The Big 10 was pretty good last year. Not the best conference by any means, but they weren't too shabby. They had Ohio State, who made their second straight title game. Then, there's Illinois with their breakout season and BCS game. The Big 10 was pretty top heavy in 2007, however. That could change in 2008. Ohio State will be back and better than ever. Illinois will be ready to go for another BCS run. Michigan brings in Rich Rodriguez. Everyone is predicting Ohio State to win the Big 10, but the rest of the teams are eager to prove that the Buckeyes won't have it easy.
The Illini return versatile and talented quarterback, Juice Williams, but they lose Big Ten MVP, Rashard Mendenhall. They will probably share the load among a few running backs. Illinois has a talented group of recievers for Juice Williams and a good line to protect him. The O line returns three starters and has two very talented replacements.
On defense, Illinois looks good on the defensive line. They have three returning ends and two talented tackles ready to go. The line will probably be the strength of the Fighting Illini defense. The linebacking situation looks pretty good, as they have a pretty good and deep group. Many secondary positions are up for grabs, but the candidates are all very good players.
We know: That Illinois won't sneak up on anyone this year. Teams will be prepared for the Illini and nobody will overlook them.
A surprise: Is that the Illini only return twelve starters but could be just as good as last year's team...maybe even better.
Predicted Record: 9-3
The Hoosiers quarterback situation is still in question with Kellen Lewis still suspended indefinitely. If he doesn't start, it will be an inexperienced backup. At running back, Marcus Thigpen needs to find a nose for the endzone. They bring in a solid recieving corps, they just have to find somebody to throw them the ball. The offensive line loses three senior starters. The left side will be strong but the rest of the line needs to step it up to have a successful 2008.
Defense: They have yet to find the starting corners, but they have six talented candidates to choose from and they are very strong at safety with two returning starters. At 'backer, the Hoosiers look very good with two returning starters and depth. The D line returns three starters including defensive end, Greg Middleton.
We know: The Hoosiers are not expected to do a lot this year.
A surprise: Is that Indiana has improved the last five years. From two wins to three wins to four wins to five wins to seven wins, the next logical number of wins is eight or nine, which isn't out of the question with a favorable schedule.
Predicted Record: 8-4
Quarterback Jake Christensen needs to be more accurate for this offense to have any chance at succeeding. The running back situation is not good with zero running backs had a carry last year, so they have no experience whatsoever. The wide recievers aren't all that talented and the offensive line has dealt with injuries so far this spring. This offense needs a leader to step up badly and the most likely person for this role is naturally the quarterback, Jake Christensen. If he doesn't step it up, it could be a very long year for this unit.
The defensive line looks good on the inside but lacks experience at the ends. They do have good depth on the line at least. The linebackers took a hit with two players graduating, but they have decent talent to choose from. The Hawkeyes return both safeties but need to fill both cornerback positions. The defensive backfield looks fairly talented and fairly deep.
We know: That this program has been on a downhill slide.
A surprise: Is that a few years ago, Iowa was coming off consecutive ten win seasons. If they won ten games this year it would be a miracle.
Predicted Record: 5-7
The Wolverines only return three starters offensively and Chad Henne isn't one of them. They are even considering using more than one quarterback. Michigan also loses Mike Hart, and they will probably use a committee of RB's to try to fill his hole. Wide outs Manningham and Arrington are also gone. There is a good group of wide recievers this year, but it won't be easy to replace those two. They lose four starters on the offensive line. They have a good group of starters ready to go, but if they don't stay healthy, this offense could be painfully bad.
The defense is in much better shape. The line returns all four starters and has lots of depth. The linebackers are very fast and deep. The starters don't have tons of experience, but they have talent. Their safeties are pretty good but don't have much starting experience. The corners are extremely good and they have good experience. This has the potential to be the best D in the Big 10.
We know: That Michigan is not going to underestimate any opponent after losing to Appalachian State last year.
A surprise: Is that teams could underestimate Michigan after their down season last year.
Predicted Record: 9-3
Offense: The Spartans finally became a respectable team last year. This year, they return seven offensive starters from their loss to BC in the Champs Sports Bowl. One of these is QB, Brian Hoyer, who is determined to come back much better after his poor performance against BC. At running back, Javon Ringer returns. The receivers looked great in the spring game but are unproven in real games. The offensive line loses four key players from last year and won't be able to afford injuries this season.
Defensively, Michigan State loses three starters on the line. Injuries on the line could bring this defense down. The Spartans bring back two young stars at linebacker, but the secondary needs to improve. They have the talent to be pretty good, but they need to work on techniques.
We know: That the Spartans were a decent team last year.
A surprise: Is that if the Spartans can avoid too many injuries and get a few breaks, they could be better than in-state rival Michigan...or at least pretty close.
Predicted Record: 5-7
On the offensive side, Minnesota returns eight starters. This isn't necessarily a good thing since they went 1-11, but the Golden Gophers brought in a top 25 recruiting class. Adam Weber returns at quarterback. The running back position needs to be much more productive than last year when Weber led the team in rushing. After Eric Decker, the wide out position doesn't have too much talent. The line loses three important starters, but they may have enough talent to have a decent line.
Defense: The secondary has plenty of speed, but the newcomers still have to adjust to the system. At linebacker, they have a lot of speed also. The talent should be there but the depth is a big question. The D line is bigger, but they lack experience. Expect a pretty fast defense from Minnesota, but they might not be very productive because they are young.
We know: Minnesota had a horrible year last year and it can't get too much worse.
A surprise: Is that the Gophers brought in a top 25 recruiting class. Minnesota could be a force in the Big 10 in a few years.
Predicted Record: 3-9
Offensively, C.J. Bacher returns at quarterback, so that's a plus. The running back position will be shared by two talented backs. The wide receivers have experience and lots of depth, not to mention some very good skills. The O line returns two starters. The other three are talented yet young. This offense has potential to be very good and won't have any problems moving the ball.
On the defensive side, the line has four experienced starters, but they haven't lived up to potential yet. The linebackers have two senior starters who should lead the group. The linebacker position does have very good depth too. The corner spots are up for grabs still in a heated battle, and the safeties are in the same situation, with undecided spots.
We know: That Northwestern was mediocre last year.
A surprise: Is that the Wildcats lost a lot of close games, and if they learn how to win the close ones, they could have themselves an eight win season or better.
Predicted Record: 7-5
The Buckeyes bring in highly touted recruit Terrelle Pryor, and he will get some time most likely. The starter will be Todd Boeckman though, and he has All-Big 10 talent. At running back OSU has Beanie Wells, a possible Heisman candidate. The receivers have a talented top two and a slew of options for number three and beyond. The offensive line only loses one main contributor from last year and they should be a very good unit. This offense has loads of talent and should be among the top of the Big 10.
Ohio State's defensive line loses Vernon Gholston, but returns everyone else and could be better than last year's line. The Buckeyes are super deep with extremely talented ‘backers, led by James Laurinaitis, the All-American. The corners return both starters, but one is suspended at the moment. At safety, Ohio State returns both starters that are pretty good, but they aren't the best safeties in the nation.
We know: The Buckeyes have a more talented team than last year's national championship player.
A surprise: Is that they have more pressure this year than last year. It may be tougher for this year's team than last year's, because of all the expectations.
Predicted Record: 11-1
On offense, the Nittany Lions need to find a replacement for Morelli at QB. At running back, they have two capable players that should get plenty of carries. Watch out for Stephfon Green, an electrifying red shirt freshman with a reported 4.2-40 yard dash. The receivers have talent and good depth while the O line has to replace some starters but should be in pretty good shape.
The D line was plagued with injuries and suspensions, but most of them should be back and ready to roll this year. The linebackers aren't the most experienced group, but they have potential and they are deep. The secondary at PSU has loads of experience. The cornerbacks have three players going for a starting position, but the safeties are pretty much set. This defense should be one of the best in the league.
We know: That JoePa wants to improve on last year's nine win season.
A surprise: Is that if they find a leader at quarterback, this could be one of the nation's elite teams.
Predicted Record: 10-2
Offense: They have one of the best quarterbacks in the Big 10 returning in Curtis Painter. Expect a 30 minimum touchdown, 10 maximum interception year from him. Purdue's two main running backs are returning, but Painter loses two receiving threats in Dorien Bryant and Dustin Keller. The receiving corps of 2008 has been injury plagued and is questionable going into the year. The line loses a few, but they should have enough depth to make it in the Big 10.
Defensively, the Boilermakers lose a lot up front, especially at the ends. The tackle position looks to have plenty of depth. The linebackers have good starting talent but lack a lot of depth. The secondary brings back a couple starters and is the deepest group on this defense. They have quality talent and experience.
We know: The Boilermakers defense isn't going to be top notch.
A surprise: Is that they could have one of the best offenses in the league and maybe the best quarterback in the league. Don't be surprised if you see Painter mentioned in Heisman candidates if Purdue can get on a roll.
Predicted Record: 6-6
The Badger's offensive unit starts with the line. They return four of five starters and have excellent depth. This line, barring injuries, will be atop the Big 10. The quarterback to replace Donovan is still undecided, but they have two good options. The running back, P.J. Hill returns with a plenty of help behind him. There are many Wisconsin receivers, but none of them are very experienced. The tight ends will be the anchors, as they have the best tandem in the nation.
The defense should be very good. The line has suffered injuries, but assuming everyone is back in time for the opening kickoff, they should be good and fairly deep. They return all three talented starters at LB and have plenty of depth. The defensive backfield has many uncertain spots with corner and safety positions still up for grabs, but they should have a good backfield with a lot of talented depth.
We know: The Badgers were very unfortunate last year with a lot of injuries that may have cost them a Big 10 title.
A surprise: Is that they could get that title this year if they can stay away from those costly injuries. Ohio State, Penn State, and Illinois are all home games so it isn't a stretch to say the Badgers could very well win the Big 10.
Predicted Record: 10-2
How they'll finish:
1. Ohio State
2. Penn State
9. Michigan State
BIG 10 CHAMPION
Ohio State Buckeyes
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