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2008 Big Ten Lookbacks/Recaps
Penn State QB Daryll Clark
Penn State QB Daryll Clark
Posted Feb 17, 2009

Taking a look back at the 2008 Big Ten season for every team.

2008 Big Ten Lookbacks/Recaps

2009 Pages
Illinois | Indiana | Iowa | Michigan | Michigan State | Minnesota
Northwestern | Ohio State | Penn State | Purdue | Wisconsin

2008 Pages
Illinois | Indiana | Iowa | Michigan | Michigan State | Minnesota
Northwestern | Ohio State | Penn State | Purdue | Wisconsin
- 2008 CFN All-Big Ten Team | 2008 CFN Preseason All-Big Ten Team
- 2007 Big Ten Lookback/Recaps | 2008 Big Ten Lookaheads

 - 2009 Big Ten Lookaheads

Illinois Fighting Illini

CFN Preseason Prediction: 6-6   Final Record: 5-7

: The Illini came into the season with high expectations, and they failed to live up to them. While the opening day shootout loss to Missouri was forgivable, struggles against Eastern Illinois and UL Lafayette gave a glimpse of the future. Consistency was a problem and there weren’t any runs of victories, unable to win two games in a row after September 13th. Able to beat a good Iowa team, the Illini came back the next week with a clunker of a loss to Western Michigan. That sparked a finishing kick of three straight losses, closing out with a 27-10 loss to Northwestern, to miss out on a .500 record. The offense was second in the Big Ten, and the passing game first, but the team failed to catch a break, or create many of its own.

Offensive Player of the Year: QB Juice Williams
Defensive Player of the Year: LB Brit Miller

Biggest Surprise: The running game continued to work. There was talk of changing up the offense with the early departure of Rashard Mendenhall to the NFL, and there turned out to be more of an emphasis on the passing game, but it’s not like the ground attack went into the tank. Daniel Dufrene, who didn’t appear to be much of a No. 1 back in the off-season, was more than fine, and Juice Williams had another good year running for 719 yards and five scores.

Biggest Disappointment
: The inability to come up with wins when desperately needed. Whenever the slightest bit of adversity hit, the team folded. Minnesota was able to come up with a win helped by a key Juice Williams fumble on the goal line. Western Michigan started out well, and Illinois wasn’t able to bounce back late. The team that had been such a surprise two years ago in the Rose Bowl run was as unable to put it all together when the spotlight was on.

Looking Ahead: The program is in a bit of a crossroads. Was 2007 a total fluke, or was 208 the proper measure? Ron Zook has his good recruiting classes to fall back on, this will be among the most athletic and talented Illinois teams in a long time. If the defense can fill in some key pieces, this will be a team just on the outside of the Big Ten contenders.

Indiana Hoosiers

CFN Preseason Prediction: 5-7   Final Record: 3-9

: The Hoosiers failed to build on their seemingly breakthrough 2007 season by coming up with a total clunker. There was a stunning 21-19 win over Northwestern in late October, but that was it as far as the fun. The other two wins were over Western Kentucky, a transitional team to the FBS ranks, and Murray State to start the season. The team lost nine of its last ten games and wasn’t even close against everyone but Northwestern and Central Michigan in the run. The 37-34 loss to the Chippewas at home was the beginning of an ugly closing stretch losing to Wisconsin, Penn State, and Purdue by a combined score of 151 to 37.

Offensive Player of the Year: RB Marcus Thigpen
Defensive Player of the Year: DE Jammie Kirlew

Biggest Surprise: The fall off the map. The 2007 team rallied after the tragic death of head coach Terry Hoeppner to come up with its bowl season, but the 2008 team was never right from the start. The off-the-field issues with star QB Kellen Lewis didn’t help, but the offense wasn’t always the issue. The defense struggled throughout, there weren’t any clutch plays, and IU became the worst team in the Big Ten by far.

Biggest Disappointment
: Lewis. Even when he was able to return to the team he wasn’t quite right. Injuries were a problem, but the biggest problem was the loss of WR James Hardy to the NFL. Lewis didn’t show much of his playmaking ability of the past, struggling to come up with the big runs he tore off so often in 2007, with most of his rushing production coming early on against Western Kentucky and Ball State.

Looking Ahead: Head coach Bill Lynch gets back Lewis and almost everyone else of note on offense, while the defense that was so great at getting into the backfield returns one of the nation’s best pass rushing tandems in ends Jammie Kirlew and Greg Middleton. The team might not be more talented, but it’ll be more experienced.

Iowa Hawkeyes

CFN Preseason Prediction: 7-5    Final Record: 9-4

: The Hawkeyes came up with a nice bounceback season with the running of Shonn Greene leading the offense, and a good run defense leading the other side, on the way to a dominant Outback Bowl win over South Carolina. As great of the season was, it could’ve been a lot better with the four losses all coming by five points or fewer, 12 points total, with an early three-game losing streak to Pitt, Northwestern, and Michigan State not heartbreaking enough to kill the season. Iowa finished up winning six of its last seven games highlighted by a last-second win over Penn State to ruin the Nittany Lions’ national title dream.

Offensive Player of the Year: RB Shonn Greene
Defensive Player of the Year: DT Mitch King

Biggest Surprise: Shonn Greene. He was fine in his first stint with the Hawkeyes, getting a little bit of work in 2005 and 2006 before having to go the JUCO route to get his grades up. There was no inkling whatsoever this off-season that Greene was going to be the sure-thing starter, much less the Doak Walker winner. All he did was tear off 1,850 yards and 20 touchdowns, running for 100 yards or more in every game and scoring in every game but the 16-13 loss to Michigan State.

Biggest Disappointment
: The 0-2 Big Ten start. No one gave much thought to the Hawkeyes in early October; it was just another mediocre Iowa season. But the run of six wins in the final seven games made the year strong. What would’ve happened if the Hawkeyes had been able to pull out the win in the five-point loss to Northwestern and the three-point loss to Michigan State? Had they won those two games, they would’ve ended up in the Rose Bowl, even with the loss to Illinois.

Looking Ahead: Greene is gone, head coach Kirk Ferentz is still around, and the Hawkeyes will be the wild-card in the Big Ten title chase. While there’s a ton of experience returning, the three best players, defensive tackles Mitch King and Matt Kroul, to go along with Greene, have to be replaced. The schedule is tougher, especially in Big Ten play, but anything less than a good bowl game will be a disappointment.

Michigan Wolverines

CFN Preseason Prediction: 7-5   Final Record: 3-9

: Well, that didn’t work. The first year of the Rich Rodriguez was a complete and utter disaster with an all-timer of a bad record, going 3-9, with an offense that was dead last in the Big Ten in yards, passing, and scoring. The defense wasn’t a prize, either. It took one of the greatest comebacks in team history, helped by a miraculous Badger collapse, to beat Wisconsin, but that didn’t seem to spark any sort of a run as the Wolverines lost five games in a row including a low-point clunker at home against an abysmal Toledo team, losing 13-10. There was a sign of life, ripping apart a stunningly dead Minnesota 29-6, but the season ended with a home loss to Northwestern and a 42-7 blasting from Ohio State.

Offensive Player of the Year: RB Brandon Minor
Defensive Player of the Year: DE Brandon Graham

Biggest Surprise: The defense … it didn’t work. It was universally acknowledged that the offense was going to struggle early on, Rodriguez was going to have to fit square pegs in round holes, but the conventional wisdom was that the defense was talented enough to pick up the slack here and there. Against BCS league teams, only Minnesota was held under 21 points.

Biggest Disappointment
: Not signing Terrelle Pryor. Rodriguez did everything possible to get the nation’s No. 1 recruit of 2008, didn’t get him, lost him to Ohio State, and didn’t have any answers at quarterback. Nick Sheridan tried hard, but he rarely looked like an FBS quarterback, while Steven Threet wasn’t remotely close to fitting the system. Michigan wouldn’t exactly have gone to the Rose Bowl with Pryor under center, but he might have been the difference in three games.

Looking Ahead: It’s still going to take time; at least another year. Rodriguez has to start showing some signs of life early on in 2009, but he still doesn’t have a Pat White or a Steve Slaton waiting in the wings. He did a great job of recruiting this year, and for good and bad, everyone is back on offense, so there are good signs going forward. However, Michigan is just trying to tread water while Ohio State is loaded yet again. The honeymoon, what little there was, is long over.

Michigan State Spartans

CFN Preseason Prediction: 7-5   Final Record: 9-4

: The offense was mediocre, the defense average, and the special teams were no big deal. All MSU did was pull off win after win against lousy teams, while being unable to beat the good ones (with Iowa the notable exception). The four losses came to Cal, Ohio State, Penn State and Georgia, with the Spartans being sent to their rooms without supper against the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions, losing to those two by a combined score of 94 to 23. But for all the issues against the strong teams, to be in the hunt for the Rose Bowl up until the regular season finale, and with a New Year’s Day bowl invite to the Capital One Bowl, which led to a loss to Georgia, was a great stepping-stone for Mark Dantonio’s program.

Offensive Player of the Year: RB Javon Ringer
Defensive Player of the Year: SS Otis Wiley

Biggest Surprise: Javon Ringer held up all year long and was a big-time producer around the goal line. Always a home-run hitter, there was a question as to whether or not Ringer would be able to handle a full-time workload after the loss of thunderback Jehuu Caulcrick to graduation. Ringer wasn’t just a workhorse, he carried the ball a ridiculous 390 times, with 28 catches, and finished with 1,637 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns

Biggest Disappointment
: QB Brian Hoyer. While he was never expected to be a superstar, Hoyer had the look of a very good, very solid Big Ten passer after a nice 2,725-yard, 20 touchdown 2007. He struggled with his accuracy and he only threw nine touchdown passes with three coming in one game and none in the final four games. In the four losses, he threw one touchdown pass and five interceptions. To be fair, the receiving corps didn’t exactly have a Charles Rogers, but with all the help from Ringer and the running game to carry the load, it would’ve been nice if Hoyer had done more.

Looking Ahead: Ringer is gone, as is Hoyer, but decent recruiting classes, and the transfer of QB Keith Nichol from Oklahoma to MSU, where he originally committed to, should keep the success going. The schedule is relatively light, the defense gets back eight starters, the young receiving corps of last year should be better, and the kicking game returns intact. There’s reason to be fired up.

Minnesota Golden Gophers

CFN Preseason Prediction: 6-6   Final Record: 7-6

: It was the ultimate tale of two seasons. After a disastrous 2007 Minnesota was the early talk of the Big Ten with a stunning 6-1 start thanks to a defense that forced mistake after mistake, and an offense that never, ever screwed up. And then came the Northwestern game. The Gophers lost to the Wildcats on a heartbreaking last second interception return for a touchdown, and that sparked an ugly finishing kick with a five-game losing streak. There was a 29-6 home loss to a woeful Michigan team, a lifeless 55-0 loss to Iowa, also at home, and a loss to Kansas in the Insight Bowl to close out the year.

Offensive Player of the Year: WR Eric Decker
Defensive Player of the Year: DE Willie VanDeSteeg

Biggest Surprise: The 6-1 start. It’s easy to forget now with the way the season ended, but remember, Minnesota was really, really bad in 2007 with one of the nation’s worst defenses. Not only did the Gophers improve, but they became ultra-aggressive and effective defensively with takeaways, sacks, and plays behind the line making up for the yards allowed. Unfortunately, defensive coordinator Ted Roof took off to head up the Auburn defense.

Biggest Disappointment
: Brendan Smith. Minnesota came into the home game against Northwestern 6-1 and the nation’s leader in turnover margin. With the game tied at 17, and apparently headed for overtime, Minnesota chose to push the ball down the field in an aggressive attempt to get into field goal range. Instead, QB Adam Weeber’s pass was tipped into the hands of Smith, who weaved his way down the field 48 yards for the game-winning touchdown with 12 seconds to play. The Gophers lost their final five games.

Looking Ahead: Minnesota will have a new, on-campus, outdoor stadium, and head coach Tim Brewster’s early recruiting classes will be matured and ready to produce. The defense loses all-star DE Willie VanDeSteeg, but gets just about everyone else back. The offense gets back QB Adam Weber, WR Eric Decker, and everyone but tight end Jack Simmons. The experience will be there, but the team needs to prove that the second half of last year was just an aberration.

Northwestern Wildcats

CFN Preseason Prediction: 6-6   Final Record: 9-4

: Northwestern wasn’t just an upstart team that managed to come up with a big season, it was a good team that was legitimately a player in the Big Ten race. The schedule wasn’t a killer early on, beating teams like Duke, Southern Illinois, and Ohio, but a road win over Iowa legitimized a 5-0 start before a home loss to Michigan State. And then the injuries hit with RB Tyrell Sutton getting knocked out and QB C.J. Bacher also getting banged up. A rough loss to a miserable Indiana team appeared to burst the bubble, but the Wildcats came up with a stunning win at Minnesota, who was 6-1 at the time, with a Brendan Smith interception return for a touchdown in the final seconds pulling off a win. Wins over Michigan and Illinois to close out the regular season meant a trip to the Alamo Bowl, where the Cats lost to Missouri in overtime.

Offensive Player of the Year: QB C.J. Bacher
Defensive Player of the Year: DE Corey Wootton

Biggest Surprise: The pass rush. DE Corey Wootton lived up to his immense potential with an All-Big Ten season, while the rest of the defensive front did a great job of getting into the backfield on a regular basis. The secondary wasn’t always tight, but the help from the front four was enough to provide just enough help to get by.

Biggest Disappointment
: Not getting a New Year’s Day bowl bid. After the fact, the bowls made the right decision as Iowa throttled South Carolina in the January 1st Outback Bowl, and Northwestern lost the Alamo Bowl, but the Wildcat program wanted the status of playing on New Year’s Day. Technically, it had a beef as it had a better record than Iowa and won the head-to-head matchup in Iowa City. Not having a healthy Tyrell Sutton for a full season was also a major disappointment.

Looking Ahead: Head coach Pat Fitzgerald has the team pointed in the right direction. He has good recruits ready to fill in the gaps, a veteran in Mike Kafka to take over at quarterback for C.J. Bacher, and an offensive line should be tremendous with four starters returning. Now there are expectations at Northwestern, set high by Fitzgerald. This team should be good enough to come close to fulfilling them.

Ohio State Buckeyes

CFN Preseason Prediction: 12-0   Final Record: 10-3

: There were ten wins over the teams the Buckeyes were supposed to beat, and three losses against the elite teams. In the biggest tests, OSU failed miserably in the first one, losing to USC 35-3, with star RB Beanie Wells on the sideline with an injured toe. The season turned when Wells got healthy and super-recruit Terrelle Pryor taking over the starting quarterback job full-time. With a thrilling late drive to beat Wisconsin, Pryor grew into the role and helped lead the way on a run of eight wins in the final nine games of the regular season. The Buckeyes lost a hard-hitting heartbreaker to Penn State to miss out on the Rose Bowl, but they made up for it with easy wins over Northwestern, Illinois, and Michigan. Even with the two losses, OSU got into the Fiesta Bowl against Texas. After playing well enough to win, the defense couldn’t hold as Colt McCoy and the Longhorns went on a classing final drive to win 24-21.

Offensive Player of the Year: QB Terrelle Pryor
Defensive Player of the Year: LB James Laurinaitis

Biggest Surprise: That Pryor was so good so fast. Starting quarterback Todd Boeckman struggled against USC, showing his limitations as the offense struggled early on. With Pryor and Wells in the backfield, the offense went from balanced to one dimensional with the running game taking over. Pryor wasn’t allowed to do anything crazy with the passing game, and he didn’t make many mistakes finishing with 1,311 yards and 12 touchdowns with four interceptions. He also ran for 631 yards and six scores.

Biggest Disappointment
: The Fiesta Bowl. Chalk up the USC loss to a bad day against an amped up elite team. The Penn State loss was frustrating because it could’ve gone either way, and it took a late drive from a backup quarterback to pull out the Nittany Lion win. But the biggest disappointment was the Fiesta Bowl, with no one thought the Buckeyes had a chance against a Texas team that many considered worthy of playing in the national title game. This was a chance to send a tremendous senior class out with a big win, but the defense couldn’t hold in the final 1:42 as Quan Cosby scored on a 26-yard touchdown catch with :16 to play.

Looking Ahead: It’s Ohio State. The factory will keep on cranking out talents. With yet another superior recruiting class, arguably the best in the country, this will be the league’s premier program for at least the next few years. However, there might be a year of transition after losing so many superstars. With Pryor under center and a slew of great athletes on both sides of the ball, the Rose Bowl is still an achievable goal. The BCS Championship is likely well out of reach with games against USC and at Penn State to deal with.

Penn State Nittany Lions

CFN Preseason Prediction: 8-4   Final Record: 11-2

: While it was a tremendously successful season by any measure, with a Big Ten title and a spot in the Rose Bowl, it’ll likely be remembered partly for what might have been. After a lousy first half, the Nittany Lions couldn’t come back in a 38-24 Rose Bowl loss to USC, and were one defensive stop away in a loss to Iowa from going to Miami and the BCS Championship. Even so, the rest of the season was fantastic with a blowout win over an Oregon State team that beat USC, nine other wins by two touchdowns or more. The defense finished first in the league in most major categories, and the offense followed suit by finishing first in both yards and scoring.

Offensive Player of the Year: QB Daryll Clark
Defensive Player of the Year: DE Aaron Maybin

Biggest Surprise: The defense. It shouldn’t be a shocker that Penn State can simply show up and reload with a phenomenal defense year after year after year, but it wouldn’t have been a shocker if the D had taken a step back. There were several off the field issues, led by the problems of 2007 pass rushing terror, Maurice Evans, and All-America LB Sean Lee was knocked out before the season began with a devastating knee injury. But the defense ended up finishing eighth in the country, and first in the Big Ten, allowing just 280 yards per game and just 14.38 points per outing. The D had allowed just six touchdown passes before the Rose Bowl, and only gave up more than 150 yards rushing in two games.

Biggest Disappointment
: After getting out to a 9-0 start, highlighted by a defensive slugfest in a 13-6 win over Ohio State, Penn State got two weeks off before going to Iowa. A late interception thrown by Daryll Clark led to a 57-yard Iowa drive in 3:46 with Daniel Murray hitting a 31-yard field goal for the 24-23 win. Had the Nittany Lion defense, one of the best in the nation, been able to hold, Penn State would’ve gone on to play for the national title.

Looking Ahead: It might take some time, but Joe Paterno’s program will be strong again. With Ohio State needing to reload, Penn State will likely be the early favorite to win another Big Ten title. Of course, the Nittany Lions need to do some rebuilding themselves, but with Daryll Clark getting a sixth year of eligibility, and with Sean Lee coming back from his knee injury, both sides of the ball have good leaders to build around.

Purdue Boilermakers

CFN Preseason Prediction: 6-6   Final Record: 4-8

: The final season of the Joe Tiller era was a major disappointment, but it could’ve been a whole bunch worse. Out of the four wins, one came on a last minute big play from Kory Sheets against Central Michigan and one game on a last minute touchdown pass to beat Michigan. On the flip side, missed kicks ended up costing the Boilermakers a double overtime loss to Oregon. A mid-season five-game losing streak all but ended any hope of Tiller going out with a bowl appearance, but a 62-10 thrashing of rival Indiana wasn’t a bad way to end the season.

Offensive Player of the Year: RB Kory Sheets
Defensive Player of the Year: LB Anthony Heygood

Biggest Surprise: The defense. For years, Purdue had a tremendous offense that didn’t get any help from the defense. This year, the D wasn’t all that bad finishing first in the Big Ten against the pass while allowing a not-that-awful 25 points per game. The run defense was the worst in the Big Ten, but for the most part, the defense did a decent job considering it didn’t get any help from …

Biggest Disappointment
: The offense. Curtis Painter came into the season as one of the top NFL quarterback prospects among the seniors, but he had to work with a new receiving corps and the attack never clicked after the first month. Purdue was held to a total of 15 points in three October games against Penn State, Ohio State and Minnesota, to go along with the 26 points scored in a blowout loss to Northwestern. The offense scored 21 points or fewer in six games.

Looking Ahead: New head coach Danny Hope has been preparing for the transition for the last few seasons, but he’ll have a tough time kicking off the new era. Painter is gone, but Justin Siller and Joey Elliott are veteran quarterbacks ready to fill in, but the rest of the starters on offense should be an issue. The defense gets everyone back in the back seven other than LB Anthony Heygood.

Wisconsin Badgers

CFN Preseason Prediction: 10-2   Final Record: 7-6

: Expected to turn the corner as a program and get to a BCS game again for the first time since the 2000 Rose Bowl, the Badgers found every way possible to lose. There was the epic collapse against a horrible Michigan team, there was the late drive allowed to Terrelle Pryor and Ohio State, there was the failure to show up against Penn State, and there was the failure to come up with a stop against Michigan State, leading to a late field goal. And then there was the Champs Sports Bowl. After an awful season with only one decent win, at home against Illinois, Wisconsin was able to sneak into a bowl game after getting by Cal Poly thanks to missed extra points. The Badgers got blasted by Florida State 42-13, and everything ended with a big, fat thud.

Offensive Player of the Year: RB P.J. Hill
Defensive Player of the Year: CB Allen Langford

Biggest Surprise: The loss to Michigan. The Badgers survived a war against Fresno State, when Fresno State was expected to be strong, and they appeared to have things well in hand against Michigan with five takeaways in the first half leading to a 19-0 lead. But Michigan got hot, took a late lead, and held on as the Badgers appeared to force overtime with a touchdown and a two-point conversion, only to have the two called back by an ineligible receiver penalty. It was the type of stunning collapse that teams don’t recover from. Wisconsin didn’t.

Biggest Disappointment
: Allan Evridge. It’s not fair, and it’s not right, to blame Wisconsin’s woes on Evridge, but for a quarterback who was supposedly neck-and-neck for the starting job in 2007, and was a veteran in the system, he struggled. He held on to the ball too long, took too many big shots, and was the starter in the losses to Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State, finishing with five touchdown passes with five interceptions. He was replaced by Dustin Sherer in mid-October and saw his disappointing career finish on the bench.

Looking Ahead: Head coach Bret Bielema caused a stir by shaking up his coaching staff before last season, and it didn’t work out. After having a slew of problems throughout 2008, he needs a bounceback 2009 to get back his status as one of college football’s top young head coaches. Recruiting has been an issue, but his classes will get time to work with a veteran offense returning and a decent defensive back seven to build around.