Hello, and welcome to the third edition of the 2007 College Football Preview. I know that this one is coming to you a week late, due to me being gone all day last Saturday for a church trip to Kentucky Kingdom. If this is your first time reading one of these, I am breaking down each college football conference that is a part of the "Big 6" conferences, one conference every Saturday, all leading up to the first kickoff of the 2007 season on Thursday, August 30.
This week I will be taking a look at the Big Ten conference, which, much like the Big East, is a very controversial conference. The favorite here seems to be Michigan, but there are teams like Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Penn State that could very well rise up and take this 11-team conference by storm. When you give me feedback, please let me know about the blog as a whole, not just why I was wrong about my pick to win it, so that the next one can be even more enjoyable. Now, on with the preview!
2007 Big Ten Football Preview
Illinois- Illinois is a mystery for '07. Last season, they finished with a shameful 2-10 record, getting beat badly by some teams that they should have beaten, but then giving Ohio State one of the toughest games that they had all season, before falling. I don't see them finishing last in the Big Ten this season, mostly because they were able to pull in a solid recruiting group that should really help them down the stretch. This is a very young team, but they should be pretty talented. They have leadership on offense at the running back position, where the junior Rashard Mendenhall rushed for 5 touchdowns and 640 yards last season. Also, Juice Williams, who started at quarterback as a true freshman last season, passed for 1489 yards and 9 touchdowns last season, not bad for a freshman, but not good enough to make any waves in the Big Ten. I don't see a bowl season in the near future, but we'll just have to wait and see with this puzzling Illini team.
Indiana- Here's what I like about this Indiana team: Kellen Lewis, their starting quarterback was only a sophmore last season, and still threw for 14 touchdowns and 2,221 yards. They also have a great wideout in James Hardy, who averaged 14.2 yards per catch and caught 10 touchdown passes last season. The bad news: James Hardy was the ONLY Indiana receiver to catch a touchdown pass last season, and the defense allowed an average of 33 points per game. That's a lot of points for a team with an offense that gained over 330 yards per game last season. Now, a great tragedy has struck Indiana in the offseason, with Coach Hoeppner dying earlier in the summer. Although this season will be dedicated to their former coach, I just can't see a team like this making big waves in the Big Ten. They don't have a team that can get hardly any coference wins, but with a cream puff nonconference slate, they should be able to have a somewhat respectable record.
Iowa- By far the biggest obstacle for Iowa in the upcoming season will be finding a quarterback who can take over and fill the shoes of Drew Tate, who was great for the Hawkeyes while he played there. The most probable candidate here will be Jake Christenson, and his main competition for the starting job will be Adam Farnsworth, who both have shown in the offseason that they could lead the offense. Although this team lost many key senior players, I still think that they are poised to make a major improvement in 2007. They are my darkhorse team in the Big Ten, and I don't think that they will disappoint. Albert Young and Damian Sims are back, and they combined for 13 touchdowns and 1,443 yards in 2006. A team that finished 6-7 while gaining 385 yards per game last season may be heading for another bowl game, all important losses taken into consideration, and 8 or 9 wins are very possible due to a cream puff schedule.
Michigan- Michigan is the favorite to win the Big Ten this season by most, although I'm not so sure. Michigan is a great team, though, there's no denying that. Their starting quarterback and Heisman candidate Chad Henne had an unbelieveable season last year, and I don't think that he will have a problem following up on that this season. Last season, Henne threw for 22 touchdowns and 2,508 yards. As if this wasn't enough, runningback Mike Hart added 14 rushing touchdowns and 1,562 yards. The team gained almost 400 yards per game last season, while the defense held opponents to 14 points per game. If they can keep that up this season, and I see no reason why they can't, with a team like this, then Michigan could be a national title contender. We'll just have to wait and see, but I think that there may be a couple of surprises on their schedule.
Michigan State- It will be very difficult for this year's Michigan State team to adjust to a new quarterback, especially one that came in to start against Penn State last season and set a school record for pass attempts, chucking 61 up into the air. Needless to say, this kind of play can't continue, but MSU could be in trouble either way. They don't exactly have a great defense, who allowed nearly 30 points per game last season, and the offense will be in need of a lot of young guys and inexperienced guys to step up this season, and they didn't have much success last season in the first place, when they did have some experience. I can't see a better season than their 4-8 mark last year in store.I
Minnesota- The Golden Gophers will most likely have trouble deciding who should replace three-year starting quarterback Brian Cupito, who was the main reason for thier success last year. Minnesota won't be a great team this year, unless some young guys step up majorly, but they still should be able to rack up a few wins, and they still could be a bowling team. If thier offense can just maintain the success they had last season, as well as the defense, who allowed 24 points while the offense gained 27 on average, then Minnesota could be a pleasant surprise this season, although I'm not expecting much from a team who lost such a big asset on their offense.
Northwestern- Northwestern, quite frankly, looks pitiful this season. Their starting quarterback from last season, C.J. Bacher is back as a junior, but that might not be such good news. Last season, the Wildcats's best quarterback only threw for 6 touchdowns and 1,172 yards. The team itself won 4 games, winning against some of the weaker teams. I don't think that Northwestern will have much success this season, and they will be competing with Indiana and Michigan State for last place in the Big Ten. The team was outscored by an average of 9 points last year, despite gaining over 300 yards per game. The defense is to blame here, allowing 26 points to teams that they faced. This year's version of the team could be even worse if things don't improve.
Ohio State- If there was ever a time that Ohio State needed to win the national championship, it was last year. They had three great players at three key positions on offense, and a defense that stifled opponents and held them to 10 points per game. Troy Smith, Antonio Pittman, and Tenn Ginn, Jr., OSU's starting quarterback, runningback, and wide receiver, respectably, have all bolted for the NFL, leaving behind a huge mess. Now Ohio State must look for new stars to step up this season, but this will most likely be a warming up season for Ohio State, and I think that two or three losses could be at hand. This team lost so much on both sides of the ball that it will be almost impossilbe to go undefeated and head to the national championship game in 2008. They will probably be back on top soon, but as for now, don't pick "The" Ohio State in your BCS Championship prediction.
Penn State- Penn State was able to hold on to starting quarterback Anthony Morelli, who will be a senior heading into 2007. He should come in handy, showing several times last season that he is in complete control of his offense. He threw for 2,424 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2006. Even though they lost Tony Hunt at runninback, Penn State will still be a force to reckon with in the Big Ten, and one of the three competitors for the Big Ten title, maybe four if you include Ohio State. Penn State has one of the better defenses in the Big Ten, holding opponents to just 14 points last season. This year, the Nittany Lions have all of their tough games, besides Michigan, in Happy Valley, so that should be a key factor in turning last year's 9-4 team to a Big Ten title contender. I think that they'll be right there in the race.
Purdue- Look out for the Boilermakers! This could be the best team we've seen come out of this school in a while, mostly for two reasons: Curtis Painter, the junior starting quarterback that threw for 22 touchdowns and nearly 4,000 yards last season, and Kory Sheets, the junior runningback that carried for 780 yards and 11 touchdowns last year. The team averaged well over 400 yards per game last season, one of the best in the nation. The Achilles heel of this team is the defense. They allowed opponents to gain 27 points per game last season, while Purdue averaged 27.5. If the defense improves at all, this will be one of the best teams in the Big Ten. However, we can't count on this defense at all. The offense, however, could hoist Purdue to 8 or 9 wins.
Wisconsin- Wisconsin will be a great team next season. Although they lost thier star quarterback in John Stocco, the real story here is that P.J. Hill, who rushed for 1,569 yards and 15 touchdowns as a freshman in 2006, is back and better than ever. Hill will be the key factor on a Wisconsin team that has a very good chance of winning the Big Ten. They will undoubtfully find a quarterback in their arsenal that will suffice on a team that gained nearly 400 yards per game last season. Not only is their offense great, but their defense as well. The Badgers's defense last season held opponents to 12 points per game, while the offense scored 30. If this kind of success continues, then we have a new Big Ten champ.
2007 Big Ten Projected Standings
Team W/L (conf)
- Wisconsin 11-1 (7-1)
- Michigan 11-1 (7-1)
- Penn State 10-2 (6-2)
- Ohio State 9-3 (5-3)
- Purdue 9-3 (5-3)
- Iowa 8-4 (4-4)
- Minnesota 7-5 (3-5)
- Illinois 5-7 (3-5)
- Michigan State 5-7 (2-6)
- Indiana 5-7 (1-7)
- Northwestern 4-8 (1-7)
That was a tough one. Please be sure to leave me comments so that I can make the next one even better. Next week, we explore the depth of the Big 12 conference. See you then.