Friday, August 20, 2010

2010 Big Ten preview

By Nate Noy

The college football season is less than two weeks away and I spent about 100 hours this summer analyzing ever matchup for every game this upcoming season. This should be a VERY interesting year for college football. There are 35 Bowl games, meaning 70 teams will be playing in the “postseason”. However, I only predict 68 teams to reach the magic number of six wins. This could be a subplot to the season if the NCAA has to issue a few exemptions to allow teams with losing records to play in December.

Over the next two weeks, I will share my predictions for all of the teams in the Bowl Division of college football. Today, I’ll start with the Big Ten. (NOTE: the records are my predictions for the upcoming season).

(1) Ohio State 8-0 (12-0). Bowl: BCS National Championship. Key games: Oct. 16 at Wisconsin; Nov. 20 at Iowa; Nov. 27 v. Michigan. Key player: QB Terrelle Pryor. #2 Pre-season USA Today Coaches Poll.

THE Ohio State University is the odds on favorite in Vegas to win the National Title (4 ½ to 1). They also are the favorite in every game they play (-3 ½ at both Wisconsin and Iowa and larger in all other games). Pryor is the #2 pick behind defending Heisman winner Mark Ingram to take home the trophy this year at 5 to 1. They open the season at #2 in the USA Today Coaches poll and in my opinion have the most clear path to the title game of all the contenders. Nine starters return on offense and six on defense for a team that lost by three to USC in Week 2 (when they were still good) and found a way to lose at Purdue. Pryor has matured a lot in the past two years and this team has 8-9 other players as well that should be first-team All Big Ten. (NOTE: I do have a degree from OSU but that did not influence my analysis). Anything short of the title (national, that is) will be a disappointment to fans this year.

(2) Iowa 6-2 (10-2). Bowl: Rose. Key games: Oct. 2 v. Penn State; Oct. 16 at Michigan; Nov. 20 v. Ohio State. Key player: QB Ricky Stanzi. #10 Pre-season USA Today Coaches Poll.

Many people think Iowa will make the Rose Bowl this year. They return eight starters of D and six on O from a team that went 11-2 with a victory over Ga Tech 24-14 in the Orange Bowl last year. They were on track to win the Big Ten last year, then they were caught looking ahead to the Ohio State game, lost Stanzi to injury and lost to Northwestern at home 17-10 as a 15-point favorite. Then, they took the game to overtime the following week to the Bucks in Columbus as a 16 ½ point underdog without Stanzi, losing 27-24. Stanzi is 2nd-team All Big Ten on most people’s list and should have a strong senior season. I don’t think Iowa can beat the Bucks and I also predict a loss to a resurgent Michigan team in the Big House on Oct. 16.

(3) Penn State 6-2 (9-3). Bowl: Capital One. Key games: Oct. 2 at Iowa; Oct. 30 v. Michigan; Nov. 13 at Ohio State. Key player: RB Evan Royster. #14 Pre-season USA Today Coaches Poll.

PSU returns eight starters on O and five of D from a team that defeated LSU in the Capital One Bowl last year 19-17 and was 11-2 overall. Last year, an early season loss at home to Iowa 21-10 and the late season 24-7 home loss to OSU landed the Nittany Lions a tie for 2nd in the Big Ten. The head-to-head loss to Iowa was the difference that sent Iowa to the Rose and PSU to the Capital One. Royster is a solid senior, gaining almost 1,200 yards rushing last year; he is clearly the 2nd-best RB in the league and should be the 2nd of the two first-team All Big Ten backs. This team plays at Alabama in Week 2 on September 11 and is currently an 11 ½ point underdog. If they pull the miracle there, then watch out Big Ten. I predict the two losses in conference to be at Iowa and at OSU; pull an upset in either and it would likely be a trip to the Rose Bowl if they handle the games where they will be favored.

(4) Michigan 6-2 (9-3). Bowl: Outback. Key games: Oct. 16 v. Iowa; Oct. 30 at PSU; Nov. 27 at Ohio State. Key player: QB Tate Forcier. NR Pre-season USA Today Coaches Poll.

Which team has the 2nd-best record the past ten years in Big Ten conference play? Yes, it is UM, even after posting a 1-7 league record last year and 2-6 the year before, they still are 53-27 the last ten years -- trailing only OSU, who is 64-16. It is serious do-or-die time for Rich Rodriguez who likely will be without a job next year if the Wolverines do not equal or exceed the prediction I have for them here. They return seven starters on O and eight on D, and the third season is historically the year when a new head coach has the personnel in place to win under his system. Forcier is a true sophomore and learned a lot last year, as he completed 57.7% of his passes, threw for 2,050 yards and had a 13-10 TD to Int ratio. UM will need home wins over Iowa and Wisconsin to finish in this position and I don’t predict them to win at PSU or as a early 15-point underdog in Columbus. They should dominate the lower teams in the league, but anything short of a finish near the top will not be acceptable for the team that has won 40 more games in its history than ANY other team in college football.

(5) Wisconsin 5-3 (9-3). Bowl: Gator. Key games: Oct. 16 v. OSU; Oct. 23 at Iowa; Nov. 20 Michigan. Key player: RB John Clay. #12 Pre-season USA Today Coaches Poll.

Most other experts will tell you I’m off-base with a 5th-place prediction for Wisconsin this year. They have 10 starters back on O and six on D. They are led by senior John Clay, who had 1,517 yards rushing and 18 TDs last year. They were 10-3 and defeated Miami in the Champs Bowl 20-14. However, I think they will lose at Iowa, at Michigan and at home against OSU. All of these games should be close and if things break their way, then the Badgers could find themselves in the Rose Bowl as well -- but I think the teams I have ahead of them have an advantage in the games they will lose.

(6) Michigan State 4-4 (8-4). Bowl: Insight. Key games: Oct. 9 at Michigan; Oct. 30 at Iowa; Nov. 27 at PSU. Key player: QB Kirt Cousins . #NR Pre-season USA Today Coaches Poll.

They were 6-7 last season with the bowl loss to Texas Tech. Cousins makes many lists as the third-best QB in the league; he had a 60.4%, 2680 yds and a 19-9 TD/INT ratio last year. Cousins is a senior and this team will be in most of their games to the end; they return seven on O and six on D. Like last season, they are a .500-level team that should play in a late-December bowl game.

(7) Illinois 4-4 (7-5). Bowl: Texas. Key games: Oct. 30 v. Purdue; Nov. 13 v. Minn; Nov. 20 v. NW (at Wrigley). Key player: RB Mike Leshoure. #NR Pre-season USA Today Coaches Poll.

They were 3-9 last year with five back on O and seven back on D. Leshoure is a junior who is 2nd-team all-conference on a number of lists. I like the Illini to win all three home games (Ind, Pur, and Minn) and win in Wrigley against NW on Nov. 20. Ron Zook may not have been able to live up to expectations in Florida, but he is a good coach, and if the Illini win the games they should this year, then I project a return to a bowl.

(8) Purdue 2-6 (5-7). Bowl: None. Key games: Oct. 9 at NW; Oct. 16 v. Minn; Nov. 27 v. IU. Key player: RB Al-Terek McBurse. #NR Pre-season USA Today Coaches Poll.

They were 5-7 last year, with five back on O and six on D. They have no true standout players, but sophomore McBurse could raise some eyebrows this year. For Purdue to make a bowl, they must beat one of the teams I predict them to lose to: at Notre Dame, at Northwestern, at Ohio State, at Illinois, at Michigan State or at home against Wisconsin or Michigan.

(9) Northwestern 1-7 (4-8). Bowl: None. Key games: Oct. 2 at Minn; Oct. 9 v. Purdue; Nov. 20 v. NW (at Wrigley). Key player: K Stefan Demos. #NR Pre-season USA Today Coaches Poll.

They were 8-5 last year, with seven back on O and six on D. They lost to Auburn in overtime in the Outback Bowl. QB Mike Kafka is graduated from a year ago and without him, I don’t think NW has what it takes to be competitive in the league this year. It says something when your best player is your kicker, and Demos is one of the best in the Big Ten. Too bad NW won’t likely be in many situations where he can win them a game this year.

(10) Indiana 1-7 (5-7). Bowl:l None. Key games: Oct. 30 v. NW; Nov. 27 at Purdue. Key player: WR Tandon Doss. #NR Pre-season USA Today Coaches Poll.

They were 4-8 last year, with nine back on O and four on D. Doss should surpass his 77-catch, 962-yard numbers from last year and be a 1,000+ yard WR, but he may be the lone bright spot for a team that won’t be able to stop anyone from scoring. They should be able to take NW at home, but this may be their only league win this year. For Indiana to make a bowl they beat one of the teams I predict them to lose to: at Ohio State, at Illinois, at Wisconsin, at Purdue, at home against Michigan or Iowa or in Landover against Penn State.

(11) Minnesota 1-7 (3-9) Bowl: Non. Key games: Oct. 2 v. NW; Nov. 13 at Illinois. Key player: QB Adam Weber. #NR Pre-season USA Today Coaches Poll.

They were 6-7 last year, with nine back on O and two on D. Weber is a senior, but this team is so bad, they open as an underdog (4 ½ points) at a Sun Belt Conference team (Mid Tenn St.). Weber’s TD/INT ratio was 13-15 last year and expect him to throw more INTs than TDs once again. Not much hope for the Gophers this year.

NOTE: if two Big Ten teams make the BCS, then I project the Texas Bowl, Dallas Football Classic, and Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl to be forced to pick backup teams. I think there is a good chance the Rose could pass on Iowa and take Nebraska, who I think will be 12-1. This would drop all teams down one bowl. Also if the Buckeyes stumble and miss the Title Game then the Big Ten could fill the Texas Bowl.

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