Preview 2010: The Conference

Submitted by Tim on September 1st, 2010 at 11:14 AM

Previously: The story, the secondary, the linebackers, the defensive line, and special teams.

[Editor's note: "F/+" is an advanced metric put together by Football Outsiders that combines a drive-centered efficiency metric with a play-centered one, adjusts for schedule strength, and comes up with a number that seems more accurate than just yards. For example, Big Ten offenses and defenses last year:

big-ten-f-plus That seems more right than a measure of offensive efficiency that had Michigan's offense 9th in the league last year because they didn't play two below-average defensive teams. More about this later. The numbers below will differ from the numbers above slightly since the scatterplot is just Big Ten play and the below numbers take nonconference games (but not I-AA ones) into account.

You can get your fill of F/+ and everything else with the Football Outsiders Almanac, BTW. On with Tim's show:]

The Cream

Ohio State

Ohio State at a Glance
2009 Offense Rank 68
Offensive Starters Lost 2
2009 Defense Rank 5
Defensive Starters Lost 5
Program F/+ 45.3 (3rd)

The story on offense for Ohio State this season starts and ends with Terrelle Pryor. If he can take the next step as a quarterback, the skill players around him, including wideouts DeVier Posey and Dane Sanzenbacher and running backs Dan "Boom" Herron and Brandon Saine, will see him to put up big numbers. Returning five offensive linemen from the conference's third-best rush offense should help pave the way and keep Pryor's jersey clean.

All of this depends on Pryor's continued development as a passer, and a willingness from Jim Tressel to open the playbook for his star. Pryor's "breakout performance" in the Rose Bowl was much more a product of the latter, as Terrelle's 37 pass attempts was by far the most of his season, and while his efficiency was above his season average, it would have ranked 44th in the nation - behind many player's without Pryor's threat of running (or supporting cast).

On the other side of the ball, the Buckeyes lost a quartet of defenders to the NFL - though that hasn't stopped them from reloading in the past. Along the front line, defensive end Thaddeus Gibson took off for The League a year early and Doug Worthington graduated from OSU. All-Big Ten candidate Cameron Heyward (a first-team selection last year) will be relied upon more heavily; noted workout warrior John Simon will step into the middle. The Buckeyes lose linebacker Austin Spitler, but Ross Homan heads a talented group that shouldn't see too much dropoff. Despite losing Kurt Coleman, the Bucks should start three seniors in the secondary.

Iowa

Iowa at a Glance
2009 Offense Rank 89
Offensive Starters Lost 6
2009 Defense Rank 10
Defensive Starters Lost 3
Program F/+ 21.2 (22nd)

Like the Buckeyes, Iowa has an enigmatic quarterback who is looking to make everything come together. Ricky Stanzi was a pick-6 machine last year, though he was a killer in crunch time. His supporting cast won't be nearly as strong as Pryor's, with four offensive linemen shuffling out of Iowa City, including first-rounder Bryan Bulaga. Stanzi's main options in the passing game are Darrell Johnson-Koulianos and converted QB Marvin McNutt. Tight end Allen Reisner replaces Tony "oft-injured but routinely open by 25 yards against Michael Williams" Moeaki.

A strong D is responsible for the Hawkeyes' optimism going into 2010. Defensive end Adrian Clayborn was a terrorbeast in the Orange Bowl, and he returns along with tackles Karl Klug and Christian Ballard, with sophomore LeBron Daniel manning the other end. The linebacker corps takes a major hit with the losses of Pat Angerer and AJ Edds, and the secondary lost Amari Spievey early to the NFL. Aside from the defensive front, this unit could be looking at a step back after finishing first in conference play a year ago.

Wisconsin

john-clay

Wisconsin at a Glance
2009 Offense Rank 30
Offensive Starters Lost 1
2009 Defense Rank 17
Defensive Starters Lost 4
Program F/+ 19.5 (28th)

The Badgers return the Big Ten's best rushing threat and last year's offensive player of the year in John Clay, Clay's entire offensive line from 2009, and one of the conference's most efficient passers in Scott Tolzien. Tolzien's efficiency may have been a product of being a mere complement to a dominating rush game, but with the Badgers are looking to repeat last year's gameplan he can do that again no problem. Deep threat Nick Toon headlines a good receiving corps, though tight end Garrett Graham has moved on to the next level. The offense, as per usual, will rely on enough play-action passing to keep defenses honest but the majority of Wisconsin's yardage will come on the ground.

The Badgers' defense was decent last year and possibly underrated. Wisconsin held Ohio State's offense to just 10 points last year, but lost thanks to three non-offensive touchdowns from the Buckeyes. Defensive End O'Brien Schofield and tackle Jeff Stehle are the big losses up front for Wisconsin, and linebacker Jaevery McFadden is gone after leading UW in tackles each of the past two years. The rest of the D is mostly intact, including last year's Big Ten Freshman of the Year in linebacker Chris Borland, and safety Jay Valai, who seems like he's been around forever. It's the consistency in personnel that has many people projecting the Badgers to finish near the top of the conference, and that's the spoils of returning 19-ish starters from last year's Champs Sports Bowl winners.

The Middle

Northwestern

Northwestern at a Glance
2009 Offense Rank 40
Offensive Starters Lost 5
2009 Defense Rank 47
Defensive Starters Lost 5
Program F/+ 1.6 (57th)

Mike Kafka quietly led the conference in total yardage last year, so losing him to the NFL(-ish) is a big deal. However, this isn't the Northwestern of old. The Wildcats can plug in Dan Persa, a redshirt junior with some experience under his belt. The run game is a much bigger question mark, as the Wildcats struggled on the ground last year. Kafka was the only player with more than 100 attempts, and leading rusher Arby Fields finished with just 302 yards on 3.6 yards per carry. What should help the running game this year is more experience. A green offensive line last year has grown up, which should also mean the Cats don't finish second-to-last in the Big Ten in sacks allowed this year.

Though Northwestern has become a program somewhat capable of reloading, replacing two NFL draft picks on defense is not something they're used to. Defensive end Corey Wootton and corner Sherrick McManus have left big shoes to fill, and safeties Brad Phillips and Brendan Smith have also graduated. That leaves linebackers Quentin Davie and Nate Williams and corner Jordan Mabin to be the stars of the show. I think they'll have trouble living up to last year's experienced defense, which was already in the bottom half of the conference by most measures.

Penn State

robert-bolden-olsm

Penn State at a Glance
2009 Offense Rank 37
Offensive Starters Lost 4
2009 Defense Rank 9
Defensive Starters Lost 4
Program F/+ 40.1 (6th)

Quarterbacks continue to be a theme among Big Ten teams, as Penn State will have to choose between an unimpressive sophomore, a walkon, or a true freshman to lead their team this fall. Nittany Lion fans are denying it's a Threet/Sheridan situation, but I'll believe PSU has a competent signal-caller when I see him. Of course, the supporting cast will be much better than Michigan's was in 2008, with Evan Royster willing to carry a big portion of the offense. The offensive line has plenty of talent and gained experience last year. Stefen Wisniewski is the headliner there, moving from center to guard. Tight end Andrew Quarless is the only significant departure from the receiving corps, though with a young quarterback, having no security blanket (backup Mickey Shuler has also moved on to the NFL) could be an issue. Penn State is also starting a 6'3" converted guard at left tackle.

The other side of the ball sees serious losses, including a first-rounder in defensive tackle Jared Odrick, and all three starting linebackers. Despite those, Penn State will still be able to field an experienced unit as the new linebackers are all seniors, as are three defensive linemen and both safeties. Even in Penn State's dark years, the defense was good, and that should be the case again.

Michigan State

Michigan State at a Glance
2009 Offense Rank 38
Offensive Starters Lost 5
2009 Defense Rank 73
Defensive Starters Lost 4
Program F/+ 9.1 (43rd)

The Spartan offense went from heavily run-biased in 2008 to pass-biased in 2009. With Larry Caper and Edwin Baker coming of age, there's bound to be more balance this year - which should only help Kirk Cousins continue his prolific passing. A couple starters on the the offensive line need to be replaced, along with leading receiver (by a country mile) Blair White, so I'm not willing to predict that the Spartans will be the top offense in the Big Ten, but they should be good or better. Former QB Keith Nichol will try to fill the "white wideout" void, and some people are projecting an All-Big Ten season from him... on the basis of two career catches. Still, there's a lot to work with in East Lansing, and Cousins is the lynchpin of this unit.

The Spartans will be led defensively by linebacker Greg Jones, who rejected an early entry to the NFL Draft to win a Big Ten Championship in East Lansing (or go to the Insight Bowl, either one). The Spartans' second-best defensive player last year, end Trevor Anderson, is off to the NFL, so the Spartans may have trouble replicating the pressure they put on opposing QBs last year. That's unfortunate, seeing as how MSU's secondary was - are you sitting down? - worse than Michigan's last year! Competent aerial attacks should shred the Spartans once more.

The Rest

Purdue

Purdue at a Glance
2009 Offense Rank 53
Offensive Starters Lost 5
2009 Defense Rank 69
Defensive Starters Lost 6
Program F/+ 5.4 (51st)

Robert Marve is sure getting a lot of hype for a guy who finished just inside the top 100 nationally in pass efficiency last time he played a live down. There's nothing (aside from the four stars next to his name in 2008) that suggests he'll be better than Joey Elliott was last year. Running back Ralph Bolden has a torn ACL, causing him to miss at least part of the season, and his backup, Al-Terek McBurse, has been dinged up during camp as well. The Boilermakers return top receiver Keith Smith, along with a couple other key pieces in the receiving game. They do, however, lose a couple offensive linemen from a mediocre unit, which could mean a step back.

The defensive leaders for Purdue will be a pair of seniors in defensive end Ryan Kerrigan and linebacker Jason Werner. The linebackers should be the same as last year, with Joe Holland filling one of the spots, and Chris Calrino and Dwayne Beckford battling for the final position. The secondary is almost entirely new, as Torri Williams, David Pender, Brandon King, and Dwight McLean are gone. The defense should be a serious weakness of the Boilermakers.

Minnesota

timbrewster

Awww, Hamburgers.

Minnesota at a Glance
2009 Offense Rank 109
Offensive Starters Lost 3
2009 Defense Rank 63
Defensive Starters Lost 8(!)
Program F/+ 1.5 (58th)

Adam Weber has had one of the more bizarre career arcs as a starting quarterback you'll ever see, with strong seasons as a freshman and sophomore followed by a disappointing 2009 (last in the conference in passing efficiency) and the threat of being replaced by a freshman in 2010. His struggles over the past couple years coincide with a number of coordinator and philosophy changes on offense for the Gophers, and if they return to more of a spread don't be surprised if Weber is replaced by MarQuies Gray. Running the ball, Duane Bennett should be better than he was last year, as he's had more time to improve from a 2008 knee injury. The top two receivers, Eric Decker and tight end Nick Tow-Arnett, are both gone. Gray might see time split wide when he's not behind center.

The Gophers' defense was middle-of-the-pack last year, and now the three starting linebackers are out the door (with one of the candidates to replace them, Sam Maresh, at a junior college instead of in St. Paul). The defensive backs should be a strength though, with Kim Royston, Kyle Theret, and Marcus Sherels all seniors, though Royston has had health issues with one of his legs. The defensive line was poor last year, and losing Eric Small and Cedric McKinley won't improve that. This defense should be awful.

Indiana

Indiana at a Glance
2009 Offense Rank 72
Offensive Starters Lost 4
2009 Defense Rank 88
Defensive Starters Lost 7
Program F/+ -14.9 (84th)

The pistol offense has worked out in Bloomington (sorta), as the Hoosiers finished fourth in the conference in passing offense—but they couldn't run the ball at all. Quarterback Ben Chappell and running back Darius Willis both return, forming a solid nucleus, though Willis's top two backups are gone. Wide receivers should be led by Damarlo Belcher and Terrance Turner until Tandon Doss returns from a groin injury. On the offensive line, a terrible unit running the ball loses an NFL second-rounder, and the Hoosiers aren't likely to replace Roger Saffold with an equally-talented player. A few other linemen depart, though not all starters. The offensive line should be the downfall of this offense.

On the other side of the ball, the Hoosiers lose two players to the NFL in seventh-rounders Jammie Kirlew and Ray Fisher at defensive end and corner, respectively. For a unit that finished second-to-last in both scoring and total defense last year, that's not a good sign, as the Hoosiers aren't exactly pumping out draft picks. Also departing are linebackers Matt Mayberry, Justin Carrington, and Will Patterson, along with defensive lineman Greg Middleton. This unit could be historically bad, unless there's a lot of talent that should have been on the field last year.

Illinois

Illinois at a Glance
2009 Offense Rank 47
Offensive Starters Lost 6
2009 Defense Rank 91
Defensive Starters Lost 4
Program F/+ -2.8 (65th)

Out goes the Juice Williams era, and in comes... Nathan Scheelhasse? The Illini brought in Paul Petrino to be offensive coordinator, so look for a QB-centric, pass-heavy offense. Juniors Mikel LeShoure and Jason Ford should do most of the rushing, but there's little proven talent in the receiving corps. Arrelious Benn, Chris Duvalt, Jeff Cumberland, and Michael Hoomanawanui are all gone, leaving behind little experience—and these aren't the talented prospects Zook was bringing in at the start of his tenure in Champaign. The Illini also lose an NFL pick on the offensive line in guard Jon Asamoah, along with aptly-named fellow starter Eric Block. They gave up a lot of sacks last year, and without the mobile threat of Juice (and with a move toward a downfield passing game), you can probably expect more of the same in 2010.

Defensive lineman Doug Pilcher is gone, as are defensive backs Donsay Hardeman and Dere Hicks, but the rest off Illinois's defense returns mostly intact. Of course, when that defense was dead last in the Big Ten in total, scoring, and pass efficiency defense, there's a legitimate question as to whether that is a good thing. Losing starting DBs off a horrible pass defense means more of the same is probably in order unless the Illini can do a better job getting to the quarterback. Unfortunately, they were - you guessed it - last in the conference in sacks last year. They have talent in the system, and if those players can grow up, there may be room for improvement (along with a return from Martez Wilson). However, there's a long way to go to even reach competency.

Comments

FgoWolve

September 1st, 2010 at 11:27 AM ^

These teams have always seemed identical in my brain forever, except for the color of the jersey they wear. I'm not ahead of the curve by any means in predicting Iowa to fall back to Earth this year, but I do think Wisconsin replaces them snugly behind Ohio State. Give me John Clay and Scott Tolzien any day over Ricky Stanzi and whichever Iowa RB whose leg doesn't fall off or whose hip doesn't displace this year.

M-Wolverine

September 1st, 2010 at 11:43 AM ^

Is that what is the difference...? Between winning another Big Ten title, and playing for the National Championship? The variation doesn't excite me.

I also question all the Marve will make them dangerous love. If he was THAT good, why's he transferring to Purdue?

BraveWolverine730

September 1st, 2010 at 11:46 AM ^

Well it's probably because Jacory Harris was THAT good and took the job from him.  I do agree that his stats are underwhelming(i.e Threet compares somewhat favorably to his stats) and its not like their QB last yr was terrible. They'll only improve if their defense gets better(where have we heard that one before)

M-Wolverine

September 1st, 2010 at 11:55 AM ^

But if he was great, and just beat out by even greater talent, he'd have a lot more choice. I mean, say Tate starts this year, but after a redshirt year, Devin just becomes a BEAST, and you can't keep him off the field anymore (not a prediction...just an example)...If Tate decided to transfer after two years, I think he'd have better choices than bottom half of the conference teams. I think an older Threet is a good example. Threet seems to be starting, and could have been solid here, if we ran a system more conducive to him.  But I don't think anyone would be going "oh, man, we're going to lose to ASU this year, because now they have Threet" either.  Which is what some columnist-types have done with Marve at Purdue.

Edit: I watched him at Miami.  Liked him. He was good. But they didn't just have Mallett transfer to them.

zlionsfan

September 1st, 2010 at 12:21 PM ^

and he wasn't really an upgrade from the guy who started the previous year (you may recognize him now as the QB guaranteed to end any unbeaten streak the Colts have; I'm sure Painter is a nice guy but frankly he wasn't that good at Purdue and he doesn't have NFL-caliber skills IME).

I think Marve transferred because a) he knew Harris had taken the starting job, b) Purdue has a reputation for developing QBs, and c) despite that reputation, no one in West Lafayette at the time of Marve's decision had anything like a lock on the starting job.

I guess we'll find out soon enough if it was a good decision. I would love to make a joke about not being able to tell from the opener because of Notre Dame's defense, but glass houses and all.

tmotts62

September 1st, 2010 at 11:51 AM ^

Marve's story is an interesting one.  He requested a transfer after his freshman year, in which he split time with Jacory Harris.  Perhaps he saw the writing on the wall that he wasn't going to beat out Harris, but whatever.  Rumors had him going elsewhere in Florida or to the SEC (LSU in particular), then Miami said they would only grant him his LOI release if he didn't go to the SEC or another Florida school.  Parents got involved, I believe legal action was threatened and/or initiated (might have just been the NCAA), and ultimately he was granted his release and transferred to Purdue.

Even more interesting, in the article linked in the mgolicious sidebar, Marve is one of the players mentioned by the now-imprisoned Miami booster as guys the booster was friends with.  That same booster is peddling a tell-all book about NCAA violations involving more than 100 former Miami players.  Given Joe Tiller's snake-oil comments, Danny Hope's douchebaggery following last year's game, and the triple revenge angle, I would LOVE for that book to feature some dirt on Marve, and would doubly love for advanced excerpts casting doubts on his eligibility to come out, say, November 8th.

Tater

September 1st, 2010 at 11:45 AM ^

PSU could somehow make it to the "cream" or to the dregs, depending how just how bad their QB situation is.   I think they are even more difficult to predict than Michigan is this year.   I think MSU is a few close games away from the dregs, too.  I don't see them doing as well as they are predicted to by many this year.  To me, MSU still looks like the same team that went .500 before their bowl last year.  In the age of cupcakes, that works out to lower-middle.

I am hoping for both of these teams' losses to be Michigan's gain this year.

[email protected]

September 1st, 2010 at 11:52 AM ^

The numbers in my scatterplot are full-season numbers (pulled from the FO Almanac; I don't think they publish conference-only numbers).  Doubt it makes a lot of difference (would make the most difference for Michigan, given the 4-0 non-con record), but I am compelled by my data wonkishness to point it out.

stmccoy

September 1st, 2010 at 11:54 AM ^

I really wish we played Minnesota.  They are going to be terrible.  I have a Minnesota fan in my office who told me he is worried about the Middle Tennessee game.  Why Minnesota is playing AT Middle Tennessee is a little puzzling. 

erik_t

September 1st, 2010 at 12:19 PM ^

I (minny) am feeling a whole lot better now that MTSU-QB Dasher is suspended for that game.

 

The fact that I should need to have such thoughts is pretty depressing. I'm more than ready to show rainbow-shitting dipshit Brewster the door.

 

Other nitpick, I'd love to have Maresh in Minneapolis. St. Paul would not be helpful. Only cows live at St. Paul campus.

ijohnb

September 1st, 2010 at 12:07 PM ^

The Free Press has just revealed the results of their investigation in which it is revealed that Tom Izzo once heard that Corey Lucious drank a beer in high school, Izzo, viewing Dantonio as a confident, shared this info with Mark D.  Mark D. questioned certain football players that hung with Lucious on a social basis, and learned that they in fact knew that Lucious had previously drank a beer, and other football players that had consumed alcohol on occassion, during the season!  This led to other recently graduated MSU football players speaking out that Mark D. did not have any specifically set forth safeguards to prevent players from drinking, calling into question his instiutional control, and whether he is promoting an atmosphere of underage abstinence from alcohol. 

The whole thing is a mess.  It is going to be hard for them to contend with this thing hanging over their head.

Michigan4Life

September 1st, 2010 at 12:21 PM ^

able to finish 3rd in Big Ten this season behind OSU and Wisconsin. The rest of the Big Ten are very winnable(and probably OSU game since Michigan probably should've won the game if it weren't for Tate turning the ball over 5 times).

bronxblue

September 1st, 2010 at 1:20 PM ^

Eh, I would be happy with top-5.  Iowa and MSU are still good teams with a clear depth chart (though with MSU on defense, that doesn't mean much), and PSU is always dangerous because of the defense and Royster.  I also think Indiana might scare people offensively, and against some of these defenses (including UM's), they could pull off a shocker or two.  I expect UM to return to a bowl game, but top-3 in this conference is a tall order.

Michigan4Life

September 1st, 2010 at 5:43 PM ^

PSU has no QBs on the roster and that is the deal breaker plus they lost their best DL in Odrick.   Even with a blowout from last season, I can see Michigan beating PSU.

MSU is still MSU, a medicore team.  Michigan should be able to beat MSU.  They nearly beat MSU despite the fact that they didn't show up to play until the 4th quarter.  If Michigan shows up to play, they rout MSU IMO.

 

I have OSU and Wisconsin as a sure loss.  The rest are winnable.  I have Michigan going 9-3 which would put them in 3rd/4th place.

Token_sparty

September 2nd, 2010 at 11:18 AM ^

I totally agree with you in re:  Penn State, and can't believe people are picking them to do any better than 6-6; without a QB, they aren't going anywhere.  Iowa won a lot of close games last year, which could suggest they will fall back a little.

But as far as MSU goes, you state without any supporting evidence that UM should be able to beat MSU.  Based on what, exactly?  I know that rivalry games tend to be unpredictable and all, but really?  I'll grant you that Robinson is a living, breathing matchup nightmare, and if he can complete passes under pressure in the Big Ten season he'll terrorize the entire league.  I'll even grant you that UM's offense will score on all and sundry.  But honestly, have you looked at UM's secondary?  Sure, MSU had a turrible pass defense last year, but they have some guys back who missed last year through injury and some highly-regarded freshmen pushing starters for PT at corner and safety.  I see the MSU defense taking the great leap forward to 'solidly mediocre'.  

If you were the offensive coordinator in meetings the week of the UM game, if you said anything to your unit other than 'four wide on every play, if you check into a run I'll kill you', you should be fired.  UM will not be able to defend the pass, and good passing teams like MSU should shred them.

Besides, if you want to play the 'should' game, MSU should have a three-game win streak as it stands now, but UM pulled out a great win in the 'Little Brother' game.  Don't ask Moosman about should:  "We didn't deserve to beat Michigan State.  I think we had a shot at beating Iowa."  (direct quote)  'Should' don't count for damn when it comes to football, and apart from turnovers, I don't see any way UM beats MSU this year.  Now, if you've got something more to argue, I'm all ears.

Token_sparty

September 2nd, 2010 at 3:25 PM ^

I'm willing to concede the home-stadium point- even that the additions make for a much louder environment- and I understand that rivalry games have a lot of unexpected twists and turns.  Yes, Michigan could win this game- but looking at MSU's passing offense against UM's secondary, is it likely?  Honestly, wouldn't you attack UM through the air right now?  I was basically arguing that MSU should (there we go again) spread UM out with Dell, Cunningham, Martin, and Nichol and force Michigan to defend with 5 or 6 DBs, knowing the lack of depth and experience there.  Honestly, other than 'we nearly got 'em last year, and we're at home this year', I haven't heard a lot of reasons to be hopeful if you're a Michigan fan.  It might be a good bet for MSU to fall back on its tradition of mediocrity and disappointment, but that's an external factor, outside of UM's sphere of control.  Right now, UM is a dangerous offensive team with a mortal weakness in the secondary; can they find a way to shore it up in time to win the game?

And this same scenario extends itself to any team that has a good passing offense- right now, that's ND and Indiana (yikes- throwing the ball is all they can do), and to a lesser extent Wiscy, Iowa, and OSU.  Not saying those latter three are less of a threat, just that they like to run the ball but can pass.

M-Wolverine

September 2nd, 2010 at 4:17 PM ^

You see highly regarded freshmen fighting for major positions there....and I don't see how that's much different than ours, which you rightly declare a disaster. Not to mention Michigan has at least had good cornerbacks in the past. MSU's secondary has been bad for a long time.

I'm not saying, hey, it's in the bag. I could see MSU winning. Turnovers will probably be big, because teams with good offenses against teams with bad secondaries will probably be about scoring opportunities, and not given them up, because you'll need the points. But I see two teams that were basically the same record, but for an OT win by one over the other.  At their house. So can homefield switch the FG one way to the other? Yeah, I think so.

And in any regard, MSU has to prove they can run the ball, and not just pass, so the defenses can't tee off on the QB, where as Michigan's offense can probably run or pass, depending on what QB they put in. (MSU might be able to stop the run better than most with their LBs, so I wouldn't be surprised to see Tate getting more playing time than in some other games),

Not to mention, if you go to intangibles, they're probably equalized, rather than the normal MSU wanting it a lot more than Michigan. Because if the team loses the 3rd in a row, their coach is in trouble.  So they have some urgency.

And like I said...MSU has won in Ann Arbor twice in the last 30-some years.  And one of the two times, they had to cheat to do it.  We'll see if winning once two years ago opens up the floodgates.

markusr2007

September 1st, 2010 at 12:42 PM ^

He's supposed to be quite a good mobile quarterback with nice touch on his throws.  Apparently Juice's backup, Eddie McGee, will be split out wide this fall, but be Scheelhaase's a backup.  Interesting to me that McGee was passed up by Scheelhaase, or that the Illini WR position is essentially a crater of talent following all of those 2009 graduations you listed.   Illinois was second to Wisconsin in rushing last year, but 10th in the league in passing (JUICE!) just ahead of Terrelle Pryor and 11th OSU.

So by moving to a QB-centric, passing offense in 2010, Zook has rubber stamped doing more of what they were awful at last year.  With those talented backs returning, a mobile quarterback in Scheelhaase, and big questions along the OL for pass blocking, why not just run the damn ball (do what has worked)? 

Woodson2

September 1st, 2010 at 2:49 PM ^

Scheelhaase is one of the better young QB's coming into the year. He's a very good decision maker for a young QB. I watched a few of his high school games and he was extremely poised.  Plus he is a very gifted runner and thrower. I think he will be better than Juice Williams when all is said and done. That being said he's still a Freshman and the wide recieving corps is in shambles.  If we stop the run we should be fine against Illinois. Wouldn't mind blowing Illinois out and rubbing salt in their wounds to pay them back for last year....

MaizenBlueBP

September 1st, 2010 at 4:57 PM ^

Looking at Tuos and Pryor specifically I don't see why he's a heisman front runner. Wisconsin plays the same way they always do (tight to the vest).  Iowa lost a lot of pieces and quite frankly if we don't turn the ball over 4 times we win that game.  Penn State won't be as good as they were last season, and could be sporadic with a freshman qb and some unknowns about the defense.  Michigan should much better this year within the division.  It's unreal how hungry we are and all of the comments from the coaching staff have shown a lot more confidence in our team then in the past couple of years.  We have depth! We have ability.  WE are Michigan, and we are back. 3 days go blue

James Howlett

September 1st, 2010 at 5:28 PM ^

A couple of things. DE Broderick Binns, a very productive starter last season will be the starter this year opposite Clayborn. He was suspended for the first game so Ed Daniels may get the start against EIU. But, no matter, Binns is the starter at the position come Game 2.

"Aside from the defensive front, this unit could be looking at a step back after finishing first in conference play a year ago".

Not so sure. Tyler Sash, is a serious All-American candidate at safety, and his sidekick Brett Greenwood made second team all-conference at the end of last season. Shaun Prater, returns at the cornerback spot opposite Spievey after a strong first year. Jordan Bernstein(who was the projected starer opposite Spievey last year before a season ending injury) is back but he's been beaten out by a suprising sophomore Micah Hyde. Bernstein, is fast and projects as the Hawkeyes nickle back. The LB's have a lot of experience if two didn't see the field a lot(it's the Iowa way..."next man in"... it's a developmental not a recruiting program.)so, don't expect much fall off at LB. Iowa's defense is going to be real handful again.

BTW-on offense remember the name, Jewel Hampton. A RB who's name you should know well by UM-Iowa kickoff time.