense did its job, for the most part, always getting the big scores needed to keep pace, but it didn't hold on to the ball long enough to give the defense much of a rest. QB Brian Hoyer wasn't effective enough on third downs, while the D did nothing to get the Wildcats off the field until late in regulation. Now a win over Indiana is a must to avoid talk of yet another MSU meltdown.

Sept. 29
Wisconsin 37 ... Michigan State 34
In what was supposed to be a bit of a defensive slugfest, the two teams combined for 1,025 yards of total offense with several huge plays. The Badgers hung on, as MSU PK Brett Swenson missed a 53-yard field goal late, and later had a chance to drive deep, but misfired on a fourth down pass. The Spartans got 145 rushing yards, and 88 receiving, from Javon Ringer, who set up two, two-yard Jehuu Caulcrick touchdown runs. The two teams traded haymaker after haymaker, highlighted by a second quarter stretch when MSU answered a 64-yard Kyle Jefferson touchdown with an 80-yard Devin Thomas touchdown on the next play from scrimmage. Donovan threw two touchdown passes and P.J. Hill added two short scoring runs, but it was Taylor Mehlhaff's field goals from 35, 47 and 22 yards that helped the Badgers stay ahead.
Player of the game: Wisconsin RB P.J. Hill ran 34 times for 155 yards and two touchdowns
Stat Leaders: Michigan State - Passing: Brian Hoyer, 22-36, 323 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: Javon Ringer, 10-145. Receiving: Javon Ringer, 7-88
Wisconsin - Passing: Tyler Donovan, 17-24, 247 yds, 2 TD.2 INT
Rushing:
P.J. Hill, 29-155, 2 TD. Receiving: Travis Beckum, 10-132, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Don't start assuming Michigan State is the same, flaky program that would usually go into the tank after a tough loss like the one against Wisconsin. This was a tremendous game for the offense, hitting several home runs and doing a fantastic job of keeping the Badger defense on its heels. It was a game that could've gone either way, and MSU just came up short. This is a strong team that'll make a whole bunch of noise in the Big Ten race this year.

Sept. 22
Michigan State 31 ... Notre Dame 14
Notre Dame scored its first offensive touchdown of the year on a one-yard Travis Thomas touchdown run for a 7-0 lead, and then MSU went on a 17-point run with two short Brian Hoyer touchdown passes and a 27-yard Brett Swenson field goal. The Irish marched 80 yards in five plays with Robert Hughes busting in a three-yard scoring run, but the Spartans owned the second half with two more Hoyer touchdown passes, highlighted by a fourth down 30yard touchdown throw to Kellen Davis, his second score of the day. The Irish ended up getting outgained 354 yards to 203.
Player of the game: Michigan State QB Brian Hoyer finished 11-of-24 for 135 yards, four touchdown passes, and one interception..
Stat Leaders: Michigan State - Passing: Brian Hoyer, 11-24, 135 yds, 4 TDs, 1 INT
Rushing: Javon Ringer, 26-144. Receiving: Devin Thomas, 4-55, 1 TD
Notre Dame - Passing: Jimmy Clausen, 7-13, 53 yds
Rushing:
James Aldridge, 18-104. Receiving: George West, 3-25
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Give QB Brian Hoyer credit for coming up with the big plays needed to overcome a shaky, inconsistent day. He struggled with his accuracy, but he only threw one interception and came up with the key fourth down touchdown pass to Kellen Davis to ice the game. The defense never let the Irish passing game get going, and while the run defense struggled at times, it came though in the second half. Now the defensive line has to be even better next week at Wisconsin, while Hoyer will have to be more efficient.

Sept. 15
Michigan State 17 ... Pitt 13
Pitt had one last gasp, but a bomb into the end zone fell incomplete to allow Michigan State a chance to finally exhale. The Spartans got a two-yard Jehuu Caulcrick touchdown run and a 31-yard interception return for a score in the second quarter, but could only manage a 23-yard Brett Swenson field goal the rest of the way. Pitt got a 64-yard LeSean McCoy touchdown dash in the second quarter, but could only manage to Conor Lee field goals the rest of the way.
Player of the game: Michigan State DE Jonal Saint-Dic had five tackles, three tackles for loss, two sacks and a pair of forced fumbles.
Stat Leaders: Pittsburgh - Passing: Kevan Smith, 9-18, 85 yds, 2 INTs
Rushing: LeSean McCoy, 25-172, 1 TD. Receiving: Marcel Pestano, 3-30
Michigan State - Passing: Brian Hoyer, 14-28, 183 yds
Rushing:
Javon Ringer, 20-92. Receiving: Devin Thomas, 3-53
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... MSU will take the win over Pitt and run, because it wasn't exactly Spartan football the way Mark Dantonio wants to play it. The offense has to outgain the opponent on the ground, but thanks to one big run from Pitt's LeSean McCoy, that didn't happen. However, the defense was tremendous against Kevan Smith, Pitt's No. 2 quarterback, and came through with the pressure it needed to throughout. The front seven is doing a fantastic job of speeding up the tempo. 11 penalties for 125 yards are way too many.

Sept. 8
Michigan State 28 ... Bowling Green 17
Bowling Green gave  a big push with Tyler Sheehan throwing a 23-yard touchdown pass to Tyrone Pronty and running for a six-yard score in the second quarter, but Michigan State owned the second half with two Brian Hoyer touchdown passes and a five-yard Jehuu Caulcrick scoring run. MSU's Javon Ringer started out the scoring with a four-yard dash, but the Falcons answered with 14-straight points. The Spartans came up with seven sacks of Sheehan.
Player of the game: Michigan State DE Jonal Saint-Dic had four tackles, three sacks and forced a pair of fumbles.
Stat Leaders: Bowling Green - Passing: Tyler Sheehan, 32-50, 295 yds, 1 TD, 2 INTs
Rushing: Willie Geter, 3-31. Receiving: Fred Barnes, 9-80
Michigan State - Passing: Brian Hoyer, 17-29, 250 yds, 2 TDs, 2 INTs
Rushing: Javon Ringer, 22-83, 1 TD. Receiving: Devin Thomas, 4-156, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The Spartans struggled with Bowling Green QB Tyler Sheehan, who gave Minnesota fits in the upset the week before, but the coaching staff made the right adjustments at halftime and pounded the ball, pounded the ball, pounded the ball. QB Brian Hoyer did a nice job of keeping the chains moving, but it was the running game, and the play of the defense to get into the backfield, that helped the Spartans hold on to the ball for 17:18 of the second half. This isn't a world-beater of a team quite yet, but as long as there aren't a slew of turnovers, the running game will be the great equalizer. This Spartan ground game will be effective against just about everyone.

Sept. 1
Michigan State 55 ... UAB 18
Jehuu Caulcrick ran for three first quarter touchdowns, including a 42-yard dash for a 21-0 lead, and added a fourth score early in the second quarter as the Spartans got out to a 42-0 lead before UAB finally got on the board with a 35-yard Swayze Waters field goal. The Blazers didn't get into the end zone until the fourth quarter on a 15-yard Joe Webb catch, but that was the only highlight. The Spartans outgained the Blazers 298 yards to 12 on the ground.
Player of the game ... Michigan State RB Jehuu Caulcrick ran for 93 yards and four touchdowns on ten carries.
Stat Leaders: UAB - Passing: Sam Hunt, 21-39, 214 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Rashaud Slaughter, 13-25 Receiving: Joseph Webb, 6-98, 1 TD
Michigan State - Passing: Brian Hoyer, 14-17, 201 yds, 1 TD
Rushing:
Jehuu Caulcrick, 10-93, 4 TDs  Receiving: Devin Thomas, 5-106, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Talk about making a statement, Michigan State dominated UAB from the start with a brutal running game and efficient passing that moved the ball at will. The hapless Blazers weren't going to be much of a challenge, and MSU never let it be interesting; that's what it was supposed to do. How tight was the offense? MSU converted eight of 13 third down chances. However, we've seen this all from past Spartan teams. Let's wait a few weeks before putting them in the Rose Bowl.

Sept. 1 - UAB
Offense: From the staff and the system to the personnel, the offense will be getting a complete facelift in 2007.  Nothing will look the same which isn’t such a bad thing considering how poorly the unit executed last season.  New coordinator Kim Helton is installing a pro-style attack that sprinkles in some no-huddle and option calls, but realizes he’ll have to tailor the first-year playbook to the talent he inherits.  All eyes in August will be on the continuing quarterback battle between senior Sam Hunt and sophomore Joseph Webb, a potential savior once he gets up to speed.  Whether or not the offense climbs out of the Conference USA cellar will depend heavily on the maturation of a rebuilt line that’s replacing four senior starters. 
Defense: While the back seven of the defense figures to be a strength in 2007, you might not know it unless the defensive line can effectively replace three key starters from last year.  Senior end Brandon Jeffries will be productive, but after him, UAB is feverishly searching for answers to prevent opposing passers from having all day to throw.  Junior college transfer Antonio Forbes is being counted on to deliver right out of the gate at tackle.  The linebackers have a budding star in junior Joe Henderson and senior free safety Will Dunbar is one of just a handful of Blazer defenders with all-league potential.

Sept. 8 - Bowling Green
Offense: The offense went from being all-pass, no-run in 2005 to being a running team last year thanks to mobile quarterbacks in Anthony Turner, and early on, Freddie Barnes. Now there's a battle between Turner and Tyler Sheehan for the starting job with the hopes of balancing things out. The backfield should be excellent with the addition of JUCO transfer Eric Ransom to go along with power of Chris Bullock and Dan Macon. All-star center Kory Lichtensteiger leads a a good line that should get better and better as the year goes on. The one area of development will be receiver with some deep threats needing to emerge to go along with mid-range possession-target Corey Partridge.
Defense: Bowling Green might not always be a brick wall on defense, but it will do whatever it can to make plays all over the field. Last year this was a break-but-don't bend defense giving up points, but not yards. Now it needs to stiffen. With an emphasis on speed and quickness, the front seven will be flying around looking to get into the backfield to dictate the tempo, while the solid secondary will benefit. There might be problems against the better power running teams with a new set of tackles and smallish linebacking corps, but that'll be offset by the big plays ... at least that's the hope.


Sept. 15 - Pitt
Offense: The graduation of Tyler Palko leaves a gaping hole on the Panther offense that’ll be filled by either junior Bill Stull or hot-shot rookie Pat Bostick.  Whoever gets the ball will enjoy an outstanding supporting cast that includes junior running back LaRod Stephens-Howling, one of the deepest receiving corps in the nation and the program’s best front wall since Dave Wannstedt arrived.  Wannstedt and Matt Cavanaugh want to establish a more physical ground game, but if the new hurler is up to the challenge, the ensuing balance will make this a very dangerous offense.   
Defense: Last year’s defense had big names, like H.B. Blades and Darrelle Revis, with poor results.  This year’s defense is devoid of stars, but might wind up being statistically better.  The key will be stopping the run, something that vexed the Panthers throughout the second half of the 2006 season.  The difference this fall will be a defensive line that’ll be much deeper than last year, and capable of creating inside-outside pressure with junior tackle Gus Mustakas and senior end Joe Clermond.  Although replacing Revis won’t be a snap, the secondary is busting with potential from future all-Big East players, like sophomores Aaron Berry and Elijah Fields.

Sept. 22 – at Notre Dame
Offense: Yeah, Charlie Weis is a great offensive coach, but there's some serious rebuilding needing to be done. There are good prospects, but there are several major concerns and no proven production. Can the line be better despite losing three starters? Will the skill players be remotely close to as good as the Brady Quinn, Jeff Samardzija, Rhema McKnight and Darius Walker foursome of last year? Are the quarterbacks ready? The quarterbacks appear to be fine, the running backs will be solid in a combination, and the receivers are fast and decent. The line will be a plus by the end of the year, but it'll be a problem early on.
Defense: Charlie Weis is trying to improve a defense that was fine against the mediocre, but lousy when it came to stopping the better offenses. Gone is defensive coordinator Rick Minter, and in comes Corwin Brown, who installed a 3-4 scheme to try to generate more big plays and get more speed and athleticism on the field. The line will be the issue early on as two steady starters are needed to help out Trevor Laws. Maurice Crum leads a promising linebacking corps that should shine in the new defense. The big problem could again be the secondary. It has experience, but it won't get as much help from the pass rush, like it did last year, and needs the young corner prospects to push the unspectacular veterans for time.

Sept. 29 – at Wisconsin
Offense: The 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.


Oct. 6 - Northwestern

Offense: After 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.


Oct. 13 - Indiana
Offense: The IU 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.

Oct. 20 – at Ohio State
Offense: You don't 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 athletic.

Oct. 27 – at Iowa
Offense: The Jake 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 better year.

Nov. 3 - Michigan
Offense: Offensive 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.

Nov. 10 – at Purdue
Offense:
The Purdue offense was like a big budge 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 will.
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.


Nov. 17 - Penn State
Offense: Known for 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.

    

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