by Doc - 08/25/2005
The 2005 Big Ten football season is filled with potential for numerous teams in the conference. A shocking announcement came when the Dean of Big Ten Coaches Barry Alvarez said he would be stepping down after 16 years as head football coach at Wisconsin. Alvarez turned around team that was a bottom feeder for decades, and led them to three Rose Bowl victories during the 1990s. Alvarez took over the duties of Athletic Director last year and most people close to the program felt his reign as football coach was coming to an end. Bret Bielema will take over as Head Coach once this season concludes and it will be very interesting to see how he is received in Wisconsin. As Frank Solich, Ron Zook and Bob Davie learned, replacing a legend can be a daunting task. As for Alvarez, I am curious to see how he fares as just Athletic Director. He will have to take a big pay cut and oftentimes, former coaches put too much emotion into jobs like this. His presense should keep most of the alumni happy in their support of Bielema.
As for the 2005 football season, the coaches had their annual meetings in Chicago on Aug. 1. The Big Ten Conference media chose Michigan as the preseason football favorite. The Big Ten announced only the top three teams in its preseason poll, as Ohio State placed second and Iowa was selected third. The attending media also honored Hawkeyes' quarterback Drew Tate as the Preseason Offensive Player of the Year and Buckeyes' linebacker A.J. Hawk as the Preseason Defensive Player of the Year. I would have to agree with both of these choices and feel that if Iowa can find any playmakers around Drew Tate, they could be a very good football team. My personal choice to win the Big Ten is Purdue. This could be the year the 'Boilers' break through. Last year's squad had all the bad luck any team could have possibly had. The two teams I think could be on the rise -- especially if the skill players produce -- are Michigan State and Penn State. Keep an eye on both of these clubs early. The two teams I think are on a downward fall are Wisconsin and Northwestern.
I also feel that this season will feature a top heavy and bottom heavy division. As it stands now, I have three teams finishing with zero or one loss and four teams with two or less victories. The following is how I predict the standings will look in late December.
Doc's 2005 Big Ten Preview -- Projected Standings
|Team||Conference Record||Overall Record|
Purdue Boilermakers (8-0, 10-1) - Purdue received this biggest gift of the season when the schedule came out and the two teams that they do not play are Michigan and Ohio State. They do return their entire defensive unit, a unit that only gave up 17 points per game last year during Big Ten play. There is a solid chance that the Boilers could be favored in all 11 games that they play in. Brandon Kirsch will take over for Kyle Orton and I do not expect the offensive to miss a beat. They also return their top two running backs in Jerod Void and Brandon Jones.
Although the Boilermakers lost the top receiver in Taylor Stubblefield; they do return their next six receivers on the depth chart and this could be the best receiving corps ever under Coach Joe Tiller. WR Kyle Ingraham caught 51 passed and scored seven touchdowns in 2004. Purdue kept their coaching staff intact and did add former New Mexico State Head Coach Tony Samuel to the defensive unit.
Their toughest test may come in week two when they must travel to the desert to take on a fast rising Arizona Wildcats team. As always, Purdue can score points but oftentimes this puts their defense in bad situations because of their inability to control the clock.
Best Bet- Oct. 15, 2005 at Wisconsin. The number will be low in this game and Purdue has covered eight times in the last 12 meetings with the Badgers. Emotions will be on their side as would like to redeem themselves after last season. That loss really affected the 2004 squad as they were 5-0 going into this game and had a double digit lead in the fourth quarter, only to fumble that game away and lose four more times in 2004.
Be wary of- Sept. 17, 2005 at Arizona. The Boilers are just 5-9 ATS against the Pac-10 and suffered a bad loss last year in the Sun Bowl against Arizona State. State was without their starting QB Andrew Walter. This is a much-improved Wildcat team that nearly beat Wisconsin last season.
Ohio State Buckeyes (7-1, 10-1) - After a great finish to the 2004 season, the Buckeyes enter 2005 with high expectations as they return nine starters on both sides of the ball. The schedule seems to favor them again as they will play three non-conference games at the Horseshoe to open the season. The highlight game takes place Sept. 10 when the Buckeyes host the Texas Longhorns. The winner of this game will have a leg-up in the BCS and if either team can run the table they will definitely be in Pasadena.
As I look further into this Buckeyes team, I feel both the offensive and defensive lines should be vastly improved. This tandem could be as good as any team in the country. The quarterback situation is talented and deep with any three capable of starting. However, QB Troy Smith will be suspended for the opener. In order for the Bucks to have a great year the defense must be vastly improved as they gave up 59 yards more per game then their opponents during Big Ten play.
Best Bet- Sept. 24, 2005 vs. Iowa. Iowa beat this team last year 33-7 and revenge will be on the minds of the home team. State is 10-3 ATS against Iowa and will make someone else besides Drew Tate beat them. As you go back to last season, Ohio State was on a two-game losing streak coming into Iowa and had yet to reach their potential.
Be wary of- Oct. 29 at Minnesota. State is just 1-4 ATS on artificial turf the past three years and does not possess an explosive offense that will be able to cover a touchdown inside the Metrodome. Minnesota is a much better team in Minneapolis. This could be the Gophers game of year and it would not surprise us if they pull a straight-up win.
Michigan Wolverines (7-1, 10-1) - The Wolverines have represented the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl the past two years and we look for them to again be among the league's best. Last season, their skill players were led by two freshmen in QB Chad Henne and RB Michael Hart. Both are back and as sophomores and I expect opponents will come up with a game plan to slow this duo down. However, look for Michigan to go to other areas for points. Henne will be without the conference POY last season in WR Braylon Edwards.
The Wolverines do return their next four leading receivers but without Edwards, one may be concerned if anyone can step up to make game changing plays as he did. Braylon last year single-handedly beat Michigan State and got the Wolverines back into the game against Texas. The coach's tab this as the best team in the Big Ten and with Ohio State coming into Ann Arbor, they will be a tough team to keep off the top of the standings.
The thing that always scares me about Michigan is their Head Coach Lloyd Carr. He is very conservative as a coach and a prime example was Notre Dame last season when he led by nine at half, only to suffer a defeat by eight points. He needs to destroy inferior teams early by getting up by double digits. Michigan does have the top defensive coordinator in the conference in Jim Hermann, who returns for his ninth season. When he has talent, results are not far behind.
Best Bet- Sept. 10, 2005 vs. Notre Dame. This is the only Wolverines test during the non-conference season and they will have revenge on their mind. The Irish will be playing the second of two road games to open the season and will not have much left in the tank for Michigan. Their last trip to Ann Arbor ended in a 38-0 embarrassment and this likely will as well.
Be wary of- Sept. 24, 2005 at Wisconsin. The Badgers will open Big Ten play at home and have covered against Michigan seven of the last ten meetings. This is a rare night game at Camp Randall and I expect the crowd to be in this game early. Although the Badgers front four will be young, be expect them to shut down Michael Hart on the ground.
Penn State Nittany Lions (5-3, 8-3) - The Lions had a defense last year that was good enough to win the conference and had offense that could not score on many high school teams. Zack Mills is finally gone as his performance got worse each year he stayed in school. The defense returns nine starters and this will again be the focal point of this team. OLB Paul Posluszny leads this squad and baring injury will likely find him as an All-American selection.
Michael Robinson is back at the quarterback position after he suffered a shoulder injury against Wisconsin last season. Throwing is the weakness of his game, but his ability to move around the pocket may frustrate defenses. The offense needs to be able to run the football to be successful. The offensive line is a real strength this season and should allow Tony Hunt to reach 1,000 yards on the ground. A good start is essential for this squad in order to build confidence and allow this team to reach their potential. We do see them being 5-0 when they welcome in the Buckeyes. The Lions have a favorable schedule in Big Ten play with their most difficult games coming in the state of Michigan. They do have a bye before they travel to East Lansing.
Best Bet- Oct. 29, 2005 vs. Purdue. State may be poised to knock off an unbeaten Purdue team and keep them out of the Sugar Bowl. This will be homecoming in State College and Purdue will be coming off of Wisconsin a week before this tilt. Penn State is 5-1 ATS in their last six games against Purdue.
Be wary off- Oct. 22, 2005 at Illinois. Penn State will be coming off of back-to-back tough games against Michigan and Ohio State. After Illinois they will welcome in Purdue. This is definitely a trap game.
Iowa Hawkeyes (5-3, 7-4) - The Hawkeyes return the best quarterback in the conference in first teamer Drew Tate. Tate had no running game to speak of last season, as their top five backs all suffered injuries, yet he led the Hawkeyes to a 10-2 record. They finished off the season with a Hail Mary reception to knock off LSU and thus end the tenure of Nick Saban. Iowa returns seven starters on offense and the big question mark will remain, how good Marques Simmons and the rest of the running backs will be. He averaged nearly four yards a carry before going down with an ankle injury. If he can stay healthy, he will be a great option for Tate. If something would happen to Tate in regards to an injury, this would be a completely different ball club.
Kirk Ferentz continues to get it done as head coach and last season picked up his second Big Ten Coach of the Year plaque. He continues to field offers from the NFL and it will be interesting to see how long he will stay at Iowa. With any luck, the Hawks could be big time bowling this season.
Best Bet- Oct. 22, 2005 vs. Michigan. The Hawkeyes have had Michigan's number of late covering the last three meetings. Iowa has some weapons on offense that can exploit a weak Michigan secondary. At Kinnick Stadium Iowa has covered 75 percent since 1984.
Be wary of- Sept. 10, 2005 at Iowa State. State always plays this team tough and with their young quarterback Bret Meyer back he should be able to move the ball on offense. Iowa State was a 22-point underdog last season, yet only lost to Iowa by seven points.
Michigan State Spartans (4-4, 7-5) - The Spartans did not go bowling last year and they will struggle again this season unless QB Drew Stanton can stay healthy. There is a lot of questions as to how many games this team can win, however this is my sleeper team ATS as I expect them to be in a lot of close games. The Spartans have talent as they had a 19-point lead against Michigan and ended Wisconsin's dream of perfection. Stanton had completed 64 percent of his passes last season and has the ability to beat you with his arm or his legs. The wide receiver corps will also be strength of this team, as they will likely start three seniors at this position. WR Agim Shabaj has the ability to stretch the field because of his sprinter speed and look for him to have a breakout season alongside Matt Trannon.
As I look at the Spartans schedule, the conference play itself may be one of the toughest in the Big Ten. They should have no problem to open the season with Illinois, however it will come right after the trip to South Bend. They do get Michigan at home but must travel to Ohio State, Purdue, and Minnesota. If Coach John L. Smith can win two of these three road games, MSU will find themselves in a bowl game and could have a say in who wins the Big Ten.
Best Bet- Sept. 17, 2005 at Notre Dame. State is an impressive 6-2 ATS is their last eight meetings with the Irish. They seem to have their number and have won straight-up in South Bend four straight times. The Irish will be coming off back-to-back road games and could very well be 0-2 when the Spartans invade.
Be wary of- Sept. 3, 2005 vs. Kent State. The Golden Flash come from the high-powered MAC conference and should be able to expose a weak Spartan secondary. State has covered only twice over the last three years of non-conference action. This team is known to lay an egg against inferior competition and I expect them to struggle in week one of the non-conference season. Hopefully for MSU, they will not lose the game straight-up.
Minnesota Golden Gophers (3-5, 6-5) - The Gophers were the most disappointing team in the conference last season and finished 7-5. They started off the season 5-0, which included an impressive road win at Colorado State. After this start, they had just one more conference win, but did finish the season out on a high note beating Alabama to win the Music City Bowl.
Back in 2005 are starting RB Laurence Maroney and QB Bryan Cupito. Maroney had an outstanding season in 2004 rushing for 1,413 yards and a 6.2 ypc average. He will be the lone workhorse this season with the departure of Marion Barber III and expect teams to gameplan to shut him down. This will put enormous pressure on Cupito to make plays through the air in order to spread out the defense. This team starts the season with a road trip to Tulsa and that could be a good indication of how the season will go. A win and another 5-0 start is not out of the question.
Best Bet- Sept. 24, 2005 vs. Purdue. The Gophers will be fired up for this contest at home as it is their first conference game of the season. They have not played each other the past two years and before that Purdue had beaten the Gophers seven straight times. The Gophers last win came in 1995 under Coach Jim Whacker. They will be hungry for this game.
Be wary of- Nov. 19, 2005 at Iowa. The Gophers threw in the towel late last season and this team has a history of finishing on a sour note. That will happen again this season. Iowa has beaten this team straight-up four years in a row and Minnesota has lost three straight season finales in Big Ten play.
Wisconsin Badgers (2-6, 5-7) - The Barry Alvarez era will end in frustration as this team returns only ten starters from last year's squad. Alvarez did do Bielema a big favor by coaching out this season and not leave the cupboard empty to start his tenure. This team does have numerous skill position players returning on offense in QB John Stocco, FB Matt Bernstein and TE Owen Daniels.
The Badgers also picked up a key transfer in RB Brian Calhoun, who has track team speed if he can reach the corner. This success of this team depends a great deal on his ability to run the ball successfully. John Stocco proved last year that he couldn't make plays when depended upon and can only be successful as a complimentary player. CB Brett Bell leads a young defense that returns only four starters from last year's squad. If Alvarez can get this group of players to a bowl game, that may become one of his highlights in his coaching career tenure at Wisconsin.
Best Bet- Nov. 12, 2005 vs. Iowa. The Badgers may be getting points in what could likely be Coach Alvarez' last game as Head Coach of the Wisconsin Badgers. We expect the team to come out fired up and determined to send out the legendary coach a winner. The revenge factor will also be in play as Iowa has won straight-up three consecutive years.
Be Wary of- Oct. 15, 2005 at Minnesota. The Badgers will be coming off of a road game in Evanston the week before and we expect the defense to struggle in shutting down the high powered Gopher running attack. Minnesota has won straight-up the last two meetings at the Dome.
Illinois Fighting Illini (2-6, 4-7) - The Ron Zook era came to a crashing end last season at Florida and he now sets his sights on rebuilding a perennial doormat in the Big Ten Conference. Zook was a solid recruiter at Florida and that is essential to his success at Illinois. However, his skills as a recruiter at Florida did not translate well into his gameday coaching. Zook suffered numerous heartbreaking losses during his three years and many times it was because of his coaching.
Jon Beutjer graduated last season and now the quarterback position should fall into the hands of unproven junior Tim Brasic. He will have some help as the Illini do return starting running back Pierre Thomas from last season. He fell just short of 1,000 yards one year ago and will need to eclipse that mark for this team to be successful. Also back is WR Kendrick Jones, who has the ability to stretch the field as he averaged 14.6 ypc last season. Zook is definitely a player's coach and that should allow this team to stay hungry throughout the year. I would not be surprised if they knockoff someone late in the season. It is imperative that this team gets off to a good start by beating Rutgers in the season opener in Champaign.
Best Bet- Oct. 22, 2005 vs. Penn State. Illinois is 4-1 ATS when coming off of a bye. They have covered eighty percent of their homecoming games in the last half decade. Penn State will likely enter this game as a favorite and that has spelled trouble recently for this Lion's squad.
Be wary off- Nov. 12, 2005 at Purdue. Purdue will be a big favorite in this contest and the straight up winner has covered 11 times over the last 14 years. Purdue has won the last two meetings by a combined 41 points.
Northwestern Wildcats (2-6, 4-7) - The Cats look to get back on track after a disappointing 2004 football season. Teams are starting to catch on to their spread style of offense and they finished with just a 6-6 record one year ago. Brett Basanez is back for his third year as starting quarterback and he appears to be following down the same footsteps of Zach Mills, by getting worse each season he stays in school. He finished last season with only 12 touchdown passes and that is not acceptable for this fast break-style of offense.
The Cats return only 12 starters and the biggest loss is RB Noah Herron. Herron was a workhorse last season with nearly 300 carries and averaged five yards a pop. Basanez does return his top three receives from last season led by SR Mark Philmore and his 54 receptions last season. I expect this to be a down year for the Cats and would be surprised if they are still practicing in December.
Best Bet- Oct. 8, 2005 vs. Wisconsin. The Cats are 6-1-1 ATS in their last eight games against the Badgers. Their spread offense will frustrate the Badgers secondary set and allow QB Brett Basanez the ability to pick the apart via the passing games. The Cats have won two out of the last three meetings straight-up.
Be Wary off- Sept. 3, 2005 vs. Ohio. Northwestern lost to ASU in their home opener last season straight-up despite being a two-point favorite and I expect them to struggle covering a big number against the Bobcats in the season opener. The MAC conference is for real this season and could have four teams playing in a bowl game.
Indiana Hoosiers (0-8, 2-9) - Terry Hoeppner travels westward to take over the Hoosiers after having great success at Miami (OH). This will be a difficult challenge, as the Hoosiers have not gone bowling since 1993. The strength of this year's squad will be the defensive unit as they return all but two starters. SR Kyle Killion will be a four-year starter and he had over 100 tackles last season.
The offense is a different story as all of their playmakers from last season are gone. The good news is that none of them were very productive so it may be to their benefit to bring in some new blood. Expect the Hoosiers to throw the football as Hoeppner won most of his games via this style of offense. The schedule is not kind to the Hoosiers in 2005 as their two Big Ten byes are Northwestern and Penn State. They play everyone else in the conference and they may struggle to reach least season's win total of three.
Best Bet- Sept. 19, 2005 vs. Purdue. The Hoosiers will be playing in front of a big crowd as bragging rights for Indiana will be on the line. They will come in as a big underdog at Memorial Stadium and I expect them to complete throughout this game. If Coach Terry Hoeppner could have only one conference win this season, this would be the game he would want the most.
Be wary of- Take your pick! The Hoosiers will be blown out numerous times this year. Once the Big Ten season starts, the Hoosiers will likely be double-digit dogs in seven of the eight games (Illinois being the exception).
Overall Expectations: I expect this to be a top-heavy conference with four teams having a realistic shot of winning the Big Ten conference. Purdue, Ohio State, Michigan and Iowa all are capable if things go their way. Purdue had everything fall in place with schedule but trips to Minneapolis, Madison and State College are all losable games. Expect the bottom and middle of the pack to beat up on each other and I would favor the home squad in most of the contests.
This Conference is strong enough that if anybody besides Purdue would run the table, I would expect to see them playing in the Rose Bowl against Southern Cal. In fact, this may be the most talented (top 5 teams) this conference has had in years. Because of the light schedule Purdue plays, they may need some help in order to secure their spot in the title game because they will not have many quality wins during the season. As I mentioned earlier, be wary of Michigan State and Penn State. These two teams could definitely turn this conference upside-down.
The Big Ten is what made our service famous and we start attacking the conference on the first action of Big Ten play Sept. 3. As in past years, we expect to hit two out of every three games we release in the Big Ten. Anything under 67 percent is not acceptable. There have been past years when we have hit 70 percent of our selections in the Big Ten. Our Big Ten Game of the Year is one of the most important games that we release. Hitting this game 19 years in a row is impressive; however, what really matters is the result of this year's game. This is our favorite time of year and we expect to have yet another outstanding year. There is no one in the country that will pick this conference apart like we do. Be sure to check back throughout the year for the Big Ten Report, which will be available late Monday starting in September.
If you enjoyed Doc's 2005 Big Ten preview, check back throughout the week for more college football conference previews.
Our early bird full season football package is now available! Football is what made Doc famous and no one knows college and NFL better than the team at Doc's Sports. Even thought we are still weeks away we have been getting many signups for our early bird special - full season only $725. This will increase to our normal price of $975 once the season gets closer so sign up now and take advantage of this great offer.Click Here for football picks.