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2007 Iowa Hawkeyes

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jan 21, 2008


2007 Iowa Hawkeyes Season Game-By-Game Recaps and More

2007 Iowa Hawkeyes

2007 Recap: After three straight ten-win seasons, the Hawkeyes have lost at least five games in three consecutive years, including 2007’s disappointing, bowl-less 6-6 campaign.  As stout as the defense was all season, it wasn’t enough to compensate for an anemic offense that was breaking in new starting QB Jake Christensen, and had a severe shortage of capable receivers.  Iowa was forced to remove the redshirts on 11 true freshmen, easily a record in the Kirk Ferentz era, and an indicator of how stretched the program was for depth in 2007.   

Offensive Player of the Year: RB Albert Young

Defensive Player of the Year: DT Mitch King

Biggest Surprise: Knocking off No. 18 Illinois on Oct. 13.  While hardly a thing of beauty, the 10-6 upset did end a nasty eight-game losing streak in Big Ten play, stalling the momentum of an Illini team that had beaten Penn State and Wisconsin in the previous two weeks.  Hawkeye S Brett Greenwood sealed the win on an interception at the goal line with 1:12 left in the game. 

Biggest Disappointment: Losing badly on Senior Night to 3-7 Western Michigan with a bowl berth hanging in the balance.  The Hawkeyes got shoved around, and never led, squandering a chance to cap an otherwise dismal season with a feel-good bonus game and 15 more practices in December.  

Looking Ahead: Is Iowa in a full-blown rebuilding mode for the first time since the beginning of the decade?  Maybe not.  The 2008 schedule is manageable, and the healthy returns of WR Andy Brodell and TE Andy Moeaki should help Christensen’s development in his second season as the starter.   

- 2007 Iowa Preview
-
2007 Iowa Season

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
9-3
2007 Record:
6-6

Sept. 1 NIU (in Chic.) W 16-3
Sept. 8
Syracuse W 35-0
Sept. 15 at Iowa State L 15-13
Sept. 22 at Wisconsin L 17-13
Sept. 29
Indiana L 38-20
Oct. 6 at Penn State L 27-7
Oct. 13
Illinois W 10-6
Oct. 20 at Purdue L 31-6
Oct. 27 Mich St W 34-27 2OT
Nov. 3
at Nwestern W 28-17
Nov. 10 Minnesota W 21-16
Nov. 17 Western Mich L 28-19

Nov. 17
Western Michigan 28 ... Iowa 19
Western Michigan stunned Iowa with three Tim Hiller touchdown passes including strikes to Anthony Middleton from 35 and seven yards out, with the first one making it 19-0 midway through the first half. Iowa found its offense with three Jake Christensen touchdown passes, but three turnovers proved costly hurt most by a fumble in the final few minutes leading to a game-clinching 30-yard Chris Kelly field goal. The Broncos outgained the Hawkeyes 489 yards to 397.
Player of the game: Western Michigan QB Tim Hiller completed 26 of 45 passes for 367 yards and three touchdowns.
Stat Leaders: Western Michigan - Passing: Tim Hiller, 26-45, 367 yds, 3 TD
Rushing: Brandon West, 30-116. Receiving: Brandon West, 9-93, 1 TD
Iowa - Passing: Jake Christensen, 20-37, 249 yds, 3 TD, 2 INT
Rushing:
Albert Young, 17-95. Receiving: Brandon Myers, 6-59, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... All the positives coming from the good second half of the season are all erased in the shocking loss to Western Michigan. The offense didn't do nearly enough to control the ball, with three turnovers proving to be costly, while the defense got gouged by Tim Hiller and the WMU passing game. Now a bowl game is all but erased, with too many eligible Big Ten teams for the slots, and now this might be an ugly off-season. The offense will have to find more consistent playmakers, and get better play from the line.

Nov. 10
Iowa 21 ... Minnesota 16
In a tale of two halves, Iowa dominated the first, with Albert Young scoring from one and 12 yards out, and Brandon Myers catching a six-yard touchdown pass on the way to a 21-7 lead, and then Minnesota rallied with a 54-yard Joel Monroe field goal and, with 1:38 to play, a 22-yard Eric Decker scoring grab. The Gophers, who ended up outgaining the Hawkeyes 315 yards to 296, tried everything to come back, including going for it on three fourth downs, but couldn't get over the hump. Mike Klinkenborg finished with 13 tackles for the Hawkeyes.
Player of the game: Iowa RB Albert Young ran 21 times for 92 yards and two touchdowns
Stat Leaders: Iowa - Passing: Jake Christensen, 14-25, 157 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Albert Young, 21-92, 2 TD. Receiving:
Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, 4-46
Minnesota - Passing: Adam Weber, 24-41, 190 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
Adam Weber, 11-70. Receiving: Justin Valentine, 6-37

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
Iowa might have become bowl eligible with the win over Minnesota, but it also became the first team to not light up the Gopher defense like a Christmas tree. Who cares? Considering where the team was just a month ago, and with four wins in the last five games, this has been a big turnaround for the Hawkeyes as they're now on the verge of going to a bowl. The Big Ten doesn't have enough spots for all the eligible teams, so a win over Western Michigan next week is a must. Seven wins probably gets it done.

Nov. 3
Iowa 28 ... Northwestern 17
Iowa overcame an early 14-0 deficit with two Damian Sims touchdown runs in the fourth quarter, a 16-yard Albert Young run, and a 20-yard Trey Stross touchdown grab as part of a 28-3 scoring run. Northwestern got a two-yard Tyrell Sutton scoring run on the opening drive, and a two-yard Mark Woodson scoring catch late in the first, but three interceptions, a blocked field goal, and a missed field goal, helped keep points off the board. The two teams combined for 12 sacks, each getting six.
Player of the game: Iowa DB Bradley Fletcher made 12 tackles, one interceptions and broke up three passes
Stat Leaders: Northwestern - Passing: C.J. Bacher, 27-54, 264 yds, 1 TD, 3 INT
Rushing: Tyrell Sutton, 23-116, 1 TD. Receiving: Tyrell Sutton, 7-40
Iowa - Passing: Jake Christensen, 21-36, 299 yds, 1 TD
Rushing:
Albert Young, 16-59, 1 TD. Receiving: Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, 8-119
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The defense has stepped up its play in a big way when needed over the last few weeks, and after winning three of the last four, a bowl game is all but assured with layups ahead against Minnesota and Western Michigan. Beating Northwestern, and all but shutting down its hot offense after the first quarter, was tougher than the last two home games will be, and now this once lost season could turn into one of Kirk Ferentz's finest projects. Getting more from the O line over the final two weeks would be nice after having a nightmare of a time with the Wildcat defensive front.

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? ... All of a sudden, Iowa had a running game again. Neutralizing the Michigan State pass rush by committing to the ground game in the second half, the Hawkeyes were able to get Albert Young on a roll and the game turned around. Jake Christensen only connected on five of 15 passes, but it didn't matter. With Northwestern, Minnesota and Western Michigan left to play, this one-time lost season now could end up with a bowl bid. Considering how uneven and injured the Hawkeyes have been, that would be a tremendous achievement.

Oct. 20
Purdue 31 ... Iowa 6
Purdue pulled away from a punchless Iowa with a 33-yard Dorien Bryant touchdown catch late in the third quarter to spark a 17-0 run. Bryant also caught a 22-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter, and Dustin Keller scored from 14 yards out in the first as the Boilermakers were never threatened. Iowa managed just 254 yards of total offense and two field goals.
Player of the game: Purdue WR Dorien Bryant caught nine passes for 167 yards and two touchdowns
Stat Leaders: Iowa - Passing: Jake Christensen, 17-40, 177 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: Albert Young 7-44. Receiving: James Cleveland, 7-101
Purdue - Passing: Curtis Painter, 29-48, 315 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
Kory Sheets 18-71, 1 TD. Receiving: Dorien Bryant, 9-167, 2 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
The Iowa offense continues to have nothing going its way, mainly because the offensive line is struggling so much. Purdue's defense is hardly a killer, but it was able to generate consistent pressure without much of a problem. Iowa's defense struggled on third downs, but it did a decent job against the run for the second week in a row. That'll be the key against Michigan State next week. If the Spartans get up early, it's over.

Oct. 13
Iowa 10 ... Illinois 6
Iowa safety Brett Greenwood picked off Eddie McGee in the end zone with just over a minute to play to close out a brilliant defensive performance. The Illini gained just 287 yards of total offense and was outgained 141 yards to 137 on the ground, getting points on Jason Reda field goals from 46 and 23 yards out. Iowa tied it at three just before halftime on a 28-yard Daniel Murray kick, and took the lead for good at the end of the third quarter on a 29-yard Brandon Myers touchdown catch. The Illinois offense almost got its home run to change things around on an 83-yard pass play to Joe Morgan, but it was called back by an ineligible receiver penalty.
Player of the game: Iowa LB Mike Humphal made 18 tackles, sack, 2.5 tackles for loss and recovered a fumble
Stat Leaders: Iowa - Passing: Jake Christensen, 17-25, 182 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Albert Young, 25-99. Receiving: Albert Young, 4-25
Illinois - Passing: Juice Williams, 9-15, 98 yds
Rushing:
Rashard Mendenhall, 15-67  Receiving: Arrelious Benn, 4-87

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The Iowa defensive front seven had itself a whale of a game against the Illinois offense. The Illini looked frustrated and never got on track because the option was always sniffed out by the Hawkeye linebackers, particularly Mike Humphal. The offense wasn't anything special, but Jake Christensen came up with a tremendous game to keep the chains moving, converting on ten of 17 third down chances and holding on to the ball for 34:26. Was this the game that's going to turn everything around? Maybe, but the offense will have to start doing even more to keep up with Purdue next week.

Oct. 6
Penn State 27 ... Iowa 7
Penn State outgained Iowa 256 yards to 48, with Rodney Kinlaw getting 168 of them with touchdown dashes from 12 and 23 yards out. The Nittany Lions got up 20-0, helped by a 24-yard Derrick Williams scoring grab, before Iowa finally got on the board with its best drive of the day, finished up by an 11-yard Trey Stross touchdown catch early in the fourth. That was the only positive moment for the Hawkeyes, who only amassed eight first downs and converted three of 16 third down chances.
Player of the game: Penn State RB Rodney Kinlaw rushed for 168 yards and two scores on 28 carries.
Stat Leaders: Iowa - Passing: Jake Christensen, 16-29, 146 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Albert Young, 13-44. Receiving: Trey Stross, 5-69, 1 TD
Penn State - Passing: Anthony Morelli, 18-31, 233 yds, 1 TD, 2 INTs
Rushing:
Rodney Kinlaw, 28-168, 2 TDs. Receiving: Deon Butler, 3-55

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
As shown against Indiana last week, and Penn State this week, Iowa doesn't have nearly enough weapons. The offensive line isn't giving QB Jake Christensen much help, and Albert Young isn't finding much room. The defense got beaten on by the Penn State offense, but the offense didn't provide any help. Now on an ugly four-game losing streak with a hot Illinois ahead. Moving the chains and getting a few positive early drives is a must.

Sept. 29
Indiana 38 ... Iowa 20
Indiana got up early 1-0 on two Kellen Lewis touchdown passes and a 71-yard scoring dash, technically, on a pass to himself, after picking up a fumble. Iowa managed a 33-yard Trey Stross scoring grab with no time left on the clock in the first half, and got a touchdown on a ten-yard Brandon Myers catch to pull within eight, thanks to a failed extra point. And then Indiana put it away, going on an 11-play drive that took 5:05 off the clock and finished with a one-yard Josiah Sears touchdown run, the first of two in the second half.
Player of the game: Indiana QB Kellen Lewis was 19-of-26 for 322 yards, three touchdowns, including a 71-yard fumble recovery for a score, and an interception, while running for 20 yards on four carries.
Stat Leaders: Indiana - Passing: Kellen Lewis, 19-26, 322 yds, 3 TDs, 1 INT
Rushing: Marcus Thigpen, 15-23. Receiving: Josiah Sears, 7-58
Iowa - Passing: Jake Christensen, 24-42, 308 yds, 3 TDs, 1 INT
Rushing:
Albert Young, 15-94. Receiving: Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, 6-68, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Iowa can't fall behind right now. The offense did the best it could with the receivers Jake Christensen has to work with, and while there were several different targets involved, there wasn't enough happening in the loss to Indiana. The real problem is the offensive line, which gave up nine sacks and didn't get enough of a push for the ground game. Now is when the defense has to become a brick wall, and it wasn't in the first 23 minutes. The formula has to be running game, tough defense, force turnovers, repeat. Christensen is certainly a talent, but he needs more time to work, and he needs Albert Young to get on a roll.

Sept. 22
Wisconsin 17 ... Iowa 13
After an ugly first 26 minutes, things got interesting in a hurry. Wisconsin answered an Iowa 41-yard Daniel Murray field goal with a seven-play, 72-yard drive in 1:39 that finished with a three-yard Travis Beckum touchdown catch, but only after a scramble for a fumble in the end zone a few plays earlier, and an apparent Badger score, got called back because of an inadvertent whistle. Iowa answered in 32 seconds as
Derrell Johnson-Koulianos made a one-handed 21-yard grab for a 10-7 halftime lead. The Badgers took control of the second half with a big opening drive finished off with a two-yard P.J. Hill touchdown run, and got up by four late on a Taylor Mehlhaff field goal. Iowa had one last shot, but QB Jake Christensen overshot a wide open receiver on fourth down.
Player of the game: Wisconsin P Ken DeBauche had eight kicks for 381 yards, averaging 47.6 yards per kick, putting two inside the 20
Stat Leaders: Iowa - Passing: Jake Christensen, 17-37, 169 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Albert Young, 10-33. Receiving: James Cleveland, 4-77
Wisconsin - Passing: Tyler Donovan, 12-23, 138 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
P.J. Hill, 29-113, 1 TD. Receiving: Travis Beckum, 4-18, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Iowa might have lost to Wisconsin, but that it was so close so late showed the heart and potential of the team. There weren't any receivers, with everyone banged up, the running game wasn't going anywhere, and the defense started to struggle against the Badger O line, but the team kept battling and just barely missed coming up with an all-timer of a late touchdown pass. The defensive line is going to win a few games by itself. Mitch King all but solidified a spot on the All-Big Ten team with a brilliant game. Now the receivers have to become more polished in a big hurry, and there can't be any let down against a good Indiana offense.

Sept. 15
Iowa State 15 ... Iowa 13
Bret Culbertson kicked five field goals including the game-winner from 28 yards out with one second to play to give Iowa State the stunning win. The Cyclones took a 12-0 lead into halftime on Culbertson field goals from 21, 33, 42 and 40 yards out, but Iowa fought back with an 11-yard Jake Christensen touchdown run and two Austin Signor field goals, including a 41-yarder with 3:38 to play, to take the lead for the first time all game long. The Cyclones got the ball on their own 33 with 3:34 to play, and after two plays, Bret Meyer connected with Phillip Bates for a 38-yard play to get into field goal range.
Player of the game: Iowa State K Bret Culbertson connected on 5-of-6 field goal attempts, including the game-winner with one second left on the clock.
Stat Leaders: Iowa - Passing: Jake Christensen, 12-23, 118 yds
Rushing: Albert Young, 14-60. Receiving: Tony Moeaki, 3-26
Iowa State - Passing: Bret Meyer, 21-29, 157 yds
Rushing:
J.J. Bass, 25-80. Receiving: R.J. Sumrall , 7-62

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
The defense did a fine job until the final Iowa State drive, there wasn't much in the way of breaking, not allowing a touchdown, and the team fought back to take the lead after struggling all game long. Pin this stunning loss on the offense, with no production from the passing game. The receivers didn't have a good game, Jake Christensen was off, and Albert Young never got into a lather. As bad as this loss was, Iowa has to remember that the real season starts up next week at Wisconsin. Win that, and this loss won't matter too much.

Sept. 8
Iowa 35 ... Syracuse 0
Iowa had few problems with the Orange as Jake Christensen threw four touchdown passes with three to Tony Moeaki, Damian Sims ran for a one-yard score, and the defense allowed just 103 yards of total offense. Even the SU special teams had problems getting two field goals blocked. Moeaki took a pass 52 yards for the first score, and then Albert Young put the game well out of reach in the first quarter on a 36-yard touchdown. The Hawkeye defense came up with six sacks, with three coming from Bryan Mattison.
Player of the game ... Iowa TE Tony Moeaki caught eight passes for 112 yards and three touchdowns
Stat Leaders: Iowa- Passing: Jake Christensen, 23-32, 278 yds, 4 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Damian Sims, 12-62 yds, 1 TD  Receiving: Tony Moeaki, 8-112, 3 TD
Syracuse - Passing: Andrew Robinson, 7-20, 79 yds, 1 INT
Rushing:
Curtis Brinkley, 12-36  Receiving: Taj Smith, 3-51

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Northern Illinois and Syracuse don't have offenses (and neither does Iowa State next week), but Iowa's defense has had something to do with that. The defensive front overwhelmed the Orange front five, not letting the offense breathe, while the Hawkeyes got the game it was looking for out of QB Jake Christensen. With the issues in the receiving corps, playmakers have to step up in the passing game, and Tony Moeaki did that. Everything has to come together next week before dealing with a trip to Wisconsin.

Sept. 1
Iowa 16 ... Northern Illinois 3
It wasn't a game for the offenses, but Iowa was able to run well, outgaining the Huskies 250 yards to 21 on the ground, with Albert Young leading the way. Young started off the scoring with a seven-yard first quarter touchdown, and then Iowa put the game away with a 95-yard drive culminating in a five-yard Brandon Myers scoring grab. Austin Signor nailed a 22-yard field goal for the final Hawkeye points, while NIU was only able to get on the board with a 33-yard field goal.
Player of the game ... Iowa RB Albert Young ran for 144 yards and a score on 23 carries, and had a reception for five yards.
Stat Leaders: Iowa- Passing: Jake Christensen, 12-29, 133 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Albert Young, 23-144, 1 TD  Receiving: James Cleveland, 3-61
Northern Illinois - Passing: Dan Nicholson, 26-42, 214 yds, 3 INTs
Rushing:
Montell Clanton, 13-49  Receiving: Britt Davis, 6-75

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Considering the problems Michigan and Minnesota had in week one, any win is a positive, but Iowa didn't look very good against Northern Illinois. Jake Christensen struggled with his depleted receiving corps, and did next to nothing on third downs, as Iowa converted just two of 14 chances. There were way too many penalties (10 for 173 yards), and there wasn't enough of a consistent pass rush, but the defense did its job, holding NIU to just one yard per carry. The running game should be able to get the Hawkeyes past Syracuse and at Iowa State over the next two weeks, but the passing game has to start to click to have any hopes of beating Wisconsin in the Big Ten opener.

Sept. 1 - Northern Illinois
Offense: New offensive coordinator Roy Wittke will put his stamp on the attack early on with more passing plays, more variety, and more funky motions and formations. That'll all mean more from the passing game, and while it wasn't ignored last year, it was mostly used when Garrett Wolfe was either tired or shut down. Six starters return, but this is still a young group with only two seniors on the depth chart. The line was a problem this spring, but it's very big with the potential to be great ... next year. There will be a steady rotation of backs, led mostly by Montell Clanton and Justin Anderson, and more passes spread around, with Britt Davis the number one target. Dan Nicholson has to be a steady leader of the show.
Defense: The NIU defense is steady with several good, sound players, but for all the quickness and all the athleticism, there weren't nearly enough big plays, not enough production from the secondary, and a good, but not great, year against the run. While the corners will be better, expect more of the same from the front seven; for good and bad. End Larry English and tackle Craig Rusch will be regulars in the backfield. This won't be the nation's 90th ranked defense again, and it'll do a good job of bending, but not breaking.

Sept. 8 – Syracuse

Offense: The pieces are there among the skill players for a night-and-day improvement from last year’s putrid attack that cranked out a mere 264 yards and 17.4 points per game. The receiving cops, helped by the return of Taj Smith from injury, should be one of the best in the Big East, while Curtis Brinkley is a good back to work around. Sophomore QB Andrew Robinson is a star in the making, but he’ll have a hard time with his consistency behind an offensive line that needs work even with three starters returning in the interior.
Defense: It might take a little while, but the D will improve as the season goes on, it struggled in every area but getting into the backfield, and with a strong defensive line returning, led be end Jameel McClain, generating pressure won’t be much of a problem. The linebacking corps will be a work in progress with three news starters, but the excellent safety tandem of Dowayne Davis and Joe Fields should clean up plenty of messes.


Sept. 15 – at Iowa State
Offense: Bret Meyer might be the Big 12's best quarterback, Todd Blythe is an All-America caliber receiver leading a good corps, and in time, Jason Scales and JUCO transfer J.J. Bass will be strong runners. None of it will matter if the line doesn't go from abysmal to at least mediocre. That might be a problem with four starters gone and no developed depth whatsoever. The team will rely on a slew of JUCO transfer and career benchwarmers to patch together a front five that will try to allow fewer than the 38 sacks given up last year. Expect Meyer to be everything for the offense with the passing game front and center early on. Because of the concerns on the line, Meyer will use his mobility to try to buy time and get the ball out of his hands quicker while on the move.
Defense: A complete and total disaster last season, defensive coordinator Wayne Bolt has his work cut out for him with a mediocre collection of talents and few obvious stars to build around other than outside linebackers Alvin Bowen and Jon Banks. The defensive front should be more aggressive and better at getting into the backfield, but will the lack of size cost them in the running game? For a while, yes. The secondary is the bigger concern after giving up yards in bunches and without a true number one cover-corner to count on. Linebacker is the strength to build around, and it could be even better if Adam Carper returns ready to go from a knee injury.


Sept. 22 – 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.


Sept. 29 - 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. 6 – 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.

Oct. 13 - 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.

Oct. 20 – 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.


Oct. 27 - 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.

Nov. 3 – at 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.


Nov. 10 - 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.


Nov. 17 - Western Michigan
Offense: The parts are there, and now the production has to come. The offensive line, led by center Robbie Krutilla and three other starters, will be one of the best in the MAC, and it should give the quarterback all the time in the world. Now the question is who that'll be. Thomas Peregrin and Tim Hiller will each likely see time this year, and either one can be a star. The receiving corps will be serviceable, and it needs tight end Branden Ledbetter to grow into an even more prominent target, and has to hope several speedy newcomers can play right away, for more pop. Mark Bonds is a steady 1,000-yard back who'll combine with Brandon West for a nice 1-2 punch. Everything's in place. There's no excuse for the attack to be as average as it was last year.
Offense: It's not a big D, but it's very quick, very disruptive, and very good. After a big year, the MAC's number one defense gets eight starters back. The line will get in the backfield early and often with the return of Zach Davidson and big-play tackles Nick Varcadipane and Cory Flom. The secondary is loaded with speed and experience with all four starters returning after helping the D pick off 24 passes. The big concern is at outside linebacker after losing Ameer Ismail and Paul Tithof, but Austin Pritchard is a rising star and Dustin Duclo is good in the middle.


 

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