2007 Ohio State Buckeyes

Posted Dec 31, 2007

2007 Ohio State Buckeyes Season, Game Recaps, Scores and Reviews

2007 Ohio State Buckeyes

2007 Recap: Those ripping into the Buckeyes for losing another national championship game to an SEC team forget that this was supposed to be a down year for the school.  As power programs are prone to do, Ohio State rebuilt on the fly in 2007, climbing to No. 1 in the country and winning another Big Ten title with an improbable 10-0 start.  RB Chris Wells was better than advertised, and QB Todd Boeckman did a nice job of succeeding Troy Smith, but it was the Buckeye D that paved the way, topping the national charts in both total defense and scoring defense.      

Offensive Player of the Year: RB Chris Wells  

Defensive Player of the Year: LB James Laurinaitis

Biggest Surprise: Boeckman.  Yeah, he threw a few too many picks down the stretch, but Boeckman ended all the hand-wringing over, and played much better than expected in his first season replacing a Heisman winner.  Built like a SAM linebacker with a huge arm, he's liable to make his own push for individual honors and an NFL contract in 2008 after throwing 25 touchdown passes in his debut.

Biggest Disappointment: Even more than the upset loss at home to Illinois, getting exposed by LSU in New Orleans won't go away anytime soon.  Carrying the tattered Big Ten banner, and on a mission to erase the memory of last year's collapse to Florida, Ohio State just couldn't keep pace with the Tigers after opening up an early 10-0 lead.

Looking Ahead: Take 3, anyone? The Buckeyes will again be loaded with enough talent on both sides of the ball to be playing for a national championship next January.  The first huge test for the program comes in September, when Ohio State travels to the Coliseum to face USC.

- 2007 Ohio St Preview
2006 Ohio St Season

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2007 Record: 11-2

Sept. 1 Y'stown St W 38-6
Sept. 8 Akron W 20-2
Sept. 15 at Washington W 33-14
Sept. 22 Northwestern W 58-7
Sept. 29 at Minnesota W 30-7
Oct. 6 at Purdue W 23-7
Oct. 13
Kent State W 48-3
Oct. 20 Michigan State W 24-17
Oct. 27 at Penn State W 37-17
Nov. 3
Wisconsin W 38-17
Nov. 10 Illinois L 28-21
Nov. 17 at Michigan W 14-3
BCS Championship
Jan. 7 LSU L 38-24

Jan. 7
2008 BCS Championship
LSU 38 ... Ohio State 24

Ohio State jumped out to a 10-0 lead on a 65-yard Chris Wells touchdown run and a 25-yard Ryan Pretorius field goal, and then it was all LSU with 31 straight points helped by three Matt Flynn touchdown passes and a one-yard Jacob Hester plunge for a score. The Buckeyes had their chances, but got a field goal blocked by Ricky Jean-Francois, dropped a touchdown pass, got sacked by Ali Highsmith on a key fourth down, and lost momentum on a roughing the punter penalty, to go along with other missed opportunities. Even so, they pulled within 14 going into the fourth quarter on a five-yard Brian Robiskie touchdown catch, but LSU held on time and again before finally putting things well out of reach with a TE Richard Dickson's second touchdown catch of the game. OSU outgained LSU 353 yards to 326.
Offensive Player of the Game: LSU QB Matt Flynn completed 19 of 27 passes for 174 yards and four touchdowns win an interception
Defensive Player of the Game: LSU DT Ricky Jean-Francois made six tackles, half a sack, 1.5 tackles for loss, and blocked a field goal
Stat Leaders: LSU - Passing: Matt Flynn, 19-27, 174 yds, 4 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Jacob Hester, 21-86, 1 TD. Receiving: Early Doucet, 7-51, 1 TD
Ohio State - Passing: Todd Boeckman, 15-26, 208 yds, 2 TD, 2 INT
Chris Wells, 20-146, 1 TD. Receiving: Brian Hartline, 6-75, 1 TD

Thoughts & Notes ... 5 Thoughts on the BCS Championship | BCS Championship Stream of Consciousness Quarter By Quarter Game Notes ... The key to the game was third down conversions. LSU was 11 of 18 getting just about every third and short opportunity, while Ohio State converted three of 13 chances. ... The Buckeyes played a slightly better game than history will give them credit for. All anyone will remember is another national title loss to an SEC team, but they had several chances to turn the game around on both sides of the ball and didn't come through. ... LSU was known as the team that commits penalties, but it only committed four for 36 yards while OSU committed seven for 83 yards including five key personal fouls. ... OSU LB James Laurinaitis made 18 tackles, Marcus Freeman made 14.

Nov. 17
Ohio State 14 ... Michigan 3
Chris Wells scored from one and 62 yards out and the defense held Michigan to 91 yards of total offense as Ohio State won a sloppy game filled with several slips and dropped passes. The Wolverines gained just 15 yards rushing with Mike Hart gutting it out through a gimpy ankle for 44 yards. Chad Henne struggled through his shoulder injury to complete 11 of 34 passes, but he was plagued by several drops. The Buckeyes held on to the ball for 37:50 as Michigan converted just three of 18 third down conversion attempts.
Player of the game: Ohio State RB Chris Wells ran 39 times for 222 yards and two touchdowns, and DE Vernon Gholston made five tackles, three sacks and four tackles for loss.
Stat Leaders: Michigan - Passing: Chad Henne, 11-34, 68 yds
Rushing: Mike Hart, 18-44. Receiving: Mario Manningham, 5-34
Ohio State - Passing: Todd Boeckman, 7-13, 50 yds, 1 INT
Chris Wells, 39-222, 2 TD. Receiving: Brian Robiskie, 2-21

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
Hand it off to Chris Wells, let the anemic Michigan offense keep dropping passes, generate some pressure into the backfield, go the Rose Bowl. It was that simple for Ohio State to win with the type of dominant performance on both sides of the line that should've meant a spot in the national championship game. Now the hope is for everyone to start losing, as this game proved that OSU really is worthy of being among the best teams in America. Or else it proved that Michigan was banged up and didn't have nearly enough in the tank to pull this off.

Nov. 10
Illinois 28 ... Ohio State 21
Illinois tore off 260 rushing yards, but it was the passing game that killed Ohio State early on with Juice Williams throwing four touchdown passes to four different receivers. A 31-yard strike to Marques Wilkins late in the third quarter gave the Illini a 28-14 lead, but the Buckeyes marched right back going 76 yards in eight plays with Chris Wells finishing it off with his second touchdown run of the game. And Illinois decided to not let Ohio State have the ball again. The Buckeyes ran two plays in the fourth quarter with the second an interception by Marcus Thomas with 8:09 to play. And then Illinois played keep-away, going 42 yards on 16 plays taking off the rest of the time, highlighted by a two-yard quarterback sneak on fourth and inches on the Illinois 33 to keep the drive alive. Marcus Freeman and James Laurinaitis combined to make 30 tackles for the Buckeyes, while J Leman made 12 stops for Illinois.
Player of the game: Illinois QB Juice Williams completed 12 of 22 passes for 140 yards, and ran 16 times for 70 yards
Stat Leaders: Illinois - Passing: Isiah Williams, 12-22, 140 yds, 4 TD
Rushing: Daniel Dufrene, 8-106. Receiving: Brian Gamble, 3-27, 1 TD
Ohio State - Passing: Todd Boeckman, 13-23, 156 yds, 3 INT
Chris Wells, 20-76, 2 TD. Receiving: Brian Hartline, 4-86

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
Ohio State made turnovers, three interceptions, Illinois didn't give away any. Ohio State got shoved around in crunch time, even though it knew what was coming. The linebackers made a ton of tackles, but not enough meaningful ones. The offense was fine, even with Todd Boeckman's three interceptions, but it couldn't get the ball back in the fourth quarter as Illinois went on National Championship Death March to close out the game. No, OSU isn't in the national title hunt anymore, but a win over Michigan would mean the Rose Bowl. That's not a bad second prize, but OSU has to look at it that way.

Nov. 3
Ohio State 38 ... Wisconsin 17
It was a tighter game than the final score would indicate. Wisconsin took a 17-10 lead on a two-yard Chris Pressley touchdown run late in the third quarter, and then Chris Wells and the Ohio State running game took over. Wells took off on touchdown runs of 31, 30 and 23 yards in the final 18 minutes as the Buckeyes made a big scare a blowout with a dominant fourth quarter. Todd Boeckman and Brian Robiskie hooked up for two scores, the first coming on a 30-yard pass in the first quarter to start the scoring, and an eight-yard play in the fourth to pull comfortably ahead. OSU came up with ten sacks, and James Laurinaitis had 19 tackles.
Player of the game: Ohio State RB Chris Wells ran 21 times for 169 yards and three touchdowns, and LB Jim Laurinaitis made 19 tackles, two tackles for loss, one sack and recovered a fumble.
Stat Leaders: Ohio State - Passing: Todd Boeckman, 17-28, 166 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: Chris Wells, 21-169, 3 TD. Receiving: Brian Hartline, 7-95
Wisconsin - Passing: Tyler Donovan, 17-29, 238 yds, 2 TD
Zach Brown, 20-63. Receiving: Travis Beckum, 9-140, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
OSU did what a number one team is supposed to do in big games. Wisconsin is a much, much better team than it's being given credit for nationally, and is one of the most physical teams in the Big Ten, yet the Buckeyes were able to use their offensive line to pull away in the fourth quarter. Yeah, Chris Wells was the star of the show, but he had ten-mile wide holes to run through. Also credit Todd Boeckman, who didn't have his best day, but he didn't make any huge mistakes, and he ran well, for him, to keep drives alive.

Oct. 27
Ohio State 37 ... Penn State 17
Ohio State got down 7-3 early after Rodney Kinlaw ran for a two-yard score, but was never threatened again after its next drive, going 80 yards in six plays with Brian Robiskie catching a nine-yard touchdown pass as part of a 21-point run. Todd Boeckman threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to Brian Hartline and a 15-yard score to Jake Ballard for a 24-7 lead, and after a Kevin Kelly field goal, the Buckeyes went on a 13-point dash highlighted by a 24-yard Malcolm Jenkins interception return for a score. OSU's Ryan Pretorius connected on field goals from 50, 37 and 35 yards, but Penn State answered the final kick with an A.J. Wallace return for a touchdown. OSU outgained Penn State 453 yards to 263.
Player of the game: Ohio State QB Todd Boeckman completed 19 of 26 passes for 253 yards and three touchdowns with an interception
Stat Leaders: Penn State - Passing: Anthony Morelli, 12-21, 111 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: Rodney Kinlaw, 14-81, 1 TD. Receiving: Jordan Norwood, 6-43
Ohio State - Passing: Todd Boeckman, 19-26, 253 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Chris Wells, 25-133. Receiving: Rory Nicol, 6-39
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Is Penn State really that good? Of course Happy Valley on a Saturday night in White Out conditions makes it tough for anyone, but this is a fringe top 25 team that Ohio State beat up. But that's what a number one team is supposed to do. Todd Boeckman was magnificent, and it helped that he got plenty of time against the fearsome Penn State pass rush. Marcus Freeman, outside of the Penn State touchdown run, was dominant with 14 tackles, two tackles for loss, and a forced fumble. This was big, but beating a hot Wisconsin at home is going to be just as tough.

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
Chris Wells, 31-221, 1 TD. Receiving: Brian Hartline, 4-41
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... It'll get lost on those who didn't see the game, but the defense was a killer yet again. The 24-17 final score against Michigan State doesn't show that the two touchdowns came from the Spartan defense. This is one of the nation's best running games the Buckeyes stuffed for 59 yards, and it's time that OSU got credit for having a national title level D. Beanie Wells ran extremely well, Todd Boeckman was solid, but not spectacular, and again, the defense was unreal. However, this game showed how quickly things could unravel it the turnovers start. MSU forces mistakes, but so does Penn State. Things get tougher from here on, and OSU will have just get that much tighter to stay on top.

Oct. 13
Ohio State 48 ... Kent State 3
Brian Hartline caught a 14-yard touchdown pass and returned a punt 90 yards for a score and a 14-0 Ohio State lead, and then things got ugly in a 28-point second quarter with Chris Wells running for a seven-yard score, Maurice Wells catching a 15-yard touchdown pass, and Donald Washington taking a Julian Edelman pass 70 yards for a score. Kent State only managed 223 yards of total offense and didn't get on the board until Nate Reed hit a 34-yard field goal late in the fourth.
Player of the game: Ohio State QB Todd Boeckman completed 13 of 16 passes for 184 yards and two touchdowns
Stat Leaders: Kent State - Passing: Julian Edelman, 4-10, 49 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: Eugene Jarvis, 16-84. Receiving: Rashad Tukes, 2-21
Ohio State - Passing: Todd Boeckman, 13-16, 184 yds, 3 TD
Brandon Saine, 9-69. Receiving: Brandon Saine, 5-76
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... OSU did exactly what you're supposed to do with an inferior opponent. The running game might not have gotten rolling against Kent State, but more importantly, Todd Boeckman and the passing game was flawless. It was even strong when Rob Schoenhoft came in. Everyone knows Brian Robiskie is a playmaker, but this week, it was Brian Hartline who came up with the home runs early to end it. Once again, the defense was dominant, but this was an easy KSU offensive attack for a team like the Buckeyes to deal with.

Oct. 6
Ohio State 23 ... Purdue 7
Ohio State held the high-powered Purdue offense to just 272 yards, while stuffing the running game allowing four net yards. Todd Boeckman threw three interceptions, but he also threw two first quarter touchdown passes, connecting with Ray Small for a 26-yard score, and Brian Hartline for a six-yard touchdowns. The Buckeyes were never threatened, getting up 23-0 on Ryan Pretorius field goals from 44, 39 and 23 yards out. Purdue didn't get on the board until there were ten seconds to play on a one-yard Jeff Lindsay catch.
Player of the game: Ohio State S Chimdi Chekwa made ten tackles and broke up a pass
Stat Leaders: Purdue - Passing: Curtis Painter, 31-60, 268 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Kory Sheets, 7-20. Receiving: Greg Orton, 10-91
Ohio State - Passing: Todd Boeckman, 17-29, 200 yds, 2 TD, 3 INT
Chris Wells, 18-85. Receiving: Brian Robiskie, 5-99, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Now there can't be any doubters about the defense. To hold Purdue to 15 first downs, 272 yards, and off the board for 59:50 is amazing, especially in front of a pumped up West Lafayette crowd. And now for the problems. Todd Boeckman might have moved the ball, but he also showed he was human with three interceptions. The running game, while fine, only averaged four yards per carry, and Chris Wells still doesn't seem to be quite right, trying to play through a bum ankle. With USC's loss, OSU is now in the spotlight for the national title again. It'll have to keep on dominating to hold off a slew of challengers.

Sept. 29
Ohio State 30 ... Minnesota 7
Ohio State dominated with Chris Wells running for two first quarter touchdowns, and Brian Robiskie making a circus grab on a 54-yard touchdown on the way to a 20-7 halftime, lead. The Gophers, dressed in bright gold uniforms, came up with one good drive, with Ralph Spy catching a four-yard touchdown pass, but that was it. OSU's defense, led by 14 tackles from James Laurinaitis and 11 from Marcus Freeman, held Minnesota to just 45 rushing yards.
Player of the game: Ohio State RB Chris Wells ran 24 times for 116 yards and two touchdowns
Stat Leaders: Minnesota - Passing: Adam Weber, 27-44, 232 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Duane Bennett, 16-34. Receiving: Eric Decker, 6-65
Ohio State - Passing: Todd Boeckman, 18-29, 209 yds, 2 TD
Chris Wells, 24-116, 2 TD. Receiving: Brian Robiskie, 5-99, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The defense keeps on rolling. Minnesota's running game is as effective as any in the Big Ten, but it was completely shut down by the OSU linebackers. James Larinaitis has been great all year, but he hasn't put up the big numbers. That changed against Minnesota, as he was all over the field with a dominant performance. Offensively, Todd Boeckman continues to progress, but it helps that Brian Robiskie continues to be unstoppable, and the O line is playing at another level. Now the D gets its first real test with Purdue coming to town. To win that in a walk, there will have to be more of a pass rush than this week.

Sept. 22
Ohio State 58 ... Northwestern 7
Ohio State ended it before everyone got settled in their seats. Brian Robiskie caught touchdown passes from 42 and 28 yards in the first four minutes, and later added a 19-yard score. The running game got into the act with two short Maurice Wells touchdowns and a 36-yard Chris Wells dash. Northwestern was held to 120 yards of total offense and only scored on a 99-yard Sam Simmons kickoff return for a touchdown to open the second half.
Player of the game: Ohio State WR Brian Robiskie caught three passes for 89 yards and three touchdowns.
Stat Leaders: Northwestern - Passing: C.J. Bacher, 17-32, 120 yds, 2 INTs
Rushing: Omar Conteh, 15-28. Receiving: Eric Peterman, 6-61
Ohio State - Passing: Todd Boeckman, 11-14, 179 yds, 4 TDs, 1 INT
Chris Wells, 12-100, 1 TD. Receiving: Brian Robiskie, 3-89, 3 TDs
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The more the offense can open things up early, even against teams like Northwestern, the more confidence it'll get as the year goes on. That's two straight games Brian Robiskie has turned a game around with a deep touchdown, and now he'll have to be the focus of every defensive coordinator to make sure he doesn't end things with a home run. That opens up things that much more for the ground game. The defense is dominating with yet another tremendous performance. This is the best team in the Big Ten right now, but the D will be in for a test, after the date with Minnesota, when Kent State comes to town.

Sept. 15
Ohio State 33 ... Washington 14
In a dogfight early on, Ohio State's defense put the clamps down on Washington in the second half, while the offense used the big play and the running game to blow past the Huskies. Down 7-3 after halftime, the Buckeyes struck on a 68-yard Brian Robiskie touchdown catch to spark a 24-point run. Chris Wells ran for a 14-yard touchdown, and Brian Hartline caught a 36-yard touchdown pass. Washington got the first touchdown on a 23-yard Anthony Russo catch with just three seconds to play in the first half, but didn't get back into the end zone until Louis Rankin got in from two yards out in the final minute. OSU's Brandon Saine tore off a 37-yard touchdown run with no time left.
Player of the game: Ohio State LB James Laurinaitis had eight tackles, two interceptions and a sack.
Stat Leaders: Ohio State - Passing: Todd Boeckman, 14-25, 218 yds, 2 TDs
Rushing: Chris Wells, 24-135, 1 TD. Receiving: Brian Hartline, 6-88, 1 TD
Washington - Passing: Jake Locker, 16-33, 153 yds, 1 TD, 3 INTs
Jake Locker, 14-102. Receiving: Marcel Reece, 5-66
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Who replaced Jim Tressel with a jumping, fired up coach? Against Washington, the normally buttoned down head man showed more emotion than he had in years, and while that might not have sparked his team, the play of the defense, and a smart, efficient passing day from Todd Boeckman, got the job done. Welcome to Tressel Ball with a twist. The special teams might not have been air tight, but the Buckeyes played great D, ran the ball, and got the big play to break things open. The offensive line did a terrific job of making some nice holes for Chris Wells, while Boeckman was kept relatively clean.

Sept. 8
Ohio State 20 ... Akron 2
Ohio State turned it over five times and had an inconsistent day on offense, but a suffocating performance from the defense kept it from being close. Akron managed just 69 yards of total offense and three first downs, but got on the board first with a safety on a stop of OSU RB Chris Wells. And then Wells went wild, running for 143 yards while the Buckeyes got points from two Ryan Pretorius field goals and second half Todd Boeckman touchdown passes. Brandon Saine caught a six-yarder in the third quarter, while Brian Robiskie scored from 13 yards out in the fourth.
Player of the game ... Ohio State RB Chris Wells ran 20 times for 143 yards.  
Stat Leaders: Akron - Passing: Chris Jacquemain, 12-20, 48 yds
Rushing: Carlton Jackson, 3-10  Receiving: Jabari Arthur, 4-32
Ohio State - Passing: Todd Boeckman, 14-23, 131 yds, 2 TD, 2 INT
Chris Wells, 20-143  Receiving: Brian Hartline, 6-43

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The defense is going to shut down a ton of teams, and it's going to have to until the offense gets its feet wet. Todd Boeckman struggled a bit, but he had a good running game to help him out as Chris Wells made up for his lousy week one with a nice day. For now, the offense can't make the mistakes it made against Akron with five turnovers and way too many misfires early on. But this day belonged to the defense. It served notice that it'll be a brick wall for most of the year, but it only faced Youngstown State and Akron over the first two weeks. If the run defense shuts down Washington next week, then you'll know it's locked in and ready for the Big Ten season.

Sept. 1
Ohio State 38 ... Youngstown State 6
Todd Boeckman was efficient in his first game as the starter and the running game got short touchdown runs from Chris Wells and Brandon Saine on the way to an easy Buckeye win over Youngstown State. Boeckman connected with Dane Sanzenbacher for a three yard score on the opening drive and found Trever Robinson for a one-yard score early in the fourth quarter. YSU's points came on two field goals, a 21-yarder from Brian Palmer and a 41-yard shot from Stephen Blose.
Player of the game ... Ohio State QB Todd Boeckman went 17-of-23 for 225 yards and two touchdown passes.  
Stat Leaders: Youngstown State - Passing: Tom Zetts, 10-18, 86 yds
Rushing: Jordan Edwards, 9-28 Receiving: Louis Irizarry, 4-19
Ohio State - Passing: Todd Boeckman, 17-23, 225 yds, 2 TDs
Chris Wells, 16-46, 1 TD  Receiving: Brian Robiskie, 9-153

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... While it was only a win over Youngstown State, everyone in Buckeye Nation can take a deep breath and can start to put the national title game in the past. Todd Boeckman wasn't bad, Brian Robiskie was tremendous with nine catches for 153 yards, and the defense was great like it was supposed to be, but there has to be some concern that the offensive line didn't dominate in the running game and that Chris Wells was merely average. Chalk it up to opening day against an inferior opponent. If Wells doesn't go nuts against Akron next week, then it'll be time to be concerned.

Sept. 1 – Youngstown State

Sept. 8 - Akron
Offense: The offense was a major disappointment last season with almost no production from a veteran offensive line and too much of a reliance on the passing game. Now the running game, with a good 1-2 punch of Dennis Kennedy and Andre Walker, should provide more pop, but the the line, with four new starters, has to be far better. The quarterback situation will be unsettled going into the fall with Carlton Jackson, Chris Jaquemain, and Sean Hakes all in the race. The receiving corps is fast and experienced, and now everyone has to play beyond their talent level to help out whoever the new passer will be.
Defense: The 3-3-5 defense of Jim Fleming was excellent last year, and it should be even better with eight starters returning and the right pieces in place. To run this type of defense, you need big linemen. Check. The Zips have 300-pounders in a rotation at tackle and big size at the other two spots. You need playmaking linebackers. Check. Three starters return with excellent depth to rotate in. You also need a secondary to hold it's own. Not a problem. Four starters return in the back five led by veteran corners Reggie Corner and Davanzo Tate.

Sept. 15 – at Washington
Offense: All eyes in Seattle will be fixed on the debut of hot-shot rookie quarterback Jake Locker, but if there's one priority for Tyrone Willingham in 2007, it's to get more consistent on the ground.  Conservative by Pac-10 doctrine, the third-year coach wants to pound it between the tackles to set up the pass.  Top back Louis Rankin is more of an outside runner, putting the onus on 210-pound sophomore J.R. Hasty to start realizing his vast potential.  While Locker has all the tools for stardom, he'll spend most of the upcoming season adapting to his new role as the face of the program.  His big-play target will be senior Marcel Reece, a Mike Walker clone poised to make a salary run.
Even with a slight improvement in 2006, the Husky pass defense ranked among the nation's worst for the second straight year.  With no stars and two new starters, expect more of the same in 2007.  The problems in the secondary will again overshadow a sneaky good front seven that features four returning starters on the defensive line and a group of young, dynamic linebackers, including sophomores E.J. Savannah and Donald Butler that could evolve into playmakers.  Defensive ends Greyson Gunheim and Daniel Te'o Nesheim are a couple of warriors that combined for two dozen tackles for loss last fall.  At 6-5 and 265 pounds, Gunheim runs like a gazelle, making him a magnet for NFL scouts visiting the Northwest.

Sept. 22 - 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.

Sept. 29 – at Minnesota
Offense: New 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 phases.

Oct. 6 – at Purdue
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.

Oct. 13 - Kent State
The Kent State offense was all pass, no run in 2005 (and it was really no run). It was all run, little pass in 2006. Now the ground game should be even stronger with the 1-2 rushing punch of Eugene Jarvis and Greg Keys along with the mobility of QB Julian Edelman. Four starters return to a line that needs to be better in pass protection, and a go-to receiver has to emerge with the loss of WR Najah Pruden. In the end, it'll all come down to Edelman. If he's playing well, the offense will shine.
Somewhat quietly, Kent State had one of the MAC's best defenses last season getting into the backfield, and to the quarterback, on a regular basis, while getting a phenomenal statistical season out of the secondary. CB Jack Williams and SS Fritz Jacques are good defenders to build around, but the rest of the secondary is a question mark. The front seven, in KSU's 3-4, should be excellent led by tackle Colin Ferrell and the Buck, the hybrid of end and linebacker, Kevin Hogan, should be one of the MAC's top pass rushing terrors. The D won't be as good as last year, but it won't be bad.

Oct. 20 - Michigan State
Offense: In keeping 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.

Oct. 27 – at 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.

Nov. 3 - 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.

Nov. 10 - Illinois
Offense: 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 Bean, 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 returning.
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.

Nov. 17 – at 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.


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