Spring Questions: Big Ten Edition

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Spring Questions: Big Ten Edition
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

What does Ron Zook do with Juice Williams?

Williams is a great talent at quarterback for the Illini, but he just can’t seem to take that step to elite status.

In his sophomore year,, he was so inconsistent that Zook actually pulled him in some games in favor of Eddie McGee. This would be the same year that Illinois played in the Rose Bowl.

Last season, however, Williams kept a firm grasp on the starting job, but could not duplicate the success that the team had in 2007.

Williams has always been a dual threat, both with his arm and feet, but he is best served when Zook does not have to rely on him throwing the ball to win the game.

Williams is very erratic with his pass accuracy and in 10 games where he has attempted 30 or more passes, the Illini’s record is an eye-popping 1-9.

I don’t think that it is the attempts that are hurting him, but rather it is the scheme. Zook needs to roll out Williams so he has that pass-run option.

Keep the patterns short and simple, and you will see the Illinois offense succeed.

 

Is there hope for Michigan fans this year?

Anything has to be better for Wolverine fans next season, who saw their team go 3-9 and miss a bowl game for the first time in 34 seasons in 2008.

Most of the fans I talk to have high hopes for incoming freshman quarterback Tate Forcier, and all I say to them is that I hope he is made of steel.

With Steven Threet transferring and Nick Sheridan suffering a leg injury in spring practice, Forcier is now the No. 1 quarterback by default. In the fall, he will be joined by fellow true freshman Denard Robinson, but it seems for now that it is Forcier’s job to lose.

It is going to take a few years for Rich Rodriguez to get his players in place for his system, but will the Michigan faithful wait that long?

Defensively they should get a little better, but that is not enough in my opinion.

They are very green at the skilled positions on offense, and their offensive line isn’t exactly stellar. Luckily for the Wolverines, the Big Ten will be down a little this year so they should be able to win more than three games this year.

 

Can Purdue and Wisconsin rebound from disappointing 2008 seasons?

Last year, many thought that the Wisconsin Badgers were one of the sleeper teams that could rise up and win the Big Ten.

Well, we found out that you cannot win the Big Ten without a defense and a quarterback, and now with P.J. Hill, Jr., gone, you can add running back to that list.

The Badgers were once a team with a strong offensive line and a solid—but not spectacular—quarterback.

They come into this year with the same questions (as last year) at quarterback. Will it be Dustin Sherer? Can John Clay be an every-down back now that Hill is gone?

The Badgers have a very young offensive line with a lot of inexperience, which doesn’t bode well for developing quarterbacks.

I expect a lot of the same struggles for the Badgers as last season, as well as a middle-of-the-pack Big Ten finish.

Purdue didn’t have quite the same high expectations, but having Curtis Painter come back for his senior season was supposed to solidify the Boilermakers' offense.

But in Joe Tiller’s last season, Painter went on to have a very lackluster senior season, and now, it is up to Joey Elliott and Justin Siller to duke it out for for the starting job.

Also gone is running back Kory Sheets, but hopefully replacing him is senior Jaycen Taylor, who has some experience for the Boilermakers.

Taylor missed all of last season after tearing his ACL in preseason practice.

Besides the defensive ends and secondary, the Boilermakers are going to have a new look come 2009—that includes head coach Danny Hope.

Unfortunately for Purdue fans, this program will take a few more steps back before it breaks into the upper half of the Big Ten.

 

Will Ohio State be able to reload enough to go to its fifth straight BCS bowl game, and seventh in eight years?

Yeah, you read that correctly. Ohio State has gone to a BCS bowl game six times out of the last seven years, a feat that is pretty impressive if you ask me.

Coming into 2009, however, the Buckeyes have to replace a lot of firepower on offense; as well as most of their offensive line, secondary, and linebackers.

Their quarterback situation with Terrelle Pryor is locked up for the next two years at least, but Beanie Wells is gone at running back and so are receivers Brian Robiskie and Brian Hartline.

Potentially, it could be a problem in Pryor’s development if he doesn’t find receivers to throw to, and expect him to take more of the load running the ball.

What the Buckeyes have going for them is their stellar recruiting.

They have been in the top 10 each of the past few years, and coach Jim Tressel made a point last year to go out and recruit a ton of stud linemen. It’ll be up to him and his staff to quickly develop this talent to become a Big Ten contender.

The beginning of the season could be a little rocky, particularly the USC game. But with the way the Big Ten looks to be shaping up in 2009, there is no reason why the Buckeyes can’t finish on top of the Big Ten or even high enough in the BCS standings to warrant another BCS bowl invite.

 

Does the Big Ten have any legitimate national title contenders this season?

For those who read the blog regularly, you know I am a Big Ten fan. So it might mean a little more when I answer this question with an emphatic no!

Due to the fact that the Big Ten has taken some huge public relations hits the past three seasons, any team in this conference to go to the BCS title game would have to be undefeated.

Right now, I cannot say that any team in this conference is complete enough on both sides of the ball to go through the season unscathed.

I’ve talked about Ohio State’s issues. Last year’s champion Penn State will be replacing three wide receivers, four offensive linemen, most of their secondary, and two All-American defensive ends.

Michigan is two to three years away from contending. Minnesota has too many questions on defense. Michigan State has too many questions on offense (replacing Brian Hoyer and Javon Ringer). And Iowa doesn’t have the consistency at quarterback.

I expect another year of the pundits making fun of the Big Ten for not being elite anymore.

Meanwhile, it might be best for the conference to only get one team in the BCS bowls. That way, conference members match up better down the line and restore some of the image they lost.

2009 is going to be an interesting season in the Big Ten. I expect the champion to have at least two conference losses, and it could be a year where Minnesota or Michigan State finally breaks through and wins the Big Ten.

For their sake, however, they better hope USC is in the BCS title game.

 

Big Ten Spring Game Dates
Illinois (April 25)
Indiana (April 18)
Iowa (April 18)
Michigan (April 11)
Michigan State (April 25)
Minnesota (April 25)
Northwestern (April 25)
Ohio State (April 25)
Penn State (April 25)
Purdue (April 18)
Wisconsin (April 18)

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