The Big 10’s 2005 college football campaign was mediocre at best. The conference, although it had some depth, did not have any clear front runner for much of the season until Penn State put the clamps down on the Buckeyes at the halfway point. Look for that to change a great deal this year as the Big 10 will emerge as one of the best conferences in the nation.
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Even the bottom feeders of the Big 10, such as Illinois and Indiana have some hope going into the fall. Illinois second year under former Gator head coach Ron Zook will certainly be an improvement over last year. Although Quarterback Alan Ball was sideline for much of spring with a broken arm, he was very impressive when he did see action and will be ready to go in plenty of time for their college football season opener against Eastern Illinois.
Indiana has a great deal of talent surrounding Quarterback Blake Powers. The two sport freshman stud Andrew Means will be one of his go to threats and has exceptional ability in catching the deep ball. The big question for Indiana is whether or not their inexperienced offensive line will be able to protect Powers.
After Iowa’s disappointing college football season last year, Drew Tate looks to rebound and have an award winning season for the Hawkeyes. The Hawkeyes will look to show a lot of two tight end sets for their superstar Quarterback and get him off to a good start. Look for Kirk Ferentz, whose name came up in a lot of NFL talk, to have this Hawkeye team ready to play a full season and possibly compete for a Big 10 title.
The Michigan Wolverines, undoubtedly the biggest disappointment in 2005, are looking very promising for the 2006 season. Quarterback Chad Henne has two dynamite receivers in Steve Breaston and sophomore deep-threat Mario Manningham. Accompany this with an improving defense with several new stars such as redshirt freshman Tim Jamison at defensive end and Terrance Taylor at defensive tackle and this makes for a very promising 2006 season for the Wolverines.
Two of Michigan State’s biggest problems in 2005 were its special teams and its defense. With Nehamiah Warrick, Greg Cooper, and Cris Wiley highlighting the much improved secondary it is very obvious that the Spartan’s question mark in ’05 will most likely become its exclamation point in ’06. And for the kicking game? Sophomore Todd Boleski is 6-6 in field goals in the spring highlighted by a booming 55 yarder.
Minnesota may be the biggest question mark heading into the 2006 season. After losing Laurence Maroney to the NFL the Gophers could be in for a long season if tailback Gary Russel does not regain his academic eligibility this summer.
After Northwestern’s surprisingly good 2005 college football campaign they have many question marks heading into 2006. Although the 2006 offense was one of the best around, they lost their quarterback Brett Basanez. While Mike Kafka is most likely going to replace Basanez as the leader of the Wildcat offense, look for quarterback Andrew Brewer to find himself an integral part of the offense as well, possibly as a slot receiver. Another question mark for the wildcats is their weak defense which needs to greatly improve if the Wildcats look to compete.
Ohio State is the favorite not only in the Big 10, but arguably also for the National Championship. With superstar quarterback Troy Smith, great wide-out Ted Ginn, tailback Antonio Pittman, and a cast of incoming freshman highlighting the Buckeye offense, look for them to hoist the National Championship Trophy come January. The Buckeyes are one of the fastest and mature teams in the country, and if they can get by Texas in Austin early in the year, they can very well run the table.
The Penn State Nittany Lions, the surprise of the nation in 2005, look to have another strong season under legendary coach Joe Paterno. Butkus winner Paul Posluszny looks to be the leader of the defense yet again. Although he didn’t play in the Spring Game, he said his knee is fine after stretching his ligaments in the Orange Bowl. The Nittany Lions also have a completely revamped secondary and graduated quarterback Michael Robinson.
After Wisconsin’s long time head coach Barry Alvarez stepped down following the 2005 season, first year coach Brett Bielema looks to have the Badgers heading in the right direction going into the fall. After losing super-stud running back Brian Calhoun to the NFL, tailback PJ Hill is looking to show the same type of spark that Calhoun demonstrated in 2005. The Badgers defense looks to be very fresh throughout the year, as they will rotate eight linemen up front for the 2006 college football season.