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2007 Minnesota Golden Gophers

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jan 21, 2008


2007 Minnesota Golden Gophers Season Game-By-Game Recaps and More

 

2007 Minnesota Golden Gophers

2007 Recap: An unexpected choice to replace Glen Mason a year ago, rookie head coach Tim Brewster did nothing in year one to make his hiring look like a shrewd one.  The Gophers plummeted to their most losses in school history, failing to win a Big Ten game for the first time since 1983.  While the new one-back, spread offense showed hints of potential under freshman QB Adam Weber, the defense was a wire-to-wire calamity, setting a school record for yards allowed in a season and finishing last in the conference in just about every statistical category.   

Offensive Player of the Year: QB Adam Weber

Defensive Player of the Year: S Dominique Barber

Biggest Surprise: WR Eric Decker.  The sophomore instantly became one of the biggest beneficiaries of Mike Dunbar’s aerial attack, hauling in a Gopher-record 67 passes for 909 yards and nine touchdowns.  At 6-2 and 210 pounds, he’s a physical receiver that’s only going to get better with more reps in the system.   

Biggest Disappointment: Losing to Florida Atlantic, 42-39, on Sept. 15.  In retrospect, losing to the Owls was no upset, but at the time, the Gophers were coming off an exciting overtime win against Miami University, and Florida Atlantic was a long way from becoming Sun Belt champs.  Allowing 463 yards and five touchdown passes to Rusty Smith wound up being a harbinger of things to come for Minnesota in 2007.   

Looking Ahead: Although there’s plenty of potential on offense, if eternal optimist Brewster is going to make a quantum leap in 2008, the defense will have to get light years better.  The good news is that things can’t possibly get worse, and a ton of underclassmen earned letters last fall.

- 2007 Minnesota Preview 
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2006 Minnesota Season

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
6-6
2007 Record:
1-11

Sept. 1 B Green L 32-31 OT
Sept. 8 Miami U W 45-313OT
Sept. 15 at Fla Atlantic L 42-29
Sept. 22 Purdue L 45-31
Sept. 29 Ohio State L 30-7
Oct. 6
at Indiana L 40-20
Oct. 13 at Northwestern L 49-48 2OT
Oct. 20
N Dakota St L 27-21
Oct. 27 at Michigan L 34-10
Nov. 3 Illinois L 44-17
Nov. 10 at Iowa L 21-16
Nov. 17 Wisconsin L 41-34

Nov. 17
Wisconsin 41 ... Minnesota 34
Wisconsin rumbled for 325 yards and got 250 yards and two touchdowns from Zach Brown, but its defense gave up yards just as quickly as Minnesota ripped off 501 yards and wouldn't go away. A one-yard Bill Rentmeester touchdown run and a 16-yard Travis Beckum catch seemingly put the Badger comfortably ahead by 14 in the fourth quarter, but the Gophers kept coming back as Adam Weber connected with Eric Decker for the second time on the day for a score, and after a four-yard Brown scoring run, hit Ralph Spry on a 71-yard touchdown to pull within seven with less than five minutes to go. Minnesota had one last shot, but Weber was picked off by Ben Strickland to stop the shootout.
Player of the game: Wisconsin RB Zach Brown ran 29 times for 250 yards and two touchdowns
Stat Leaders: Minnesota - Passing: Adam Weber, 21-37, 352 yds, 3 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Adam Weber, 15-87. Receiving: Ernie Wheelwright, 7-92
Wisconsin - Passing: Tyler Donovan, 6-13, 114 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
Zach Brown, 29-250, 2 TD. Receiving: Travis Beckum, 5-89, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
Minnesota might have lost yet again by getting nothing from the run defense, but the shootout loss to Wisconsin was a big-time positive. Adam Weber, at times, was unstoppable, and he used his receiving corps as well as he had all season long. The team played better over the last two games of the year, but that's little solace for a fan base, or a coaching staff, that'll have the 1-11 tag sitting around for several months. The offense is on the right track, but without a major tweaking to the defense over the next several months, the Gophers won't hit the ground running in 2008.

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? ...
Finally, the Minnesota defense wasn't miserable. Iowa's offensive ineptitude had something to do with it, but for the first time all year the Gophers stayed in the game with a few living, breathing stops. Unfortunately, the running game still hasn't shown up with Adam Weber the only effective runner. In the season finale against Wisconsin, getting something out of one of the running backs is vital to have something to go on going into the off-season.

Nov. 3
Illinois 44 ... Minnesota 17
Illinois ran for 448 yards with Rashard Mendenhall getting 201 of them with scoring dashes fro 64 and 33 yards out. The game was broken open with three Jason Reda field goals and a seven-yard Isiah Williams touchdown run as part of a 23-point outburst. Minnesota was never it it after Williams threw first quarter scoring passes to Jacob Willis from 47 yards out and Jeff Cumberland from 22 yards away. Adam Weber threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Ernie Wheelwright and ran for a 29-yard score.
Player of the game: Illinois RB Rashard Mendenhall ran 17 times for 201 yards and two touchdowns, and QB Juice Williams completed 14 of 21 passes for 207 yards and two touchdowns with an interception, and ran 18 times for 133 yards and a score..
Stat Leaders: Illinois - Passing: Isiah Williams, 14-21, 207 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Rashard Mendenhall, 17-201, 2 TD. Receiving: Jeff Cumberland, 4-53, 1 TD
Minnesota - Passing: Adam Weber, 18-31, 208 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
Duane Bennett, 12-35. Receiving: Ernie Wheelwright, 9-123, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
What happened to Minnesota football? Illinois played Minnesota football by running at will, and with no running game, little movement from the offense, and no production to stop the Illini run, the offense didn't do anything to help out the beleaguered defense. In this lost season, the Gopher have to start generating some signs of life for something to build on for next year, but at the moment, there's nothing. The team is playing miserably going into the road trip to Iowa.

Oct. 27
Michigan 34 ... Minnesota 10
By land and air, Michigan did what it wanted to against Minnesota with 561 yards of total offense in the easy win ... after about 20 minutes. Minnesota took an early 10-0 lead highlighted by a Dominique Barber fumble return for a score, and then Michigan scored the final 34 points. Brandon Minor and Carlos Brown each ran for over 100 yards, with Brown scoring from five yards out in the third, and capping it off with an 85-yard dash. Mario Manningham scored on a 40-yard touchdown to put things well out of reach. Minnesota was held to 231 yards of total offense.
Player of the game: Michigan WR Mario Manningham made five catches for 162 yards and a touchdown
Stat Leaders: Minnesota - Passing: Adam Weber, 14-30, 99 yds
Rushing: Duane Bennett, 20-106. Receiving: Ernie Wheelwright, 6-40
Michigan - Passing: Ryan Mallett, 11-20, 233 yds, 1 TD
Rushing:
Brandon Minor, 21-157, 1 TD. Receiving: Mario Manningham, 5-162, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
If the defense isn't going to do anything, the offense has to be able to bomb away to pick up the slack. It never happened against Michigan, and the passing game wasn't even close. Adam Weber was under pressure all game long, but he and the offense never took advantage of opportunities. Michigan was all but giving the Gophers chances to make it interesting, and then the Wolverine offense took over and it became a laugher. With three games left, something has to start to go right. Nothing is working well at the moment.

Oct. 20
North Dakota State 27 ... Minnesota 21
Helped by 30,000 of its fans in the Metrodome, North Dakota State ran for 394 yards on the Gophers, with Tyler Roehl rumbling for a 77-yard touchdown dash in the first quarter, and Steve Walker throwing two touchdown passes. Minnesota started off the scoring with a 20-yard Ralph Spry touchdown catch, got a one-yard Amir Pinnix touchdown run to tie it at 14, and took the lead in the third with a 32-yard Duane Bennett score, but it was all Bison after that with two long scoring drives in the fourth, holding the ball for 12:26. NGSU outgained Minnesota 585 yards to 307.
Player of the game: North Dakota State RB Tyler Roehl ran 22 times for 263 yards and a touchdown
Stat Leaders: North Dakota State - Passing: Steve Walker, 20-25, 191 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: Tyler Roehl, 22-263, 1 TD. Receiving: Alex Belquist, 4-56
Minnesota - Passing: Adam Weber, 10-22, 162 yds, 1 TD
Rushing:
11-44. Receiving: Eric Decker, 4-47

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The Gophers got outplayed in every way possible by North Dakota State, and still it had a chance late to go on a big drive to pull out the win. But a dumb roughing the punter call on Dominique Barber ended any hopes, and that showed the type of team Minnesota is right now. It's beating itself trying too hard to make something happen, and it's not making any plays. The defense is atrocious; no one's doing much of anything to change the momentum once things start to slide. Michigan should be able to do whatever it wants to next week.

Oct. 13
Northwestern 49 ... Minnesota 48 2OT
In the second overtime, Northwestern got a six-yard touchdown run from Brandon Roberson, but Minnesota answered with a three-yard Adam Weber touchdown run. The Gophers chose to go for two, but the play never had a chance as Weber's pass attempt fell incomplete. Minnesota was up 35-14 late in the third quarter, thanks to two of Ernie Wheelwright's three touchdown catches and a nine-yard Amir Pinnix touchdown run. And then C.J. Bacher got hot, and Northwestern scored the final 21 points of regulation, with Eric Peterman catching a four-yard touchdown pass with eight seconds to play. In the first overtime, Wheelright caught a 21-yard touchdown pass, but Northwestern answered with a five-yard Ross Lane touchdown run. The two teams combined for 1,169 yards of total offense.
Player of the game: Northwestern QB C.J. Bacher completed 41 of 58 passes for 470 yards and four touchdowns, and ran seven times for 21 yards and a score
Stat Leaders: Northwestern - Passing: C.J. Bacher, 41-58, 470 yds, 4 TD
Rushing: Omar Conteh, 14-81. Receiving: Eric Peterman, 12-114, 1 TD
Minnesota - Passing: Adam Weber, 25-38, 341 yds, 5 TD, 2 INT
Rushing:
Jay Thomas, 22-100. Receiving: Ernie Wheelwright, 7-116, 3 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Minnesota is unable to put together a full sixty minutes. It had Northwestern beaten and beaten badly. With a 21-point lead and less than 20 minutes to play, this was where the Gopher running game should've taken over and closed things out. Oh yeah, the Minnesota defense. The secondary, outside of Dominique Barber, simply isn't coming up with any production, while the front seven has been non-existent. As ugly as this season has been, things could get a whole lot uglier next week if the Gophs don't beat a good North Dakota State team.

Oct. 6
Indiana 40 ... Minnesota 20
Bryan Payton ran for three touchdowns, scoring from 48, one, and five yards out, and Austin Starr hit fourth field goals, as Indiana had few problems with Minnesota after the first 20 minutes. The Gophers came up with an Adam Weber seven-yard touchdown run, and a one-yard Duane Bennett score, but were outscored 19-0 on a midgame IU run to put it away. The Hoosiers outgained Minnesota 228 yards to 112 n the ground.
Player of the game: Indiana RB Bryan Payton rushed for 90 yards and three touchdowns on 13 carries
Stat Leaders: Minnesota - Passing: Adam Weber, 24-44, 280 yds, 1 TD, 2 INTs
Rushing: Jay Thomas, 8-58. Receiving: Eric Decker, 8-74, 1 TD
Indiana - Passing: Kellen Lewis, 24-36, 235 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
Bryan Payton, 13-90, 3 TDs. Receiving: Ray Fisher, 9-106

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
The defense has to find one thing it can do well. The secondary got picked apart by Kellen Lewis and Indiana, the run defense got bowled over, and it was another ugly loss in an ugly year. Worse yet, the running game has started to falter, only gaining 143 yards. Simply put, the Gophers have no shot to pull off a win in the near future unless it can work out yards on the ground. It's all about improving each week now, and Minnesota isn't doing that.

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
Rushing:
Chris Wells, 24-116, 2 TD. Receiving: Brian Robiskie, 5-99, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Playing Ohio State's defense isn't exactly what the Minnesota offense needed, but now things ease up with Indiana, Northwestern and North Dakota State up next. The running game has to find a back it can count on, as Amir Pinnix barely say the field against the Buckeyes and Duane Bennett was ineffective. The Gophers got behind so quickly that they had to start bombing, and while the line did a good job in pass protection, there wasn't anywhere for Adam Weber to go with the ball for any plays of significance.

Sept. 22
Purdue 45 ... Minnesota 31
Purdue started out hot with a 95-yard opening kickoff return for a score from Desmond Tardy, and got up 17-0 helped by a 16-yard Kory Sheets touchdown catch. After a 43-yard Cliff Avril interception return for a touchdown, and 24-3 halftime lead, the rout appeared to be on. But Minnesota fought back with short touchdown runs from Duane Bennett and Jay Thomas, but the Boilermakers kept pace with a three-yard Sheets run and a four-yard Dorien Bryant scoring grab. Bryant's 16-yard touchdown catch early in the fourth quarter finally put it away.
Player of the game: Purdue WR Dorien Bryant caught 12 passes for 150 yards and two touchdowns.
Stat Leaders: Minnesota - Passing: Adam Weber, 23-44, 237 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Duane Bennett, 7-81, 1 TD. Receiving: Eric Decker, 7-79, 1 TD
Purdue - Passing: Curtis Painter, 33-48, 338 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
Kory Sheets, 21-111, 1 TD. Receiving: Dorien Bryant, 12-150, 2 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The coaching staff is adjusting well in the second half, but the offense needs to get hotter early on. Against Purdue, the Gophers were playing catch-up after the opening kickoff, and the team has to figure out how to establish the run to take the pressure off Adam Weber. The passing attack simply isn't good enough to win shootouts against good teams. SS Dominique Barber is playing at an All-Big Ten level, but the rest of the defense is still struggling way too much to think about hanging with Ohio State next week.

Sept. 15
Florida Atlantic 42 ... Minnesota 39
Florida Atlantic roared out to a 35-14 lead on four of Rusty Smith's five touchdown passes, while the Owl defense hung tough allowing just a 23-yard Eric Decker touchdown catch, to go along with Minnesota's first score on a 91-yard kickoff return for a touchdown from Jay Thomas. But the Gophers came back on three of Adam Weber's four touchdown passes, with two to Ernie Wheelwright to pull within seven with just over three minutes to play. The Gopher offense got one last shot, getting down to the FAU 36, but Weber was picked off by
Tavious Polo to seal the Owls' win.
Player of the game: Florida Atlantic QB Rusty Smith threw for 463 yards and five touchdown passes on 27-of-44 passing.
Stat Leaders: Minnesota - Passing: Adam Weber, 31-47, 335 yds, 4 TDS, 4 INTs
Rushing: Amir Pinnix, 16-92. Receiving: Eric Decker, 12-165, 1 TD
Florida Atlantic - Passing: Rusty Smith, 27-44, 463 yds, 5 TDs
Rushing:
Charles Pierre, 17-89, 1 TD. Receiving: Jason Harmon, 5-104

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Inexcusable. Minnesota isn't good enough to turn the ball over seven times to anyone, and that includes Florida Atlantic. But it wasn't just the turnovers that killed the Gophers, it was the total lack of pass defense yet again. Not only is the secondary getting worse, it's getting a lot worse, allowing 463 yards to Rusty Smith. Rusty Smith and Florida Atlantic. No, this isn't Hawaii. Drastic changes will need to be made to generate more of a pass rush, and to come up with some sort of production from the secondary, or Purdue will throw for 500 yards next week.

Sept. 8
Minnesota 41 ... Miami University 35 3OT
Minnesota played its third straight overtime game going back to last season, but this time, it finally won as Amir Pinnix rumbled in from two yards out after the defense held when Jamal Harris intercepted a Daniel Raudabaugh pass. The two teams traded touchdowns in the first overtime, and Miami had a chance to win it after Jason Giannini missed a 26-yard field goal in the second overtime, but Trevor Cook missed a 33-yard field goal attempt. Adam Weber threw four touchdown passes for the Gophers including two two Eric Decker, on the way to a 28-12 fourth quarter lead, but the RedHawks roared back with 16 points in 6:31 finished off with a 36-yard Trevor Cook field goal with :11 to play to send it into overtime.
Player of the game: Minnesota QB Adam Weber went 26-of-40 for 271 yards, four touchdowns and one interception, and ran for 97 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries.
Stat Leaders: Miami Univ.
- Passing: Daniel Raudabaugh, 13-24, 222 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Brandon Murphy, 12-78. Receiving: Dustin Woods, 6-75, 1 TD
Minnesota
- Passing: Adam Weber, 26-40, 271 yds, 4 TDs, 1 INT
Rushing: Amir Pinnix, 28-126, 1 TD. Receiving: Eric Decker, 7-128, 2 TDs

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Minnesota can exhale, but it can't be happy after struggling with its second straight MAC team. Miami University pushed the Gophers hard thanks to a big fourth quarter comeback, and there has to be serious, serious concern that the defense isn't improving. If Florida Atlantic comes up with some big numbers next week, then it'll truly be time to pack it in and rebuild, but if the offense can come up with good balance, and Adam Weber can continue to improve, the Gophers should stay alive in plenty of shootouts.

Sept. 1
Bowling Green 32 ... Minnesota 31 OT
Tyler Sheehan connected with Freddie Barnes for a two-point conversion following a nine-yard touchdown pass to Marques Parks in overtime to give Bowling Green the upset win. The Falcons jumped out to a 21-0 halftime lead as Sheehan threw a 53-yard touchdown pass to Eric Ransom and caught a 24-yard trick play pass from Corey Partridge. Minnesota came roaring back in the second half with two Amir Pinnix touchdowns and a 13-yard scoring grab from Ernie Wheelwright, and then took the lead on a 33-yard Jason Giannini field goal with just over two minutes to play. The Falcons went 63 yards in 12 plays to set up a Sinisa Vrvilo 35-yard field goal with three seconds left to force overtime. Pinnix ran for a 23-yard score for the Gophers, and then the Falcons responded with a nine-yard Marques Parks touchdown leading to the game-winning conversion.
Player of the game ... Bowling Green QB Tyler Sheehan completed 34 of 51 passes for 388 yards and two touchdowns and caught a pass for a 24-yard touchdown
Stat Leaders: Bowling Green - Passing: Tyler Sheehan, 34-51, 388 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: Chris Bullock, 9-47  Receiving: Eric Ransom, 7-96, 1 TD
Minnesota - Passing: Adam Weber, 15-31, 188 yds, 2 TD, 2 INT
Rushing:
Amir Pinnix, 28-168 yds, 2 TD   Receiving: Ernie Wheelwright, 4-50, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The Minnesota pass defense picked up where it left off after getting torched by Texas Tech in the Insight Bowl. Bowling Green's Tyler Sheehan was able to pick, pick, pick until the Gophers finally brought their defensive backs up and pressured the Falcon receivers. The running game was fine and Adam Weber settled down and did a decent job moving the offense, but it's going to take awhile for things to be turned around. Fortunately, Miami University and Florida Atlantic are up next.

Sept. 1 - 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 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. 8 - Miami University
Offense: It's all about the offensive line. The front five was hit by injuries last season and the whole machine broke down with no running game, an obscene amount of sacks, and not enough of a passing game. Now the line is experienced with decent depth, the running backs should be solid as long as Brandon Murphy is over his ankle problems, and Mike Kokal has the potential to be the MAC's most effective all-around quarterback. And then there's the receiving corps. With Ryne Robinson gone, there's no proven number one receiver, but there's a boatload of speed on the outside in Dustin Woods and Armand Robinson. While they'll make big plays, someone has to become a go-to guy.
Defense: There were huge concerns about the defense going into last season with only two returning starters, but the lumps taken against the run and against way too many mediocre offenses should pay off in a return to the days when MU had one of the MAC's best defenses. While just six starters are back, there are more than enough promising options at several positions to create good overall competition and have more depth than there's been in a long time. The pass rush needs to be better with Craig Mester needing to get back to form to help out junior end Joe Coniglio. Joey Hudson and Clayton Mullins form one of the MAC's best 1-2 linebacking punches, while the secondary should be one of the team's strengths led by speedy corner Jerrid Gaines and veteran safety Robbie Wilson.


Sept. 15 – at Florida Atlantic
Offense: Things should be more consistent now that the quarterback situation is settled (at least to start the year) with Rusty Smith the full-time starter and Sean Clayton the backup. The running backs are experienced and quick, and Frantz Simeon leads a decent receiving corps, but it's all up to the line which was decent in pass protection last season but awful in the running game. It's a small front five by design, and that's a major issue for a ground game that averaged just 110 yards per game and an offense that struggled to amass 300 yards and 15 points per outing. 
Defense: The defense should be tremendous is all the starters play as expected. The back seven will be among the best in the Sun Belt with all three starters returning to the linebacking corps, two All-Sun Belt caliber safeties in Kris Bartels and Taheem Acevedo, and a shut-down corner in Corey Small. The defensive front gets three starters back led by top pass rusher Josh Pinnick and star tackle Jervonte Jackson. Even so, the run defense will be average, while the pass defense will be great.


Sept. 22 - 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.


Sept. 29 - 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. 6 – at 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. 13 – 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.


Oct. 20 – North Dakota State

Oct. 27 – 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.

Nov. 3 - 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. 10 – 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. 17 - 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.



 

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