The grades are in: Fourth quarter report card for UM and the Big Ten

Submitted by Maize_in_Spartyland on December 7th, 2011 at 7:01 PM

Ten teams in the Big Ten are bowl eligible: Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, Northwestern, Ohio, Penn State, Purdue, Wisconsin. Only Indiana and Minnesota failed to make bowl games; Minnesota finished the season strong while Indiana – not so much.


It’s time to look at the fourth quarter of the season report card for Big Ten teams; the regular season is over, heading into the bowl season. The report card will factor in each team’s success (or lack thereof) offensively and defensively, while keeping their win-loss record in mind. In the event a team is playing in a bowl game, it will be noted.

Note: No predictions were done for the conference title.


Readers have suggested I reference the previous quarters’s report card; those grades will be duly noted. To see the first quarter report card, click here. To see the second quarter grades, click here. To see the third quarter grades, click here.


To see articles like this and more, visit my website at Before Visiting the Sportsbook (note the new web address; content is updated daily).


Illinois – Projected Record: (8-4); Actual Record: (6-6)

Total Offense: 358.17 yards/game; 86th.

Run Offense: 171.17 yards/game; 42nd. Pass Offense: 187.00 yards/game; 91st.

Total Defense: 291.75 yards/game; 7th.

Run Defense: 132.67 yards/game; 42nd. Pass Defense: 159.08 yards/game; 4th.

Notes: The Illini started off the season on fire, starting 6-0 with an average MOV of 16.8; since that time, Illinois was 0-6 with an average MOD of 11.3. The six game slide led to the Zooker being canned. The Illini’s potential candidates include Tim Beckman (Toledo), Dave Doeren (Northern Illinois), Ron English (Eastern Michigan), Hugh Freeze (Arkansas State), Butch Jones (Cincinnati), and Pat Narduzzi (D.C. Michigan State). Illinois will travel to San Francisco to play UCLA in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. Illinois is led offensively by QB Nathan Scheelhaase (2485 total yards, 63.6% completion, 18 total TDs, but 7 INTs), RB Jason Ford (600 rushing yards, 3.9/carry, and 7 rushing TDs), and WR A.J. Jenkins (1196 receiving yards, 14.2/catch, and 7 receiving TDs). Illinois made it to a bowl game, mainly because the Big Ten has numerous bowl tie-ins, but also because Illinois draws more fans than other potential candidates, which isn’t saying much. The Illini have non-conference games against Western Michigan, at Arizona State, Charleston Southern, and Louisiana Tech. Winnable home games exist against Indiana, Minnesota, and Purdue; unfortunately for Illinois, all of the road games could be losses, with trips to Wisconsin and Michigan on back-to-back weeks, then visits to Ohio and Northwestern later in the season. Don’t expect Illinois to be bowl eligible in 2012.

Wins: Arkansas State (33-15); South Dakota State (56-3); #22 Arizona State (17-14); Western Michigan (23-20); Northwestern* (38-35); @ Indiana* (41-20).

Losses: Ohio* (7-17); @ Purdue* (14-21); @ #19 Penn State (7-10); #24 Michigan* (14-31); #17 Wisconsin* (17-28); @ Minnesota* (7-27).

Current Grade: C-.


Indiana – Projected Record: (3-9); Actual Record: (1-11)

Total Offense: 360.42 yards/game; 85th.

Run Offense: 161.00 yards/game; 58th. Pass Offense: 199.40 yards/game; 80th.

Total Defense: 458.67 yards/game; 109th.

Run Defense: 243.67 yards/game; 118th. Pass Defense: 215.00 yards/game; 51st.

Notes: The Hoosiers had their worst year since 1984, when they were winless. Coach Kevin R. Wilson’s first year couldn’t have gone any worse, as their average MOD in Big Ten play was 24.4. Indiana’s three best conference games might have been against Penn State, Purdue, and Ohio. QB Tre Robinson (791 total yards, 59.7% completion, 4 total TDs, but 2 INTs) is the third quarterback for the Hoosiers this season. RB Stephen Houston (577 rushing yards, 5.2/carry, and 6 rushing TDs) and WR Duwyce Wilson (217 receiving yards, 12.8/catch, and 3 receiving TDs) lead the Hoosiers offensively. The Hoosiers have lost 29 of their last 32 conference games, dating back to the 2008 season (Hoosiers went to a bowl game in 2007, went 3-5 in the Big Ten that year). Indiana’s goal for next year? Winning a conference game? Winning two games total? You decide. (In case you were wondering, Indiana’s last winning record in conference play was in 1993 – 5-3 that year – under Coach Bill Mallory). The Hoosiers have non-conference games against Indiana State, at Massachusetts, Ball State, and at Navy. There are potential wins, in conference play, against Illinois and Purdue, both on the road. Indiana will exceed their 2011 win total, in 2012, though it may not be by much.

Wins: South Carolina State (38-21).

Losses: vs. Ball State (20-27); Virginia (31-34); @ North Texas (21-24); Penn State* (10-16); #19 Illinois* (20-41); @ #4 Wisconsin *(7-59); @ Iowa* (24-45); Northwestern* (38-59); @ Ohio* (20-34); @ #15 Michigan State* (3-55); Purdue* (25-33).

Current Grade: F.


Iowa – Projected Record: (8-4); Actual Record: (7-5)

Total Offense: 379.17 yards/game; 70th.

Run Offense: 142.83 yards/game; 77th. Pass Offense: 236.30 yards/game; 56th.

Total Defense: 387.58 yards/game; 68th.

Run Defense: 159.50 yards/game; 64th. Pass Defense: 228.08 yards/game; 66th.

Notes: Iowa will be in their fourth straight bowl game and 10th in the last 11 years. With that said, this year hasn’t been a good one for Iowa, they have posted their lowest win total since 2007, when they missed a bowl game. Iowa draws #14 Oklahoma in the Insight Bowl. The Hawkeyes have been led by Junior QB James Vandenberg (2806 passing yards, 59.4% completion, and 26 total TDs), RB Marcus Coker (1384 rushing yards, 4.9/carry, and 15 rushing TDs), and WR Marvin McNutt (1269 receiving yards, 16.3/catch, and 12 receiving TDs). Since missing the 2007 bowl game, Iowa’s recruiting rankings in the Big Ten have been 8th (2008), 10th (2009), 5th (2010), and 3rd (2011). Currently, Iowa has four-4 star verbal commits. After a soft non-conference schedule this year, Iowa plays Northern Illinois (@ Chicago, IL), Iowa State, Northern Iowa, and Central Michigan. Nice to see Iowa picked up their rivalry with Northern Iowa again, right? Iowa faces tough home games against Penn State and Nebraska. Tough road games exist at Michigan State and Michigan. Iowa has a great shot at topping seven wins in 2012.

Wins: Tennessee Tech (34-7); Pittsburgh (31-27); Louisiana-Monroe (45-17); Northwestern* (41-31); Indiana* (45-24); #15 Michigan* (24-16); @ Purdue* (31-21).

Losses: @ Iowa State (41-44 OT); @ Penn State* (3-13); @ Minnesota* (21-22); #17 Michigan State* (21-37); @ #21 Nebraska* (7-20).

Current Grade: C.


Michigan – Projected Record: (8-4); Actual Record: (10-2)

Total Offense: 423.08 yards/game; 34th.

Run Offense: 235.67 yards/game; 12th. Pass Offense: 187.40 yards/game; 90th.

Total Defense: 317.58 yards/game; 18th.

Run Defense: 129.08 yards/game; 35th. Pass Defense: 188.50 yards/game; 16th.

Notes: Michigan has their highest win total in a season since 2006, when the Wolverines finished 11-2, starting 11-0 before losing to Ohio and USC in the Rose Bowl. Michigan also knocked off Ohio for the first time since 2003. Michigan also made their first BCS bowl since 2006, facing #11 Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl. QB Denard Robinson (3219 total yards, 56.1% completion, and 34 total TDs, but 14 INTs), RBs Fitzgerald Toussaint (1011 rushing yards, 5.8/carry, and 9 rushing TDs) and Vincent Smith (296 rushing yards, 6.0/carry, and 2 rushing TDs) led the Wolverine ground attack. WR Junior Hemingway (636 receiving yards, 19.9/catch, and 2 receiving TDs) and TE Kevin Koger (235 receiving yards, 11.2/catch, and 4 receiving TDs) led Michigan’s aerial attack. Michigan finished undefeated at home this season, the first time since 2006. The Wolverines were third in recruiting in the Big Ten in 2011, picking up six-4 stars, including DB Blake Countess, RB Justice Hayes, and DE Brennen Beyer. To date, Michigan has the top recruiting class for 2012 in the Big Ten (and one of the best in the country), with one-5 star (OL Kyle Kalis) and ten-4 star recruits (including OL Blake Bars, WR Amara Darboh, LB Royce Jenkins-Stone, OL Erik Magnuson, and DE Tom Strobel), all verbals. Michigan’s non-conference schedule next season is among the toughest in the Big Ten, if not the entire country; games against Alabama (@ Arlington, TX), Air Force, Massachusetts, and at Notre Dame provide Michigan with three possible losses. Michigan State and Iowa at home could be tough, as well as road games against Nebraska and Ohio. If Michigan can come anywhere near their ten wins this season, next year, it would be shocking.

Wins: Western Michigan (34-10); Notre Dame (35-31); Eastern Michigan (31-3); San Diego State (28-7); Minnesota* (58-0); Northwestern* (42-24); Purdue* (36-14); @ Illinois* (31-14); #16 Nebraska* (45-17); Ohio* (40-34).

Losses: @ #23 Michigan State* (14-28); @ Iowa* (16-24).

Current Grade: A-.


Michigan State – Projected Record: (8-4); Actual Record: (10-3)

Total Offense: 390.38 yards/game 60th.

Run Offense: 142.92 yards/game; 76th. Pass Offense: 247.50 yards/game; 44th.

Total Defense: 272.69 yards/game; 5th.

Run Defense: 104.31 yards/game; 12th. Pass Defense: 168.38 yards/game; 11th.

Notes: Michigan State has their first back-to-back nine or more win seasons for the first time since 1965-1966. The Spartans have been a different team at home than on the road, though. MSU is 7-0 at home with an average MOV of 26.1, but 3-2 on the road with an average MOD of 1. Outside of last season, when Michigan State also was 7-1 in conference, the last time Michigan State was as strong on conference play was 1999, when Michigan State was 6-2, under Coach Nick Saban. 1999 was the last year Michigan State beat Ohio, Michigan, and Notre Dame all in the same season. Michigan State’s 42-39 loss in Indianapolis to Wisconsin knocked the Spartans out of the BCS. Michigan State will face Georgia in the Outback Bowl, in a battle of conference runner-ups. Senior QB Kirk Cousins (2735 passing yards, 64.3% completion, 21 passing TDs, but 6 INTs) RBs Edwin Baker (624 rushing yards, 4.0/carry, and 4 rushing TDs) and Le’Veon Bell (794 receiving yards, 5.4/carry, and 10 rushing TDs), and WR B.J. Cunningham (1125 receiving yards, 16.8/catch, and 9 receiving TDs) led the Spartans offensively. After a mediocre non-conference schedule this year, Michigan State opens up with Boise State, at Central Michigan, Notre Dame, and Eastern Michigan. The Spartans welcome in the Buckeyes and the Cornhuskers, while visiting the Wolverines and Badgers, on back-to-back weeks, nonetheless. Expecting ten wins with a new quarterback and #1 wide receiver will be extremely tough.

Wins: Youngstown State (28-6); Florida Atlantic (44-0); Central Michigan (45-7); @ Ohio* (10-7); #11 Michigan* (28-14); #6 Wisconsin* (37-31); Minnesota* (31-24); @ Iowa* (37-21); Indiana* (55-3); @ Northwestern* (31-17).

Losses: @ Notre Dame (13-31); @ #14 Nebraska* (3-24); vs. #15 Wisconsin* (39-42).

Current Grade: A-.


Minnesota – Projected Record: (3-9); Actual Record: (3-9)

Total Offense: 310.33 yards/game; 109th.

Run Offense: 160.00 yards/game; 59th. Pass Offense: 150.30 yards/game; 108th.

Total Defense: 403.08 yards/game; 77th.

Run Defense: 186.42 yards/game; 93rd. Pass Defense: 216.67 yards/game; 52nd.

Notes: When we last checked in, Minnesota had just beaten Iowa. Excluding the win over Iowa, Minnesota was 0-3 in conference with an average MOD of 39; they had been double-digit underdogs in five of their eight games this season, through that point. Since that time, Minnesota went 1-3, being outscored an average of 27-19.25. QB Marqueis Gray (2461 total yards, 50.7% completion, 14 total TDs, but 8 INTs) and RBs Duane Bennett (639 rushing yards, 3.8/carry, and 3 rushing TDs) and Donnell Kirkwood (229 rushing yards, 3.6/carry, and 3 rushing TDs) led the Golden Gopher offense. Minnesota was ninth in recruiting in the Big Ten last year; as it stands right now, Minnesota is at the bottom of the Big Ten for recruiting heading into next season. Coach Jerry Kill will need to bring in more help if he wants to turn the Golden Gophers into a bowl eligible team, and eventually and Legends Division contender. The non-conference schedule for next year is very favorable, as the Gophers travel to UNLV to open the season, then host New Hampshire, Western Michigan, and Syracuse. Minnesota hosts Northwestern and Purdue, both of which are winnable games. Minnesota also has potential winnable games on the road against Iowa and Illinois. Don’t be surprised if the Gophers are bowl eligible next season; if they aren’t, they should be very close.

Wins: Miami (Ohio) (29-23); Iowa* (22-21); Illinois* (27-7).

Losses: @ USC (17-19); New Mexico State (21-28); North Dakota State (24-37); @ #19 Michigan* (0-58); @ Purdue* (17-45); #13 Nebraska* (14-41); @ #17 Michigan State (24-31); #18 Wisconsin* (13-42); @ Northwestern* (13-28).

Current Grade: D.


Nebraska – Projected Record: (11-1); Actual Record: (9-3)

Total Offense: 390.50 yards/game; 59th.

Run Offense: 223.92 yards/game; 13th. Pass Offense: 166.60 yards/game; 103rd.

Total Defense: 350.67 yards/game; 36th.

Run Defense: 161.58 yards/game; 66th. Pass Defense: 189.08 yards/game; 17th.

Notes: Nebraska entered the season as favorites to win the Legends Division. Nebraska laid an egg in their opener, got thrashed at Michigan, and, in between, lost at home to Northwestern. The Northwestern loss snapped an eight game home win streak. Nebraska accepted an invite to the Capital One Bowl and will face #9 South Carolina. QB Taylor Martinez (2810 total yards, 55.9% completion, 21 total TDs, but 7 INTs), RB Rex Burkhead (1268 rushing yards, 4.9/carry, and 15 rushing TDs), and WR Kenny Bell (408 receiving yards, 14.1/catch, and 2 receiving TDs) led the Cornhuskers offensively. Nebraska was second in recruiting in the Big Ten last year, netting 11-4 star players, including RB Aaron Green and QB Jamal Turner. The ‘Huskers play Southern Miss, at UCLA, and Arkansas State in non-conference play, with one game left to be decided. Nebraska does have tough games against Ohio, Michigan State, and Iowa on the road; Nebraska has tough home games against Wisconsin, Michigan, and Penn State. Nebraska has a good chance to at least equal, if not exceed, nine wins in 2012.

Wins: Chattanooga (40-7); Fresno State (42-29); Washington (51-38); @ Wyoming (38-14); Ohio* (34-27); @ Minnesota* (41-14); #11 Michigan State* (24-3); @ #12 Penn State* (17-14); Iowa* (20-7).

Losses: @ #7 Wisconsin* (17-48); Northwestern* (25-28); @ #18 Michigan* (17-45).

Current Grade: B.


Northwestern – Projected Record: (7-5); Actual Record: (6-6)

Total Offense: 432.75 yards/game; 31st.

Run Offense: 176.17 yards/game; 36th. Pass Offense: 256.60 yards/game; 35th.

Total Defense: 407.58 yards/game; 80th.

Run Defense: 185.42 yards/game; 90th. Pass Defense: 222.17 yards/game; 58th.

Notes: Northwestern has one game left in the Dan Persa era, before, presumably, anointing Kain Colter as the starter. Persa’s tenure has been a successful one. He made a bowl game in each of his four years behind center. Northwestern had never made a bowl game in four straight years, and has only been to a bowl game ten times. Northwestern draws Texas A&M in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas. QB Dan Persa (2163 passing yards, 74.2% completion, and 17 passing TDs), all-purpose player/QB Kain Colter (1703 total yards, 67.1% completion, and 16 total TDs) and WR Jeremy Ebert (1025 receiving yards, 14.4/catch, and 11 receiving TDs) led Northwestern. Now Persa has one record left to shatter – Northwestern’s bowl winless streak. Northwestern hasn’t won a bowl game since the 1948 Rose Bowl! Only Coach Pat Fitzgerald has been a part of more of Northwestern’s bowl games (played in the 1995 and 1996 bowl games; coached in 2003 and 2005; head coach in 2008, 2009, 2010, and this year’s bowl game). In Fitzgerald’s tenure at Northwestern, the ‘Cats have finished in the bottom third in terms of recruiting in the Big Ten every year; simply put, Fitzgerald has found a way to do more with less. Northwestern’s non-conference schedule next year is forgiving, with a visit to Syracuse, and hosting Vanderbilt, Boston College, and South Dakota. The ‘Cats have winnable home games against Indiana, Iowa, and Illinois; there are winnable road games against Penn State and Minnesota. Northwestern has a great shot to improve on six wins, provided the defense improves. Six wins seems a good starting point for 2012, for now.

Wins: @ Boston College (24-17); Eastern Illinois (42-21); @ Indiana* (59-38); @ #10 Nebraska* (28-25); Rice (28-6); Minnesota* (28-13).

Losses: @ Army (14-21); @ #24 Illinois* (35-38); #12 Michigan* (24-42); @ Iowa* (31-41); #21 Penn State* (24-34); #14 Michigan State* (17-31).

Current Grade: C.


Ohio – Projected Record: (9-3); Actual Record: (6-6)

Total Offense: 319.75 yards/game; 107th.

Run Offense: 195.67 yards/game; 27th. Pass Offense: 124.10 yards/game; 116th.

Total Defense: 328.58 yards/game; 24th.

Run Defense: 142.42 yards/game; 52nd. Pass Defense: 186.17 yards/game; 15th.

Notes: Entering the season, Ohio, Penn State, and Wisconsin were virtually equal favorites to win the Leaders Division. Coming down the stretch, all three teams were alive; then Ohio lost to Purdue. In fact, Ohio lost their last three games, by an average of 29-24. Ohio is in the midst of their worst season since 1999, 6-6, then-Coach John Cooper’s second to last season. You have to go back to 1988, when Ohio last had a losing record, 4-6.  Ohio faces Florida in the Gator Bowl. Freshman QB Braxton Miller (1692 total yards, 50.0% completion, 18 total TDs, but 4 INTs), RB Carlos Hyde (549 rushing yards, 5.4/carry, and 6 rushing TDs) and TE Jake Stoneburner (193 receiving yards, 13.8/catch, and 7 receiving TDs) led Ohio offensively. Ohio has now made 12 straight bowl games, last missing a bowl game in 1999. Urban Meyer takes over in Columbus; he will have recruits from the 2011 class at his disposal, including 5-star LB Curtis Grant. Meyer currently have verbal commits, for 2012, from 4-star players RB Warren Ball, RB Bri’onte Dunn, LB Josh Perry, DB De’Van Bogard, WR Michael Thomas, and DE Adolphus Washington. The Buckeyes have made some scheduling changes for the 2012 season. The non-conference schedule is Miami (OH), UCF, California, and UAB, all at home. The Buckeyes open Big Ten play at Michigan State and travel to Penn State and Wisconsin later in the season. Ohio does have tough home games against Nebraska and Michigan. Ohio should be able to exceed six wins, easily, next season; the Buckeyes should open as the favorite to win the Leaders Division in 2012.

Wins: Akron (42-0); Toledo (27-22); Colorado (37-17); @ #16 Illinois* (17-7); #15 Wisconsin* (33-29); Indiana* (34-20).

Losses: @ Miami (Florida) (6-24); Michigan State* (7-10); @ #14 Nebraska* (27-34); @ Purdue* (23-26 OT); #21 Penn State* (14-20); @ #15 Michigan* (34-40).

Current Grade: C-.


Penn State – Projected Record: (7-5); Actual Record: (9-3)

Total Offense: 345.42 yards/game; 94th.

Run Offense: 165.08 yards/game; 54th. Pass Offense: 180.30 yards/game; 96th.

Total Defense: 300.92 yards/game; 10th.

Run Defense: 138.75 yards/game; 48th. Pass Defense: 162.17 yards/game; 5th.

Notes: Despite all of the off the field problems that unfolded for Penn State in the last month, the Nittany Lions put together a rather nice season. Penn State entered the Nebraska game 8-1, but without their long time coach; they finished the schedule 1-2, being outscored an average of 25-14. Now, Penn State Coach Tim Bradley will presumably have one more chance to prove he should be the head-man in State College. Penn State draws #19 Houston in the TicketCity Bowl. The Nittany Lion offense is led by QB Matt McGloin (1571 passing TDs, 54.1% completion, 8 passing TDs, but 5 INTs), RB Silas Redd (1188 rushing yards, 5.2/carry, and 7 rushing TDs), and WR Derek Moye (654 receiving yards, 16.4/catch, and 3 receiving TDs). Penn State has made their seventh straight bowl game, but the more important concern is the future of the program. Some candidates have been mentioned, with Dan Mullen (Mississippi State) being presumably at the top. The Nittany Lions will have to shore up their recruiting class for 2012, as some recruits have elected to go elsewhere. Penn State opens with Ohio University, at Virginia, Navy, and Temple, a non-conference schedule that is tougher than this year’s. With road trips to Iowa City and Lincoln, coupled with home games against Ohio and Wisconsin, don’t expect Penn State to match, let alone exceed, this year’s win total, in 2012.

Wins: Indiana State (41-7); @ Temple (14-10); Eastern Michigan (34-6); @ Indiana* (16-10); Iowa* (13-3); Purdue* (23-18); @ Northwestern* (34-24); Illinois* (10-7); @ Ohio* (20-14).

Losses: #3 Alabama (27-11); #19 Nebraska* (14-17); @ #16 Wisconsin* (7-45).

Current Grade: B.


Purdue – Projected Record: (8-4); Actual Record: (6-6)

Total Offense: 371.42 yards/game; 79th.

Run Offense: 174.67 yards/game; 39th. Pass Offense: 196.8 yards/game; 82nd.

Total Defense: 388.50 yards/game; 69th.

Run Defense: 185.67 yards/game; 91st. Pass Defense: 202.83 yards/game; 38th.

Notes: Purdue is in their first bowl game since 2007. This will be Coach Danny Hope’s first bowl game as head coach of Purdue. Purdue will travel to Detroit to take on Western Michigan in the Little Caesars Bowl. Purdue has played QB Caleb TerBush (1804 passing yards, 61.7% completion, 12 passing TDs, but 6 INTs) as compared with QB Robert Marve (557 passing yards, 53.9% completion, 3 passing TDs, but 5 INTs). The ground game has paced the Boilermakers, led by RBs Ralph Bolden (674 rushing yards, 4.6/carry, and 6 rushing TDs) and Akeem Shavers (370 rushing yards, 4.2/carry, and 6 rushing TDs). Purdue has been in the bottom third of the Big Ten in recruiting, with their highest ranking being 7th in the Big Ten. Purdue will need to get better recruits if they hope to compete with Ohio and Wisconsin in the Leaders Division. Purdue’s non-conference schedule next year is relatively soft, with games against Eastern Kentucky, at Notre Dame, Eastern Michigan, and Marshall. Purdue also has winnable games at home against Indiana and Penn State, and potential road wins at Minnesota, Iowa, and Illinois. Assuming Purdue stays healthy, they are capable of at least matching their win total from this year, but they are an injury or two away from not being bowl eligible. Right now, I think Purdue will likely fail to be bowl eligible in 2012.

Wins: Middle Tennessee (27-24); SE Missouri State (59-0); Minnesota* (45-17); #23 Illinois* (21-14); Ohio* (26-23 OT); @ Indiana* (33-25).

Losses: @ Rice (22-24); Notre Dame (10-38); @ Penn State* (18-23); @ #18 Michigan* (14-36); @ #20 Wisconsin* (17-62); Iowa* (21-31).

Current Grade: C-.


Wisconsin – Projected Record: (10-2); Actual Record: (11-2)

Total Offense: 466.92 yards/game; 15th.

Run Offense: 237.38 yards/game; 10th. Pass Offense: 229.50 yards/game; 63rd.

Total Defense: 293.00 yards/game; 8th.

Run Defense: 138.00 yards/game; 47th. Pass Defense: 155.00 yards/game; 3rd.

Notes: Wisconsin has never had back-to-back-to-back 10+ win seasons. Wisconsin Coach Bret Bielema has led the Badgers to their best seasons in their program history. Wisconsin won the inaugural Big Ten Championship in Indianapolis over #13 Michigan State, 42-39. Wisconsin, by virtue of being Big Ten Champions, earning a spot in the Rose Bowl. The Badgers will Oregon. Wisconsin is led by QB Russell Wilson (2033 passing yards, 71.3% completion, and 22 total TDs), RB Montee Ball (853 rushing yards, 6.0/carry, and 18 rushing TDs), and WR Jared Abbrederis (595 receiving yards, 16.5/catch, and 4 receiving TDs). Wisconsin has generally been right around the middle in recruiting in the Big Ten, but no higher than 6th. Bielema has found a way to due more with less in Madison; home field advantage certainly doesn’t hurt, as the Badgers have not lost at home since October 17, 2009. Wisconsin is 39-3 at home under Bielema. Wisconsin’s schedule isn’t exactly tough next year: Northern Iowa, at Oregon State, Utah State, and UTEP. Wisconsin does travel to Nebraska and Penn State, but hosts Ohio and Michigan State. Wisconsin is poised for another run at a double-digit win season in 2012, despite losing players at key positions.

Wins: UNLV (51-17); Oregon State (49-7); vs. Northern Illinois (49-7); South Dakota (59-10); #8 Nebraska* (48-17); Indiana* (59-7); Purdue* (62-17); @ Minnesota* (42-13);@ Illinois* (28-17); #19 Penn State* (45-7); vs. #13 Michigan State* (42-39).

Losses: @ #16 Michigan State* (31-37); @ Ohio* (29-33).

Current Grade: A.



December 7th, 2011 at 7:15 PM ^

amount to "possibly" 3 losses? umass and air force are absolute gimmes. if we go 2-2 in non conference play then 8-4 is a reasonable expectation, but if we go 3-1 or 4-0 (frankly, it's very unlikely we beat Bama) I don't think it'd be unreasonable to go 6-2 or 7-1 in conference.


December 7th, 2011 at 8:16 PM ^

If our DLine can start the year nice (I know its asking alot) I think we have a chance against Alabama who is losing the majority of their offense (TRichardson) and will probably lost almost their entire starting defense to the draft (projecting 9 of 11, so 2 coming back).  Granted they probably still have good backups but when they lose a ton on defense, and their best player offensively I wouldnt say its unlikely we beat Bama.  Especially considering what we were able to do this year, it gives me hope for the start of next year


December 8th, 2011 at 9:45 AM ^

The Triple Option is especially tough when a team hasn't seen it before.  So Air Force will move the ball.  The problem is Air Force's defense is bad and will probably be worse next year as they lose a lot of experienced guys in the secondary.

Doubt Air Force gives Michigan much of a game.


December 7th, 2011 at 7:58 PM ^

Next year has 4 difficult games - Bama, at ND, at Nebraska and at Ohio.  All the home games, including MSU should be winnable.  If we go 9-3, that would be a good season #2 for Hoke. 

Zone Left

December 7th, 2011 at 8:16 PM ^

I'd also add MSU and Iowa in there. I think every game on the schedule is winnable (except perhaps Alabama), That said, there are a ton of loseable games there too.

Fortunately, I think the lower end of expectations should be about 8-4 if Denard stays healthy. For the first time in years, the majority of the variation (IMO) isn't based on opponents, it's based on how the interior line replacements on both sides of the ball work out. If we find solid replacements for Molk, Martin, and Van Bergen, 10+ wins is definitely possible with a healthy Denard. If not, they'll limp to 8-4 and we'll feel like we're back in 2005.


December 7th, 2011 at 9:10 PM ^

  The game I'm most excited/scared about is that Air Force game.  I think we'll win, but if our inexperienced D Line can show well against that rushing attack, I'll be thinking Big Ten Championship, if not, I still think we'll be  8-4/9-3


December 7th, 2011 at 9:40 PM ^

...hoke, Borges, and especially mattison gives me more confidence than I've ever had that we'll win the games we're "supposed to win with only very rare exception. Seemed like in the Carr era (and I loved Lloyd) we lost at least one every year that we shouldn't have. After our likely (but not given) loss to bama, why can't we run the table?


December 7th, 2011 at 11:31 PM ^

Why would you rank Wisconsin higher than MSU when they had idential records?  Wiscy played an easier out of conference schedule and had exactly the same record as MSU.  MSU, statistically,even had a better conference championship game,  The two teams played each other virtually identically.


December 7th, 2011 at 11:49 PM ^

If you would have told me our defense would have finished statistically higher than our offense at the start of the season, I would have likely called you crazy. Fantastic job done by the coaching staff and players turning the ship around. 


December 8th, 2011 at 9:17 AM ^

A- is a pretty good grade; I know some people out there expect perfection, A+'s are for the perfect teams (LSU). As for the A, note that Wisconsin was the only Big Ten team to earn it - they won the conference. Had Michigan have won their division, I think there is an argument for them getting an A, but they didn't.

With that said, the projections are a benchmark to start the analysis, I look also at how the offense and defense performed ad well as the win loss total.

Heck, if it were that easy, as a 25% improvement, Sparty and/or Penn State should have A's.


December 8th, 2011 at 8:31 AM ^

is it a given that a RVB and martin with 1 year of great defensive coaching and 1 year in a new system will be better than washington or BWC or whomever replaces them with 2 years of great coaching and 2 years in the same system?  I know these guys were great but the sky is the limit with what these coaches can get out of the players in my opinion.  I honestly believe we can repeat our defensive performance from this year, even with Bama and AF with their triple option on the schedule.  Especially with another improvement in the secondary, countess will get better, avery will get better, our safety play will get better, and this will also give the dline more chances to get to the qb.  and i think we have some big bodies up front to stuff the run so that isn't going to be a problem.


December 8th, 2011 at 10:25 AM ^

Mods I know u can see that's why I can be. I just wanna say u suck. Don't hate cause taking points away from ppl really made u a human. I hope u can support ur family with this salary, well if u have a family. Wrap it up, I wish uhave a very horrible Christmas and new yr.


December 8th, 2011 at 10:45 AM ^

Mods I know u can see that's why I can be. I just wanna say u suck. Don't hate cause taking points away from ppl really made u a human. I hope u can support ur family with this salary, well if u have a family. Wrap it up, I wish uhave a very horrible Christmas and new yr.


December 8th, 2011 at 1:18 PM ^

The article states that Michigan's home game vs Iowa and away game vs. Iowa are both going to be tough.

If we have to play them twice - we'll beat them twice. 

Thanks for this recap.  Go Blue!


December 9th, 2011 at 2:57 PM ^

I'm curious how you came up with your grading.  Minnesota's projected record was 3-9 and they finished 3-9 but yet they receive a D.  Other teams fell short of their projected record but C's and in the case of Nebraska a B.


December 10th, 2011 at 7:26 AM ^

The projections are just a baseline starting point. I also look at how the offense and defense fared. Also the closeness of the wins and losses play a factor. Minnesota finished the season strong so their grade was a bit higher. Nebraska did beat the Legends Division winner but got drilled by Wisconsin, not a bad loss though.

To answer your question, just using the predictions as indicative of the grade isn't what I do. It's just a starting point.


December 9th, 2011 at 3:02 PM ^

While I agree that ND and Bama are going to be tough, I'd be stunned if either UMass or Air Force beats UM.  While Air Force is traditionally a good program they lose 7 senior starters on both offense and defense.  One of those seniors on offense is their QB, who has been a very, very good player for them.  I live in Colorado and heading into the season a lot of people felt Air Force was poised for a real nice season because they were so loaded with experienced seniors, especially their QB Jefferson.  They're going to be in for a little bit of a rebuilding year in 2012, and will have a pretty big hole at QB.


December 23rd, 2011 at 7:17 AM ^

the only "tough" game on the schedule.  The rest are winnable.  I predict 10-2.  Losees to Bama and Neb.  lil bro will be 7-5, ohio will be 6-6, Neb will win the title against Wisky.