Big Ten Preview: Can JoePa Win Back To Back Titles?
With the 2009 college football season right around the corner I've decided to try my hand and predicting the Big 10. As an added bonus I will throw in which bowl game I think each team may be headed for.
1. Penn State- With Darryl Clark and Evan Royster returning, JoePa is looking towards his 2nd straight Big 10 title. The defense returns Sean Lee from injury alongside Navorro Bowman as well. The schedule is very forgiving as the Nittany Lions have big games against Iowa and Ohio State at home. Given the soft non-conference schedule Penn State could sneak their way into the National Championship game, however it would have to be because another team managed to lose their way out. A Rose Bowl is more likely. Predicted Bowl: Rose
2. Ohio State- The loss of Beanie Wells will definitely be felt in Columbus as the Buckeyes don't have an experienced back on the roster. Terrelle Pryor will take a big step forward with a year of game experience under his belt. Pryor, however, must improve his passing for the Bucks' to take over the top spot in the Big 10. The first two games are tough with Navy and its triple option and Pac-10 powerhouse USC visiting Columbus, as well as the end stretch which includes games at Penn State andMichigan with a visit from Iowa in the middle. Predicted Bowl: Fiesta
3. Iowa- The Hawkeyes return a pretty solid defense that knocked off Big 10 co-champs Penn State last year as well as up and coming quarterback Ricky Stanzi. If the Hawkeyes can find a solid running game similar to last season they could challenge for the top spot in the conference. The schedule is brutal though with trips to Penn State, Wisconsin, Michigan State and Ohio State. Predicted Bowl: Capital One
4. Illinois- The Illini return starting quarterback Juice Williams along with Arrelious Benn, a duo that picked apart defenses last year. The key will be for Williams to cut down on his interceptions this season. The defense, average most of last year, mustimprove its pass defense and intercept more than 6 passes. The Illini avoid Wisconsin and Iowa but open Big 10 play with a trip to Ohio State and a visit from Penn State.Predicted Bowl: Outback
5. Michigan State- The Spartans and coach Mike Dantonio look to take the next step in the Big 10. The defense looks pretty solid this season but the offense needs to produce for this to be a productive season. With both Brian Hoyer and Javon Ringer leaving it will be important for the the Spartans to get the kinks out early. The schedule is very manageable with home games against Iowa and Penn State andmissing out on Ohio State. Predicted Bowl: Insight
6. Minnesota- The Golden Gophers return their leading passer, rusher and receiver in quarterback Adam Weber, running back DeLeon Eskridge, and wide receiver Eric Decker. If Minnesota can improve their rush defense they could continue to take big strides this season. The schedule features back to back trips to Columbus and Happy Valley, followed by a season ending tilt in Iowa. Predicted Bowl: Champs Sports
7. Wisconsin- For the Badgers to be successful Dustin Sherer has to improve upon a 54.5 completion percentage. Wisconsin was able to dance around spotty quarterback play last year behind the running of PJ Hill, but with Hill gone the Badgers will need John Clay to pick up where Hill left off. The conference schedule opens with home games against Michigan State and Iowa sandwiched around trips to Minnesota and Ohio State. Predicted Bowl: Alamo
8. Michigan- Coach Rich Rodriguez looks to continue his progress in bringing hisground based spread option attack to the Big 10. No one can really expect too much from the Wolverines this year as it usually takes a while for a coach to import his type of players. That being said Tate Forcier is Rodriguez's type of player and the defense looks fairly solid. The schedule however is pretty brutal with Notre Dame coming to the "Big House" along with Penn State and Ohio State while the Wolverines take trips to Iowa and in state rival Michigan State. Predicted Bowl: None
9. Northwestern- The Wildcats were a feisty bunch last year, clawing their way to a 9-4 record last year. The key to this season is finding a replacement for running back Tyrell Sutton who was the team's leading rusher last season. The defense looks to improve upon last season where they finished fourth in the conference in points allowed. Other than back to back games against Penn State a and Iowa look for Northwestern to play each game tough and sneak out a few wins against the higher ups. Predicted Bowl: None
10. Purdue- The Boilers must replace their top passer and rusher in Coach Danny Hope's first season. Purdue misses Penn State and Wisconsin but has non-conference traps in Toledo, Oregon and Notre Dame. Predicted Bowl: None
11. Indiana- The Hoosiers must be feeling like 2007 was so long ago, two years removed from their 7-5 finish IU looks to finish no closer to the top of the Big 10 than Florida (consequently because they're in the SEC). The Hoosiers do return 18 starters among them the quarterback tandem of Kellen Lewis and Ben Chappell. Indiana's schedule is full of losable games among them the entire Big 10 and visits from Western Michigan and South Florida. Predicted Bowl: None
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