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2010 College Football Big Ten Preview (#6-#11)

With Spring Football officially in the books and summer workouts right around the corner, College FootBlog is taking a conference by conference look at the upcoming 2010 football season.  In last week’s edition, we provided a breakdown and power ranking for each division of the ACC (see links for Atlantic and Coastal).

In this week’s two-part article, we take a look at the Big Ten, giving insight and analysis from last season, what we learned from the spring and what the outlook will be for this fall.  In Part I of the Big Ten breakdown, we rank the preseason #6-#11 teams, which will be immediately followed by our top five.

Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald coaches with the same emotion with which he played (google images)

6:  Northwestern:  Pat Fitzgerald does more with little than any coach in the FBS.  His Wildcats will once again be counted out by most pollsters, but don’t be surprised if they exceed expectations again in 2010 (even in our poll).  NU loses seven wideouts from last year’s team and must also replace quarterback Mike Kafka.  Filling the role of trigger man for the NU offense will be Dan Persa, who had a solid spring and has more running ability than Kafka.  The defense should be decent, led by a couple of senior linebackers, Quentin Davie and Nate Williams.  Regardless of depth and overall talent, Coach Fitzgerald will have his team playing hard and smart, and that should be enough to get them to another bowl game this fall.

7.  Purdue:  The Boilermakers should be an interesting team in 2010.  This year, former Miami Hurricanes’ quarterback Robert Marve is eligible and will get his opportunity to be the starter.  If they are going to keep this power ranking, they must improve on their defense against the run, which gave up more than 170 yards on the ground per game.  The Boilermakers proved to Ohio State last year that they can play well in West Lafayette, and with visits from MinnesotaMichigan and Indiana, Purdue will have a great opportunity to finish above those programs at season’s end. 

8.  Michigan:  Rich Rodriguez is going to be coaching for his job this fall.  After a 4-0 start last season, the Wolverines dropped seven of their last eight games, and the defense was…well…not good, ranking 82nd nationally in a conference that did was not known last season for having explosive offenses.  Tate Forcier is a very exciting player at QB, and Denard Robinson gives defenses a change of pace, but all the offense in the world will not be enough unless the defense improves dramatically this season.

9.  Indiana:  Quarterback Ben Chappell returns for his senior season and despite throwing for nearly 3,000 yards last season, he must improve his TD/Int ratio, which was 17/15 last fall.  The Hoosiers travel to Ohio State and Wisconsin this year and play host to Iowa and Penn State.  Barring a huge upset, they will be 0-4 in those games, and it will be all they can do to escape the cellar of the conference.  IU ranked 88th in total defense last year, and unless something changes in a big way, they will have a similar defense this time around.  A bad defense and an offense that turns the ball over will make it difficult to stay above water in the Big Ten in 2010.

10:  Minnesota:  After a solid 2008 season, quarterback Adam Weber took a step backwards last season, throwing more picks (15) than he did touchdowns (13).  The Gophers sported the Big Ten’s worst offense, and only managed 13 rushing touchdowns all season.  They now have their third offensive coordinator in three years, which makes it hard to believe things will change for the better in 2010.  Defensively, the entire front seven from last year’s middle-of-the-pack defense is gone.  Final verdict–things are not looking good for the 2010 campaign in Minneapolis.

11.  Illinois:  The Ron Zook experiment will likely come to an end this season.  Zook has always been an elite recruiter, but he has once again proven that he cannot put a championship football team together, despite having enough talent to compete with anyone in his conference.  The departure of Arrelious Benn takes away the Illini’s only legitimate playmaker from last year’s team.

Look for our Top 5 Preseason Teams from the Big Ten tomorrow!

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College Football Week 6 Preview: Michigan at Iowa

This college football weekend is headlined with several bigtime match ups, and while most eyes will be on the Florida vs. LSU game, football fans may not realize that there is another great game in the Big Ten–yes, I said it.  The Big Ten has had some exciting games this season, too, and with a combined record of 9-1, the MichiganIowa game this weekend should be a good one.

College FootBlog will break down each team’s strengths, weaknesses and we will show what each team will need to do to come out of the weekend with a very important win in Big Ten play.

Iowa 

DE Adrian Clayborn will try to shut down Forcier and the Michigan offense (google images)

DE Adrian Clayborn will try to shut down Forcier and the Michigan offense (google images)

Strengths:  The Hawkeye defense has been very good this season, holding a veteran Penn State offense to just ten points in Happy Valley a couple weeks ago.

Adrian Clayborn and company will have to continue to play sound defense as they square off against one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the country this weekend in Tate Forcier.

Key Concerns:  Although quarterback Ricky Stanzi has shown significant improvement this season, his stats are still far from stellar this season. 

With the departure of Shonn Greene, the Hawkeyes have had to rekindle the offense.  Stanzi has thrown the football with much more confidence this year, but his 58% completion percentage and 8/7 touchdown to interception ratio is not going to get him All-Big Ten recognition.  If Iowa is going to win this game, Stanzi is going to have to put up better numbers than he has so far this season.

 

Tate Forcier has stepped up like a seasoned veteran this season (google images)

Tate Forcier has stepped up like a seasoned veteran this season (google images)

Michigan

Strengths:  Freshman quarterback Tate Forcier has given head coach Rich Rodriguezhis trigger-man for his spread offense.  Forcier has kept the Wolverines in each game, and very nearly brought his team back against rival Michigan State last weekend.

Forcier has accounted for over 1,000 yards from scrimmage and eleven touchdowns with his feet and his arm.  More importantly, the young signal-caller thrives in big games.  Expect him to bring his A-game this weekend.

Key Concerns:  The Wolverine defense has been sliced and diced this season when playing formidable opponents.  If you take away the games against Eastern and Western Michigan, Michigan has given up 93 points in three games.

While Iowa is not an offensive juggernaut, neither is Indiana.  Even the Hoosiers racked up 467 yards and 33 points against the Big Blue.  The defense will have to play much better if they expect to come out of Iowa City with a win.

Iowa Offense vs. Michigan Defense

While Ricky Stanzi has been a little up and down this year, look for him to have a solid game in front of the home crowd at Kinnick Stadium this weekend.  Michigan’s defense is a little behind Rodriguez’ offense, and it has shown.  The lack of a shutdown defense ended up catching up with the Wolverines last weekend and nearly cost them against Indiana and Notre Dame.  Stanzi’s passing and the two talented freshmen running backs, Adam Robinson and Brandon Wegher should have a solid day.  EDGE:  Iowa

Michigan Offense vs. Iowa Defense

Kirk Ferentz once again has a solid defensive unit.  They have played extremely well all season, but they have not faced a dual-threat quarterback like Forcier.  The ‘Hawks should slow down the Michigan attack, but stopping Forcier all together is a tall order.  Michigan will represent the best offensive attack that Iowa has faced so far this year.  Look for Forcier to lead his team to some scores this weekend.  EDGE:  Michigan

Special Teams

Iowa’s junior kicker Daniel Murray will get to kick in the friendly confines of Kinnick, and the kick returners, Brandon Wegher and  5’9″ speedster Paul Chaney are very solid.  Michigan will counter with senior place-kicker Jason Olesnavage and two very talented return men in Greg Matthews and Martavious Odoms.   EGDE:  Push

Prediction

Lately, College FootBlog’s predictions have been the kiss of death for the predicted winner.  This game is very evenly matched, but I think Iowa’s defense and the game being in Iowa City could give the Hawkeyes the very slight edge in this one.  Score Prediction:  Iowa wins 27-24