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2007 BIG 10 FOOTBALL PREVIEW + PREDICTIONS

 

The Big 10 is one of our favorite conferences to handicap once the season gets underway. The history and style of play of the conference lends itself to being more predictable at times, than other more wide open conferences. The more wide open styles of the WAC for example, means more room for unpredictable outcomes. But pound the ball, establish a run, high percentage pass plays, football the way it was meant to be played, that's the Big 10 and that's why we like it. So let's take a look at this years crop of Big 10 teams.

 

Michigan - Great year  for Michigan last year, however the disappointment came at the end of the year as they dropped their final 2 games.......the shootout at Ohio State and the Rose Bowl to USC. They should be ok on offense this year, returning QB Chad Henne and Running Back Mike Hart to lead the way. However the defense lost a bunch. In our article about returning starters, we mentioned how losing starters, in this case 7, can be devastating for some schools, yet not such a big deal for others. Michigan, of course, is a school where it may not mean that much. After all, it's MICHIGAN. Michigan is always one of the better recruiting teams. Hey, who wouldn't want to play at Michigan. So the talent will ways be there. What stands out about the Michigan schedule is that 7 of their first 9 games are at home! All of their tough games are at home, including the rematch with Ohio St to end the year on November 17th. Their only tough road game will be at Wisconsin. We just can't see Michigan losing more than two games this year. A major Bowl game in January looks to be a lock as the Wolverines figure to be mentioned more than a few times as potential National Champions.

Wisconsin - The Badgers are in off a fantastic 12 win season capped by a win over Arkansas in the Capital One Bowl. The good news is that they return 9 on offense and 7 on defense. That bad news is, they'll have to replace offensive leader, QB John Stocco and his potential replacements are very inexperienced. Not to take anything away from Wiskys great year, but a look at last years schedule shows us that it really wasn't all that tough. Their biggest test came against Michigan, and that's the one game they lost. This years schedule is a little tougher. They get another crack at Michigan, but they also play Ohio State. We see a 7 to 9 win season for the Badgers.

Penn State - Penn State in off a solid 9-4 year last season, capped off by a win over Tennessee in the Outback Bowl. But what stands out about JoePa's team last year is that they lost every tough game they had. Their 9 wins were padded with names like Youngstown St, Akron and Temple while they lost all the true tests against teams like Notre Dame, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio State. Those are obviously the games they'll have to win this year if they are going to make any noise in the Big 10. We shall see. They get a chance to avenge last years 41-17 loss at Notre Dame, Sept 8 at home, followed by a trip to Michigan two weeks later. We should know before we get out of September is Penn State has any smoke this year.

Ohio State - Much was made about the weak Big 10 schedule Ohio State played last year as they headed into the National Title game against Florida.. Turned out to be right on the money as Florida embarrassed the Buckeyes 41-14. The good news is that Ohio State once again gets the benefit of a Big 10 schedule that doesn't look all that tough. The bad news is, they lost tons of star quality players at key positions on both sides of the ball, returning only 10 starters total. But, like Michigan, Ohio State recruits well. If there's talent that's going to go to the Big 10, Ohio State and Michigan are more than likely going to get them. It looks like an 8 win season is in store for the Buckeyes, with a chance for bettors to make some hay by going against Ohio State when they play some of last years victims.

Purdue - You can count on one thing at Purdue this season. They'll be able to put the ball in the end zone.......often. The offense returns 9 starters from a unit that was 13th in the Nation in total offense last season. This unit hung some big numbers on the board against lesser competition, and was stopped only when they stepped up in class. They will have plenty of chances against lesser competition once again this year, with at least 6 games against teams they should beat by simply having the better offense. However, it's the defense that has the question marks. The defense also returns 9 starters, but again, it's a defense that literally couldn't stop anyone last year. Purdue has a 4 game stretch starting Sept 29th that should define their season. They play Notre Dame, Ohio State, Michigan and Iowa all in a row. But only the Michigan game is on the road. With an upset or two in those 4 games, Purdue could be looking at a 8+ win season and a decent Bowl game. But if they once again falter when they step up in class, you're looking at a 6 win season and no Bowl game. So they key lies in that 4 game stretch. The feeling here is that the offense should be potent enough to pull at least one big upset at home.

Iowa - Iowa returns a solid group of starters on both sides of the ball, however they will miss QB Drew Tate. If new starter Jake Christensen can fill those shoes, than Iowa can make some noise this year. Last years team wasn't bad. They started out strong but faltered down the stretch. But they lost some close games last year that they'll get a chance to avenge this year. They catch a huge break in the schedule as the biggest threats in the Big 10 are absent from their list of opponents. Their toughest test looks to be September 22 at Wisconsin. Every other game on the schedule is a winnable game. So no excuse for not winning at least 8 or 9 games and going to a major Bowl.

Michigan State - Michigan State won 4 games last year, none of which were against noteworthy opponents. This year they return 6 on offense, losing several key positions, and 7 on defense. Looking at the schedule, it looks like the Spartans have a chance to grab 2 or 3 wins to start the year and gain a little momentum, but the schedule gets brutal after that. They'll have to content with Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Iowa, Michigan, Purdue and Penn State. From the looks of it, a .500 season would be a success for this bunch.

Northwestern - You have to write off last year when trying to handicap Northwestern. Coach Randy Walkers death no doubt left a black cloud over this team in 2006, a year in which they won just 4 games and weren't competitive on most of their losses. We don't expect big things from this team, but in looking at the schedule, it looks like if they can spring at least one upset along the way, they could win 6 games and possible get a bowl game. Can't see them winning more than 6 though, as even 6 could be a stretch.

Indiana - Indiana football is always going to be Indiana football. They simply are never going to get the best talent. They may have a year every now and then where they win some games, but they will always be known as a basketball school. One thing we do know about the Hoosiers going into this year is that the offense will put some points on the board. But the defense was just about last in the nation last year and really, how much can you improve in one year? Winning 6 games would be a success for this squad and with an upset along the way, it's a possibility.

Minnesota - A new coach, a new QB, and a new offense could spell trouble for the Golden Gophers this year. Changes like that take time to materialize. The defense was just plain horrible last year and like teams with similar circumstances, you can't expect all that drastic of an improvement on the defense in just one year. We'll just have to sit back and wait and see if the team takes to new coach Tim Brewster and the new offense. Looks like maybe a 6 or 7 win season for the Golden Gophers.

Illinois -  What could you possibly expect from a team that has not won more than 3 games for 4 straight years? Ok, we'll go out on a limb here. Illinois will win more than 3 games this year. After all, they played some decent ball during the 2nd half of last season, losing to Ohio State and Wisconsin by just a touchdown each. Those types of losses build confidence for the future. Don't expect any miracles, but certainly this team can shoot for 6 wins and a possible Bowl birth.

To Sum Up - The Big 10 rarely holds any surprises. If you look at a list of past champs, you see Michigan and Ohio State, with some Wisconsin's and Iowa's sprinkled in, and then every now and then a Purdue, Northwestern or Illinois has one good year. Oh, and Penn State, which has only been a member of the Big 10 since 1994, has a couple of titles as well. This year looks to be more of the same. Michigan looks like the team to beat. Wisky should have a good team and it will be interesting to see what Ohio State does. Purdue should provide some excitement with that offense and if there's one dark horse that looks like it might have something to say, it would be Iowa. The schedule favors them and they had some close games last year that could go their way this year.

 

 

2007 BIG 10 Football Schedule

Saturday, September 1
Illinois vs. Missouri (in St. Louis)
Indiana State at Indiana
Northern Illinois vs. Iowa (in Chicago)
Appalachian State at Michigan
UAB at Michigan State
Bowling Green at Minnesota
Northeastern at Northwestern
Youngstown State at Ohio State
FIU at Penn State
Purdue at Toledo
Washington State at Wisconsin

Saturday, September 8
Western Illinois vs. Illinois
Indiana at Western Michigan
Syracuse at Iowa
Oregon at Michigan
Bowling Green at Michigan State
Miami University at Minnesota
Nevada at Northwestern
Akron at Ohio State
Notre Dame at Penn State
Eastern Illinois at Purdue
Wisconsin at UNLV

Saturday, September 15
Illinois at Syracuse
Akron at Illinois
Iowa at Iowa State
Notre Dame at Michigan
Pitt at Michigan State
Minnesota at Florida Atlantic
Duke at Northwestern
Ohio State at Washington
Buffalo at Penn State
Central Michigan at Purdue
The Citadel at Wisconsin

Saturday, September 22
Illinois at Indiana
Iowa at Wisconsin
Penn State at Michigan
Michigan State at Notre Dame
Purdue at Minnesota
Northwestern at Ohio State

Saturday, September 29
Penn State at Illinois
Indiana at Iowa
Michigan at Northwestern
Michigan State at Wisconsin
Ohio State at Minnesota
Notre Dame at Purdue

Saturday, October 6
Wisconsin at Illinois
Minnesota at Indiana
Iowa at Penn State
Eastern Michigan at Michigan
Northwestern at Michigan State
Ohio State at Purdue

Saturday, October 13
Illinois at Iowa
Indiana at Michigan State
Purdue at Michigan
Minnesota at Northwestern
Kent State at Ohio State
Wisconsin at Penn State

Saturday, October 20
Michigan at Illinois
Penn State at Indiana
Iowa at Purdue
Michigan State at Ohio State
North Dakota State at Minnesota
Eastern Michigan at Northwestern
Northern Illinois at Wisconsin

Saturday, October 27
Ball State at Illinois
Indiana at Wisconsin
Michigan State at Iowa
Minnesota at Michigan
Northwestern at Purdue
Ohio State at Penn State

Saturday, November 3
Illinois at Minnesota
Indiana at Northwestern
Iowa at Northwestern
Michigan at Michigan State
Wisconsin at Ohio State
Purdue at Penn State

Saturday, November 10
Illinois at Ohio State
Indiana at Northwestern
Minnesota at Iowa
Michigan at Wisconsin
Michigan State at Purdue
Penn State at Temple

Saturday, November 17
Northwestern at Illinois
Purdue at Indiana
Western Michigan at Iowa
Ohio State at Michigan
Penn State at Michigan State
Wisconsin at Minnesota

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