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December Madness 2009
2009 Season in Review
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Could an impressive bowl run be the catalyst in returning the Big Ten back to college football's forefront? Adding Nebraska next year certainly won't hurt, but the conference surely needed a run to spark some sort of momentum as it was quickly falling out of favor nationally. Perhaps that lift came when the Big Ten won four bowl games against ranked opponents. A national championship run by a member school would certainly boost conference popularity along with a nationally respected program like the Cornhuskers waiting in the wings.
The Buckeyes, led by Heisman Trophy candidate Terrelle Pryor, appear to be the favorite once again in 2010. Why wouldn't they be the favorite at this point? They have won at least a share of five straight Big Ten Conference championships and will be looking for their first national title since 2002. Behind Ohio State, three teams lurk as potential contenders. Wisconsin returns 2009 Offensive Player of the Year John Clay at running back along with a slew of other veterans that produced a 10-win team as youngsters last year. Iowa has the most favorable schedule, getting the other top three league teams at home. And Penn State has the most brutal schedule and just 13 returning starters but it's hard to count the Nittany Lions out.
Using our college football simulation engine, Whatifsports.com simulated thousands of college football games to create this Big Ten Preview. Team ratings, player ratings and depth charts are accurate as of July 31st. What you see in the WIS-Big Ten Predictions table is the most-likely outcome based on the computer simulations. The team-by-team schedules use Absolute Records, which you can learn more about below. Those same game-by-game results also generate average points per game for both teams.
WIS-Big Ten Predictions
For this analysis, thousands of college football games are simulated, with the sum of the winning percentages of those games being our final predicted record. As can be noted, sometimes a team is "favored" (wins more than 50% of the time) in a different number of our games than the expected record shows. We list this record as the Absolute Record. The assumption of the Absolute Record is that the more likely scenario always happens. Since we know that it does not, our expected record (in the table above) is far more accurate. Also, especially since we are rounding, it is possible for a team to win a game more often, yet score the same or fewer points on average. In those cases, for Absolute Records, we always take higher winning percentage and are not predicting a tie or a win by an underdog. This is another reason why the expected records are more accurate, as the teams are so evenly matched, the game could easily go either way.
Coach Ron Zook sounded optimistic about Illini football at Big Ten Media Day.
"Obviously at the University of Illinois we have a lot of new things going on and excitement," coach Zook said. "Got a new quarterback that I think everyone will enjoy watching. And we all want to see the progress that he's going to make and obviously new coaches.
So we're excited to get going, looking forward to it. The attitude has been great. The transition was probably as smooth as it possibly could have ever been with the coaching changes."
2010 Illinois Fighting Illini
|2||Southern Illinois Salukis||95||45-9|
|3||Northern Illinois Huskies||63||29-22|
|5||Ohio State Buckeyes||5||13-36|
|6||@Penn State Nittany Lions||9||15-38|
|7||@Michigan State Spartans||35||27-36|
|11||Minnesota Golden Gophers||79||30-19|
|14||@Fresno State Bulldogs||23||24-37|
"For people outside of Bloomington, the 2010 Hoosiers would seem to be a team ready to take a step backward. After all, they lost seven starters on defense, and 40 percent of the offensive line must be replaced. It seems on paper that perhaps returning to 4-8, the record IU posted a year ago, might be a bit out of reach. Then again, context is everything, and more than a few IU insiders believe the program is poised to take a huge step forward."
"IU simply needs to get through September at 3-0 and avoid any major injuries. A Sept. 18 trip to Western Kentucky will test the Hoosiers' ability to win on the road, and a battle vs. Akron Sept. 25 will be a rematch of a game IU won handily last season. Indiana can't stumble in September or the critics will come out in full force, especially since there is a group of fans who are worried that the program isn't headed in the right direction."
- Fox Sports
2010 Indiana Hoosiers
|3||@Western Kentucky Hilltoppers||93||34-16|
|6||@Ohio State Buckeyes||5||7-44|
|7||Arkansas State Red Wolves||77||30-18|
|8||@Illinois Fighting Illini||33||22-30|
|12||Penn State Nittany Lions||5||14-39|
Iowa's pass defense was 4th best in the country
Brian Finley from HawkeyeInsider.com is our Iowa Hawkeye insider:
"Christian Ballard experienced a mostly seamless move from end to tackle last season as Iowa enjoyed a successful season due in large part to the play of its defensive line," Finley said. "The senior talks about taking the next step and more in this video."
For more from Brian Finley and the Hawkeyes check out HawkeyeInsider.com.
2010 Iowa Hawkeyes
|1||Eastern Illinois Panthers||95||55-5|
|2||Iowa State Cyclones||93||38-9|
|4||Ball State Cardinals||95||42-7|
|5||Penn State Nittany Lions||49||19-20|
|9||Michigan State Spartans||79||34-23|
|12||Ohio State Buckeyes||23||19-25|
|13||@Minnesota Golden Gophers||95||30-10|
Third Year the Charm?
Wolverines have depth at quarterback this season
The staff writers at GoBlueWolverine.com are our Michigan Wolverines insiders.
They recently attended a Rich Rodriguez pre-season press conference and coach was peppered with questions about the development of this year's squad. Click on the video to the right for Rich Rod's progress report.
For more on the Wolverines check out GoBlueWolverine.com.
2010 Michigan Wolverines
|2||@Notre Dame Fighting Irish||12||19-41|
|4||Bowling Green Falcons||75||31-19|
|6||Michigan State Spartans||18||27-37|
|9||@Penn State Nittany Lions||5||14-40|
|10||Illinois Fighting Illini||44||27-28|
|13||@Ohio State Buckeyes||5||10-45|
Dave Berk from SpartanDigest.com is our Michigan State Spartans insider:
"While the next few days will be filled with shorts, helmets and shoulder pads, the Spartans 4th year head coach was excited to talk about a couple of the new players who put on the Green & White for the first time," Berk said in a recent article.
"This is the first time we've been able to see some of our new guys," head coach Mark Dantonio said. "Being out here watching William Gholston move around, Mylan Hicks and Skyler Schofner we get excited."
"While Dantonio was eager to talk about a few of the new players, it is what he expects from the veterans that matters most," Berk said.
For more from Dave Berk and the Spartans check out SpartanDigest.com.Absolute Schedule/Records
2010 Michigan State Spartans
|1||Western Michigan Broncos||95||44-19|
|2||Florida Atlantic Owls||88||47-31|
|3||Notre Dame Fighting Irish||51||39-37|
|4||Northern Colorado Bears||95||58-7|
|7||Illinois Fighting Illini||65||36-27|
|10||Minnesota Golden Gophers||91||39-21|
|13||@Penn State Nittany Lions||21||28-38|
"It's probably unfair to throw it all on the quarterback, but Adam Weber is shouldering a lot of responsibility this season. The senior was actually better in his first two seasons than he was as a junior. He broke nearly all of the school's single-season passing and total offense records as a freshman and was second team all-conference the following season. In Weber's defense, he did have surgery on his left (non-throwing) shoulder after his second season admitted he didn't feel 100 percent physically in 2009."
"While 10 starters return on offense, only two are back on defense. A total of 22 redshirt freshmen and 16 sophomores battled for time in spring ball. The Gophers are also bringing in 27 true freshmen for fall camp. Some of them will have to contribute, which is no easy task."
- Fox Sports
2010 Minnesota Golden Gophers
|1||@Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders||30||21-30|
|2||South Dakota Coyotes||95||35-6|
|4||Northern Illinois Huskies||30||22-28|
|8||Penn State Nittany Lions||5||10-37|
|9||Ohio State Buckeyes||5||10-39|
|10||@Michigan State Spartans||9||21-39|
|11||@Illinois Fighting Illini||21||19-30|
"Northwestern finished 95th nationally in rushing last year with just 117.5 yards per game. Not only did the Wildcats run the ball inconsistently (3.0 yards per rush), they couldn't find a go-to guy. Offensive coordinator Mick McCall rotated four guys depending on the situation. All four of those guys are back this season, but none of them made much headway during the spring."
"Sophomore scatback Arby Fields, the team's top rusher with 302 yards and five touchdowns, split his time between spring practices and his duties as Northwestern's starting center fielder. Juniors Jacob Schmidt and Scott Concannon -- the latter of whom fell out of favor late in the year due to fumbles -- finished the spring healthy, but they combined for 52 yards on 25 carries in the spring game. Undersized senior Stephen Simmons, who entered the 2009 season as the starter but fell to the wayside in part due to injuries, carried three times for minus-4 yards."
- Fox Sports
2010 Northwestern Wildcats
|2||Illinois State Redbirds||95||52-6|
|4||Central Michigan Chippewas||82||30-19|
|5||@Minnesota Golden Gophers||81||28-18|
|8||Michigan State Spartans||35||32-35|
|10||@Penn State Nittany Lions||21||18-34|
|12||Illinois Fighting Illini||79||32-21|
Smell the RosesPryor woke up in the Rose Bowl last January
"QB Terrelle Pryor is ready to prove the Rose Bowl was his coming out party and not a fluke. The Buckeyes have perhaps their deepest backfield under Jim Tressel and the four top players in receptions all return. With minimal losses up front, the only question is whether or not Tressel trusts Pryor enough to let him drive the offense."
"Defensively, the Buckeyes must find a new pair of safeties after the departures of Anderson Russell and Kurt Coleman. Jermale Hines is one obvious replacement after taking over for Russell early last season when Russell was struggling in coverage. Hines has been good enough to start for the last two years. The other safety will come from a group that includes sophomores Orhian Johnson and Travis Howard and sixth-year senior Aaron Gant."
- Fox Sports
2010 Ohio State Buckeyes
|1||Marshall Thundering Herd||95||44-10|
|2||Miami (FL) Hurricanes||67||33-25|
|4||Eastern Michigan Eagles||95||58-6|
|5||@Illinois Fighting Illini||95||36-13|
|9||@Minnesota Golden Gophers||95||39-10|
|11||Penn State Nittany Lions||79||30-18|
JoePa-ternity TestA new QB may mean a new offense in the Valley
Mark Brennan of FightOnState.com is our Penn State Nittany Lions insider:
"Penn State features one of the nation's best running backs in Evan Royster, who is poised to smash the school career rushing mark thanks to a gaudy per-carry average of 6.1 yards," Brennan said. The Nittany Lions are also loaded at receiver and along the defensive line, and return all the key faces in the secondary. The linebacker corps is being reloaded after the 2009 starters were all drafted, but Joe Paterno has enough horses to get the job done there."
"The primary area of concern is at quarterback, where sophomore Kevin Newsome is the "veterans with exactly 11 career passing attempts. A reshuffled offensive line ranks second on the list of potential problems, followed closely by a complete lack of experience at tight end and punter."
"A brutal road schedule will result in three losses (at Alabama, Iowa and Ohio), and don't be shocked if PSU follows its recent pattern of dropping one game per season against a less talented opponent. Look for an 8-4 regular season, a fourth-place finish in the Big Ten and a win in the Outback Bowl to go 9-4 overall."
For more from Mark Brennan and the Nittany Lions check out FightOnState.com.
2010 Penn State Nittany Lions
|1||Youngstown State Penguins||95||61-5|
|2||@Alabama Crimson Tide||7||15-31|
|3||Kent State Golden Flashes||95||37-8|
|6||Illinois Fighting Illini||91||38-15|
|8||@Minnesota Golden Gophers||95||37-10|
|11||@Ohio State Buckeyes||21||18-30|
|13||Michigan State Spartans||79||38-28|
Makers' MarkMiami (FL) transfer Robert Marve will start at QB
"Robert Marve will replace Joey Elliott at quarterback. Marve has plenty of potential -- he broke a number of Tim Tebow's high school records in Florida -- but comes to Purdue following a stormy exit at Miami. There are questions whether his knee is fully recovered from ACL surgery. Tailback Ralph Bolden is out for most, if not all of the season. But receiver Keith Smith returns after leading the league with 91 catches and 1,100 yards last year. He did that while playing all year with a broken wrist that required surgery after the season. The coaches have to be excited over his potential when fully healthy."
"The biggest question is the secondary. Purdue needs four new starters and has plenty of candidates but no real frontrunners. The only player with any sort of experience, safety Albert Evans, missed the spring recovering from ankle surgery. Finding four starters -- and their backups -- will be the biggest question of the spring. Also, linebacker Jason Werner missed the spring with a heel injury. It wouldn't be a big deal, other than Werner's chronic back woes have previously kept him off the field for extended periods of time. Werner is the leading returning tackler with 77."
- Fox Sports
2010 Purdue Boilermakers
|1||@Notre Dame Fighting Irish||33||27-35|
|2||Western Illinois Leathernecks||95||52-7|
|3||Ball State Cardinals||95||39-10|
|7||Minnesota Golden Gophers||84||30-15|
|8||@Ohio State Buckeyes||5||14-38|
|9||@Illinois Fighting Illini||68||28-25|
|12||@Michigan State Spartans||33||31-38|
Badgers ReloadedBadgers return 15 starters on offense & defense
Michael Bleach from BadgerNation.com is our Wisconsin Badgers insider:
"He wouldn't go as far as say his offensive linemen are one of the top groups in the nation," Bleach said. "Wisconsin Head Coach Bret Bielema has a good problem on his hands, figuring out how to use seven players with starting experience. After day one of camp, Bielema has 26 more days until the opener to answer that and other persistent questions."
For more from Michael Bleach and the Badgers check out BadgerNation.com.
2010 Wisconsin Badgers
|2||San Jose State Spartans||95||49-12|
|3||Arizona State Sun Devils||91||37-16|
|4||Austin Peay Governors||95||64-7|
|5||@Michigan State Spartans||77||39-36|
|6||Minnesota Golden Gophers||95||40-15|
|7||Ohio State Buckeyes||19||25-32|
Ryan Fowler is the Content Manager for Whatifsports.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.