The Unrepentant Individual

...just hanging around until Dec 21, 2012


November 19, 2006


Big Ten Wrap-Up

I’m sad. No more Big Ten football until the bowl games start. Yes, Purdue has a game against Hawaii next Saturday, but it doesn’t appear it will be televised, and it starts at 11 PM EST due to the time change. So it’s about time for a wrap-up.

1. Ohio State (12-0, 8-0)
T-2. Michigan (11-1, 7-1)
T-2. Wisconsin (11-1, 7-1)
T-4. Penn State (8-4, 5-3)
T-4. Purdue (8-4, 5-3)
T-6. Minnesota (6-6, 3-5)
T-6. Indiana (5-7, 3-5)
T-8. Iowa (6-6, 2-6)
T-8. Northwestern (4-8, 2-6)
T-10. Michigan State (4-8, 1-7)
T-10. Illinois (2-10, 1-7)

First things first… Before the season, I made a bet on where Purdue would finish. There were a lot of people predicting Purdue to finish somewhere near the basement of the Big Ten. So I bet a couple bottles of homebrew against $10-15 worth of beer I can’t get in Georgia. The terms of the bet were based on whether Purdue would finish 5th or better in the conference, and with a tie for fourth, I won. Thank you Boilermakers! Mmm… Beer :-D

On to the show:

1: Ohio State Buckeyes (12-0, 8-0)
Projected Bowl: Nat’l Championship Game, Jan 8, Glendale, AZ

What can you say about the Buckeyes this year? Really, it all comes down to two words: Troy Smith. The odds-on favorite for the Heisman, Smith has been the key to the OSU offense all year long. A few years ago, Smith was known for his propensity to pull down the ball and run. He’s got great scrambling ability, and he’s added a strong, accurate arm to go with it. He’s known as a scrambler, but instead of pulling the ball down and running, he scrambles with his eyes downfield to make a big play. How do you defend a guy like this?


Troy Smith is a baaaaaad mutha!

Add to that, a competent running game, some very talented receivers, and a defense known for their ability to force turnovers. Michigan is the only team that had a chance to put up a fight, but even then, it took three turnovers to get close. I didn’t really believe in Ohio State until the Michigan game, but now, I think it’s almost time to just award them the trophy. All I can do as a Purdue fan is be thankful that Troy Smith is graduating this year, because I don’t want to face him next year!

T-2. Michigan Wolverines (11-1, 7-1)
Projected Bowl: Rose Bowl, Jan 1, Pasadena, CA

Michigan never looked quite as dominating as Ohio State throughout the year, but I always believed that was by design. I think their show of offensive fireworks last night was vindication of that belief. Lloyd Carr is by nature a conservative coach, and Michigan did a great job of all year winning games utilizing great defense and a clock-eating running game. Yesterday showed what this offense is capable of, and I think we’ll see the same thing on Jan 1.

Michigan was tough this year, but they should terrorize opponents next year. They may lose some of their defensive prowess, but with Henne and Hart as seniors and another year of development for Arrington and Manningham, they’re going to light up some scoreboards. They should be favored over just about any opponent they’ll face in the Rose Bowl. It’s a damn shame that Lloyd Carr will probably get fired if he loses to Jim Tressel and Ohio State one more time…

T-2. Wisconsin Badgers (11-1, 7-1)
Projected Bowl: Capitol One Bowl, Jan 1, Orlando, FL vs SEC #2

Wisconsin was picked in the pre-season to finish outside the top 25. They returned 2 offensive starters, most of their defense, and their head coach became the athletic director of Wisconsin, turning the reins of the team to his defensive coordinator, Bret Bielema. With all the turmoil, it’s astounding that they finished so well. On the back of freshman freight-train running back PJ Hill, and the senior leadership of John Stocco, they put together a heck of a season for their new coach.

However, they haven’t gotten a lot of media love. Wisconsin is one of the most unproven 1-loss teams in the country, which probably explains their #9 ranking, behind 2-loss LSU. While they haven’t had the “big win” to prove themselves, they’ve taken care of business in every game against a team not named Michigan. All but one of their wins were double-digit margins, and they played better than expected. Either way, with their season complete, they have only up to go from here, solidifying a top-ten slot. They have one chance to prove their worth, and that happens on January 1 against a tough SEC team (likely either Arkansas or Florida, whoever loses the SEC championship game, although it’s possible both teams go to BCS bowls). If they manage to win their bowl game, we may have three Big Ten teams finishing with top 5 rankings.

T-4. Penn State (8-4, 5-3)
Projected Bowl: Outback Bowl, Jan 1, Tampa, FL vs. SEC

Penn State may be the best 4-loss team in the country. They’ve lost to #1 Ohio State, #3 Michigan, #6 Notre Dame, and #10 Wisconsin. Against competition like that, and the fact that they actually played well in 3 of those games, and they’re looking pretty decent.

Penn State has most of the defensive tools left over from last year. Their linebackers are the best in the Big Ten, their D-line is very strong, and their defensive backfield, while young, is very talented. The defense hasn’t been a problem. The offense replaced QB Michael Robinson with a talented Anthony Morelli, along with most of their offensive line, and the result was inconsistency. A young quarterback can do well if he’s given time to throw (i.e. USC this year), but if you put the pressure on, cracks appear. Penn State felt those cracks, but managed to make sure that only the teams they were supposed to lose to managed to do it. Penn State is a tough team, and may come up with a bowl win, depending who they face (hopefully, for their sake, not LSU).

T-4. Purdue (8-4, 5-3)
Projected Bowl: Alamo Bowl, Dec 30, San Antonio, TX vs. Big 12 #4

Purdue is a team coming off their first losing season in 9 years, and clearly was looking at a rebuilding year. I believe between offense and defense, we were starting about 3 seniors. On offense, we returned quite a few starters, but most of the skill players were sophomores (or JuCo transfers). On defense, two stars left early for the NFL, and we found ourselves starting three true freshmen in the secondary, a few fresh/soph on the line, with our only mildly-veteran unit being the linebackers. Luckily, though, the schedule worked out that we started against 4 weak teams, and didn’t have to face Michigan or Ohio State, who would have cleaned our clocks.

Purdue isn’t a great team this year. We’ve only beaten one bowl-eligible team (although our win over Indiana is what kept them from bowl-eligibility). But we’ve beaten everyone on our schedule we were supposed to and we’ve beaten three teams we were underdogs against (Minnesota, Michigan State, and Illinois). Even better, we’ve been involved in several close games, and won all of them. While I hated to watch us get beaten by double digits against the teams we lost to, two of them are top-ten teams, Iowa played their best game of the season against us, and Penn State has now worked it’s way into the #25 BCS ranking.

Overall, I’m satisfied with the year. Next year is the big one. Yes, we’ll have Michigan and Ohio State back on the schedule, but Ohio State should lose offensive firepower. Many of the toughest teams in the Big Ten are graduating their senior QB’s, along with Notre Dame, who will likely fall off a bit without Brady Quinn. Last, we have a favorable schedule, getting some of our toughest opponents at home. Next year Purdue has a shot at winning the Big Ten if things fall right, and I can say I’d enjoy that very much.

T-6. Minnesota (6-6, 3-5)
Projected Bowl: Champs Sports Bowl, Dec 29, Orlando, FL vs. ACC #4

Minnesota is a team that’s been alternating seasons in the middle of the Big Ten with the bottom of the conference, with occasional (unrealized) dreams of conference titles. This year was an odd one, because they lost their top two running backs, and two starting offensive linemen. They were expected to be sitting at the bottom of the conference, and yet managed to claw their way up to the middle, on the backs of Iowa, Michigan State, Indiana, and an uncharacteristic passing attack. It seems odd that the team who barely beat I-AA North Dakota State is going to a bowl game, but I’m sure they’ll take it.

Things may improve a few years down the road, when they move out of the Metrodome and into their own stadium on campus. But they’ve got a history of weak defense, and unless they figure out how to address that, they’ll be in trouble for a while.

T-6. Indiana (5-7, 3-5)
Projected Bowl: Not Eligible

Indiana seems to be teetering on the edge of reviving their program. New coach Terry Hoeppner really has these kids beginning to believe in themselves. They make young mistakes, but they’re showing flashes of what they can be. With Coach Hep’s medical troubles this year, I think all of us were pulling for them. I really didn’t want to see them fighting for bowl eligibility against Purdue, because I knew we’d be the ones that had to dash those dreams. Indiana has a lot of young talent, and when they get it together, they might climb out of the conference cellar.

T-8. Iowa (6-6, 2-6)
Projected Bowl: Insight Bowl, Dec 29, Phoenix, AZ vs. Big 12 #6

What happened to Iowa? Expected in the preseason to fight for the Big Ten title, they’ve melted down completely. How? Well, some defensive injuries played a big part. Beyond that, Iowa graduated their top wide receivers. While Drew Tate is a heck of a quarterback, I think he found himself in situations where he was trying to do too much, forcing the game because he wasn’t on the same page as his receivers. The result? Interceptions. 12 by Tate himself, and another 6 thrown in by his backups when he was injured. When you’re turning the ball over, giving your opponent good field position, you’re in trouble.

This team is looking a lot like Purdue 2005, a team with big expectations and bad results. There’s plenty of talent, but things just fell apart. Better luck next year, and with Kirk Ferentz coaching, I’m sure there will be better results…

T-8. Northwestern (4-8, 2-6)
Projected Bowl: Not Eligible

Northwestern, like Iowa, was one of those teams everyone hoped would do well. Their head coach, Randy Walker, unexpectedly passed away shortly before the season. This came on top of the graduation of their starting QB, Brett Basanez, and of their star linebacker, Tim McGarigle. Assistant coach Pat Fitzgerald took over on short notice, and the team was forced to deal with a lot in a very short time.

Over the year, they rotated through several quarterbacks, eventually settling on the most pass-oriented of the bunch, CJ Bacher. Once they got him settled, they started to perform, with late-season wins over Iowa and Illinois. Hopefully they’ll have some momentum heading into 2007, as the team finally seemed to come together at the end of the year, and most of those players will be coming back.

T-10: Michigan State (4-8, 1-7)
Projected Bowl: Not eligible

For many of the teams at the bottom of the Big Ten, you look at the good signs that they may be headed upwards. This team has been heading down for several years, and this year was the worst. It’s bad news when you announce mid-season that your coach is getting fired, it’s even worse when there are rumors circulating that the players were happy about it.

After this year, they lose QB Drew Stanton, who is talented, if inconsistent. Bringing in a new coaching staff may be just what they need, but then again, they’ve been through several new coaching staffs over the last few years, and we see where they are now. Michigan is a good recruiting state, so if they get things back on track, they can get back quickly. But another bad coach might put them too far behind, that it will take an overhaul of the entire program to recover from.

T-10. Illinois (2-10, 2-6)
Projected Bowl: Not eligible

Illinois brought in coach Ron Zook from Florida, and immediately, as is known for Zook, their recruiting rankings shot sky-high. I don’t know if he’s offering kids hookers and blow, but he manages to attract some pretty talented players. If he had a clue how to coach them on game day, he might actually be successful!

Seriously, with the talent Illinois is bringing in, I definitely expect them to start to recover. This year, they’re looking like the best 2-win team in the nation. Even with Zook as their coach, they’ll still pull themselves out of the conference basement. But with Zook as their head coach, they’ll never be great. Either way, there is some excitement brewing with QB Juice Williams, and they just might find a way to be well above this spot over the next two years.


The Unrepentant Individual linked with Purdue Selected for Champs Sports Bowl
Below The Beltway linked with What A Season
Posted By: Brad Warbiany @ 7:12 pm || Permalink || Comments (2) || Trackback URL || Categories: College Football, Purdue

2 Comments

  1. [...] Brad Warbiany posts his wrap-up of the 2006 Big Ten Season and this summary of the Buckeyes that I can’t disagree with at all: What can you say about the Buckeyes this year? Really, it all comes down to two words: Troy Smith. The odds-on favorite for the Heisman, Smith has been the key to the OSU offense all year long. A few years ago, Smith was known for his propensity to pull down the ball and run. He’s got great scrambling ability, and he’s added a strong, accurate arm to go with it. He’s known as a scrambler, but instead of pulling the ball down and running, he scrambles with his eyes downfield to make a big play. How do you defend a guy like this? [...]

    Pingback by Below The Beltway » Blog Archive » What A Season — November 21, 2006 @ 12:48 am
  2. [...] Posts Purdue Selected for Champs Sports Bowl Exciting News at The Liberty Papers Happy Anniversary NNNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!! LazyDogs Big Ten Wrap-Up 2006 NCAA Football Predictions — Week 12 Remember High School? BCS Busting Milton Friedman Dies at 94 Good Boilers vs. Bad Boilers Ay Caramba! Movie Review— Stranger Than Fiction Upset Day! 2006 NCAA Football Predictions — Week 11 part 2 [...]

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