NCAA Football - Early Look at the Big Ten (The Rest)
AN EARLY LOOK AT THE BIG TEN (The Rest)
To Win Big Ten Conference
WISCONSIN (+900 at BetUS) took a step backward last season, finishing with a 7-6 record. Dustin Sherer (6 TD's, 5 INT's) represents weakness at the quarterback spot. The good news is that John Clay is a running back with a future, having gained 884 yards last season as a freshman. The offensive line is solid, though not a dominant unit like some of the Wisconsin teams of the past. Six new starters will be installed on defense, though only one of them is in the secondary, so Wisconsin should present some difficulty for the teams with wide-open passing games. Penn State and Illinois are off the schedule. Still, the Badgers look like a middle-of-the-pack team.
MICHIGAN (+1000 at BetUS) went through growing pains, as some may have expected, in Rich Rodriguez's first season at the helm. Better days are ahead, especially if freshman Tate Forcier can adopt quickly as the quarterback in Rodriguez's spread offense. Brandon Minor is just fine as the featured back, and the offensive line has a chance to be outstanding. Defensively, this team may have a lot of work to do; only five starters return from a unit that allowed over 40 points to Illinois, Ohio State, Purdue and Penn State. Rodriguez will be there eventually, but the rebuilding process continues.
MINNESOTA (+2500 at BetUS) kick off things in a new on-campus stadium, and return 17 starters, but they're on a five-game losing streak, after getting off to a 7-1 start last year. We like Adam Weber, who completed 62% of his passes last season, and he gets to throw to Eric Decker, who's about as good as there is at the wide receiver spot, but they better hope that some of the re-tooling the Gophers are doing on the offensive line are enough to improve a running game that averaged only 3.1 yards a carry. Defensive shortcomings are somewhat glaring, but with more experience (eight returnees), maybe that improves.
NORTHWESTERN (+2500 at BetUS) won nine games last season, and returns eight starters from a defensive unit that was not bad at all. Corey Wooton had 167 tackles last season, is the star at defensive end. All four members of the secondary are back, and Tyrell Sutton's departure leaves a hole at running back, but there is a diamond in the rough with QB Mike Kafka, who completed almost 70% of his passes and ran for 200 yards in one of his starts. As for who will he'd throw the ball to, that indeed may involve approaches that are very Kafkaesque.
INDIANA (+6000 at BetUS) gets 18 starters back from last year, but there is a transition at quarterback, where Ben Chappell takes over for Kelvin Lewis, who was thrown off the team. Darius Willis, a redshirt freshman, will be counted on heavily to produce at running back, and the Hoosiers need to stop somebody, which will be easier with a defensive line and secondary that is more experienced.
PURDUE (+8000 at BetUS) brings in a new head man in Danny Hope, but with QB Curtis Painter having to be replaced, and running back Kory Sheets gone, the coach will be the only hope on the field in West Lafayette.