Big Ten Must Recover, Part One: Season Recap

Nelson GContributor IDecember 30, 2008

The Big Ten had a disappointing season with the lack of consistent dominance or a really tough out of conference schedule. This past season had some Big Ten teams looking for answers.

Indiana was left scratching their heads.  Last season was one of their most productive seasons, reaching a bowl game for the first time since 1993 just to lose to the Cowboys from Oklahoma State, to the bottom of the Big Ten standings this year.

The Hoosiers will need to re-evaluate their depth chart and fortify their leadership positions and help Kellen Lewis get the ball out more efficiently, and also improve their running game. The Hoosier running game is lacking, having on average 100 yards a game combined. This proves either a lacking offensive line or just running backs that need improvement—lots of it.

Michigan, the team with the best winning percentage in college football history, fell below .500 for the first time since 1967 and had its most losses in a season at nine. This season left Big Ten newcomer Rich Rodriguez looking for quick answers and a successful turnaround.

This will be hard since the Wolverines have lost five blue-chip commits to other schools, including Kevin Newsome, the four-star prospect out of Virginia who decommitted and committed to Penn State as a reaction to Pat Devlin’s early leave from the Nittany Lion nation.

The Wolverines did something great early on, giving Steven Threet time, but this offseason will be his time to put up or shut up. The Wolverines are recruiting quarterbacks and need a good play caller on the field to keep morale up, and not be injured.

When the Wolverines rolled into Happy Valley, they seemed to be the dominant team on the field, but halftime rearrangements and the first drive for Michigan ending in a safety did not help their cause.

Purdue, the home of one of the best quarterback schools in the country, stalled this season. It was a season that many hoped to be stellar due it being Joe Tiller’s last season as a Boilermaker, especially starting off on a good foot with two victories, one off the Central Michigan Chippewas in the Motor City Bowl the previous season and an exemplary show of might over Northern Colorado.

However, Purdue lost a close one to Oregon and “tucked its tail between its legs” for the rest of the season, losing to all except Michigan and Indiana, the bottom two teams in the conference.

The Boilermakers had great potential in their quarterback Curtis Painter, but the running game, besides Kory Sheets, was pathetic at most, and their defense did not make much of a presence on the field. The Boilermakers need to focus this offseason on improving their offensive and defensive line and revamping their secondary.  

Illinois, the Fighting Illini, coming off a disappointing loss in the Rose Bowl, had high expectations for this season, even a return into the BCS, but instead the Fighting Ilini are at home looking in at the bowl season.

Juice Williams showed how talented he could be without Rashard Mendenhall, and he flourished, but Williams also showed how vulnerable the team could be without a dominant rushing game. Williams was prolific when it came to passing and rushing, running for 719 yards and passing for 3,173 yards.

What they needed to do they did—they recruited a four-star running back by the name of Bud Golden, who should be a nice replacement of Mendenhall, unfortunately a season late.

Coach Ron Zook will have a field day looking at his potential this offseason with Williams coming back, Benn out in the slot, and Golden in the backfield. If they maintain a dominant offensive line, they will be a team to beat next season.