The Dawg House
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  Several months ago I promised 11 blogs, one for each conference, wrapping up the 2009-2010 college football season. So far only the SEC blog, which included Lane Kiffin as SEC Coach on the Rise, has been completed. However, it's summer time now, which means I finally have time to do all the blogs. I promise you this much: There won't be a 4 month hiatus between this blog and the next in the series.

Most Surprising Team - Iowa Hawkeyes. I predicted Iowa to go 7-5 last year, which would have slotted them 7th in the Big 10. Things looked even worse than that after their first game, as they needed two blocked field goals at the end of the game to beat FCS Northern Iowa 17-16. However, things only went up from there for the Hawkeyes. It seemed like every time they had to deliver to win, they did. Although they just missed out on the Big 10 title, they ended the season on a high note, beating Georgia Tech 24-14 in the Orange Bowl. That gave Iowa an 11-2 record, their best record since 2002. Things weren't looking so good for Kirk Ferentz a few years ago (a 19-18 run from 2005 to 2007), but it looks like the team has rebounded nicely. Expect Iowa to be contenders once again in the 2010 season.

Most Disappointing Team - Illinois Fighting Illini. My two biggest misses from the 2009 season were the Colorado Buffaloes and the Illinois Fighting Illini.  I've always liked Illinois head coach Ron Zook, mainly because of his nasty run as Florida head coach (where he still went 2-1 against Georgia). I felt like three losing seasons at Illinois were flukes, and that the 9-4 record put up in 2007 was the true Ron Zook team. I had Illinois going 10-2 in 2009 and finishing second in the Big 10 to Penn State. It didn't take my prediction long to be wrong, as Illinois had already lost two games after their first two games against FBS opponents. Illinois never seemed competitive throughout the season, leading to the benching of former star QB Juice Williams throughout the year. Illinois ended the season 3-9, good for 9th in the Big 10. After last seasons debacle, it's beginning to look as if the 9-4 season was the fluke in Ron Zook's tenure as Fighting Illini head coach. Zook now has a 21-39 record at Illinois, meaning that if he doesn't win big this year, he is gone.

    
                                                                                     (Source http://hailtopurple.com)

Player of the Year:
John Clay, RB, Wisconsin - Clay was on fire his sophomore season at Wisconsin, rushing for 1,517 yards on 287 attempts, averaging out for 5.3 yards per carry. Clay led the Big 10 in rushing attempts, rushing yards, and TDs. In fact, Clay had twice as many touchdowns (18) than the man second on the list (Ralph Boden from Purdue). I expect John Clay to put up similar numbers in the 2010 season. In fact, don't be surprised if you hear his name being mentioned for the Heisman. 

  John Clay, College Football, Wisconsin Badgers

Coach on the Rise: Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern - Words cannot describe what Pat Fitzgerald has had to do in his short tenure as Northwestern head coach. The LB coach for the Wildcats from 2001 to 2005, it was known that Fitzgerald would replace Randy Walker whenever Walker decided to retire. However, tragedy struck on June 29, 2006, as Randy Walker died unexpectedly from a heart attack. Fitzgerald was quickly named to replace Walker, and he's had nothing but success since. Only 35, it appears Fitzgerald will be at Northwestern as long as he wants to be, and chances are he will probably not take a job elsewhere. After all, he was an All-American LB at Northwestern from 1993-1995 and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2008.

Coach on the Hot Seat: Rich Rodriguez, Michigan - Rodriguez's move to Michigan has been nothing but a mess since Day 1. Expected to have as much success at Michigan as he did at West Virginia, where he went 60-26 with only 1 losing season, Rodriguez currently holds an 8-16 record as Wolverines head coach. Michigan's teams under Rodriguez's lead have won only 3 Big 10 games, have failed to post a winning record, and have lost twice to Ohio State by a combined score of 17-63. Just last week it was announced that Michigan has punished itself for exceeding NCAA limits on practice and training time. Rodriguez needs to pull a rabbit out of his hat and a winning season out of his rear end to be the Michigan head coach after the 2010 season.    

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