Posts Tagged 'northwestern'

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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Orange Bowl Breakdown: Iowa vs. Georgia Tech

On Tuesday night, all eyes will be on the Orange Bowl, as the Iowa Hawkeyes will take on the Yellow Jackets from Georgia Tech.  Iowa, who saw their dreams of a Big Ten Championship and trip to the Rose Bowl end at the hands of Rose Bowl Champs, Ohio State, will try to cap off a great season in Miami. 

Standing in their way will be Paul Johnson’s triple option attack that has given college football all it can handle since he took over in 2008.  The Jackets will look to continue their new version of college football’s most traditional offensive attack en route to a twelve win season. 

College FootBlog will provide a breakdown of each team’s strengths and areas for concern, we will analyze some of the match ups in the upcoming game, and we will give our prediction of the outcome of this BCS contest. 

Jonathan Dwyer leads the Georgia Tech's relentless ground attack (google images)

Georgia Tech 

Strengths:  When head coach Paul Johnson announced that he planned on bringing his triple option offense from Navy to Georgia Tech, many (including College FootBlog) thought he would not last long before being run out of Atlanta. 

Instead, his Yellow Jackets have dominated the ground game, and this year, GT ranks second nationally in rushing yards per game with just over 307 ypg.  Jonathan Dwyer leads the Jackets with just under 1350 yards, and he is averaging just over six yards per carry.  

Quarterback Josh Nesbitt is equally dangerous running the football, rushing for 18 touchdowns this season, and he is only nine yards away from breaking the 1,000-yard mark this season. 

Key Concerns:  As great as GT runs the ball, their defense has been very inept at stopping, or even slowing down, opposing running backs.  The Yellow Jackets have given up over 150 yards rushing per game. 

They will have to do a much better job on Tuesday if they have any aspirations of beating an Iowa team that depends on their ground game as well.  

Iowa 

Strengths:  Make no mistake about it, Iowa has won their games because of a dominant defense.  The Hawkeyes have the nation’s 11th best total defense.  In fact, ‘Hawks’ dominant “D” held their opponents to 17 points or fewer in eight of their twelve games this season. 

Adrian Clayborn leads Iowa's dominant front four (google images)

 Like all great defenses, it has to start with the front four.  Led by junior DE Adrian Clayborn, Iowa’s defensive front as equally good at defending the run and pass.  Just as disruptive is the linebacker corps, which is anchored by junior Jeremiha Hunter

Key Concerns:  The play of quarterback Ricky Stanzi has been great at times, but downright dismal at others.  This inconsistency could really hurt, and can, and has, at times this season, made Iowa offense very one-dimensional. 

After suffering a severe high ankle sprain against Northwestern, Stanzi had a minor surgery, and it appears that he will be 100%.  He will have to limit the turnovers if he wants to keep his team in the game–Stanzi has 15 TD’s, but 14 picks this season. 

Georgia Tech Offense vs. Iowa Defense 

As talented as Iowa’s defense is against the run, they have not seen an offense like Georgia Tech’s–not for several years.  The only team to slow down GT’s running game in the last two seasons was the Miami Hurricanes early in the season, when they held the Jackets to 95 yards on the ground. 

Paul Johnson added a few new wrinkles to his option attack and got his team right back on track.  Iowa’s hard-nosed defense should contain the Jackets better than most, but it is usually only a matter of time before Dwyer, Nesbitt or one of the many other dangerous weapons in the GT backfield breaks loose for a couple huge gains.  EDGE:  Georgia Tech 

Iowa Offense vs. Georgia Tech Defense 

Although Ricky Stanzi has been rather erratic this season, the Iowa running game has been very solid.  After losing Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, Shonn Green to the NFL Draft last season, many wondered who would fill the void.  The tandem of Adam Robinson and Brandon Wegher has amassed over 1,300 yards this season. 

As we mentioned, the Yellow Jackets have had their issues with the running game this season.  Look for the Hawkeyes to get in a lot of third down and manageable situations, which should take some pressure off Stanzi and the passing game.  EDGE:  Iowa 

Special Teams 

Iowa kicker Daniel Murray and punter Ryan Donahue were both honorable mention All-Big Ten by the media.  Georgia Tech’s kicker, Scott Blair has put up solid numbers as well, but his five missed field goals this year show a little less consistency than Iowa’s Murray. 

Each team has utilized multiple players in the return game, but for both teams, the offenses are built for grinding it out and establishing field position by grinding it out and punting when necessary. 

Prediction 

As solid as Iowa’s defense is and has been all season, look for Tuesday’s game against Georgia Tech to be the fifth game this season that the Hawkeyes surrender more than 17 points.  The Yellow Jackets have scored 30 or more points in nine of their thirteen games this season.  Iowa will contain Dwyer and Nesbitt for a while, but look for one of those two great runners to open up a few big runs, at least by the end of the first half. 

Iowa’s ground game will keep them in this football game, as it should have some significant success against Tech’s struggling rush defense.  However, even though the Hawkeyes are more than capable of playing from behind, if Georgia Tech can get to 28 points, Iowa will have to turn to its erratic passing game, and that could prove to be the difference.  Score Prediction:  Georgia Tech wins 31-27 


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