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BIG TEN CONFERENCE
2007 PREVIEW AND PREDICTIONS

PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH (with projected records)

 

BIG TEN

1. Michigan (10-2)
2. Wisconsin (10-2)
3. Ohio State (10-2)
4. Penn State (9-3)
5. Iowa (8-4)
6. Purdue (7-5)
7. Minnesota (7-5)
8. Northwestern (7-5)
9. Michigan State (5-7)
10. Indiana (6-6)
11. Illinois (5-7)

 

 

MOST ASKED QUESTIONS

Has the Big Ten fallen in comparison to the other BCS conferences?

Some discussions have surrounded the fact that the Big Ten may not be as strong as years past and does not stack up as well against some other BCS conferences. The answer is no. A few of these discussions have to be based in the fact that Ohio State looked totally overmatched against a much faster SEC team (Florida). Before the BCS bowl bids were announced, Michigan made a great case for playing in a rematch with the Buckeyes for the National Title game. As we all know, they didn't get that invite and then, like OSU, UM looked totally overwhelmed, they against USC in the Rose Bowl. This is all fact, but isolated examples don’t always sum up the full scope of comparisons needed to make conclusions like these hold water. With that said, the SEC is still heads above every conference, and USC is just...well, USC. From top to bottom, the Big Ten is as balanced as any conference in 2007. The top three in our projected finish are very worthy of Top 10 status and any of the teams from Penn State to Northwestern could really surprise. This could be a very good year for the Big Ten. Most teams are blessed with a large amount of returning starters.

Are Michigan and Ohio State still the best two teams like most every year?

Yes, but, like usual, throw Wisconsin into the mix. The Badgers went 12-1 last season after beating SEC runner-up Arkansas in the Capital One Bowl and have just about everyone back again. They did dodge the Buckeyes on the schedule in 2006. That won't be the case this year, however, as second year coach Bret Bielema gets truly tested in back-to-back November games versus Ohio State and Michigan. Penn State is another team blessed with a large array of skill people and a senior QB in Anthony Morelli. They can make some serious noise with a home schedule that includes Notre Dame, Iowa, Wisconsin and Ohio State.

Is there a National Championship contender from the Big Ten again?

The Buckeyes should not be totally dismissed from this possibility. Jim Tressel can coach and recruit, but he will have a difficult time running the table without playmakers Troy Smith and Ted Ginn. If there was one team, Michigan would have to be that team. Looking below at our list of ‘Best Players at Each Position’, the Wolverines have secured every offensive spot except TE. The opposite is true for their defense, which suffered heavy losses. However, this UM defense will not miss much of a beat. Many of the players are just as talented as those who have departed, and the college football world should find this out by season's end. Henne, Hart and Manningham are legitimate Heisman Candidates...need we say more?

What team(s) could end up a disappointment?

A good many will be walking the ‘break even’ fence of getting bowl eligible. This is due to the parity amongst the middle-ranked members of the Big Ten. Iowa breaks in a new QB; Purdue has to show they can play defense; Minnesota is also breaking in a new QB and receiver depth is unproven; Northwestern has a good bit of experience across the board but has not been able to consistently beat some of the bigger teams; and Michigan State is in a total state of transition, from QB to corners to coaching. It is likely that each in this grouping of teams falls somewhere around .500. With one tough loss here or there, many of these wanna-be’s could be home for the holidays.

Are Illinois and Indiana still the bottom dwellers?

Yes with a big HOWEVER. The Illini and Hoosiers are still projected to finish at the bottom. HOWEVER, they won't finish here with their typical two to three struggling wins. In fact, so much experience is back for both squads that each may get over the .500 hump. The non-conference schedules are not too daunting, especially for Indiana. Prediction: Indiana comes in undefeated when these two meet in Bloomington on the fourth Saturday in September. The Hoosiers have a great chance to get to 4-0 and, regardless, the local headlines will read, "Win one for Coach Hep!"

 

BEST PLAYER AT EACH POSITION

QB Chad Henne - Michigan
RB Michael Hart - Michigan
WR Mario Manningham - Michigan
TE Travis Beckum - Wisconsin
OL Jake Long - Michigan
DL Vernon Gholston - Ohio State
LB James Laurinaitis - Ohio State
DB Malcolm Jenkins - Ohio State
K Taylor Mehlhaff - Wisconsin
P Kenneth DeBauche - Wisconsin

 

COACH ON THE HOT SEAT

Ron Zook - Illinois
The Illini have slowly been getting better talent. Zook has taken his worthy recruiting success from Gainesville and moved it to Champaign. The problem has been doing something with it on the field…you know, winning. Zook's team has only won two games in each of his first two seasons there. The likelihood that Zook would be fired after this season is slim; his supporters and people that know football will claim that he is still a year away from being competitive given his recruiting success. The reality - another 2-10 record will raise some serious complaints about the future of the program. But if the Illini can look competitive again as they gain ground (lost four games last year by a TD or less), selling that feeling of imminence keeps Zook employed.

 

SURPRISE TEAM

Purdue
Give head coach Joe Tiller some offensive weapons in this one-back set and he can pull out some huge numbers. The Boilermakers had an up-and-down season in 2006 and failed to beat the tougher opponents. The whole season culminated in a horrible beating by Maryland in the Champs Sport Bowl. Ergo, no one sees Purdue making serious noise. They won't compete for a BCS bid, but with Curtis Painter back throwing 50 passes and every single skill position on offense returning veteran starters, "basketball on grass" is sure to pull out some exciting finishes and outscore a few teams no one expects them to beat. With nine starters back on defense, they should be much improved…or should we say, they will do no worse than last year’s 114th nationally in total defense that saw them finish 8-6.

 

BIGGEST GAMES (NationalChamps.net Score Pick)

September 1
Washington State at Wisconsin (Wisconsin favored by 8 points)

September 8
Oregon at Michigan (Michigan favored by 9 points)
Notre Dame at Penn State (Penn State favored by 2 points)

September 15
Pittsburgh at Michigan State (Michigan State favored by 2 points)
Iowa at Iowa State (Iowa favored by 6 points)
Notre Dame at Michigan (Michigan favored by 6 points)
Ohio State at Washington (Ohio State favored by 8 points)

September 22
Michigan State at Notre Dame (Notre Dame favored by 4 points)
Iowa at Wisconsin (Wisconsin favored by 6 points)
Penn State at Michigan (Michigan favored by 5 points)

September 29
Michigan State at Wisconsin (Wisconsin favored by 10 points)
Notre Dame at Purdue (Notre Dame favored by 2 points)

October 6
Ohio State at Purdue (Ohio State favored by 9 points)
Iowa at Penn State (Penn State favored by 3 points)

October 13
Purdue at Michigan (Michigan favored by 12 points)
Wisconsin at Penn State (EVEN)

October 20
Michigan State at Ohio State (Ohio State favored by 13 points)
Iowa at Purdue (Iowa favored by 2 points)

October 27
Ohio State at Penn State (Ohio State favored by 4 points)
Michigan State at Iowa (Iowa favored by 5 points)
Minnesota at Michigan (Michigan favored by 8 points)

November 3
Michigan at Michigan State (Michigan favored by 10 points)
Wisconsin at Ohio State (Ohio State favored by 2 points)
Purdue at Penn State (Penn State favored by 8 points)

November 10
Minnesota at Iowa (Iowa favored by 2 points)
Michigan at Wisconsin (Wisconsin favored by 1 point)

November 17
Ohio State at Michigan (Michigan favored by 1 point)
Penn State at Michigan State (Penn State favored by 7 points)
Wisconsin at Minnesota (Wisconsin favored by 6 points)

 



 
 
TOP FIVE UNIT RANKINGS
  Running Back Defensive Line
  Wide Receiver Linebacker
  Offensive Line Defensive Back