2007 Big Ten Lookbacks/Recaps
Ohio State RB Chris Wells
Ohio State RB Chris Wells
Posted Jan 28, 2008

Taking a look back at the 2007 Big Ten season for every team.

2007 Big Ten Lookbacks/Recaps

- 2009 Big Ten Early Lookaheads
Illinois | Indiana | Iowa | Michigan | Michigan State | Minnesota
Northwestern | Ohio State | Penn State | Purdue | Wisconsin

2007 Pages
2007 Big Ten Season

Illinois | Indiana | Iowa | Michigan | Michigan State | Minnesota
Northwestern | Ohio State | Penn State | Purdue | Wisconsin

2007 Recap: When the Illini lost to Missouri, 40-34, on opening day, who would have guessed that both schools would play bowl games on New Year’s Day?  In Illinois’ case, it copped a spot in the Rose Bowl, its first since 1983, after winning nine games, finishing in a second place tie in the Big Ten, and authoring the nation’s biggest turnaround after going 2-10 in 2006.  More than anyone in Champaign, the storybook season was vindication for Ron Zook, a respected recruiter, who proved that he can coach a little as well.    

Offensive Player of the Year: RB Rashard Mendenhall

Defensive Player of the Year: LB J Leman

Biggest Surprise: The Illini knocked off three ranked teams during the season, none bigger than its upset of No. 1 and unbeaten Ohio State on Nov. 10.  Using a shrewd offensive gameplan to get QB Juice Williams into space, Illinois held off the eventual Big Ten champs, beating a top-ranked opponent for the first time since 1956. 

Biggest Disappointment: Although Illinois’ Cinderella season was safe no matter what happened in Pasadena, getting embarrassed by USC left many wondering if the Illini ever belonged in a BCS bowl game.  The Trojans toyed with the Illinois defense, scoring seven touchdowns and racking up a Rose Bowl-record 663 yards of total offense.   

Looking Ahead: Mendenhall’s early defection to the NFL hurts, but Illinois has been recruiting so well, and has so much returning talent that another nine-win season will catch no one off guard in 2008.  Williams needs to tighten up his consistency as a thrower, or else Eddie McGee will see his role increase next fall.    

2007 Recap: In the feel-good story of 2007, Indiana fulfilled the vision of late head coach Terry Hoeppner, earning a 13th game, an Insight Bowl invitation, for the first time in 14 years.  The Hoosiers got whacked by Oklahoma State on New Year’s Eve, but it couldn’t overshadow all that the young program accomplished, including a last-second win over Purdue for the first time since 2001.  QB Kellen Lewis solidified his spot as the face of the IU program, throwing for 3,043 yards and 28 touchdowns, while rushing for nine more scores and a team-high 736 yards.         

Offensive Player of the Year: QB Kellen Lewis

Defensive Player of the Year: DE Greg Middleton

Biggest Surprise: Middleton.  Modestly recruited coming out of high school, Middleton went from a quiet rookie season to one of the nation’s top pass rushers.  Using a great first step off the edge, he led the country with 16 sacks, earning a spot as a finalist for the Hendricks Award.     

Biggest Disappointment: With a rare national spotlight to show off how far it’s come, Indiana flopped in the Insight Bowl, playing one of its worst games of the season.  While the offense was slow to take advantage of a weak Oklahoma State pass defense, the defense was hapless, yielding 35 points in the first half and 526 total yards on the night.  

Looking Ahead: After serving brilliantly under impossible circumstances in 2007, Bill Lynch had the interim tag stripped from his title at the end of the season.  The stability should help a program that’ll be looking to capitalize on last year’s success with a return to the postseason in 2008.   

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 Recap:
Arguably one of the most peculiar seasons in school history, Michigan began the year with an epic loss to Appalachian State, ended it by upsetting defending champ Florida, and in between, fought like hell to pick up the pieces from an 0-2 start.  It certainly wasn’t the season most expected in Ann Arbor, but the Wolverines showed a lot guts by battling through injuries for eight straight wins before losing to Wisconsin and Ohio State in the final two regular season games.  In many ways, the season marked an end of an era at Michigan, as Lloyd Carr retired after 13 years on the sidelines, and QB Chad Henne, RB Mike Hart, and LT Jake Long concluded stellar careers as four-year starters.     

Offensive Player of the Year: RB Mike Hart

Defensive Player of the Year: LB Shawn Crable

Biggest Surprise: Crable.  An enigma and an underachiever for most of his first three seasons, Crable exploded in his senior year for a team-high 90 tackles, 28.5 tackles for loss, and 7.5 sacks.  Finally tapping into all of his freakish athletic ability, Crable was the catalyst of a defense that regrouped nicely after a rough start.  

Biggest Disappointment: Losing in the first two weeks to Appalachian State and Oregon, ending any hope of fulfilling preseason forecasts.  The Wolverines were widely viewed as the Big Ten favorite and a strong contender for New Orleans, but after yielding 73 points over the first two Saturdays, the team goals were irreparably altered.  

Looking Ahead: With Carr out and former West Virginia head man Rich Rodriguez in, things may never again be the same in Ann Arbor.  Considering the offensive upheaval that’ll be taking place on the two-deep and in the playbook, Rodriguez’s value to the Wolverines may not be fully felt until the 2009 season.   

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

Offensive Player of the Year: WR Devin Thomas

Defensive Player of the Year: DE Jonal Saint-Dic

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

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

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

2007 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 Recap: The Wildcats made progress in Pat Fitzgerald’s second year at his alma mater, but not quite enough to earn an invitation to a bowl game.  The C.J. Bacher-led passing attack kept Northwestern in most games, often having to overcome the shortcomings of a defense that was No. 10 in the Big Ten in almost every statistical benchmark.  The unit’s performance cost sixth-year defensive coordinator Greg Colby his job, creating the first big hire Fitzgerald must make as he tries to get the Cats back on the other side of .500.    

Offensive Player of the Year: QB C.J. Bacher

Defensive Player of the Year: LB Adam Kadela

Biggest Surprise: Beating Michigan State Oct. 6 in a 48-41, overtime thriller.  Bacher threw for a school-record 520 yards and five touchdown passes, avenging a brutal loss to the Spartans in 2006, and starting a three-game winning streak in October.

Biggest Disappointment: Losing to Duke on Sept. 15, becoming the first team to do so in two years.  The 20-14 home loss to a program riding a 22-game skid would haunt Northwestern, which fell one win shy of dramatically improving its postseason resume.

Look Ahead: If the defense makes strides, a likelihood, there’s enough skill position talent for the Wildcats to be back in the bowl hunt next November.  Although Bacher can be brilliant at times, he’s also thrown 27 picks in the last 18 games, something that must be addressed in the offseason.    

Ohio State
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.

Penn State
2007 Recap: The Nittany Lions closed out the 2007 season with an Alamo Bowl win over Texas A&M, an indication that this year’s goals were not met.  With a senior quarterback and a loaded defense, Penn State was thinking Pasadena before losing to Michigan, Illinois, and Ohio State, the Big Ten’s top three programs, and finishing in a fifth place tie with Iowa.  While the defense carried its weight most Saturdays, the offense was unreliable, getting a mediocre season from QB Anthony Morelli in his last hurrah in State College.      

Offensive Player of the Year: RB Rodney Kinlaw

Defensive Player of the Year: LB Dan Conner

Biggest Surprise: Kinlaw.  A career backup that had never rushed for more than 199 yards in a season, Kinlaw stepped up and bailed out the Penn State running game after Austin Scott was suspended from the team.  The fifth-year senior delivered 1,329 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground, including the first six 100-yard days of his career. 

Biggest Disappointment: The passing game.  With Morelli back for a final year, and Derrick Williams, Jordan Norwood, Deon Butler, and Andrew Quarless running patterns, the Lions had the ingredients for their best vertical game in years.  Instead, the offense got a little too conservative, and Morelli managed just seven touchdown passes and seven picks in eight league games.

Looking Ahead: The Lions are touting their new Spread HD offense, but will it really be revolutionary, or just another stale offense with a fancy nickname?  Beginning in the spring, senior Daryll Clark and sophomore Pat Devlin will battle for a chance to run the offense in 2008.  Even without LB Dan Connor, the formidable defense has a potential All-American at each level, DE Maurice Evans, LB Sean Lee, and CB Justin King.

2007 Recap: The Boilermakers were a product of their competition in 2007, winning the games they were supposed to, and losing to the better opponents on the schedule.  As has been the case for the past few seasons, Purdue went only as far as its quarterback, Curtis Painter, would take them, often struggling when the defense allowed too many long drives and too much real estate on the ground.  The Boilers’ only two wins against bowl qualifiers were versus Central Michigan, once in West Lafayette and once in a Motor City Bowl shootout.

Offensive Player of the Year: WR Dorien Bryant

Defensive Player of the Year: DE Cliff Avril

Biggest Surprise: Purdue was supposed to beat Iowa on Oct. 20, but not by 25 points.  The Boilermaker defense delivered its best game of the season, limiting the Hawkeyes to 254 yards and a pair of Daniel Murray field goals, the fewest points scored by Iowa in this series since 1976.

Biggest Disappointment: The Boilermakers went 0-for-November, losing to Penn State, Michigan State, and Indiana in successive weeks to settle for the Big Ten’s least desirable bowl slot.  Losing the Old Oaken Bucket to the Hoosiers on a last-minute field goal was easily Purdue’s most painful loss of the 2007 campaign.

Looking Ahead: Pulling a Wisconsin, Purdue has already decided on Joe Tiller’s successor in 2009, former Eastern Kentucky head coach Danny Hope.  It’ll give the players and coaches a full year to get acclimated to the new sheriff in town.  With Painter back for one more season, the Boilermakers will once again be an offensive-driven team that needs more support from Brock Spack’s defense.      

2007 Recap: The next-best-thing to Michigan in the Big Ten before the season began, Wisconsin never quite fulfilled expectations in 2007.  The Badgers finished in fourth place in the league, going a perfect 7-0 at Camp Randall, but managing just two wins in six tries outside Madison, including a 21-17 loss to Tennessee in the Outback Bowl.  Although injuries to receivers Luke Swan and Paul Hubbard hurt the offense’s development, an overrated defense had no excuses for allowing more than 30 points six times, and creating a mere 19 turnovers in 13 games.  

Offensive Player of the Year: TE Travis Beckum

Defensive Player of the Year: DE Matt Shaughnessy

Biggest Surprise: RB Zach Brown.  Thrust into action as a true freshman after P.J. Hill suffered an injury, Brown gave the Badgers an instant jolt of depth in the backfield.  Rather than redshirting, as hoped, he rushed for 568 yards and five touchdowns, playing an integral part in the team’s wins over Michigan and Minnesota.

Biggest Disappointment:
The defense.  Loaded with returning starters, the Badgers were a shell of the team that was so dominant on defense in 2006.  Wisconsin allowed twice as many points as a year ago, had problems getting to the quarterback, and didn’t create enough takeaways.  On Sept. 15, Wisconsin gave up 31 points and 377 yards to The Citadel, an early warning sign for the unit.  

Looking Ahead: Although forecasters will surely be a little more cautious with the Badgers this season, there are enough regulars returning for them to make a serious push for a Big Ten championship.  First, however, Bret Bielema must decide if senior Allan Evridge is his starting quarterback, or if one of the more untested signal-callers is prepared to win the job.


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