Spring Preview 2010 - Big Ten (NW through UW)
Wisconsin RB John Clay
Wisconsin RB John Clay
Posted Mar 23, 2010

As spring ball is rolling, here are the big questions, the most important positions and more for each Big 10 team ... Part 2.

Spring Preview 2010

Big Ten Spring Preview - Part 2

2010 Spring Preview
- 2010 Big Ten Spring Preview ... Part 1 (Illinois through Minnesota)  
- 2010 Big Ten Player You Must Know - Iowa S Tyler Sash 
- 2010 Spring Question ... Just how hot is the Big Ten for expansion? 
- 2010 Big Ten Offseason Lookback & Lookahead 
- 2010 Big Ten Schedule Breakdown
- 2010 Big Ten Composite Schedule  
- 2010 Big Ten Pre-Preseason Rankings 
- 2010 Big Ten Recruiting Rankings 
By Pete Fiutak

Part Two - Northwestern through Wisconsin

Spring Practice Begins: March 29 Game: April 24

The early spring buzz: The plan is to keep everything going forward. Pat Fitzgerald is as fully committed as any coach in college football; this is a guy who would be telling the truth if hooked up to a lie detector if asked if Northwestern should be able to contend for the Big Ten title on a yearly basis. The program keeps on surprising and keeps on succeeding despite the recruiting restrictions, and this has the potential to be the best team yet under Fitzgerald if things break the right way.
The big spring question is … can Dan Persa be Mike Kafka? Last year at this time, the big question was whether or not Kafka, known mostly for his running ability, could become a decent passer. 3,735 passing yards and a 532-yard day against Auburn later, and all was fine for an offense that had little running game to work on. Persa is an even better runner, and unlike Kafka, will probably be used more as a multi-dimensional playmaker. He also has a live arm and the upside to keep the passing production going.
The most important position to watch is … running back. The Wildcats averaged a paltry 118 yards per game led by Arby Fields and his 302 yards and five scores. The No. 2 running back, Scott Concannon, only ran for 241 yards and two scores. The offensive line is loaded with all five starters returning, and it's a big line with excellent potential, but the backs are mediocre and the chance is there for someone to step up and become a major factor.
Spring attitude: Fitzgerald might be right. There are a few huge holes to fill (most notably at cornerback and quarterback) and the depth is in question, but this is a good enough team to assume a bowl bid and the schedule is light enough to expect far more. There's no Ohio State to deal with, and while two of the road games are at Penn State and Wisconsin, the third toughest road date is at Minnesota. If you're looking for the deep sleeper to end up in Pasadena, Northwestern might really be it.

Ohio State
Spring Practice Begins: April 1   Game: April 24

The early spring buzz: Terrelle Pryor, Terrelle Pryor and Terrelle Pryor. 13/2. Those are the early odds for Ohio State to win the national title and it has nothing to do with anything other than the brand name and the burgeoning superstar under center. Pryor's performance in the Rose Bowl has set the tone for the 2010 season, and while the respect is there for the Buckeyes to be on the short list of national title contenders, few can name another player other than No. 2. Pryor is the signature star on another great Ohio State team, and he could become the signature star of the season if he finally plays up to his immense potential for a full season. That starts by continuing to improve his passing ability this offseason.
The big spring question is … can the passing attack get better? The Ohio State bread has been buttered with the ground game, especially when Pryor is turned loose, but to take another big positive step forward the air attack has to provide more help after finishing last in the Big Ten and 103rd in the nation averaging 174 yards per game. The receivers are there with DeVier Posey and Dane Sanzenbacher leading the way, and the veteran line should give Pryor time. Now the numbers need to improve.
The most important position to watch is … safety. Kurt Coleman wasn't always consistent, but when he was producing he was a big-time playmaker and game-changer (most notably in last year's Wisconsin win), and Anderson Russell was a solid free safety. It's Ohio State, so more talent is waiting in the wings, but Jermale Hines has to show he's up to the task in place of Russell while Orhian Johnson leads a promising group to fight for the strong safety gig.
Spring attitude: National title or bust. There isn't a sure-thing killer out there this year in the BCS title race, even Alabama has mega-holes to fill, and there's no reason the Buckeyes can't have yet another great year and slip into Glendale. OSU is the most talented team in the Big Ten by far, but the schedule has two major speed bumps having to go to Wisconsin and Iowa. However, Miami is the only non-conference game of note, there's no Michigan State to deal with, and Penn State comes to Columbus.

Penn State
Spring Practice Begins: March 26   Game: April 24

The early spring buzz: Interestingly enough, the normal buzz about the Joe Paterno succession plan isn't there, and the drama of some off-the-field issues, like there was a few years ago, isn't around anymore. Call it a no news is good news situation for Penn State as it is business as usual for a program that should be shooting for a second Rose Bowl in three years. There are concerns in several spots, but nothing too much for Penn State to deal with.
The big spring question is … Is Kevin Newsome ready to take over at quarterback? Paterno famously isn't a fan of playing young players at quarterback, but he's going to need to rely on a true sophomore under center now that long-time starter Daryll Clark is gone. Matt McGloin will get every chance to win the gig, and true freshman Paul Jones will get a look, but Newsome has the most practice experience and is the most likely option. It's not a stretch to call this the most important question mark in the Big Ten, and possibly college football, considering the rest of the team is so strong.
The most important position to watch is … Offensive line. Lost in yet another impressive season was the poor play of an offensive front that didn't open up enough holes for a loaded group of running backs, and the pass protection wasn't up to snuff against the teams with a pass rush. Against the better lines, the Nittany Lions were shockingly manhandled. On the plus side, this is a veteran group with three returning starters and decent options ready to fight it out at tackle. Stefan Wisniewski should make space for the Rimington Award now, but with a new quarterback and so many concerns about the offense, the line has to grow from a problem to a plus.
Spring attitude: Beat Alabama. It's not in JoePa's nature to think more than one game in advance (ask him about the September 11th game against the Tide and he'll talk more about dealing with Akron first), but the trip to Bama is the biggest non-conference game of the year and a chance to set the tone for the national championship. There are still dates at Iowa and Ohio State to deal with, but if the team can be focused enough and tight enough to pull off the monster road upset, it'll be Penn State's national title trip to lose.

Spring Practice Begins: March 24   Game: April 17

The early spring buzz: Robert Marve. Purdue has always had interesting and talented quarterbacks including Drew Brees, Bob Griese, Jim Everett and Mark Herrmann, and Marve was supposed to be a talent at that level. Actually, he was supposed to be a talent like Vinny Testaverde, Jim Kelly, and Steve Walsh as a star recruit for Miami, but he struggled, lost out to Jacory Harris, and transferred. The raw talent is undeniable, but he hasn't shown much yet on the field in his career and he's still getting over a knee injury. But the hope is that he can arrive on the scene and be the answer to the offense that needs a top triggerman to make the strong receiving corps shine.
The big spring question is … will Year Two of the Danny Hope era bring a little more luck in the tight games? Purdue was able to win a two-point thriller over Michigan, but it lost winnable games to Oregon, Notre Dame, Northwestern, and Michigan State by a touchdown or less. While there weren't many coaching mistakes to cost the Boilermakers, veteran teams and coaching staffs tend to find ways to be on the right side of the close ones.
The most important position to watch is … cornerback. The entire secondary, a major strength last year, has to be completely replaced, and while safeties Torri Williams and Dwight McLean will be missed, losing corners Brandon King and David Pender is a bigger problem. Charlton Williams is the most talented of the bunch, but Josh Johnson is promising and could potentially be a speedy playmaker with a big of time.
Spring attitude: With a little more luck and one more break, the Boilermakers would've been bowling last year. This team should be good enough to have a little more luck and one more break. The offense could be unstoppable at times led by RB Ralph Bolden and WR Keith Smith, while the line should be decent even with the loss of three starters. The defense will be terrific up front with six starters back on the front seven, so it's almost a lock that the run defense should be a bit better. Missing Iowa and Penn State means there's no excuse to not finish with at least seven wins; the schedule isn't that bad.

Spring Practice Begins: March 13   Game: April 17

The early spring buzz: There's already a little bit of a problem with backup quarterback Curt Phillips, a big-time talent and a more mobile option than starter Scott Tolzien, suffering a knee injury, but the program is buzzing about the possibilities coming off a strong year and a bowl win over Miami. There are concerns and replacements needing to be made, but this is the most talented top-to-bottom team head coach Bret Bielema has had to work with and the attitude and expectations are far different this season than they were last year after coming off an extremely disappointing 2008.
The big spring question is … Can the team deal with expectations? After two good seasons in 2006 and 2007, the bar was set sky-high with a strong 2008 team returning. But a mid-season meltdown and an embarrassing Champs Sports Bowl blowout at the hands of Florida State had many questioning whether Bielema could coach and whether or not the program was slipping. And then came last year, when the Badgers failed to beat anyone with a pulse, while losing to the three best teams on the schedule, Ohio State, Iowa, and Northwestern, until the Miami win. Now the goal will be the Rose Bowl with such a strong team returning, but can the Badgers produce with the spotlight on?
The most important position to watch is … Defensive tackle. The Badgers will be fine on the outside despite the loss of all-star O'Brien Schofield, but the biggest key will be at tackle after losing underappreciated stalwarts Dan Moore and Jeff Stehle. The team is loaded everywhere else, but the machine could break down if there are problems on the defensive interior.
Spring attitude: It's time to get back to Pasadena. It's been a decade since Ron Dayne was rumbling through the Rose Bowl two years in a row, and this year's team has the make-up and the talent to get back with everyone back on offense and six starters returning on defense. The Ohio State game is at home, the non-conference schedule is a joke, and there's no Penn State to deal with.

- 2010 Big Ten Spring Preview ... Part 1 (Illinois through Minnesota)