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SCS.COM COLLEGE FOOTBALL PREVIEW 2007: BIG TEN
August 6, 2007

SCS.comNine. That is the number of times Ohio State or Michigan has won or shared the Big Ten Title since 1996. The Big Two, I mean the Big Ten, has been blasted in recent years due to the lack of depth in the conference. Wisconsin, though, is making a run at prominence in the conference after going 11-1 last year, and they return a strong 16 starters on offense and defense, as well as their talented special teams duo. However, Ohio State and Michigan will be strong as usual. UM is expected to start and finish in the top 5. OSU does not rebuild, they reload, and they will be led by the conference’s best defense. Can OSU repeat, or will Michigan finally get over the hump? Or is it time for Wisconsin to make that final leap to prominence?

SCS.com Pick'Em Contest

Iowa, Purdue, Illinois, Indiana, and Penn State will have solid teams in 2007. I expect all 5 of these teams to earn a bowl bid. Michigan State is in a rebuilding year, and life without Drew Stanton will send the Spartans to the basement of the Big 10. Minnesota and Northwestern will do fine in out of conference play, but struggle in Big Ten play. They both have great running backs, but both offenses struggle in every other aspect.

The Big Ten will show little change from 2006. Michigan, Ohio State, and Wisconsin should battle it out for the title. Wisconsin has OSU’s number. OSU has Michigan’s number. Michigan has Wisconsin’s number. Whoever breaks away from the past should come out on top.

Three Keys | Team-by-Team Analysis
Projected Standings | All-Conference Teams

THREE KEYS

1. Michigan’s defense. Or lack there of. Michigan only returns 4 starters on defense. They lost 5 out of their top 10 tacklers, including David Harris, who led the team in tackles by more than 50 over the 2nd leading tackler. They do have a great defensive coordinator in Ron English, and several talented youngsters. The defense is the only thing keeping Michigan from getting to the national championship game last year.
2. Rebuilding? Or reloading? How badly will OSU miss Smith, Ginn, Pittman, and Gonzalez? Running back Chris “Beanie” Wells is a heisman candidate in the making, so there is little worry there. However, the passing game could hold Ohio State back, especially if coach Jim Tressel gets rid of the spread offense that made Troy Smith so successful.
3. Senior quarterbacks. Michigan’s Chad Henne is one of the best quarterbacks in college football. But, he has yet to win a game vs. Ohio State, or a bowl game. Wisconsin’s Tyler Donovan has been waiting and waiting for his chance to lead UW. The speedy QB should pick up right where John Stocco left off from last year. Anthony Morelli has been good but not great in his career at Penn State. He returns his top 4 receivers this year, and has a talented defense to hold opponents to low scores.

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TEAM-BY-TEAM ANALYSIS

Illinois

OFFENSE: QB Juice Williams has a promising career ahead of him, especially after Arrelious Benn committed to Illinois. The talented receiver is one of the best freshman in the country, and will give Williams a star to throw to. Junior RB Rashard Mendenhall averaged 8.2 yards per carry on 78 touches last year. Illinois has the potential to pull off several upsets with their dynamic offense.
DEFENSE: The defense revolves around linebacker J Leman, who led the Big 10 in tackles with 152. Illinois returns 9 of its top 11 tacklers. The defense needs to work on creating turnovers after they were -15 in the turnover department (mostly due to 35 turnovers by the offense) last year. Illinois struggled getting sacks last year, but freshman defensive tackle D’Angelo McCray should help force turnovers and get pressure on the QB.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Jason Reda was solid last year, making 15-19 field goals with a long of 41. Reda needs to work on his range. He was 3-6 on kicks 40-49 yards. Punter Kyle Yelton struggled last year, with only 6 punts inside the 20. With a talented recruiting class coming in, Illinois should have several speedsters to pick from on kick returns.
COACHING: Ron Zook has shown that he is a great recruiter, but has struggled with his on-field coaching. He has 4 wins in 2 years, but has had little to work with. This year, he has a good young team that is only going to get better. This is his year to open some eyes.
SCHEDULE: Illinois opens with a tough neutral field game vs. Missouri and then gets Wisconsin, Penn State, and Michigan all at home. Upset alert anyone?
IF EVERYTHING GOES WELL.... Illinois could be bowl bound with the talent they have. If the youngsters can take their star rating and show it on the field, there is nothing stopping them from winning 7 games.
IF THINGS DON'T GO SO WELL.... Illinois' offense turned the ball over 35 times last year. The defense is not known for forcing turnovers. Something needs to change so Illinois can win the time of possession battle. Juice Williams may take a step back, but they will definitely improve on their 2 win total from 2006.
MAKE OR BREAK: If Arrelious Benn has a freshman year like Ted Ginn or James Hardy, and Rashard Mendenhall stays around 5 yards per carry, the offense will be one of the tops in the Big 10.

Indiana

OFFENSE: Kellen Lewis is another young QB in the Big 10 who looks to have a bright future. He is a speedster like Juice Williams, but has better throwing skills. He threw 14 touchdowns last year, and 7 interceptions. James Hardy is an animal. The 6-7 junior had 10 touchdowns and 51 receptions in 2006, even though he missed 2 games. Marcus Thigpen has 4.22 speed and was originally recruited as a WR. I look for Thigpen to have a better year then he did rushing last year, when he scored just 2 touchdowns.
DEFENSE: The defense struggled last year giving up 32.8 points per game. They return 7 starters, but lose their top 2 tacklers. Tracy Porter is a shut down corner who led the team in interceptions and is the team's top returning tackler. In Big Ten play, Indiana had only 5 sacks. IU had the worst defense in the Big 10 last year, and I expect more of the same.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Kicker Austin Starr returns after a strong sophomore year. Starr was 12-15 when it came to field goals, but he missed 4 extra points. Freshman Chris Hagerup or Michael Hines will take over the punting duties. Indiana has the best kick/punt returning duo in the nation. Tracy Porter returns punts, and Marcus Thigpen returns kicks. Combined, they had 4 touchdowns last year.
COACHING: After the tragic death of likable head coach Terry Hoeppner, the team was crushed. Former Ball State head coach and Indiana offensive coordinator Bill Lynch will take over. He coached 2 games last year while Hoeppner had surgery to remove a brain tumor. Lynch will do a fine job this year.
SCHEDULE: Indiana should win all 4 of its out of conference games with no BCS teams lined up. Ohio State and Michigan are absent from their schedule, which is a huge bonus. Indiana has a very favorable schedule.
IF EVERYTHING GOES WELL.... Marcus Thigpen starts to be more productive as a running back and the defense improves slightly. Indiana rolls through OOC play and wins 2 or 3 Big 10 games.
IF THINGS DON'T GO SO WELL.... Northwestern struggled the year after the loss of head coach Randy Walker. The same fate could be true for Indiana. Hardy could be the only playmaker on the field, offensively or defensively, if things do not improve. Indiana could be stuck at 5 wins, because nearly every team in the Big 10 is getting better.
MAKE OR BREAK: Thigpen and the running game. Lewis and Hardy will keep the passing game on track. Thigpen needs to balance it out or move back to WR.

Iowa

OFFENSE: Jake Christensen will replace Drew Tate, who played every year he was on campus. Christensen did start one game last year and threw 2 touchdowns and 256 yards. Albert Young had his worst year since he has been at Iowa, mainly due to defenses stacking the box. Andy Brodell and Dominique Douglas will give Young some support and the young QB some talented targets.
DEFENSE: The defense was pretty good last year. They gave up just over 20 points per game. DE Ken Iwebema is one of the best ends in the country, and he is also apart of the best d-line in the Big 10. Linebacker Mike Klinkenborg led the team and was 2nd in the Big 10 in tackles. The secondary needs to create more turnovers, but continue the solid pass defense.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Sophomore Austin Signor made 2 field goals in 2 tries last year. Signor has a great future ahead of him and will be the next Nate Kaeding. Freshman punter Ryan Donahue has a big leg, but will need to work on his accuracy. However, he will be an improvement over Andy Festermaker.
COACHING: Kirk Ferentz is one of the top coaches in the game. Winning only 13 games in the past 2 years is not like Ferentz. He is motivated to get Iowa back on track.
SCHEDULE: Iowa avoids Ohio State and Michigan this year. However, they have to travel to Wisconsin and Penn State, which is only fair. Iowa State is always a tough game, especially on the road.
IF EVERYTHING GOES WELL.... Iowa could be looking at a 8 or 9 win season and a share of the Big Ten title if Michigan and Ohio State have below-standard seasons. However, I think a solid year for Jake Christensen and a 3rd or 4th place finish is more realistic.
IF THINGS DON'T GO SO WELL.... Albert Young could fail to improve on his 779 yards he rushed for last year. That would cause Christensen to struggle. With their favorable schedule, Iowa should do no worse than 6 wins.
MAKE OR BREAK: If Albert Young rushes for over 1000 yards, I think Iowa wins 8 games minimum. He also needs to stay healthy, after missing 2 games last year. This is Young’s team. With the departure of Drew Tate, he is the team leader.

Michigan

OFFENSE: Michigan has the best offense in the Big 10, and it is led by their two Heisman candidates. QB Chad Henne and RB Mike Hart make up the best backfield in college football. UM also has talented receivers such as Mario Manningham and Adrian Arrington. Left tackle Jake Long turned down the NFL to anchor a talented and younger offensive line.
DEFENSE: The defense only returns 4 starters, after giving up less than 16 points per game last year. Morgan Trent and Jamar Adams are the top 2 returning tacklers, both of which are defensive backs. Linebacker Shawn Crable is Michigan’s star on defense, one of only 2 seniors projected to start on defense. UM's defense is their only glaring weakness. The offense can carry the team most of the way, but defense wins championships, and this is not a championship caliber defense.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Zoltan Mesko had a great freshman year punting for the Wolverines. He had 17 kicks inside the 20, and had an average of 41.6 yards per punt. Kicker Garrett Rivas was a solid kicker last year, making 17-20 field goals. Jason Gingell and Bryan Wright will battle it for the place kicking job, but they will be a decrease in production.
COACHING: This is Lloyd Carr’s best team in years. Not only is this his best team, but Ohio State is supposed to be “rebuilding.” Carr must beat OSU this year, or he is in big trouble.
SCHEDULE: Michigan gets Oregon, Notre Dame, Penn State, and Ohio State at home. They play 8 out of 12 games at home, but they do have to travel to Illinois and Wisconsin.
IF EVERYTHING GOES WELL.... The schedule is very favorable. Michigan has a talented offense and should be able to score 30 points almost every game. If the defense can come together and perform like it did last year, then they can go 12-0.
IF THINGS DON'T GO SO WELL.... Michigan’s lack of defensive experience could be their downfall. Chad Henne and Mike Hart have never beaten Ohio State or won a bowl game, so history is against them. I don’t see UM doing any worse than 3 losses.
MAKE OR BREAK: The defense is the key. If it plays like it did last year, then there will be no stopping Michigan. I have confidence in the youngsters to keep opponents under 30 points each game, which is good enough for UM’s offense.

Michigan State

OFFENSE: Brian Hoyer will try and replace one of the best Spartans in recent history, QB Drew Stanton. The junior did make one start last year and threw for 4 touchdowns and 865 yards in 144 attempts. He will have a great running back helping him adjust. Javon Ringer is a speedy back who missed time last year, but averaged 5.8 yards per rush when he did play. Jehuu Caulcrick filled in and scored 6 touchdowns himself. MSU is weak at WR, but look for T.J. Williams to have a breakout year.
DEFENSE: MSU’s defense was below average last season giving up 28 points per game for the 2nd straight year. The defense returns 6 starters, including free safety Otis Wiley. He led the team in pass breakups and tackles. The defense is more experienced and talented, but I expect minimal improvement.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Brett Swenson is a very talented kicker, who made 15-19 field goals last year with a long of 46 yards. The sophomore should be on the best kickers in the Big 10 this year.
COACHING: Everyone knew that John L. Smith would not last one more year at MSU. The Spartans had to move on. They hired Cincinnati coach Mark Dantonio, and the former Ohio State defensive coordinator was the best possible hire for Michigan State. He is a great coach in the making, and will soon raise MSU back to prominence with great recruiting, coaching, and strict discipline.
SCHEDULE: MSU has Pittsburgh and Notre Dame on the out of conference schedule. They also have to travel to Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Iowa. They have one of the toughest schedules in the Big 10.
IF EVERYTHING GOES WELL.... Michigan State could beat Pitt and ND. That would be a great confidence booster for a team with a 1st year coach and a new QB. Javon Ringer is a dominant back when he stays healthy. A healthy Ringer could get MSU 6 wins.
IF THINGS DON'T GO SO WELL.... Michigan State and new QB Brian Hoyer will probably struggle without Drew Stanton. The tough schedule is not doing them any favors. Another 4 win season is likely.
MAKE OR BREAK: Javon Ringer needs to stay healthy and find the end zone often. Otherwise, Michigan State will struggle to beat the mid-tier Big 10 teams.

Minnesota

OFFENSE: Bryan Cupito was a very underrated QB, and was the heart of Minnesota for years. He has graduated now, and will likely be replaced by junior Tony Mortensen, though freshmen Adam Weber is being given every chance to win the job. Amir Pinnix rushed for 1272 yards last year, and he is the main cog in the Gopher offense. Ernie Wheelwright leads a less than spectacular group of receivers into the year. That is not good for the new QB.
DEFENSE: The defense was great last year at forcing turnovers, taking away 32 in all to put together the best turnover ratio in football. They return 9 starters, including their leading tackler, Mike Sherels. He had 104 tackles and 3 interceptions in '06. Dominique Barber is Minnesota’s best defensive player. The stellar safety led the team in interceptions. However, the defense does give up lots of yards, and surrendered an averaged of 26 points per game in 2006. I look for more of the same from the Gopher defense come 2007.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Freshman Jason Giannini was pretty good last year, making 7 of 12 field goals. He was better his freshman year, so he has the potential. Punter Justin Kucek returns after averaging 40.3 yards per punt and drilling 18 inside the 20.
COACHING: This will be Tim Brewster’s first year at Minnesota. Glen Mason was the longest tenured coach in the Big 10 before being fired this off-season. Brewster was the tight end coach for the Broncos, and formerly coached under Mack Brown where he was known as a great recruiter. He won’t have great success this year, but he seems like a good hire. He needs time.
SCHEDULE: Minnesota should win all of its out of conference games, unless they drop one to a MAC school. They play Purdue, Ohio State, Illinois, and Wisconsin at home. With a very tough Big 10 schedule, and it will be hard to find any easy wins.
IF EVERYTHING GOES WELL.... Amir Pinnix is good, but I do not think he can carry the team. However, if the offense comes together quickly, I think you can see Minnesota sniff 6 wins.
IF THINGS DON'T GO SO WELL.... The defense should be okay, but the offense will have its first off year in a while. Success will be minimal in Brewster’s first year.
MAKE OR BREAK: The new QB and WRs have to come together quickly or Minnesota will struggle to win any Big 10 games in 2007.

Northwestern

OFFENSE: C.J. Bacher should continue to see most of the snaps, but he is injury prone. He broke his leg last year, and hurt his toe this spring. Look for Mike Kafka to see the field as well. Tyrell Sutton is a star. You do not get to see enough of the Wildcat. He averaged 5.3 yards per carry last year, and he caught 40 balls. He will be a productive and versatile back in the NFL. NU has one of the weakest receiver corps in the Big 10, so teams can stack the box vs. the 'Cats. This was the main reason they only averaged 16 points per game last year.
DEFENSE: Eight out of the top 11 tacklers return. The defense improved last year, giving up 8 less points then it did the previous year. Brendan Smith leads a pretty good pass defense that only gave up an average of 204 yards per game. DE Corey Wooton led the team in sacks freshman year. He is a diamond in the rough. I think Northwestern improves on defense again.
SPECIAL TEAMS: NU loses their kicker and punter for 2007. Stefan Demos and Amado Villarreal will compete to take over the kicking job. I have faith that the winner of the job will be pretty good. Demos will also battle Kyle Davey for the punting job. With all the options, the special teams should come out strong.
COACHING: This is Pat Fitzgerald’s 2nd year since taking over for Randy Walker. The tragic death of Walker was crushing to the school, but Fitzgerald has done a great job keeping the team together, and you can see improvements in the Wildcats already. I think he will be here to stay.
SCHEDULE: Northwestern has a favorable out of conference schedule that involves Northeastern, Nevada, Duke, and Eastern Michigan. They get Minnesota and Indiana at home, but travel to Michigan State. Those are the best 3 chances at winning games in conference play.
IF EVERYTHING GOES WELL.... If the passing attack can improve, Sutton could really shine. The defense should be there, and NU is only getting better. I see 5 or 6 wins as the best case scenario, but that is a good year for a team with little offensive talent and a shaky offensive line.
IF THINGS DON'T GO SO WELL.... Sutton, like Pinnix, cannot do it all. If they only put up 16 points per game like last year, they are in trouble and will struggle to become bowl eligible.
MAKE OR BREAK: If Bacher can stay healthy, I think NU can get to a bowl. However, history has shown that he is injury prone.

Ohio State

OFFENSE: Troy Smith, Antonio Pittman, Anthony Gonzalez, and Ted Ginn Jr. are all gone, so Ohio State’s offense will take a serious decrease in production. Junior Todd Boeckman will take over for 2006 Heisman winner Troy Smith. Running back Chris Wells averaged 5.5 yards per carry last year and had 7 touchdowns, and he will be just as productive as Pittman. The receiving corps is a huge question mark. OSU has the talent, but will sophomores Ray Small and Brian Hartline be able to be productive along with talented junior Brian Robiske? Only time will tell.
DEFENSE: The defense will be dominant, as usual. Last year they gave up 12 points per game, the 5th consecutive year giving up less than 20 per contest. James Laurinaitis won the Nagurski Award last year as the nation's top defensive player. Malcolm Jenkins returns as one of college football’s best corners. The line should be great, especially with junior Vernon Gholston finally coming into his own last year with 8.5 sacks.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Sophomore kicker Aaron Pettrey had an okay season in 2006, going 8-11 on field goals. He has lots of potential and a huge leg. A.J. Trapasso is a good punter who will usually boom his kicks over 40 yards consistently.
COACHING: Jim Tressel is one of the best coaches in football. In 6 seasons at OSU, he has won 4 bowl games. Three of those were BCS bowls, including a national championship. You will be hard pressed to find another coach like Tressel around these days.
SCHEDULE: Ohio State has a weak out of conference schedule in 2007. OSU’s toughest game is traveling to Washington on September 15th. They get Wisconsin at home, but UM and PSU on the road. Their last 4 games are Penn State, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Michigan. OSU should be 8-0 going into those last 4 games.
IF EVERYTHING GOES WELL.... IF Boeckman is as good as they say he is, OSU will be 8-0 going into their last 4 games. Chris Wells should have a monster year and Ohio State should have only 1 or 2 losses.
IF THINGS DON'T GO SO WELL.... Maybe Boeckman and the receivers are not as good as they say. An early season upset loss to Washington would be killer. OSU should finish no worse than 4th place in the Big 10.
MAKE OR BREAK: Troy Smith meant everything to OSU. The Heisman winner will be hard to replace. Boeckman has a tough job, but he has been waiting for 3 years for this opportunity. The team is his, and it is up to him to lead OSU to another great season.

Penn State

OFFENSE: Last year, PSU had good receivers, a great running back, and a solid o-line. All they needed was a special quarterback. Anthony Morelli just did not deliver. He threw just 11 touchdowns, even though he had the 2nd most passing attempts in the conference. He was 9th in the conference in passing efficiency, completing only 53% of his passes. Austin Scott should see most of the handoffs this year and should be fully recovered from the ankle injury that got him redshirted in 2006. PSU returns all of their receivers and tight ends, giving Morelli several dangerous targets.
DEFENSE: The Big 10 is full of great defenses, and here is another. They lose 5 starters, such as their defensive leader Paul Posluszny. They do return Dan Connor and Sean Lee, the best LB combination in the country. A.J. Wallace, Justin King, and Anthony Scirrotto will all have great years in the best defensive backfield in the Big 10. This defense is dangerous and will shut most teams down.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Kevin Kelly can never say he was underused at PSU. Last year, Kelly attempted 34 field goals, and made 22 of them. The junior should be very good. Freshman Ryan Breen and Jeremy Boone will battle it out for the punter position. Derrick Williams and A.J. Wallace are both very good return men who should take a few to the house this year.
COACHING: Joe Pa! The fiery Paterno is in his 42nd year at PSU. Since he took over in 1966, there have been 797 coaching changes. Long live Joe Pa!
SCHEDULE: Notre Dame is PSU‘s only out of conference test. They get Ohio State and Wisconsin at home, but have to travel to Michigan and Illinois.
IF EVERYTHING GOES WELL.... If the defense shuts down opponents like they should and Morelli improves, PSU could be right in the mix with Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio State.
IF THINGS DON'T GO SO WELL.... Chances are, Morelli will struggle in 2007. The defense will win its share of games, but they can only do so much. However, 4 losses is as low as it should go for PSU.
MAKE OR BREAK: Morelli’s senior year is his last chance to live up to all the hype that was bestowed open him when he was recruited out of high school. It is now or never.

Purdue

OFFENSE: Quietly, Curtis Painter had a tremendous year in 2006. He led the Big 10 in passing yards, total offense, and was 2nd in passing touchdowns. Yes, he threw 19 interceptions, but he threw the ball 530 times last year, when no one else even threw it 400 times. I look for Painter to have a great year. Kory Sheets had a good year running the ball, finding the end zone 11 times. All of the receivers and pass catching threats return to make Purdue’s offense one of the most dangerous in the country.
DEFENSE: The defense returns 9 starters, just like the offense. LB Dan Bick, their leading tackler, returns. Cliff Avril is a good defensive end, not as good as Anthony Spencer, but good enough to get 6 to 7 sacks in 2007. The defense is good, not great, but good enough to let the offense win most games.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Jared Armstrong had the 2nd best yards per punt average last year in the Big 10. The strong-legged senior is one of the best in college football. Sophomore Chris Summers struggled last year kicking, going 8-20. The youngster has a strong leg and will only get better.
COACHING: Joe Tiller will enter his 11th year at Purdue. Tiller has led the team to 9 bowls in the past 10 years. I do not see Tiller going anywhere soon, especially after a successful 2007 season.
SCHEDULE: Purdue has 3 MAC teams and Notre Dame on the out of conference schedule. They get Iowa and Ohio State at home, but Michigan and Penn State on the road.
IF EVERYTHING GOES WELL.... If Curtis Painter can cut down on the interceptions, and the defense can improve slightly, the team should be able to get 8 wins.
IF THINGS DON'T GO SO WELL.... Painter does have a turnover problem, and the defense does lose star lineman Anthony Spencer, who had 10.5 sacks last year. Purdue is talented enough, but do they have enough to make a splash in the Big 10?
MAKE OR BREAK: Can Painter cut down on the INTs, yet continue to put up big numbers? A super offense and an average defense is exactly what Purdue needs to be successful.

Wisconsin

OFFENSE: Wisconsin returns 9 offensive starters, though they do lose offensive lineman Joe Thomas, a top 5 pick, and QB John Stocco. Stocco was not flashy, but he always got the job done. He will be replaced by senior Tyler Donovan, who had 2 starts last year. Leadership will not be a problem for the senior QB. P.J. Hill was the Big 10 freshman of the year in 2006. The big back rushed for 15 touchdowns and over 1500 yards, and he is the key to the grind it out offense. Wisconsin does return its top 4 pass catchers, including tight end Travis Beckum, who caught 61 passes last year.
DEFENSE: The defense gave up the lowest total amount of points in the Big 10, and seven starters return. Linebacker DeAndre Levy lead the team with 6 sacks last year, while DT Nick Hayden anchors the d-line. Jack Ikegwuonu is a shut down corner who led the team in pass breakups, and is the go to guy on defense. No one wants to throw his way. The defense will be good yet again.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Kicker Taylor Mehlhaff was 15-20 last year with a long of 52 yards. Mehlhaff is the best kicker in the Big 10. Punter Ken BeBauche averaged 41.8 yards per punt last year. Together, they are one of the best kicker/punter combos in the nation.
COACHING: No one thought Bret Bielema would have so much early success at Wisconsin. Replacing Barry Alvarez seemed like an impossible task. However, Bielema won 12 games in his first year, and should have won national coach of the year.
SCHEDULE: Wisconsin has an easy out of conference schedule. There toughest matchup is at home vs. Washington State. In conference play, they get Iowa and Michigan at home. Meanwhile, they have to travel to Penn State, Ohio State, and Illinois.
IF EVERYTHING GOES WELL.... Wisconsin probably will not go undefeated, but they could easily win the Big 10. One conference loss is possible if P.J. Hill continues his dominance and the O-line is fine without star Joe Thomas.
IF THINGS DON'T GO SO WELL.... P.J. Hill could have a sophomore slump. Tyler Donovan has tough shoes to fill. Stocco rarely made mistakes, throwing just 6 interceptions in 268 attempts. Donovan threw 2 in 58 attempts. Wisconsin could lose around 3 conference games if the offense takes a step down.
MAKE OR BREAK: P.J. Hill continuing his dominance is the key to another 12 win season for Wisconsin. He is the main offensive threat, and is the heart of the team.

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PROJECTED STANDINGS

TEAM CONFERENCE OVERALL
Michigan 7-1 11-1
Wisconsin 6-2 10-2
Ohio State 6-2 10-2
Penn State 5-3 9-3
Iowa 5-3 8-4
Illinois 4-4 7-5
Purdue 4-4 7-5
Indiana 2-6 6-6
Michigan State 2-6 5-7
Northwestern 2-6 5-7
Minnesota 1-7 4-8

PRESEASON ALL-CONFERENCE

OFFENSE
QB Chad Henne Michigan
RB P.J. Hill Wisconsin
RB Mike Hart Michigan
WR James Hardy Indiana
WR Dorien Bryant Purdue
TE Dustin Keller Purdue
OL Alex Boone Ohio State
OL Jake Long Michigan
OL Kirk Barton Ohio State
OL Jordan Grimes Purdue
OL Tony Brinkhaus Minnesota
Honorable Mention Offense: Chris Wells (OSU), Tyrell Sutton (Northwestern), Mario Manningham (Michigan), Travis Beckum (Wisconsin), Juice Williams (Illinois), Steve Rehring (Ohio State), Dace Richardson (Iowa), AQ Shipley (Penn State)
DEFENSE
DL Kenny Iwebema Iowa
DL Vernon Gholston Ohio State
DL Willie VanDeSteeg Minnesota
DL Nick Hayden Wisconsin
LB James Laurinatis Ohio State
LB Dan Connor Penn State
LB J Leman Illinois
DB Anthony Scirrotto Penn State
DB Malcolm Jenkins Ohio State
DB Otis Wiley Michigan State
DB Dominique Barber Minnesota
Honorable Mention Defense: Terrance Taylor (Michigan), Mitch King (Iowa), Matt Shaughnessy (Wisconsin), Chris Norwell (Illinois), Shawn Crable (Michigan), Sean Lee (Penn State), Marcus Freeman (Ohio State), Mike Klinkenborg (Iowa), Jamar Adams (Michigan), Justin King (Penn State), Dominic Jones (Minnesota), Jack Ikegwuonu (Wisconsin)
SPECIAL TEAMS
K Taylor Mehlhaff Wisconsin
P Jared Armstrong Purdue
KR Marcus Thigpen Indiana
PR Tracy Porter Indiana
Honorable Mention Special Teams: AJ Trappasso (Ohio State), Ken DeBauche (Wisconsin), Brett Swenson (Michigan State) Aaron Pettrey (Ohio State), Kevin Kelly (Penn State), Dominic Jones (Minnesota), Derrick Williams (Penn State)
Preseason Offensive Player of the Year:
Mike Hart, Michigan
Preseason Defensive Player of the Year:
Dan Connor, Penn State
Preseason Special Teams Player of the Year:
Marcus Thigpen, Indiana
Preseason Newcomer of the Year:
Arrelious Benn, Illinois

FINAL THOUGHTS

My gut tells me that Michigan is overrated. They are a lot like Notre Dame. They get rated high every year, and sometimes they deliver, but usually the bust. Michigan was good last year, but could not get the job done. They have a favorable schedule and a strong offensive attack. If they have an impressive game vs. Oregon, they will prove to me that they are legit. Ohio State and Wisconsin will be good teams, and will battle it out for a BCS at-large bid. I think the Big 10 will be deeper and better than it has been in a long time. Iowa, Illinois, Purdue, and Penn State will all challenge the top teams. It will be a fun year in the Big 10.

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