09/05/09 vs. Akron
09/12/09 vs. Syracuse
09/19/09 vs. Temple
09/26/09 vs. Iowa
10/03/09 at Illinois
10/10/09 vs. Eastern Illinois
10/17/09 vs. Minnesota
10/24/09 at Michigan
10/31/09 at Northwestern
11/07/09 vs. Ohio State
11/14/09 vs. Indiana
11/21/09 at Michigan State
The bad news for Northwestern is that QB C.J. Bacher and RB Tyrell Sutton are both gone. The good news is the Wildcats had to play without the services of those two a lot last season due to injury problems so the backups will come into this season with game experience. The offensive line was forced to start three freshmen last season yet ranked second in the conference in sacks allowed. They'll be very good after a year of experience in the trenches. The defense will be very good if D end Corey Wootton recovers from a knee injury he suffered in NU's bowl game. The secondary is experienced and led by safety Brad Phillips who tallied 109 tackle last season. I previously claimed that the Minnesota game was TNL's official trap game of the year and I still stand by that but this will be TNL's official 2nd trap game of the season (Hey, I make the rules up as I go). Sandwiched between a trip to hated Michigan and a HUGE game against Ohio State at the Beav, if the Nits are looking ahead, Northwestern will bite them in the ass.
Probability of loss: 45% - this game worries me
Impact of loss: devastating – with OSU on deck a loss here could kill momentum
Blog(s) of note: Lake the Posts – if you're not reading LTP shame on you for six days!
Hey did you guys here that Terrelle Pryor is OMG the most awesome quarterback in the universe!?! He's exponentially better than last year and can run over a charging rhino without breaking a sweat! He's winning like, 3 Heismans for sure!
There, I thought I'd point the OSU overhype machine* in TP's direction since the greatest linebacker ever is now in the NFL. All kidding aside Pryor will be much better this year but returns as the team's leading rusher and with loses on the line and at wide receiver we may see a lot of running by TP, especially early on. Pryor does have a reliable target in senior tight end Jake Ballard so look for a more balanced, short passing game but the line has to play much better than last season for the offense to thrive. The defense will be great again. The defensive line returns all four starters and the secondary returns three although the loss of Jim Thorpe winner Malcolm Jenkins will certainly hurt. OSU lost two very good linebackers but when doesn't Ohio State have good linebackers? OSU will be challenging for the Big Ten title yet again.
If you're a Hoosier optimist I feel for you. Gone is reliable RB Marcus Thigpen and Andrew Means, Indiana's leading receiver. Coach Bill Lynch, in his infinite wisdom, moved Indiana's best offensive weapon Kellen Lewis from quarterback where you know, he touched the ball every play to wide receiver where he needs someone else to get him the ball consistently. The move was necessitated by a weak receiving corps but still makes little sense because even more head scratching is the move of second leading wide receiver Ray Fisher to the secondary. QB Ben Chappell did throw for 1,000 yards last season and is serviceable but not nearly as mobile as Lewis and the offensive line wasn't all that great last season although all five starters return. The defense returns eight starters but they were one of the worst D's in college football last season (107th in total, 105th in passing and 108th in Scoring). D end Jammie Kirlew returns and tallied 10.5 sacks last year so I guess that's at least a bright spot. Don't look for any huge improvement from the Hosiers this season.
Probability of loss: 20%
Impact of loss: soul crushing
Blog(s) of note: The Crimson Quarry – sounds like a cool place for the kids to drink beer
Defense and special teams will be the name of the game for MSU this year. Sparty returns an All-conference player at both kicker and punter and All-Big ten linebacker Greg Jones. In fact all three linebackers return and three of the four in the secondary along with two D lineman. Javon Ringer left and took with him most of the offense and what little he didn't take went with QB Brian Hoyer who left as well. Both wideouts and starting TE Charlie Gantt return so whoever takes over at quarterback will at least have decent targets. The line gets back three of the five starters, but they will have to gel quickly with the new guys, early visits to Notre Dame and Wisconsin will prove tricky.
*seriously, does Ohio State have the patent on the overhype machine or what?!? It's like a tradition.
Update: reader JD has given us a great idea when speaking about overhypness. Which player is overhyped more: Jimmy Clausen or Terrelle Pryor? Vote now on the sidebar!