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2010 Big Ten Predicted Order of Finish

This got published earlier than I thought without me having completed the analysis. I posted a few videos on YouTube of me talking about my predicted finish in the Big 10 that you can find here. If you’d rather read my analysis than look at my ugly mug then I’ve given a basic outline below of what I talked about in my videocast.

#1 PROS: Just about everything. There is really no weakness to the team. Offensively the return 4 of their starting lineman. The skill positions are ridiculous. Defensively the return practically the entire defense which includes DE Cameron Heyword, LB Ross Homan and LB Brian Rolle. They are coming off an 11-2 season that saw them win the Big 10 and the Rose Bowl. The only think different is that the team is one year older.

CONS: The schedule. Ohio St. gets an early test from Miami-FL, but at least the Buckeyes are playing the Hurricanes in Columbus. They also play both Iowa & Wisconsin on the road. There simply isn’t a reason for Ohio St. not go to 12-0 if they play up to potential and get a couple of big road wins.

#2 Pros: Wisconsin’s offense should be one of the best if not the best offense in the country. They averaged 32ppg last year & get 10 starters back including their entire offensive line! I think Scott Tolzien is underrated as a QB while Nick Toon is a big time playmaker at WR. RB John Clay will most likely lead the Big 10 in rushing. DE JJ Watt will challenge Adrian Clayborn for best DE in the conference and should play himself into the 1st round of the NFL Draft.

Cons: Wisconsin’s one big con is their interior defensive line. They run a 4-3 set so Watt & Nzegwu at DE are going to be responsible for rushing the QB and getting up the field meaning the DTs are going to have to be solid run stuffers. There isn’t much experience in the interior which could be a problem in a conference filled with solid runners.

#3 Pros: Iowa returns 8 starters on defense which should be their strongest aspect, specifically the defnsive line led by all world DE Adrian Clayborn. Iowa gave up only 15.4ppg last year and they should be even better in ’10. A scary thought indeed. Iowa also brings back QB Ricky Stanzi who was 10-0 as a starter last year when he finished the game. RBs Adam Robinson & Brnadon Wegher also have another year of experience under their belts. Most importantly they get Ohio St., Wisconsin & Iowa St. at home.

Cons: Iowa took some pretty big hits on the O-Line & LB unit. LB Pat Angerer led the team with 145 tackles last season and somebody is going to have to step up & produce. The O-Line lost LT Bryan Bulaga, but also lost OC Rafael Eubanks and OG Dace Richardson. Iowa needs to fill in their holes on both sides of the ball with quality to overcome the losses of the spectacular.

#4 Pros: The Spartans are going to bring a solid running game to the table and a determined toughness instilled within them by HC Mark Dantonio. What stands out most about this team is the leadership abilities of the players. QB Kirk Cousins should be outstanding this season while Sparty caught a huge break when 1st team all-american LB Greg Jones decided to return for his senior season.

Cons: There is no “WOW” factor with Michigan St. As good as Greg Jones is, he’s a little small (6’1/230lbs) to play a MLB in the NFL. There are really no home run hitters on offense. Michigan St. is your garden variety grind it out team that is going to win a lot of ballgames because playing this way is conducive to winning. Michigan St. could achieve 9 or 10 victories and in every win a different guy might step up and be the game’s MVP.

#5 Pros: The biggest feather in Michigan’s cap is that this is year 3 of the Rich Rodriguez era. Taking over Michigan was difficult enough because RichRod was a Michigan outsider, but was focusing in on changing the entire fabric of Michigan football while also getting players who fit his system. RichRod wants to run the spread and have an attacking defense from a 3-4 set or a 3-3-5 set. This year I think his schemes are going to fully be in place, but Michigan is still one year away.

Cons: There is a QB controversy in that Michigan might have too many QBs in Tate Forcier, Denard Robinson & Devin Gardner. If you have too many QBs it means you don’t have one which is going to make life hard for Rodriguez. Another negative for Rodriguez is that for all intents & purposes this team is still fairly young. The added pressure with the media playing up the notion that this is Rodriguez’s last season if he doesn’t win 8-9 games might be too much to handle.

#6 Pros: Even with the loss of QB Darryl Clark, the Lions should be OK. They return 4 offensive linemen along with RB Evan Royster, WR Curtis Drake & WR Derek Moye. They don’t necessarily need a Sam Bradford under center, but only a game manager. PSU’s secondary should be solid too. They get everyone back in the secondary except CB AJ Wallace.

Cons: This is no conference you want to break in a new QB with, yet that is what Penn St. is going to do with either Kevin Newsome, Matt McGloin or Paul Jones. No matter who wins the job, it’ll be Penn St.’s biggest weakness on offense. An even bigger weakness is Penn St’s defensive front 7. The only player of consequence returning is DE Jack Crawford. I know PSU has a reputation of being great defensively no matter what, but that many losses takes a toll on the best of teams.

#7 Pros: The offense. Ben Chappell is a better QB than you might think and the Hoosiers are stacked at the skill positions. WR Tandon Doss, WR Demarlo Belcher, WR Terrence Turner, TE Max Dedmond & RB Darius Willis are all players who could be all-conference. This offense scored 24ppg last year and that number should go to about 30 in ’10. Another positive for Indiana is that their schedule isn’t brutal. Bill Lynch took advantage of an opportunity in ’07 to get IU to 7-5 & into a bowl. That should happen this year or the year will be considered a disaster.

Cons: The defense is horrific. Indiana took on massive losses this past season to the defense so new starters are going to have to step up in a big way. If Indiana has a veteran defense with experience last year and still managed to give up 30ppg, then what is the defense going to look like with a bunch of inexperienced youngsters!? I know the Hoosiers plan on switching back and forth from a 4-3 to a 3-4, but they have to find something that works fast or they’ll get beat no matter how potent the offense is.

#8 Pros: The biggest pro for the Wildcats is that they have Pat Fitzgerald as a HC. The guy might be worth a couple of wins by himself each season! NW has 4 starters returning on an offensive line with really good size. They should be an improved unit. Northwestern’s linebackers also come back intact which should be able to cover up some deficiencies along the D-Line and in the secondary. These two aspects are definitely the strengths of this Northwestern team. The schedule works out nice for NW. They could easily open up 8-0 or maybe even 9-0. They also miss Ohio St.

Cons: Unfortunately for Northwestern they are always going to have to deal with academic restrictions and if the Big 10 gets better from one year to the next while NW stays the same, then that means they’ll be forced down the standings. It’s an unfortunate consequence. On the field, QB Dan Persa needs to step in and produce the way departed QB Mike Kafka did. NW also breaks in two new safeties. They’ll need them to step it up.

#9 Pros: Purdue’s big strength is their defensive front 7! Led by DE Ryan Kerrigan, the Boilermakers shouldn’t have any problems with their defensive front. All 3 LBs return while new NT Brandon Taylor is 6’1/300lbs and should be able to plug a few holes. All conference WR Keith Smith returns too giving new QB Robert Marve a big target at 6’2/225lbs. I’m going to count Marve as a pro too instead of a con even if he’s the new starter. Marve does have some experience being the starting QB for Miami-FL & all the reports out of West Lafayette are glowing.

Cons: With the health of RB Ralph Bolden in question, Purdue is going to have to try and find a running game pretty quick. Marve is a dual threat quarterback so that will help, but it won’t replace a solid running game Purdue thought it was going to have heading into this season. An even bigger con might be Purdue breaking in an entirely new secondary. Their defensive front 7 should be able to take some pressure off of this gaping hole, but there is simply no experience and not much talent back there. Frankly, Purdue could use a talent upgrade everywhere on the field.

#10 Pros: Illinois was able to pound the rock last season and they should do so again this year. The O-Line returns 3 starters while RBs Mike Leshoure & Jason Ford combined for over 1300 yards rushing & 9TD last year. Illinois also gets MLB Martez Wilson back from injury. Wilson was a can’t miss prospect out of high school and has NFL size (6’4/250lbs) to play MLB in the NFL. Wilson will do a lot to make the Illini defense better after a brutal ’09 campaign that saw Illini give up over 30ppg.

Cons: Where do you start? The Illini are breaking in a new QB along with a new OC and a completely new system. They don’t have many options at the skill receivers and no real talent there either outside of possibly Jarred Fayson. Defensive Illinois is a mess outside of Wilson & CB Terry Hawthorne. Illinois also has a new DC in Vic Koenning meaning brand new systems on defense as well. That is a tremendous amount of change for a team with a head coach on the hot seat. Factor in how difficult the Big 10 is this season and you are looking at a disaster.

#11 Pros: QB Adam Weber returns and is already Minnesota’s all time leading passer. There is no question he brings a lot of leadership and experience to the table. Minnesota also brings back their entire offensive line that should be greatly improved. They are certainly thin at the skill positions but WR Da’Jon McKnight, WR Brandon Green & RB Duane Bennett could surprise some people.

Cons: They have only 2 returning starters on defense and both are undersized safeties. That’s a recipe for DISASTER in the Big 10 conference in 2010! The biggest problem though for Minnesota is the schedule. It might be the most difficult in all of college football which won’t bode well for Tim Brewster’s chances at keeping his job. There is a real possibility that Minnesota goes 1-11 which will be the 2nd time in 4-years with Brewster at the helm. There just isn’t a lot to like about the Gophers in 2010.


August 10, 2010 - Posted by | Big 10, Previews

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