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2010 Big Ten Preview - Team By Team Looks
Michigan State QB Kirk Cousins
Michigan State QB Kirk Cousins
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 4, 2010


Preview 2010 - CFN Big Ten Team By Team Quick Looks and Predicted Finish


Preview 2010

Big Ten Team By Team


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

- 2010 Big Ten Preview | 2010 Big Ten Unit Rankings | 2010 Schedules & Picks
- 2010 CFN All-Big Ten Team & Top 30 Players | Get Big Ten Tickets
- 2010 Big Ten Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish

Note: Predictions based on team talent and schedules.

Big Ten Predicted Finish

1. Ohio State
Predicted Overall Record: 11-1
Predicted Conference Record: 7-1

Offense: With nine starters returning from an offense that appeared to be hitting its stride at the right time over the second half of last year, the sky’s the limit. The attack, as always, was conservative with a premium put on keep the chains moving and not screwing up, and while there were too many interceptions (11), everything ended up working out fine. The key wasn’t the emergence of star QB Terrelle Pryor as more of a leader and a playmaker; it was the maturation of the line. While the pass protection was spotty, the line started to do more and more for the ground game, and the team responded. With all the returning talent, a ton of promising depth, and the expected emergence of Pryor as a consistent star, the offense that finished 68th in the nation in yards and 49th in scoring should be far, far better.
Defense: Considering seven starters return from the nation’s fifth-ranked defense (and the best in the Big Ten), there are an awful lot of question marks. The pass rush was mediocre, and is likely to be again unless Nathan Williams and others emerge on the end to help out Cameron Heyward, the linebackers are small, and the secondary, while talented and athletic, lacks star power. Boo-hoo. The Buckeye defense might not have a slew of marquee names, it didn’t last year, either, and it managed to do just fine. Brian Rolle and Ross Homan, while undersized, should be the Big Ten’s best linebacking pair, Chimdi Chekwa and Devon Torrence are veteran corners, and Cameron Heyward and Dexter Larimore are NFL linemen who just so happen to be playing for the Buckeyes. There’s a slew of young talent waiting in the wings from great recruiting classes, there’s speed and athleticism across the board, and the coaching, as always, will be rock solid.

T2. Iowa
Predicted Overall Record: 9-3
Predicted Conference Record: 6-2

Offense: The offense wasn’t consistent, gave the ball away way too often, and sputtered and struggled finishing tenth in the Big Ten in both yards and points, was 99th in the nation in rushing yards, and 83rd in passing efficiency. Three all-star linemen are gone, tight end Tony Moeaki is off to the NFL, and the other parts are back from a group that didn’t do enough. So why is there so much excitement? Everyone should be better. QB Ricky Stanzi is a mid-level NFL prospect who has a habit of digging his team into massive holes only to save the day time and again, the running game should be stronger with the return of Jewel Hampton to go with promising sophomores Adam Robinson and Brandon Wegher, and the 1-2 receiving punch of Derrell Johnson-Koulianos and Marvin McNutt will be among the Big Ten’s most dangerous. The line might have to make a few big replacements, but the blocking wasn’t always stellar even with Bryan Bulaga, Kyle Calloway, and Rafael Eubanks paving the way.
Defense: The Norm Parker defense continues to work. The pass rush is fine, but nothing special, and the secondary doesn’t gamble and keeps the big plays to a bare minimum … and the results continue to be terrific. Everyone hits, everyone goes full-tilt all the time, and everyone goes for the takeaway and gets around the ball. While there are a few key losses in linebackers Pat Angerer and A.J. Edds, and corner Amari Spievey, everyone else is back from the nation’s tenth ranked defense including All-America playmakers Adrian Clayborn on the end and Tyler Sash at safety. The reserves are a bit green and there will be major problems if injuries strike, but if everything is working, this should once again be one of the nation’s top defenses.

T2. Penn State
Predicted Overall Record: 9-3
Predicted Conference Record: 6-2

Offense: Offensive line, offensive line, offensive line. The receiving corps that was such a concern last year turned out to be fine and will be a strength this season. Evan Royster will almost certainly end up as the school’s all-time leading rusher, and his backups, Stephfon Green and Curtis Dukes, can carry the ground game at times. The quarterback situation will end up being fine with sophomore Kevin Newsome a talented player who’ll have to work out the kinks early on, but will have help from his supporting cast. However, he needs time. The line will provide that (pass protection wasn’t a problem last year), but pounding away for the ground game was an issue. Injuries, inconsistencies, and a lack of continuity led to a disappointing year from the front five, and now there’s some reshuffling being done. If the line is good, the rest of the offense will be strong again.
Defense: Defensive coordinator Tom Bradley has some work to do with the linebacking corps, and the depth is lacking in the secondary, but it’ll once again be another year when Penn State finishes in the top ten in total defense (it was ninth last year) and it’ll once again be strong across the board. The linebackers won’t be anywhere near as good without Navorro Bowman, Sean Lee, and Josh Hull, and there could be a big problem if Michael Mauti isn’t back to form after suffering a torn ACL last August. Fortunately, the defensive line will take care of most of the work with one of the best rotations in years. Jack Crawford leads a tremendous group of pass rusher on the outside, while there’s a nice group of tackles with excellent size and upside working behind Ollie Ogbu and Devon Still. The starting foursome in the secondary will be among the most productive in the Big Ten, but there will be major problems, especially at safety, if injuries strike.

T2. Wisconsin
Predicted Overall Record: 10-2
Predicted Conference Record: 6-2

Offense: The offense dominated against the mediocre teams on the schedule and struggled against the great defenses (Ohio State, Iowa, and Miami), and now it might be phenomenal against everyone. Ten starters return to the Big Ten’s No. 1 offense (finishing first in both yards and points), and as long as everyone stays healthy, look out. Heisman candidate John Clay leads a loaded stable of running backs, the receiving corps is experienced and talented, and the offensive line gets all five starters back and has just enough depth to be fine if injury problems strike like last year. The key will be keeping QB Scott Tolzien upright. The Big Ten’s most efficient passer last year, he’s now the type of leader who can carry the team to a BCS bowl, but with top backup Curt Phillips out with a torn ACL, the season goes in the tank if green redshirt freshman Jon Budmayr has to step in.
Defense: The defense came up with a whale of a year, especially for three quarters of each game. There was a problem dropping the hammer late, allowing way too many teams way too many chances to come back, but the final numbers were terrific finishing 17th in the nation in total defense, fifth against the run (and first in the Big Ten), and tenth in the nation (and first in the Big Ten) in sacks. This year’s defense might have some big replacements to make on the line, but there’s good promise to quickly fill in the gaps with three new starters. The loss of pass rushing terror O’Brien Schofield will hurt, but J.J. Watt and Louis Nzegwu will get into the backfield from the outside. The linebacking corps could quietly be the best in the Big Ten, while the secondary has athleticism and experience; it just needs to be more consistent.

5. Michigan State
Predicted Overall Record: 9-3
Predicted Conference Record: 5-3

Offense: The Spartan offense would like to be balanced and gave almost equal time to both the running and passing games, but the air attack should be the star. Kirk Cousins has the starting quarterback job all to himself, and he should be in for a great year with a big, fast receiving corps to throw to and a solid line up front. Three starters have to be replaced on the line, but the newcomers are strong and the pass protection, after finishing first in the Big Ten in sacks allowed, will continue the production. Four young, talented backs will form a dangerous rotation with sophomores Larry Caper and Edwin Baker the main options, while former quarterback Keith Nichol has taken over the outside receiver spot and looks the part as the leader of a talented group.
Defense: The Spartan defense managed to do a great job of getting to the quarterback last year, but it didn’t make a ton of tackles for loss, didn’t take the ball away enough, and got ripped apart by anyone with a passing game finishing last in the Big Ten in pass defense and pass efficiency defense. The secondary is full of great athletes and lots of promise, but the corners have to be far stronger. The defensive front will be solid with all four spots generating pressure with promising depth creating a nice rotation, and everything missed will be cleaned up by Greg Jones and one of the Big Ten’s top linebacking corps. Jones will be on the short list for every all-star honor a defensive player can be up for and will be the leader and star of the strong run defense.

6. Northwestern
Predicted Overall Record: 7-5
Predicted Conference Record: 4-4

Offense: The offense finished first in the Big Ten in passing, but it did nothing on the ground and had a nightmare of a time manufacturing points. This year’s attack loses QB Mike Kafka and the top two receivers, but overall the pieces are a better fit for what offensive coordinator Mike McCall wants to do. The deep, veteran line should be much better, but the backs have to be more productive and they have to stay healthy. Dan Persa is a good-looking dual threat quarterback who won’t be Kafka throwing the ball, but he’ll be a playmaker on the ground. The receivers are promising and there’s speed and quickness among the backs, but consistency will be the key to an offense that sputtered far too often.
Defense: Mike Hankwitz’s defense wasn’t a rock, but it did just enough to get by and came up big in key spots. While there are some big personnel losses, including end Corey Wootton and top corner Sherrick McManis, there’s tremendous upside on a line that should form a great rotation and shouldn’t have a problem getting into the backfield, while the secondary has enough good prospects to not fall off the map. The linebacking corps could end up being among the best in the Big Ten if Nate Williams (shoulder) and Quentin Davie (foot) can stay healthy, and everyone will be asked to fly around and get into the backfield. Even with five starters gone, this is a tough, deep, athletic defense that should be hitting its stride in the Pat Fitzgerald era. This is the D the coach has wanted, and now it has to be stronger against the more efficient passing teams and tighter against the power running offenses.

T7. Illinois
Predicted Overall Record: 5-7
Predicted Conference Record: 3-5

Offense: There were some major disasters and mega-disappointments across the college football landscape last year, but few were more stunning than the lack of production from an Illinois offense that had all the pieces in place to blow up. While the ground game was fine, the passing attack that was supposed to be strength was shockingly mediocre. While things aren’t changing up too dramatically scheme-wise, new offensive coordinator Paul Petrino will have plenty of tinkering to do. The quarterback situation is starting from square one with redshirt freshman Nathan Scheelhaase needing to show right away that he can be the franchise for the next four years, and while he’s a dangerous dual-threat prospect, he’ll have to work behind a big, veteran line that’s great for the ground game and struggles in pass protection. Mikel Leshoure and Jason Ford are home run hitting backs who should make the ground game shine, and the receiving corps has some excellent talents even though there isn’t a true No. 1, Arrelious Benn-like star to work around.
Defense: There’s way too much experience and way too many good athletes to not be far, far better. After finishing dead last in the Big Ten in total defense, points allowed, sacks, and tackle for loss, the Illini D welcomes in Vic Koenning, a veteran coach who knows how to generate production. The hope is for Koenning’s hybrid position, the Bandit, can make the defense more aggressive and more disruptive with an end/linebacker able roam around depending on the opponent. The hope is for Martez Wilson to return 100% after suffering a neck injury, and the man in the middle of the linebacking corps has some nice players on the outside in Ian Thomas and Nate Bussey to help him out. Corey Liuget has to be a rock against the run on the defensive interior, while all-star Clay Nurse has to turn his game up a few notches on the end and be a down-in and down-out pass rusher. The secondary hasn’t done nearly enough over the last few years and needs to hope the experience can make all the difference.

T7. Michigan
Predicted Overall Record: 7-5
Predicted Conference Record: 3-5

Offense: The offense should work. Even though it fell off the map over the second half of last year, it wasn’t all that bad with a surprising passing game (considering the style of the attack) that averaged close to 200 yards per outing balanced out with a ground game that managed to average 186 inconsistent yards per game. Four starters are back on a good line that should be a plus despite the lack of star power. The receiving corps gets almost all the key parts back, but while players like Roy Roundtree have the potential to do big things, they have to make the most of their opportunities with the running game controlling things. Michael Shaw leads a speedy group of backs that fit the system, and all the quarterbacks can run … and that’s the potential problem. Michigan has to figure out it situation under center with Denard Robinson looking strong enough this offseason to push Tate Forcier for the job, while freshman Devin Gardner, in time, will be better than both of them.
Defense: Defensive coordinator Greg Robinson is changing things up with the 4-3 alignment of last year going to a more flexible 3-3-5 set. There isn’t a true pass rushing defensive end, but instead there are three tackle-sized players for the front with the hope for the massive William Campbell and the talented Mike Martin to form a great rotation on the inside. One of the linebackers will be used like a combination of end and outside linebacker, and the hope will be for a pass rushing star, likely sophomore Craig Roh, to shine in the position. The secondary has plenty of upside and speed, and it’ll have a hybrid of its own utilizing a Spur, which will be part safety and part linebacker. The linebackers have to play better after a disappointing season from Obi Ezeh and a mediocre one from Jonas Mouton. There’s experience across the board, but the production has to follow.

T7. Purdue
Predicted Overall Record: 6-6
Predicted Conference Record: 3-5

Offense: The offense was able to rally behind a slew of relatively untested players to come up with a decent year, and now it’ll take even more patching to be done with only two starters returning up front and with the devastating loss of top RB Ralph Bolden to a knee injury. Keith Smith is an All-America caliber receiver who leads a devastating group with some terrific young speedsters waiting to break out, and Al-Terek McBurse is a good running back prospect who could take over for Bolden and shine. But the hopes and the potential could be destroyed in a hurry if the line doesn’t come together right away and if the quarterbacks are solid. Miami transfer Robert Marve and sophomore Caleb TerBush have talent, but they need time.
Defense: The defense was supposed to need a little time for the young parts to come together, and now it’ll need even more. The D wasn’t awful and it had some tremendous strengths in the pass rush and the secondary, and while DE Ryan Kerrigan will make sure the pressure on the quarterback is there, the secondary could be a disaster with four new, inexperienced starters. There’s speed and upside among the defensive backs, but this will be a major work in progress. On the plus side, the run defense that was last in the Big Ten can’t help but be better with six starters returning on the front seven led by a fantastic linebacking corps that could be the best the program has had in years.

10. Indiana
Predicted Overall Record: 5-7
Predicted Conference Record: 1-7

Offense: Last year the plan was to do more power running and rely less on the passing, and it didn’t happen. Now, the strength of offensive coordinator Matt Canada’s attack will be a tremendous group of receivers that could be the best in the Big Ten, and a veteran passer in QB Ben Chappell who knows how to spread the ball around and knows how to spot the mismatches. The O line that was among the best in the league in pass protection will be fine even with a few key replacements, but there needs to be more of a push, and more of a commitment, to the ground game. Darius Willis is a big-time talent in the backfield, but he has to prove he can be a workhorse and he has to be consistent after a good, but not great year.
Defense: The defense improved last year with a solid core of veterans and enough talent to get by, but it was hardly a brick wall allowing close to 30 points per game. This year’s defense might not be all that bad even with a slew of big replacements needing to shine. The line loses stars Jammie Kirlew and Greg Middleton, but it should be the strength of the defense with good size, some nice new ends, and a strong tackle in Adam Replogle to build around. The back seven could either be a mess, or an interesting, athletic mess as more 3-4 utilized. Tyler Replogle is a solid linebacker, but the talent and upside are on the second team; there needs to be a good rotation from the start. The secondary didn’t stop anyone last year and now it has to go to the receiving corps for players with only one starter, corner Donnell Jones, returning.

11. Minnesota
Predicted Overall Record: 3-9
Predicted Conference Record: 0-8

Offense: Another year, another Minnesota offensive coordinator. The new Spinal Tap drummer is Jeff Horton, who plans on keeping everything as simple and as easy as possible. There’s no need to dumb anything down for QB Adam Weber, who’s going into his fourth year as the starter, but he needs players around him and he needs time to operate. The line was miserable last year, but the potential is there to be far better with all five starters returning and a slew of very promising backups pushing for jobs. The will be more of a commitment to the running game after finishing last in the Big Ten, and that means the massive front five has to be more physical and the backs have to show they can play. The passing game relied too much on Eric Decker over the last two seasons and got burned when he got hurt, and now it’ll be up to good-looking veterans Da’Jon McKnight and Brandon Green to use all their tools to produce.
Defense: The defense might not be very good, but it might have the most interesting storylines of any in the Big Ten. Only two starters return, and safety Kim Royston broke his leg this offseason and Kyle Theret was suspended after getting nailed with a DUI. The middle linebacker situation was supposed to be solid, but Gary Tinsley was charged with drunk driving and fleeing the police, while Sam Maresh couldn’t get to class and is academically ineligible. Co-coordinators Kevin Cosgrove and Ronnie Lee will have to use smoke and mirrors to come up with a good year, but there are plenty of good prospects to work around and there’s lots of speed and athleticism to work with. The line has size, promise, and a few great-looking prospects in Ra’Shede Hageman on the end and Jewhan Edwards on the inside. Herschel Thornton leads a strong group of JUCO players to provide a boost for the secondary, while former safety Mike Rallis appears to be on the verge of statistical stardom at outside linebacker. The results might not always be pretty, but this defense will be active and will be all over the field.

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

- 2010 Big Ten Preview | 2010 Big Ten Unit Rankings | 2010 Big Ten Schedules & Picks
- 2010 CFN All-Big Ten Team & Top 30 Players | Get Big Ten Tickets
- 2010 Big Ten Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish