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2011 B1G Ten Predicted Here

Danny SawickiWith the addition of the Nebraska Cornhuskers to the Big Ten Conference in 2011, the creation of divisions and a championship game became a reality. So with this new reality of Big Ten football as my backdrop, I provide for you now the predicted finishes and final records of all 12 teams in the new Legends and Leaders divisions. What you choose to do with this information is at your discretion. But should you feel the urge to fly to Vegas and make a wager, and if that wager should result in your retirement from work and living happily ever after…remember where you heard it first.

Legends ImageMinnesota Golden Gophers: Minnesota returns 6 starters on offense and 8 on defense. New coach Jerry Kill faces rebuilding with a new QB and a sad run game. The defense was last in the nation in sacks last year (9) and last in the Big Ten in rushing defense. Sure a new coach brings new hope but this season should be the same old story for Minnesota. I expect Minnesota to be a hard-working team, but the Gophers just don’t have enough to make any serious noise…not yet anyway.
Predicted Finish    6th    
Overall Record      3-9
Big Ten Record     1-7

Northwestern Wildcats: Northwestern begins the year with 9 returning starters on offense and 7 on defense. Stud Heisman possibility QB Dan Persa is coming off an Achilles injury but should fully recover. Along with leading all-Big Ten receiver in 2010 (media) Jeremy Ebert, this could be an explosive combination. A strong offensive line will support the Wildcat cause in 2011. But then there’s the defense. The Northwestern defense allowed an average of 30 pts a game to the opposition last season.  And there are still holes to be filled in many places. Though, as long as Persa stays healthy, Northwestern should score a bunch of points.  And they’ll have to score a bunch of points because the defense will give up almost as many. Expect many 35-28 final scores. Here’s hoping Northwestern in on the right side of those scores for the Wildcat fans.
Predicted Finish    5th    
Overall Record       7-5
Big Ten Record      3-5

Iowa Hawkeyes: Iowa returns 5 starters on offense and 5 on defense. The big question will be if injury prone QB James Vanderberg can re-create some of the magic from his 2009 season.  Vanderberg can rely on his strong offensive line that should give him good protection and open up some holes for the running game. The defensive line lost 3 starters, the linebackers got hurt and the secondary lost players and will be the team’s weak link in 2011. The Hawkeyes have a good running attack with 5 returning lineman. They also have a good, quality coach in Kirk Ferentz. With his grind it out Iowa style, the Hawkeyes should stay close and may pull a few surprises this year.
Predicted Finish       4th
Overall Record         7-5
Big Ten Record        4-4

Michigan Wolverines: Michigan will count on their 8 returning starters on offense and their 9 on defense. And their defense will be better, it has to be! Say it! The defense WILL be better because how can it be any worse? How Denard Robinson adjusts to Brady Hoke and offensive coordinator Al Borges’ newly installed pro-style offense will be the key. Denard has looked comfortable in practices. The pro-style was installed to help keep the defense off the field and that should help. Senior leadership will be key with players such as Mike Martin, Ryan Van Bergen and Kevin Koger being called upon to smooth the transition on and off the field. It will be an interesting year for Michigan football. With the intense Coach Hoke at the helm, the Michigan Wolverines should compete and play tough and hard all season long. What that gets them in terms of wins and loses, we shall all soon find out.
Predicted Finish       3rd
Overall Record         7-5
Big Ten Record        4-4

Michigan State Spartans: Michigan State returns 7 offensive and 6 defensive starters to a team that lost one regular season game in 2010. The ended the season being literally embarrassed by the Alabama Crimson Tide of the SEC (49-7) in the New Year’s Day Capital One Bowl. For 2011 the focus begins and ends with Cousins, QB Kirk Cousins.  But can the rest of the supporting class bring a Big Ten title to Michigan State? With holes in the linebacker position (3 starters gone) and the 3 departures from the offensive line, it might be tough. Not many believe MSU will have a run this year like they did last especially with their grueling Big Ten schedule. But Michigan State does have the experienced Cousins, stud running backs and good wide receivers so that should make the Spartans very dangerous. Or at least gives them the potential to be.
Predicted Finish       2nd
Overall Record         9-3
Big Ten Record        6-2

Nebraska Cornhuskers: Nebraska makes their eagerly awaited and celebrated entrance to the Big Ten conference with a team that is returning 5 starters on the offensive side of the ball and 7 from the defense. Arguably, Nebraska will field one of the top defenses in the nation in 2011. The defensive line — also considered one of the best — is anchored by 6’ 6’ 290lb Jared Click who was selected first team all-Big 12 in 2010. Multidimensional QB Taylor Martinez is a strong runner who has reportedly looked great in practices. If “Big Red” can get the running game rolling in the Big Ten, watch out! This seems to be the sheik pick to win the Legends Division and I can not disagree. Bo Pelini’s team may stumble, but for at least this year I expect them to finish on top.
Predicted Finish      1st
Overall Record        11-2
Big Ten Record        7-1

Leaders ImageIndiana Hoosiers: Indiana brings with them 9 returning starters on offense and 6 on defense to the 2011 campaign. Former Oklahoma offensive co-coordinator Kevin Wilson is the new man in charge and has brought with him an attitude of focus and high expectation. In 2010, the Hoosiers were last in the Big Ten in rushing. The defense is poor at best with a bad secondary and are bad against the run giving up 172 yards-per-game. I expect teams will line up and run until Indiana proves they can stop it. Then I expect teams to run some more. I don’t see anything different for 2011. I’m sure the heart and will to succeed is there, but I don’t see enough on the personnel side. Oh by the way, they don’t have a QB of note either.
Predicted Finish   6th
Overall Record     4-8
Big Ten Record     1-7

Purdue Boilermakers: Purdue starts the season with 6 offense starters and 9 starters on defense. In 2010, the Boilermakers were an injury prone team. Can QB Robert Marve stay healthy? Statistically, 2010 saw the Purdue offense put the worst offensive performance in over 10 years (19 pts per game). Purdue has a good defense and that should help keep games closer, but that offense is going to be a problem.  If the offense can get any type of consistency, the Boilermakers might surprise a few people. That’s a big if.
Predicted Finish     5th
Overall Record       5-7
Big Ten Record       2-6

Penn State Nittany Lions: With 7 returning offensive starters and 7 starters returning on defense, Penn State may transition well into the 2011 year. Yet, the Nittany Lions have lots of questions, especially at the quarterback position, the offensive line and in defense. Penn State does have some strong wide receivers and a potential breakout tailback in Silas Redd and that might help. On defense, they have a good secondary but a weak pass rush (only 17 sacks last year). With all the questions at QB, the holes in the offensive line and the overall defensive liabilities this could be a frustrating year for Coach Joe Paterno.  Especially if JoePa continues to make tackles on the sidelines.
Predicted Finish    4th
Overall Record       6-6
Big Ten Record      4-4

Illinois Fighting Illini: Like Penn State, Illinois brings back 7 offense and 7 defensive starters. Sophomore Nathan Scheerhanse returns at quarterback. Last season, Scheerhanse set a school record for QB rushing. This year he should be as good or better. I expect him to have plenty of help at the running back position and benefit from good wide receiver play and good protection from his offensive line. The defensive line and linebackers are iffy at best, but the secondary should be the best in years. Illinois set a school record for points last year with 423 (I think half of them came against Michigan). With a high-powered offense and a decent defense, look for the fighting Illini to get in a decent bowl and make some upset noise in the Big Ten. Eight home games and a favorable schedule will help.
Predicted Finish    3rd
Overall Record       8-4
Big Ten Record      5-3

Wisconsin Badgers: Wisconsin starts their 2011 campaign returning 6 starters on the offensive side of the ball and 6 on defense. Stud transfer Russell Wilson comes in to the program and is cited as being a real team player with high expectations. Wilson had big numbers at North Carolina State and put up more than 3500 passing yards and threw 28 TD passes last year. And that doesn’t even include his 9 rushing TDs he accounted  for on the ground. Wisconsin is good every year running the ball and this season they look to have two more good running backs and a big offensive line so expect that trend to continue. The weakness in the offense is at the wide receivers position. The defense lost 5 starters from the 2011 Rose Bowl squad.  However, the linebackers are solid and they’ll be strong against the run. The secondary is the weakness link here. In all, Wisconsin’s offense will be potent and the defense up front will dominate. If the secondary doesn’t give up to many big plays, the Badgers should maintain a place in the Big Ten championship conversation all year.
Predicted Finish    2nd
Overall Record       9-3
Big Ten Record      6-2

OHIO STATE: What’s more important than the 6 returning offensive starters and the 4 returning defensive starters is the man that will not be returning to Columbus and the man who is. Luke Fickell takes over a program that on the surface appears to be in disarray after the somewhat stunning departure of longtime Ohio State stalwart Jim Tressel. No need to cover those details, as they have been well document for sometime now. The scandal will loom large over the 2011 team, but that may actually bring the remaining, returning players together. The defense lost some of their top players too, but Ohio State always seems to re-load nicely. A massive offensive line and a team that is hungry and athletic on both sides of the ball make Ohio Sate – in my view – still the perennial favorite in the Leaders Division. And I say that without even knowing who will actually take the snaps from under center.
Predicted Finish    1st
Overall Record       10-2
Big Ten Record      7-1

BIG TEN TITLE CONTENDERS
NEBRASKA
OHIO STATE
MICHIGAN STATE
WISCONSIN

BIG TEN TITLE GAME
NEBRASKA VS OHIO STATE

BIG TEN TITLE WINNER
NEBRASKA

So…anyone else picking Nebraska?

Hokeamaniac.com - May the Hoke be with you! © January 11th, 2011
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