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Offensive Strengths and Weaknesses for 2012 Big 10

ILLINOIS FIGHTING ILLINI

Strengths: When you talk about Big 10 QBs, you invariably will discuss Denard Robinson, Taylor Martinez, Braxton Miller, and possibly even Maryland to Wisconsin transfer Danny O’Brien,  but one name that isn’t brought up immediately that potentially should be is Illinois QB Nathan Scheelhaase. As a sophomore last season, Scheelhaase completed 63.2% of his passes for 2,110 yards & 13TD while throwing only 8INT and rushing for a team high 624 yards & 6TD. Miller completed 54.1% of his passes while Martinez completed 56.2% and Robinson 55.0%! Scheelhaase hasn’t won as many games as the other three and he’s not quite the dynamic athlete the other three QBs are, but he’s bigger at 6’3/200lbs and is more in line with a passing QB. Scheelhaase also brings in a ton of experience. A starter since he was a freshman, Scheelhaase already has 26 starters under his belt including 2 bowl wins and showed quite a bit of improvement from year 1 to year 2. Illinois doesn’t have much to put around Scheelhaase at the skill positions, but as far as strengths go, he’s about it for Illinois and new HC Tim Beckman. Scheelhaase could contend for All-Big 10 honors but he’s going to need some significant help in getting there.

Weaknesses: Just about everything except quarterback. Scheelhaase was the team’s leading rusher in ’11, but Illinois loses starting RB Jason Ford & also Troy Pollard. Those 2 combined for 1,075 yards & 9TD. Donovonn Young wasn’t bad as a true freshman last season rushing for 451 yards (5.2ypc) & 6TD in limited time, but now he’s the feature back and it’ll be interesting to see if Illinois can find the heir apparent to their last great RB, Mikel Leshoure. At 6’0/220lbs, Young is built solid and shouldn’t have problems holding up over a full season especially if his freshman year is any indicator. Still, there isn’t much experience here. The receiver spot is also a suspect one for Illinois. Gone is AJ Jenkins who caught 90 balls for 1,276 & 8TD last season. Illinois’s next 8 receivers combined for just 118 catches! WR Spencer Harris (6’3/195lbs), WR Darius Millines (5’11/185) & TE Evan Wilson (6’6/250lbs) are Illinois’s top 3 returning receivers but combined for just 67 catches for 631 yards & 3TD. That’s a horrible 9.4ypc average and those 3 per game averaged 5 receptions for 49 yards. Unless these receivers take a massive step forward, Illinois will have next to nothing when it comes to the passing game. The O-Line should be a weak spot too. Center Graham Pocic & OG Hugh Thornton are the lone bright spots, but Illinois welcomes in 2 new starters to the O-Line with 3 starters being either freshman or sophomores. Pocic & Thornton could be All-Big 10 players, but this is a young & inexperienced O-Line that gave up 36 sacks last season and allowed the rushing game to average 4.1ypc. It’s certainly a weakness heading into 2012. The most significant weakness might be that Illinois has a new HC in former Toledo HC Tim Beckman. Beckman did solid work with the Rockets, but new coaches typically mean new schemes and offensive philosophies. That will take some getting used to and with such a young team on hand to begin with, there are bound to be quite a few growing pains for the Illini in 2012.

Game Plan: Clearly you want to get the ball out of Scheelhaase’s hands. He’s the best player on offense by a considerable margin and I wouldn’t give him much to work with. He is a threat to tuck & run the ball so you can’t play coverage packages forever against him, but with a suspect offensive line and new running backs, it makes sense for opposing defenses to try and get Illinois to beat them with the run. If they can’t do that then the Illini are likely to start forcing things through the air which could lead to mistakes, especially considering there is no dynamic threat on the outside like AJ Jenkins was in 2011. The key player is RB Donovonn Young. If Young can step up his game, then he’ll be able to open up the passing game for Scheelhaase. This will in turn give Illinois a much more balanced & unpredictable attack. Keep an eye on Young.

INDIANA HOOSIERS

Strengths: It sounds odd given that Indiana was 1-11 in HC Kevin Wilson’s first year in Bloomington, but the Hoosiers bring back quite a few strengths offensively. QB Tre Roberson was buried on the depth chart last season behind Ed Wright-Baker & Dusty Kiel, but emerged as the starter with legitimate dual threat capabilities. Roberson is slight of build being “listed” at 6’0/180lbs, but the kid is a winner going back to his high school days and make Indiana football a touch more exciting when he was under center. Don’t get me wrong, Roberson wasn’t great by any means. He completed just 57.0% of his passes for 937 yards & 3TD along with 6INT. He also ran for 426 yards & 2TD which was good enough to be Indiana’s 2nd leading rusher, but his 3.9ypc average wasn’t fantastic. With Wright-Baker & Kiel transferring & Gunner Kiel spurning Indiana for LSU first and then Notre Dame, Roberson finds himself the starter as a true sophomore. That could get interesting. Another diamond in the rough last season was RB Stephen Houston. Last year going into the season Indiana was hoping that RB Darius Willis could finally stay healthy, but he never did get on the field in 2011. Behind Willis was Nick Turner, but Turner ended up quitting the team leaving on Matt Perez & true freshman D’Angelo Roberts. Perez wasn’t very good and Roberts ended up getting a concussion. Enter JUCO transfer Houston. Houston didn’t get much run in the first 4 games while Roberts & Perez were running the ball, but in the last 8 games, Houston ran for 711 yards (5.5ypc) & 7TD. Houston is big at 6’0/225lbs & should be carrying the load for the Hoosiers this season, but Roberts (5’10/189lbs) & Perez (5’11/235lbs) also return. The Hoosiers also have a strength at receiver. Indiana hasn’t found suitable replacements for the heyday of Tandon Doss & Demarlo Belcher, but they do have some interesting pieces. WR Kofi Huhges (6’2/211lbs) led the team in receiving last year with 35 catches for 536 yards (15.3ypc) & 3TD. Not great, but the 15.3ypc is a solid number. Duwyce Wilson (6’3/197lbs) was a touted WR out of high school. He was lost to an ACL injury last season, but it expected to be back and gives Indiana 2 edge receivers with good size. WR Jamonne Chester (6’2/207lbs) filled in for Wilson last year and caught 21 balls for 240 yards. WR Shane Wynn (5’7/156lbs) profiles as a decent slot option. TE Ted Bolser (6’6/260lbs) has fantastic size for the position & was a freshman All-American! He was largely disappointing last season dealing with injuries. Overall Indiana looks very explosive at the skill positions if they can stay healthy & make some progress.

Weaknesses: The weaknesses for Indiana are actually some of the strengths. QB Roberson is just a band-aid and might be out as soon as this season. HC Kevin Wilson brought in JUCO transfer Cam Coffman and true frosh Nathan Sudfeld who are both more prototypical passers who can put up a high completion percentage. Remember that Wilson made a name with Sam Bradford, and Roberson is decidedly not Sam Bradford. If Roberson stays then Wilson can’t execute the offense he most wants to install. The QB position is up for grabs and could be a work in progress all season long, although I do believe it would behoove Wilson & the program to tailor the offense in a way that Roberson could be successful. There is enough talent at the skill positions for Indiana to be explosive on offense if Roberson is given the right environment. If that is a non-issue for Wilson, then Sudfeld or Coffman should be the starting QB from the beginning of the season. I also think the jury is still out on Houston. He had some big games, but they came against Wisconsin, Purdue & Northwestern. Games against Ohio St., Michigan St., and Iowa bottled him up pretty good. I’d like to see him have a big game against a big time rushing defense. The most SIGNIFICANT weakness for Indiana is clearly their offensive line. The Hoosiers expect to have 3 returning starters, but one of those starters (G Collin Rahrig) is a former walk-on! They also have 3 sophomore starters. Senior C Will Matte is a solid player, but a bit small at 6’2/290lbs. As a whole the average IU starting offensive lineman is 6’3/288lbs! To give you an idea how small this is, consider that Duke’s average size of a projected starter along the offensive line is 6’3/301lbs! There is no size & almost no talent up front for the Hoosiers. That’s not a recipe for success in the Big 10.

Game Plan: Overwhelming pressure. I’ve profiled the strengths & weaknesses of every team in the SEC and Pac 12, with the Hoosiers being the first team that looks decent everywhere except the offensive line. That makes game planning a bit interesting because the opposition should just attack the line of scrimmage with a relentless will to dominate. That would be enough to get Indiana off kilter if only because it would force Roberson to make some very quick decisions. Remember that Roberson threw twice as many interceptions as he did TD passes, and he completed 57% of his passes. I think that is the key. Stack the box to take away Houston and get after Roberson with reckless abandon. Indiana has a shot at scoring some points, but a lot has to go right in that offense with more than adequate QB play. How well Roberson does in the face of relentless pressure should determine what happens to Indiana’s offense in 2012.

IOWA HAWKEYES

Strengths: QB James Vandenberg returns & is the biggest strength of the Iowa offense. Last season the QB completed 58.7% of his passes for 3,022 yards & 25TD while only throwing 7INT. That says something considering that Vandenberg threw the ball 404 times which was the 2nd most by any QB in a single season in Iowa Hawkeyes history. Vandenberg didn’t prove exceptionally accurate last season, but he certainly didn’t beat his own team with bad decision making when throwing the football. That’s a QB trait that will keep paying big dividends for the Hawkeyes, especially if Vandenberg can improve his completion percentage in 2012. As with Scheelhaase at Illinois, Vandenberg is almost overlooked as one of the best QBs in the Big 10, but at 6’3/220lbs, Vandenberg might be the best pure pocket passer in the conference heading into 2012. WR Keenan Davis is a nice asset to have at wide receiver. He’s been playing second fiddle to WR Marvin McNutt (6th-Round pick by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2012 NFL Draft), but Davis is a 6’3/215lbs WR who was extremely touted coming out of high school. Last year he caught 50 balls for 713 yards as a junior, and if Davis wants to make a splash on Sunday, he’s going to have to have a big senior season. Davis should be one of the most prolific WR in the Big 10 and could challenge for All-America honors if he & Vandenberg can find a rhythm and keep it all season long. Center James Ferentz (6’2/290lbs) is a solid O-Lineman who should challenge for All Big 10 honors.

Weaknesses: The running game could be a problem for Iowa. Last season, RB Marcus Cocker ran for 1,384 yards (4.9ypc) & 15TD. If Coker would have returned to Iowa City, he would have most likely been the 2nd best RB in the conference behind Wisconsin’s Montee Ball. Instead, Coker decided to transfer leaving a gaping hole in the backfield for HC Kirk Ferentz to try and fill. Ditto for freshman Mika’il McCall who broke his ankle last season & then transferred out. Iowas has a couple of highly recruited runners in Greg Garmon (6’1/200lbs) & Barkley Hill (6’0/210lbs) this year as true freshman. As a team Iowa only averaged 3.9ypc as a rushing offense so the bar isn’t set particularly high, but with freshman there is room to grow. The upside of this is that running back is one of the least difficult positions to transition from high school to college if not the easiest. If either Garmon or Hill can run to daylight, this weakness could turn into a strength. The receiving corps might also take a hit. Davis is a solid option, but McNutt caught 82 balls for 1,315 yards & 12TD. A 1st Team All-Big 10 selection, McNutt is going to be difficult to replace even if Davis meets expectations. Outside of Davis, the Hawkeyes don’t have much. WR Kevonte Martin-Manley had a solid freshman season but he’s only a sophomore. TE CJ Fiedorowicz is a matchup nightmare at 6’7/265lbs, but hasn’t played to the potential he flahsed coming out of high school. Oddly enough, a weakness could also be the offensive line. That usually isn’t the case with Kirk Ferentz led Iowa squads, but Iowa loses LT Riley Reiff (1st Team All Big 10; 1st-Round Draft pick), RT Markus Zusevics, and RG Adam Gettis (2nd-Team All Big 10). Iowa will have 3 new starters including two new tackles and an underclassman. The line could also deal with size issues. While Iowa isn’t as small as Indiana, their average projected starter along the line is 6’5/293lbs. Solid height but a little light. The O-Line gave up 29 sacks last season and allowed the rushing game to average 3.9ypc. Those aren’t good numbers so Iowa has to hope that last year’s squad underachieved so that this year’s line might show improved numbers. With true freshman carrying the rock and a couple of new tackles blocking the edge, that could be a tall order.

Game Plan: Conventional wisdom would dictate getting the ball out of Vandenberg’s hands, but last year’s reliance on the QB shows that Ferentz & Co. are very comfortable allowing Vandenberg the opportunity to make something out of nothing given how many pass attempts were employed offensively. Vandenberg rewarded this faith by not beating himself with unnecessary interceptions, and if he can take the next step with an increase in accuracy, Iowa’s offense could really start to click. There are a lot of pieces to like here. Garmon was heavily recruited & if he hits the ground running, Iowa’s offense opens up even more. As it stands now, you have to try & limit Vandenberg’s opportunities. Force the Hawkeyes to rely on their true freshman running backs to get things moving. If it happens then you have to focus on what Iowa is doing well at the moment, but if you can neutralize the ground game then this offense become incredibly unbalanced & will have a hard time scoring points.

MICHIGAN WOLVERINES

Strengths: Obviously you start with QB Denard Robinson here. While Robinson might not be the best QB or RB in the nation, his rare combination of QB ability & jaw-dropping speed make him the most exciting player in college football. A 1st-Team All-American in 2010 as a sophomore, Robinson completed 63% of his passes for 2,570 yards & 18TD (11INT) while also rushing for 1,702 yards (6.7ypc) & 14TD! That season was good enough for 6th place in the 2010 Heisman Trophy voting. Robinson wasn’t as good as a junior in 2011. He completed just 55% of his passes for 2,173 yards with 20TD (15INT) while rushing for 1,176 yards (5.3ypc) & 16TD. Fantastic numbers to be sure, but numbers that garnered a 2nd Team All-Big 10 mark instead of a 1st Team All-American nod! That’s not a rip on Robinson, but it does show that the most dynamic football player in college does have some room to work on his game, especially his accuracy & decision making. Robinson is practically impossible to defend given his running ability & you might see him not run for as many yards simply because he has so much help in the backfield now. Speaking of the backfield, Michigan should be strong there as well due to the presence of RB Fitzgerald Toussaint & RB Vincent Smith. Toussaint gave the Wolverines their 2nd 1,000 yard rusher last season, going for 1,041 yards (5.6ypc) & 9TD. Smith was sparsely used, but racked up 298 yards (6.0ypc). Adding more depth is soph RB Thomas Rawks (5’10/220lbs) who is bigger than both Toussaint & Smith. Michigan’s offensive line should be nasty led by junior LT Taylor Lewan. As a sophomore, Lewan was a 2nd-Team All Big 10 players and could challenge for an All-American spot in 2012. The 6’8/310lbs tackle has fantastic size and could be the first tackle taken in the 2014 NFL Draft should he stick around for his senior season in Ann Arbor. RT Michael Schofield is big too at 6’7/300lbs. Overall the Wolverines will have 4 upperclassmen along the O-Line including 3 returning starters. The lone underclassman is projected to be true freshman Kyle Kalis who was one of the most highly touted O-Linemen in his high school class. A future tackle, the 6’5/305lbs Kalis projects as this season’s starting LG. This unit only allowed 18 sacks and allowed the Michigan runners to average 5.2ypc. Some of that is ability of Robinson to elude defenders, but this line was tough and should continue to be.

Weaknesses: The collection of receivers isn’t bad, but Michigan does lose its top receiver in Junior Hemmingway who led the team last year with 34 receptions for 699 yards & 4TD. WRs Roy Roundtree & Jeremy Gallon return, but Gallon is just 5’8/185lbs and Roundtree much become the legitimate #1 option at 6’0/177lbs. Don’t forget also that TE Kevin Koger is gone and he was 4th on the team last year in receiving yards & 3rd in receptions. Note too the dynamics of the Michigan offense. Last season Michigan ran the ball 66.4% of the time. With Robinson & Toussaint in the backfield, that makes sense, but it does make your offense one dimensional and it shows somewhat of a lack of confidence in the passing game. Keep in mind however that this is nitpicking. Roundtree was an Honorable Mention All-Big 10 player in 2010. Gallon was the team’s 2nd leading receiver behind Hemmingway last season. There is no conventional #1 WR on this team, but they have enough playmakers to prevent defenses from cheating in to stop the run game. The other weakness could be a lack of leadership along the O-Line with the loss of 1st Team All American center David Molk. A 7th round draft pick by the San Diego Chargers, Molk will be missed. The O-Line should still be an effective unit, but it’s impossible to lose a player with the skill & leadership qualities Molk possessed and not feel like you lose a little bit of your identity.

Game Plan: The game plan in theory is an easy one. Opposing defense have to get Robinson to throw the football. Last year Michigan was 11-2, but when Robinson threw the ball at least 24 times, Michigan went 2-2. The two wins came against Notre Dame who gift wrapped the win to Michigan by way of turnovers and the other came against an outmatched Northwestern team. Keep in mind also that 8 of Robinson’s 15 picks came in those 4 games. HC Brady Hoke is inclined to run more of a pro-style offense so if the defense is giving Robinson time & opportunity to throw the football, Hoke is going to encourage Robinson to do so even though that plays into the weaknesses of the Michigan offense, namely Robinson sitting in the pocket & trying to pick apart defensive secondaries. This is  a lot easier said than done. Robinson is a 3rd year starter and won’t get rattled easily. The offense is a play away from scoring each time it has the ball with no real significant weakness. If you can avoid Michigan scoring early & get Robinson to throw the ball you have a shot at winning. Otherwise this offense is incredibly hard to defend.

MICHIGAN ST. SPARTANS

Strengths: RB Le’Veon Bell is the biggest skill strength the Spartans have coming back in 2012. Bell led Michigan St. in rushing last season with 948 yards (5.2ypc) & 13TD while also contributing 35 receptions (3rd on the team) & 27 receiving yards out of the backfield. A 6’2/240lbs, Bell is a load to get down and is a beast in short yardage situations. Bell earned Honorable Mention All Big 10 honors last season and could sneak up on people as a 1st-Team All Big 10 running back in 2012 now that there is no question he’ll be the focal point of the offensive attack. RBs Nick Hill & Larry Caper return as well while Sparty welcomes in frosh RB Nick Tompkins who could find some playing time alongside Bell. The biggest strength of the offense should be the offensive line which should be the best in the Big 10. The Spartans have 4 returning starters from a unit that allowed just 16 sacks last season and let the Spartan rushers average 3.9ypc. The rushing numbers aren’t fantastic, but that should improve by a healthy margin in 2012. Center Travis Jackson was a 1st team Freshman All American last season. RG Chris McDonald was an Honorable Mention All-Big 10 selection while both tackles, Fou Fonoti & Dan France return. LG Blake Treadwell is the only non-starter of the group yet has 8 starts in his career. Combined the line has 74 starts and features 4 upperclassmen. McDonald, Fonoti & France should all contend for All-Conference honors with Jackson not being far behind. This unit has the chance to be one of the 10 best offensive lines in the entire nation!

Weaknesses: Wow did Michigan State take a hit at the skill positions! The biggest loss of course is QB Kirk Cousins. Last season as a senior, Cousins completed 64% of his passes for 3,316 yards & 25TD to 10INT. A three year starter, Cousins ends up as the most prolific passer in Michigan State history with 9,131 passing yards. Even more importantly is that during his 3 years as a starter, Michigan St. had a 28-12 record which included a 22-5 mark over the last two seasons with the Spartans being a top-15 team by year’s end in both 2010 & 2011. Cousins’s 66 career passing TDs is also a school record. Despite the statistical greatness that Cousins has shown, what might be of even more interest is that the Washington Redskins used a 4th round pick on Cousins even though it traded up to the #2 spot to grab Robert Griffin in the 2012 NFL Draft. Don’t be surprised if Cousins gets a shot at makes the most of his opportunities. A lot of people are high on incoming starting QB Andrew Maxwell, but how does he replace Cousins in his first year as a starter? Michigan St. also looks weak at receiver. Sparty loses their top-4 receivers: BJ Cunningham (79 receptions, 1306 yards & 12TD; 6th round pick by Miami Dolphins), Keshawn Martin (66 receptions, 777 yards, 4TD, 4th round pick by Houston Texans), Brian Lithicum (TE, 31 receptions, 364 yards) and Keith Nichols (26 receptions, 352 yards, 3TD). Together those 4 receivers combined for 202 catches for 2,799 yards & 19TD! That’s a lot of production to replace & Michigan St. is awfully young at the position. It’s a tough break for HC Mark Dantonio & OC Dan Roushar to not only be breaking in a new starter QB, but also an entirely new receiving corps as well!

Game Plan: The game plan for defending Michigan St. is fairly garden variety. They are going to seemingly be extremely weak in their passing offense, so the key will be to prevent Michigan St. from running the football and force the passing offense to either elevate its game to the point of allowing the running game some room to flourish or force MSU to simply keep pounding the ball behind their rushing attack. What makes this interesting is that the Spartans should have a formidable offensive line to open holes for Le’Veon Bell & Co. It’ll be fascinating to watch Maxwell & the receivers try to establish the passing game. To a degree MSU would hope the rushing game opens up the passing game a bit so the pressure is off an inexperienced passing attack, but that inexperience almost allows a defense to cheat the box like crazy to stop the run, daring the passing attack to beat it. That’s the cat & mouse game of football and Michigan St. will be a great example to watch in 2012.

MINNESOTA GOLDEN GOPHERS

Strengths: QB MarQueis Gray is the star of the offense. The Indianapolis native was originally recruited as a QB and then Minnesota played him at WR his freshman year before moving him back to QB. Last year was his first full season under center and Gray proved to be an exciting, if not prolific, QB for the Gophers. Gray led the team in rushing with 966 yards (4.9ypc) & 6TD which is more than solid for a QB. However, the main purpose of  a QB is to throw the football and this is where Gray didn’t fare so well, completing 50.7% of his passes for 1,495 yards with 8TD to 8INT. Gray is a huge QB at 6’4/245lbs which makes him all the more tantalizing as a scrambling QB, but he’s got to improve upon his passing ability or Minnesota won’t get very far. Another strength could be JUCO transfer RB James Gillum. The 5’11/204lbs junior ran for over 2300 yards the last 2 years and could be Minnesota’s best RB since the Laurence Maroney/Marion Barber years! It might not be a strength, but the offense as a whole could improve now that they are in the 2nd year of Jerry Kill’s offense. There are always going to be growing pains with a first year HC and now that Kill has been around for 2 seasons, concepts should be easier.

Weaknesses: Gray is interesting with some legitimate potential to dominate games, but we are still looking at a QB who barely completed 50% of his passes and threw as many picks as he did TD passes. That’s not a recipe for success and the Big 10 Legends division isn’t exactly easy. It’s not the SEC West by any means, but it’s an outstanding division. Playing against superior competition doesn’t get easy when you have a QB situation that isn’t very good. If Gillum doesn’t workout at RB, then Minnesota is awfully weak there. Outside of Gillum, the Gophers return Donnell Kirkwood & David Cobb. Last year those 2 combined for 73 rushing attempts and a 3.9ypc average. The receivers aren’t much better. Minnesota loses their top receiver in Da’Jon McKnight who caught 51 balls for 760 yards & 4TD. They also lose TE Eric Lair. The top-6 returning receivers for Minnesota combined for 51 catches for 726 yards & 3TD! The 3 projected starters at receiver (Marcus Jones, Malcolm Moulton, and Brandon Green) are all under 6’0 meaning Minnesota has no legitimate outside threat or even a red zone target when they do get close. True frosh Andre McDonald (6’2/200lbs) & JUCO transfer Isaac Fruechte (6’3/205lbs) could be big contributors this season given their size & ability. Also keep an eye on sophomore Devin Crawford-Tufts. Crawford-Tufts only had 8 catches last season, but turned those receptions into 156 yards (19.5ypc!) and has size at 6’2/195lbs. While the receiving corps is a legitimate weakness moving forward in 2012, if Gray can improve his accuracy and some of the big receivers step up, Minnesota could have an OK passing attack. The last weakness for Minnesota is their offensive line. They have just 2 returning starters and 3 sophomores along the O-Line. Oddly enough there is some legitimate talent along the O-Line and it actually wasn’t a bad unit in 2011 as it allowed only 22 sacks and paved the way for a 4.1ypc for the rushing attack. Unfortunately for Minnesota, it’s a young line with no one player looking to be an all-conference selection, but it could actually get better due to it now being in its 2nd year under HC Jerry Kill.

Game Plan: With no real strength, defenses can mainly just wait and see what Minnesota is doing well on a particular day and gear the offense to stop that particular aspect of the offense. Minnesota has a significant “WHAT IF” offense. What if Gray improves his accuracy & decision making? What if James Gillum finds the same success in the Big 10 as he did in junior college? What if the young receivers play up to their potential? What if the offensive line gets improved production now that they are in the 2nd year of Jerry Kill’s offense? Defenses don’t have to worry about any of that, but that is what Minnesota is going to have to hope for. Defending this offense shouldn’t be too hard. Even with marked improvement, Minnesota is going to have a tough time scoring. Remember that this offense averaged a paltry 18.4ppg in 2011. Bumping that up by a TD only gives them 24.4ppg.

NEBRASKA CORNHUSKERS

Strengths: It’s easy to bag on QB Taylor Martinez because of his accuracy issues, but make no mistake, Martinez is the superstar strength of the offense. The junior already has 24 starts under his belt, over 3600 yards passing, over 1800 yards rushing and 23TD passes to 15 interceptions. Throw in 21 rushing TDs and it’s easy to see that Martinez is just as dangerous a threat as Michigan’s Denard Robinson if not quite the dynamic athlete Robinson is. What’s really interesting about Martinez is that if he has a good passing year, he could become Nebraska’s all-time leading passer after 3 seasons with a potential 4th season to pad his record. A 4th season would also give Martinez time to become one of the top 3 rushers in Nebraska history. He can’t catch Mike Rozier, but Tim Crouch & Ahman Green can be caught with significant rushing numbers over the next two seasons. His passing isn’t always pretty, but Martinez is getting better & is one of the most exciting players to watch in college football. If Nebraska has a big year, he’ll be a Heisman candidate which gives you an idea of how much of a strength he is for Nebraska. If Martinez wasn’t enough, the Huskers bring back 1st Team All-Big 10 RB Rex Burkhead. The 5’11/210lbs senior ran for 1,357 yards (4.8ypc) & 15TD while also adding a couple of receiving TDs. A good season from Burkhead could push him up to #2 all time in Nebraska rushing history. Providing depth will be Ameer Abdullah (5’9/190lbs) & true frosh Iman Crose (6’1/220lbs). Nebraska’s receiving corps should also be fantastic. They return 7 of their top-8 receiving a year ago including their top-3 of WR Kenny Bell (6’1/180lbs), WR Quincy Enunwa (6’2/210lbs) & TE Kyle Reed (6’3/235lbs). Jamal Tuner (6’1/180lbs) & Ben Cotton (6’6/255lbs) should also be big contributors. Keep an eye on Turner. A true frosh last year, he has the talent to breakout and become an elite receiver. Bell also has those kinds of skills, leading the team in receiving last year as a freshman. Cotton & Bell should challenge for all-conference honors. The O-Line should be another strength but it is unusual. Theoretically Nebraska loses 3 starters, but LT Jeremiah Sirles made 14 starts in 2010 while RT Tyler Moore was the opening game starter in 2011 yet made just 3 more starts. RG Spencer Long & LG Andrew Rodriguez are the returning starters, but in reality the Cornhuskers have at least 3 and arguably 4 starters returning. The lone non-starter returning is C Ryne Reeves who is a rFR that was highly recruiting out of high school. This unit allowed 21 sacks and paved the way for the rushers to average 4.6ypc. That’s pretty good and those numbers could get even better. Long & Rodriguez will challenge for all-conference honors.

Weaknesses: He’s a huge strength, but Martinez’s accuracy issues could be a problem for Nebraska. In Nebraska’s losses to Wisconsin & Michigan last season, Martinez went 20 of 45 (44.4%) for 298 yards, 1TD & 3INT. That’s the kinds of games that can derail a season. The loss to Northwestern was a defensive let down. Too many mistakes cost them against South Carolina in the bowl game. Those weren’t directly related to Martinez, but if Nebraska wants to make a serious run at a Rose Bowl and potentially a national championship, Martinez is going to have to find ways to limit his accuracy issues against big time opponents.

Game Plan: For the most part this is an offense that will be hard pressed to stop. What Nebraska is going to try and do is run opposing defenses into the ground. They want to run the ball, get a 10-14 point lead and then run the clock out. Nebraska only averaged 29.2ppg last season. That’s a nice number but it ranked only 4th in the Big 10 & 49th nationally. The game plan for opposing teams is pretty simple. Get Martinez to throw the ball and hope he’s off. It’s that simple. The execution won’t be that easy. Like Michigan, Nebraska has a pretty good RB in Rex Burkhead to go along with Martinez and an O-Line that should be formidable. Teams can’t let Nebraska get a lead and then allow them to ground & pound for the rest of the game. If Martinez does improve his accuracy then there is virtually no answer to the offense. Only a world class defense will be able to defend and you are only going to find those in the SEC.

NORTHWESTERN WILDCATS

Strengths: A really interesting team. QB Kain Colter is an interesting name. Last season he was backing up QB Dan Persa, but along the way he led the team in rushing, was 3rd on the team in receiving yards & completed 67% of his passes for 673 yards & 6TD to only 1INT. That was worthy of an Honorable Mention All Big 10 selection. Cain will be the starting QB in 2012 so Northwestern loses the receiving yards but Colter remains a legitimate dual threat QB in a conference with plenty of them. It’s tough to judge him, but he’s been very solid from what we’ve seen so far. Although Northwestern lost their top 2 receivers in WR Jeremy Ebert (75 catches, 1060 yards, 11TD) & TE Drake Dunsmore (45 catches, 522 yards, 6TD), the Wildcats have an interesting array of receiving options for Colter to throw to. WR Demetrius Fields (6’0/210lbs) is the team’s returning leading receiver. WR Kyle Prater (6’5/215lbs) was arguably the best HS WR recruit in his class when he committed to USC. He’s since transferred to Northwestern and this will be his 2nd full season with the Wildcats. TE Evan Watkins (6’6/250lbs) takes over for Dunsmore which is a tough proposition, but Watkins has incredible size. The other notable receiver is sophomore WR Christian Jones (6’3/225lbs) who brings some incredible size to the equation. The 2-deep at receiver is also very big. I don’t know if by year’s end any of these receivers will have produced at a level of an Ebert or Dunsmore, but the talent & size are there to put up some serious passing numbers.

Weaknesses: Northwestern has lost so much from a season ago. Kain Colter looks pretty good, but remember that Dan Persa completed 73.4% of his passes for 2,376 yards & 17TD last season while missing 3 games. I don’t think you can discount how important accuracy is an Persa leaves Evanston as the FBS all time leading passer when it comes to completion percentage! Colter could play well beyond expectation and still fall short of the numbers Persa was able to put up. The running game is also pretty weak although what makes Northwestern so interesting i the potential the squad has. Junior RB Mike Trumpy has battled injuries his entire career at Northwestern, but he’s slated to be the starting RB in the fall. The 6’1/210lbs runner has some skills and could be a dependable back if he can stay healthy. True frosh Malin Jones (6’0/205lbs) & rFR Jordan Perkins (6’0/180lbs) are pretty good runners too. While I think the running game has to be considered a weakness, it could turn into a nice strength if Colter runs like he did last season & the running backs stay healthy. The receivers are unproven and Northwestern does lose it’s top-2 pass catchers from a season ago. While the size & potential of the receivers are strengths, the overall production of the receives is rather weak. Kyle Prater is a beast, but like Mike Trumpy, he’s dealt with significant injury issues since becoming a collegian. TE Evan Watkins needs to step into Dunsmore’s role while receivers Christian Jones & Demetrius Fields need to do more after the catch. The O-Line has some decent pieces. Center Brandon Vitabile & LG Brian Mulroe should content for all-conference honors while LT Patrick Ward is a 2-year returning starter. Northwestern has 3 returning starters & 3 upperclassmen on the O-Line which is nice, but last season this unit allowed 43 sacks (2nd worst in the Big 10) and allowed the runners to average 3.8ypc (worst in the Big 10). Using those two metrics, Northwestern had a worse O-Line than Indiana did so no matter how much improvement the Wildcats might have up front, they are playing from so far behind that you have to consider the big uglies in the trenches a significant weakness.

Game Plan: As I said before this is an interesting team with upside. Obviously you have to keep the ball out of Colter’s hands if you are an opposing defense. He can run the ball so the plan would be to force Colter to give the ball up to the runners. This means keep Northwestern out of passing plays as a broken play will most likely force Colter to run and pick up significant yardage. I also think opposing defenses should force Colter to throw the ball too. That’s a tricky line to walk as a defense. You want pass coverage to be good, but not so good that Colter starts picking up 4-6 yards a clip on busted passing plays. What will be interesting about Northwestern is that if the parts all come together, they really won’t have a strength to rely & the offense becomes very diverse. That would be hard to stop. Of course if one aspect of the offense gets going, defenses will have to gear towards that particular strategy. Northwestern should be interesting to watch.

OHIO ST. BUCKEYES

Strengths: Jim Tressel was an outstanding college football coach. Urban Meyer is an even better one! Meyer represents Ohio St.’s biggest strength as he brings his spread offense attack to the Big 10 which probably won’t be ready for such a transition. I’ve been saying for awhile now that a coach who can come in & attack the conference with the spread offense would definitely be taking advantage of an inefficiency. Michigan almost made this happen with Rich Rodriguez, but didn’t have the requisite patience to see it through. That won’t be a problem in Columbus as Meyer is going to be the head coach until he doesn’t want to be. I think Alabama’s Nick Saban is the best head coach in college football, but Meyer is in the discussion with Chip Kelly for the #2 spot. Meyer also walks into an ideal situation for his offense. QB Braxton Miller is a super talented dual threat option that led the Buckeyes in rushing last year with 715 yards (4.5ypc) & 7TD. He wasn’t the most accurate passer (54.1%) while throwing for 1,159 yards, but he only threw 4 interceptions to 13TD. Miller avoids mistakes which is a giant advantage especially for a kid who was a true freshman a season ago. Miller took way too many sacks last season but at least he was considerate with the football. As far as experience is concerned, that is about as big a strength as Ohio St. has which isn’t saying much. Talent isn’t an issue with Ohio State. They have as much talent as anyone in college football, but there isn’t much evidence of production. RB Jordan Hall is the projected starter but junior Carlos Hyde, sophomore Rod Smith and true frosh Bri’onte Dunn and Warren Ball could all see time in the backfield. The Buckeyes do return their top 3 receivers but those top-3 (Devin Smith, Corey Brown & Jake Stoneburner) accounted for only 42 receptions. Ohio St. does lose their biggest WR threat in DeVier Posey. The O-Line is big and talented but that’s about it. OG Andrew Norwell was an Honorable Mention All-Big 10 player as was OT Jack Mewhort. The projected starting lineup for the Buckeyes on the line is 4 juniors and a senior so there is plenty of upperclassmen leadership to go around.

Weaknesses: With a new HC comes new schemes and getting used to those schemes are the biggest obstacles facing the Buckeyes in 2012. How quickly the players adjust to a completely new offensive philosophy will go a long way in determining how effective Ohio St. can be on offense this season. While Miller is a strength and represents one of the best QBs in the Big 10, he’s still just a sophomore who completed just 54% of his passes. He’ll be better in 2012 and Meyer’s system fits him almost perfectly, but accuracy is a weakness at this point. The running game right now doesn’t have a feature running back. Dan Herron was the lead back for the last couple of seasons but he’s gone now. There is talent on the roster at running back, but how it shakes out is unknown so at this point the running attack is probably considered a weakness. Just like the running backs, the receivers are also long on talent but short on experience. They do lose their big play threat in Posey, but Devin Smith (6’1/196lbs), Corey Brown (5’11/186lbs) & TE Jake Stoneburner (6’5/245lbs) return. They all have upside. Stoneburner was a huge red zone target as 7 of his 14 receptions were TDs. Smith averaged 21.0ypc and 4 of his 14 receptions were TDs. Those receivers seem a little small but Tyrone Williams (6’6/225lbs) and Michael Thomas (6’2/196lbs) provide some size potentially for the receiving corps. The O-Line is an interesting conglomeration. On the one hand, the line allowed 46 sacks last season which is horrific. On the other it paved the way for Ohio St. to rush for 4.4ypc which is solid. This year Ohio St. loses LT Mike Adams, OC Mike Brewster & RT JB Shugarts. Brewster was a 1st-Team All American while both Brewster & Adams were drafted in the 2012 NFL Draft. Like at every other position, Ohio St. has some tremendous talent along the offensive line and they clearly underperformed last season. It’s a wait and see approach in 2012 to see how well the 2012 O-line does, but typically new O-linemen struggle with schemes early on with a new HC.

Game Plan: There looks to be a lot of unknowns with Ohio St. on offense, but remember that incredible talent and incredible coaching can overcome a lot of problems with experience. Ohio State has the talent & coaching so I don’t expect there to be much problem with this offense scoring in bunches. It’s not exactly easy to gameplan for an Urban Meyer offense, but if I had to guess I’d say the optimal way to stop the offense is keeping Miller in the pocket throwing the football. He did a good job at not throwing interceptions, but Miller dealt with accuracy problems and was more than happy to take a sack. Given the potential problems on the offensive line, Braxton could be in trouble a lot. This sort of makes sense too from a defensive perspective because you want to stack the box in order to contain the running game. This prevents Miller from potentially running. Sure you give up some one on one coverages in the secondary, but that relies on Miller’s ability to be accurate with his passes. If Miller has increased his accuracy then there isn’t much you can do. If Miller has indeed improved then the offensive line is the obvious point of attack for opposing defenses. Should be a fun year in Columbus even if the Buckeyes have no shot at postseason play.

PENN ST. NITTANY LIONS

Strengths: Penn State’s strengths reside with their skill position players. RB Silas Redd returns after rushing for 1,241 yards (5.1ypc) & 7TD as sophomore in 2011 which was good enough to earn 2nd-Team All Big 10 honors. If Redd decides to stay all 4 years in State College, he has a chance to leave Penn St. as the program’s all time leading rusher, which would be quite an accomplishment given the pedigree of running backs that have donned the PSU uniform. Redd is right there with all the other solid runners in the Big 10 such as Rex Burkhead and Fitzgerald Touissant in chasing Montee Ball, but he should be a 1st Team All Big 10 player along with Ball if he keeps progressing. Despite losing WR Derek Moye, Penn St. returns their 2nd, 3rd, 4th & 5th leading receivers from 2011. WR Justin Brown (6’3/210lbs) has the size & talent to be a legitimate #1 WR. WR Devon Smith (5’7/147lbs) is small in stature but is dynamite after the catch averaging 16.1ypc on 25 catches last season. Shawney Kersey averaged 21.6ypc! The 2-deep is extremely talented as well on the edge. Eugene Lewis & Malik Golden are big & highly touted true freshman coming in. Something to really watch for in 2012 with Penn St. is the use of the tight ends. Remember that new HC Bill O’Brien was the New England Patriots offensive coordinator last season and you saw just how much he used a 2-TE set with the Patriots to the consternation of opposing NFL defenses. Penn State is likely to employ a similar look with projected starting TEs Garry Gilliam (6’7/277lbs) & Kevin Haplea (6’4/250lbs). The Lions depth doesn’t stop with those 2 players. O’Brien brought in two highly touted tight ends in Brent Wilkerson (6’5/250lbs) & Jesse James (6’7/265lbs) as true frosh. Redshirt frosh Kyle Carter (6’3/250lbs) also provides depth giving Penn Sate and extremely deep & talented tight end position that should be a legitimate force for Penn State if Bill O’Brien has his way with the offense.

Weaknesses: Penn State has two legitimate weaknesses that don’t even involve the players. The first is the scandal surrounding Joe Paterno & Jerry Sandusky. I’m not going to rehash the entire episode, but it’s going to be a problem lingering over the program for the entire season. There is no way around it. The other weakness is that a new HC brings along new schemes. I think O’Brien probably has to bring some renewed energy to a program that was in limbo with the advanced age of Joe Paterno, but new coaching brings new schemes and offensive philosophies. Like the situations at Illinois and Ohio State, there will be some period of adjustment for the players in a new system. As far as players are concerned, the big problem with Penn St. resides with their QB. Last year Matt McGloin was the starter but Rob Bolden got in quite a few reps while Kevin Newsome transferred. This season Paul Jones looks like he might be the starter for the beginning of the season. No matter who was under center last year, PSU completed just 48.1% of their passes with 10TD passes to 12INT. Jones is a beast at 6’3/245lbs and he’s got a chance to take the reigns of the first string offense and run with it. The other significant weakness for Penn State is their offensive line. They lose 4 starters who had MASSIVE experience! The only returning starter is center Matt Stankiewitch, but he hasn’t been outstanding in his years at Penn State. With a new scheme and almost an entirely new offensive line, Penn State is awfully weak up front.

Game Plan: Clearly in this offense, defenses are going to get after the QB. What will really be interesting here is how well Jones (or McGloin or Bolden) react to the pressure. Defenses are going to come after the QB while also stacking the box in hopes of stopping Redd from rushing to daylight all day long. That’s going to leave open a lot of 1-on-1 match-ups on the edge, but what will also be interesting is how quickly the QB can find the TE release. We know that Bill O’Brien is going to utilize a lot of 2TE sets so how the PSU QB utilizes those TEs will be really interesting to watch. If the QB can’t make quick decisions and get rid of the football even quicker, then Penn State is going to struggle. If the QB can find a way to utilize the skill players, then Penn State has an opportunity to become a dangerous offense. The passing game could open up the running game for Redd and all of a sudden Penn State features a very balanced offense. That’s a best case scenario and I think Penn State will struggle, but the utilization of a 2TE set will be really interesting to watch this season.

PURDUE BOILERMAKERS

Strengths: After averaging 26.9ppg as an offense in 2011, there is a lot to like about what the Purdue Boilermakers have coming back in 2012. RBs Ralph Bolden & Akeem Shavers return as a fairly dynamic running duo. Remember that Bolden was a 2nd-Team All Big 10 performer in 2009. Bolden redshirted in 2010 due to injury and last season his campaign was cut short due to injury. Before injury he ran for 674 yards (4.6ypc) & 6TD. When Bolden went down, Shavers took over and ran for 519 yards (4.7ypc) & 6TD and even grabbed MVP honors of the Little Ceasar’s Bowl where Purdue defeated Western Michigan 37-32. Adding more depth is Akeem Hunt who ran for 287 yards (8.7ypc!) & 2TD. Another strength is QB Caleb TerBush. TerBush has battled difficulty as a Boilermaker but finally put it together last season throwing for 1,905 yards while completing 61.7% of his passes along with 13TD to only 6INT. TerBush is a big guy at 6’5/230lbs and should be a load to get down. Given his size and ability to hit targets, if TerBush can take another step forward by giving Purdue a full season of 13 games and continuing to improve, he’ll give Purdue their best QB play since Joey Elliott in 2009. Purdue should also be pretty good at receiver. They do lose Justin Siller, but return 4 of their top-5 receivers including WR Antavian Edison who led the team in receiving a year ago and should be an All Big 10 candidate in 2012. WRs Gary Bush & OJ Ross along with TE Crosby Wright fill in the receiving corps with all 4 guys being upperclassmen. Purdue should have plenty of experience & leadership at receiver. The O-Line should be another strength for the Boilermakers. Guard Peters Drew & tackle Trevor Foy should both challenge for all conference honors while center Rick Schmeig is also an returning starter. Devin Smith & Justin Kitchens are new starters to the group but both are upperclassmen giving Purdue an entire O-Line full of upperclassmen with a combined 49 starts among them. Devin Smith is a highly decorated JUCO transfer and brings his 6’7/325lbs frame to the interior of the line.

Weaknesses: There isn’t a lot of weakness here when you look at Purdue in a vacuum. Purdue averaged almost 27ppg last season and basically has their entire offense back except it might be even better if it can stay healthy. The problem with Purdue is an overall lack of talent. If this were Michigan or Ohio St. and we were talking about returning your QB, your RB, 4 of your top 5 receivers and an offensive line full of upperclassmen including 3 returning starters, you’d be talking about potentially the best offense in the conference. With Purdue we clearly aren’t talking about an offense that should strike fear into the hearts of conference defenses.  Things could go wrong for Purdue however if injuries strike. Ralph Bolden has had trouble staying healthy & Akeem Shavers isn’t the most talented of running backs. Justin Siller had the size of a #1 WR at 6’3/215lbs. Purdue loses that a bit as their leading receiver is Edison who is listed at 5’11/175lbs. Purdue certainly won’t be getting any jump balls in the red zone for the most part. TerBush had a pretty solid year last year, but his first couple of years in West Lafayette weren’t so hot. Backup Robert Marve had all the potential in the world when he originally signed with Miami-FL, but injuries have murdered that poor kid to the point where he’s completely unreliable. Purdue has some nice size along the O-Line and I think it could be effective, but it’s effective in spite of the lack of talent and not because an abundance of tremendous talent.

Game Plan: I don’t see an overall hole to exploit defensively with Purdue. Their biggest problem might be a lack of talent so the best strategy as a defense is to figure out what they are doing well and then try and exploit that. If the running game can’t get going but the passing game is on fire, then take away the passing game and force Bolden to run. If the Bolden is going off and TerBush can’t hit the broadside of a barn, then stack the box and make TerBush deliver the football to the open man. Put pressure on the edges with the pass rush and see if you can get Purdue completely out of sync. This is basically a round about way of trying to “out talent” the Boilermakers. This offense looks pretty balanced and if things break right Purdue could win 8 games with a chance to get to 9. If Lady Luck smiles on them then Purdue could finish the season 9-3 with a shot at double digit victories in the bowl game. The players simply have to hold up over the course of a season.

WISCONSIN BADGERS

Strengths: It all starts with RB Montee Ball. With apologies to Robert Griffin & Andrew Luck, Ball made a tremendous case for being the Heisman Trophy winner last year after rushing for 1,923 yards (6.3ypc) & 33TD and also adding in 24 receptions for 306 yards & 6 more TDs! That’s over 2,200 yards from scrimmage and one TD short of 40! The 5’11/212lbs beast was a 1st Team All-American, 1st Team Big 10 and Big Ten Player of the Year! If not for an insane Nick Foles Hail Mary pass that cost Wisconsin the game against Michigan State, I get the feeling that Wisconsin wouldn’t have followed that up with a loss to Purdue, they would have rolled to a 13-0 finish and Ball would have taken home the Heisman hardware. Only Ball & Marcus Lattimore can argue about being the best running back in college football and Ball should again be a Heisman frontrunner with a shot at becoming Wisconsin’s #2 all-time leading rusher. If Ball wasn’t enough, Wisconsin also has junior RB James White backing him up. White ran for 713 yards (5.1ypc) & 6TD a year ago in relief of Ball. White would be a 1,000 yard rusher for almost every team in college football, but he just so happens to play for Wisconsin who has this Montee Ball fellow! Wisconsin should also be strong at receiver. While they do lose Nick Toon, the Badgers bring back their leading receiver in the 6’2/180lbs Jared Abbrederis who caught 55 balls for 933 yards (17.0ypc) and 8TD a season ago. Abbrederis is the #1 WR this season for Wisconsin and should have help with TE Jacob Pedersen & WR Jeff Duckworth. With the running game, Wisconsin runs a lot of 2TE sets and Brian Wozniak will be the other TE paired with Pedersen. The O-Line is gigantic with the average starter projected to be 6’5.5/321lbs! LT Ricky Wagner (6’6/322lbs) might be the best LT in college football while LG Travis Frederick was a 2nd Team All Big 10 selection last year and will move to center. Wisconsin’s O-Line took a massive hit with 3 starters from 2011 going in the 2012 NFL Draft, but new starters Dan Voltz, Ryan Groy & Rob Havenstein are all huge and very talented. It’s hard to think the unit will be quite as good as it was a season ago, but it’ll be plenty good and will be one of the best O-Lines in the entire nation! Ball, White, Abbrederis, Pedersen, Wagner & Frederick should all compete for All-Conference honors. That’s a lot of strength for one offense!

Weaknesses: I don’t even think Russell Wilson’s family could have seen what Wilson was able to do in his only year in Madison. The NC State transfer lit it up for Wisconsin, throwing for 3,175 yards & 33 TD while completing a remarkable 73% of his passes! The 4 interceptions have Wilson a ridiculous 8+ TD:INT ratio on his way to earning 1st Team All Big 10 honors. Wilson’s season was good enough to earn a 3rd Round pick of the Seattle Seahawks in the 2012 NFL Draft despite Wilson’s listed height being 5’11! Even more remarkable is that Wilson is causing quite a stir in Seattle, so much so that some pundits are now thinking he’ll win the starting job for a team with its sights set on a playoff berth! Clearly Wisconsin is going to have a BRUTAL time replicating that sort of production. HC Bret Bielema is going to the ACC well once again, this time picking up Maryland transfer Danny O’Brien. O’Brien is clearly not Russell Wilson, but nobody thought Russell Wilson was Russell Wilson until he got to Madison. O’Brien is a good fit for the offense and is more of a conventional pocket passer than Wilson was thought of. It’s impossible to think O’Brien will replicate Wilson’s numbers so this is considered a weakness because we really don’t know how it will turn out. I thought Wilson was a weakness before the 2011 season began. The O-Line is not a weakness, but I wanted to note that the line is losing 2 1st-Team All Americans (C Peter Konz & G Kevin Zeitler) and 3 1st-Team All Big 10 Players (Konz, Zeitler & T Josh Oglesby)! Zeitler was a 1st Round draft pick while Konz went in the 2nd round! It’s an incredible testament to the program when you can take 3 1st-Team All Conference players and still have one of the best O-lines in the nation! Wow.

Game Plan: The knock I had on Wilson last year was that he didn’t complete as many passes as I thought he should have. He stepped into a great situation with Wisconsin and promptly completed 73% of his passes. I said last year that Wilson doesn’t have to do much except manage games and Wisconsin would win. He did a lot more than than and the Badgers wound up finishing the season 11-3 and Big 10 Champions. O’Brien finds himself in the same situation. He’s got all the talent in the world at his disposal so all he has to do is not give games away through poor decision making. Opposing defenses have to try and stop the run. It’s impossible to let Montee Ball rush for 200 yards a game and expect to win, and this will leave very favorable matchups for O’Brien and the receivers. All O’Brien has to do is hit the receivers and make sure to hand the ball off properly. If O’Brien can’t settle in there is a chance you can beat Wisconsin by outscoring them, but if O’Brien can replicate what Wilson did in 2011, Wisconsin has an offense that will be virtually unstoppable.

July 22, 2012 - Posted by | Big 10, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan St., Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Ohio St, Penn St., Purdue, Wisconsin

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