Thursday, December 01, 2005

2005 Big Ten Review

Illinois (2-9, 0-8)- Well we all knew that Ron Zook underachieved with the talent he amassed at Florida, now we know what he can do with a bare cupboard. After coming back to beat the best Rutgers team since the late '70's on the opening weekend of the season, the Illini managed only one more win the rest of the season, against San Jose State. They finished the season with nine straight losses and lost to Indiana 36-13. Pierre Thomas and E.B. Halsey are a nice 1-2 punch out of the backfield. Otherwise this team is pretty untalented. This will be a mjor turnaround job for Zook.
High Point- 33-30 victory over Rutgers
Low Point- 63-10 loss to Penn State at home and trailed 56-3 at half time

Indiana (4-7, 1-7)- After a 4-1 start, we finally saw Terry Hoeppner's real Indiana team show up as they finished with six losses against some of the Big Ten's best squads. However, Hoeppner has provided Hoosier fans with something that they haven't had in more than a decade- hope. The Hoosiers are far from competing for the Big Ten title but a bowl game will soon be within reach. Blake Powers looks like he can be a solid QB in the spread offense. I wouldn't expect them to reach a bowl game next season either but 2007 may finally be the year.
High Point- 38-14 victory over Kentucky
Low Point- 41-14 loss to Purdue at home

Iowa (7-4, 5-3)- Hawkeye fans pretty much knew that the season wasn't going to live up to expectations when they lost to Iowa State on the second weekend of the season. Iowa played competitively in the league but ended up coming up short. They beat Wisconsin late in the season to salvage to chance to go to a New Year's Day bowl game. It appears that the Outback Bowl will select Iowa and fulfill that hope. Unfortunately for Iowa, this was supposed to be their best chance to win the Big Ten since they tied with Ohio State in 2002. With Chad Greenway and Abdul Hodge both graduating, Iowa may be facing a similar season in 2006.
High Point- 20-10 victory over Wisconsin
Low Point- 23-3 loss to Iowa State

Michigan (7-4, 5-3)- What a disappointing season for Michigan. Unfortunately, their one moment of joy came at the expense of my Nittany Lions. The Wolverines dropped early games to Notre Dame, Wisconsin and Minnesota. The loss to the Gophers was their first since 1986. They then went on to finish 4-1 but lost to Ohio State for the second year in a row. Mike Hart and Chad Henne avoided a sophomore slump, true freshman tailback Kevin Grady emerged and the offense was relatively productive. However, the defense didn't step up in some key situations and that ultimately cost them in all four of their losses. With so much returning talent, the Wolverines will undoubtedly be highly ranked to start the season, but will they finally be able to avoid getting snake bitten by a team or two that they shouldn't lose to?
High Point- 27-25 victory over Penn State
Low Point- 23-20 loss to Minnesota at home

Michigan State (5-6, 2-6)- Typical Spartan season- a huge win, a disappointing loss to Michigan and the rug gets yanked out from under the Spartans. After a 4-1 start that included a win at Notre Dame, the Spartans finished the season on a 1-5 skid. This is really nothing new to anyone who knows anything about Michigan State football. Drew Stanton is a helluva QB, Javon Ringer is a stellar young tailback and Kyle Brown is a solid receiver. Unfortunately, the rest of the team was bipolar as usual. One week they would look like a Top 10, the next they would look like cellar dwellers. I don't blame Spartan fans for wanting John L. Smith out. Unfortunately, the replacement probably wouldn't do much better immediately. I just don't see Michigan State shelling out the millions that it would undoubtedly take to bring Stev Marriucci to East Lansing.
High Point- 44-41 victory at Notre Dame
Low Point- 34-31 loss to Michigan or 49-14 loss to Northwestern, both at home

Minnesota (7-4, 4-4)- Glen Mason seems to have stabilized the Gopher program at this level. The Gophers now appear to be good for 6-8 wins and a bowl game every season. However, this season will be forever remembered in Gopher lore for one reason- the Little Brown Jug is finally back in Minnesota' possession. The Gophers upset Michigan in Ann Arbor and won the trophy for the first time since 1986. Laurence Maroney had a nice season but he didn't show up when it matter most. Against Penn State, Maroney was nowhere to be found. Gary Russell has stepped up as a formidable change of pace from Maroney and he came up with some big plays, including the one that set up the winning kick against Michigan. While Maroney and Russell get most of the attention, Jared Ellerson and Ernie Wheelwright are two of the most underrated receivers in the Big Ten. With a lot of returning talent on offense, Minnesota will be ready for the big boys in 2006.
High Point- 23-20 victory at Michigan
Low Point- 44-14 loss at Penn State

Northwestern (7-4, 5-3)- While Penn State was clearly the biggest surprise in the Big Ten this season, Northwestern wasn't far behind. Picked by almost everyone in the media to finish 9th, even 10th, in the conference, Randy Walker rallied his troops and posted a better season than anyone could have expected. QB Brett Basenez was named the Media Big Ten Player of the Year and freshman tailback Tyrell Sutton came out of nowhere and had a monster freshman season. While the defense was clearly less than stellar, linebacker Tim McGarigle stepped up as a top linebacker in a league filled with so many potential All-Americans at the position. It wouldn't surprise me to see Randy Walker work his way up to a top tier program soon. Precious few coaches do less with more on a consistent basis.
High Point- 51-48 victory over Wisconsin
Low Point- 34-29 loss to Penn State

Ohio State (9-2, 7-1)- While visions of a trip to Pasadena were in the minds of Buckeye fans early on, Ohio State really didn't have a bad season at all. While they lost two of their biggest games of the season- vs Texas and at Penn State- they won in Ann Arbor and broke the hearts of Michigan fans hoping to salvage their season. Ted Ginn suffered a bit of a sophomore slump through the first half of the season but be came up big down the stretch. Troy Smith rebounded from his suspension to have a very good season. A.J. Hawk successfully lived up to the hype and had a stellar senior season, as did the entire Ohio State defense. It won't be quite what they had hoped for but I'm sure Buckeye Nation will settle for a trip to the Fiesta Bowl and a showdown with Notre Dame.
High Point- 25-21 victory at Michigan
Low Point- 17-10 loss at Penn State

Penn State (10-1, 7-1)- This entire blog sums up my feelings on Penn State's season.
High Point- 17-10 victory over Ohio State
Low Point- 27-25 loss to Michigan

Purdue (5-6, 3-5)- If Northwestern did more with less, Purdue did less with more. With no Michigan and Ohio State on the schedule, Purdue was a pre-season favorite to win the Big Ten and possibly be a sleeper in the national title race. Instead the Boilermakers will be home for the holidays, a rarity during Joe Tiller's time in West Lafayette. The highly touted defense didn't come close to living up to expectations and QB Brandon Kirsch was replaced midway through the season with freshman Curtis Painter. While Painter went through the motions early on, the Boilermakers improved late in the season, closing out the season ona three game winning streak after the 2-6 start. Kyle Ingraham and Dorien Bryant are a top notch receiving duo and Painter will have both back next season. After a down year, Purdue will be ready for 2006.
High Point- Wins over Michigan State, Illinois and Indiana to close out the season
Low Point- 49-28 loss to Notre Dame

Wisconsin (9-3, 5-3)- While Penn State and Northwestern were the major surprises, Wisconsin in Barry Alvarez's final season as head coach, came up with aseason most didn't expect. I thought the Badgers would struggle to reach a bowl game but they really came up big. The Badgers lost most of their oustanding 2004 defense and were looking at a rebuilding situation. Instead, Brian Calhoun stepped up as one of the top tailbacks in the nation and John Stocco did an adequate job at QB. The young defense was able to step up at times but folded up at others. This is good news for Brett Bielemea. Instead of being left with cupboard bare, he will inherit a young team coming off a 9 win season. Not a bad situation to be in.
High Point- 23-20 victory over Michigan
Low Point- 51-48 loss to Northwestern


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