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Marc Lawrence’s 2009 Big 10 Football Preview


Marc Lawrence • PLAYBOOK.com

As we reported last year, the BIG 10 CONFERENCE has been an Ohio State love fest the last four seasons where the Buckeyes have gone 29-3 in conference play while capturing four straight titles.

That puts Ohio State in elite company, tying Michigan with four consecutive crowns. Better yet, OSU is the only team in its 112-year history to have stood alone atop the BIG 10 CONFERENCE four straight years.

A total of 26 all-BIG 10 players from last season return in 2009. In addition 10 of the 11 teams welcome back at least half of their starters, with Minnesota (18) and Indiana (17) leading the way. In addition, the top 6 QB’s in efficiency are back in 2009.

The BIG 10 will battle 20 non-conference bowl teams this campaign, seven more than last season….


Here is my take on the Big 10 For 2009

ILLINOIS – *8 / 6


College football’s best rags-to-riches team in 2007 was back on the streets panhandling last year when prosperity turned the Illini from winners back to losers. Don’t feel too bad for Ron Zook’s squad, though. They’ll erase the stench of that stinker season before you know it. “Ron works at one-speed – 100 miles an hour – and he goes at that speed all the time. From the time he wakes up until he goes to sleep, if he goes to sleep, he is going to be doing anything he can to make his players and football team better,” says Mike Gottfried, ESPN analyst. Fortunately for Zook, his top two producers are back in 2008. SR QB Juice Williams, who led the Big Ten in passing and total offense last season, and Big Ten 1st-team WR Arrelious Benn pave the way. By the way, last year’s offense and defense performed better than 2007’s Rose Bowl team. Go figure. PLAY ON: vs. Minnesota (11/7)

INDIANA – *8 / 9


It was a grand master plan. Move 3-year starting quarterback Kellen Lewis to wide receiver and have him work in tandem with JR QB Ben Chappell. Last spring, Chappell had won the job because of a team suspension handed to Lewis. After winning back the starting job last August, Lewis responded with a dazzling performance in season-opening victory over Western Kentucky that earned a fifth conference player of the week award. Then came a series of nagging injuries and another suspension that slowed Lewis and he spent most of the remainder of the 2008 season either on the sideline or rotating between quarterback, receiver and running back. Head coach Bill Mallory gave Lewis a second chance. Unfortunately, he won’t get a third. Lewis was booted from the team this spring. Nonetheless, 8 other players will be playing new positions this year, including 7 from offense to defense. Talk about a team in transition! PASS

IOWA – *6 / 8


On the whole, there is a lot to like about the Hawkeyes this season. Sure, they lost RB Shonn Greene (1850 yards, 2nd best in the nation) and two 1st team all-Big Ten offensive linemen to the NFL draft, but they are still well-fortified. Five 2nd team all-Big Ten performers, two of whom are offensive linemen, join QB Ricky Stanzi, an all-Big Ten 3rd teamer. Filling Greene’s shoes is SO RB Jewel Hampton, who played as a true freshman in 2008. He rushed for 463 yards and scored seven touchdowns, the most TD’s ever by an Iowa true freshman. Seven home games lace the schedule and home is where the wins have been. Iowa is 42-9 at Kinnick Stadium the last eight years. With Iowa’s offense and defense each improved by more than 50 YPG last season, the Hawkeyes dream of being a player in the Big Ten chase in 2009 may be real. PLAY ON: vs. Michigan State (10/24)

MICHIGAN – *11 / 5

Team Theme – BOTTOMS UP

You know you’ve had a bad year when your team suffered its first nine-loss season in its 129-year history, had a 33-year bowl streak snapped and lost five games SU as a favorite. To put things into perspective for Wolverine head coach Rich Rodriguez, the 9 losses Michigan endured last year equal those Bo Schembechler suffered in his first seven seasons combined with the Wolves. It’s a toss-up who had a rougher year in the state of Michigan, the Wolverines football team or the automakers. In his second year in Ann Arbor, with a cast of 16 starters back from last year’s squad (including 11 on offense), Rodriguez only hopes for the kind of success he had in his second year at West Virginia, when he led the Mountaineers to a 9-4 season after going 3-8 in his debut. It can’t get any worse. PLAY ON: as a dog vs. Ohio State (11/21)



Here’s to a masterful job by Mark Dantonio is his two years with the Spartans. After inheriting a team that had suffered through three straight losing seasons, Dantonio has lifted MSU to new heights in short order, taking them to back-to-back bowl games for the first time since 1997. Given that success and Michigan’s dismal 2008 season, the Spartans will be favored to beat state-rival Michigan in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1967. That’s pretty much a no-no in our books. Losing 3-year starters QB Brian Hoyer and RB Javon Ringer to the NFL draft doesn’t help. The bottom line is we’re not fond of teams that improved their win total by two games despite a decline on both sides of the ball. It’s often a sign of too much bubbly, too soon. Be careful here. PLAY AGAINST: as a favorite vs. Michigan (10/3)

MINNESOTA – *10 / 8


After an atrocious 1-11 mark in 2007, the Gophers tied for the 2nd best turnaround in the nation in 2008 when they finished 7-6 on the season. The biggest strides were made on the defensive side of the ball where Minnesota improved a whopping 138 YPG, marking the 3rd best improvement in the land. In fact, the 22 sacks registered by the defense last year tied Nebraska for top honors in the country. Better news is 18 starters are back in 2009, including QB Adam Weber and SR WR Eric Decker, whose 84 receptions was best in the Big 10 in 2008. Here’s hoping they enjoy their new digs at the TCF Bank Stadium in 2009. That’s where their wins will need to be manufactured, with nine opponents who had winning records last season dotting this year’s itinerary. PLAY AGAINST: vs. Michigan State (10/31)



We called the Wildcats a “sleeper team” last season and, like a heavy dose of Ambien, they knocked the opposition out. Thanks to a vastly improved defense, Pat Fitzgerald’s troops won 9 games for the first time since 1996. This year’s schedule is laced with seven home games (for the third straight year), plus a conspicuous absence of Ohio State and Michigan. That would normally send a ripple of excitement through a coach’s veins. However, the problem is the loss of 23 seniors, including QB C. J. Bacher and RB Tyrell Sutton, the keys to the offense, could pose a major problem. Mike Kafka, who started two games and rushed for 217 yards against Minnesota last season, is projected to take the snaps this year. The Wildcats may not sniff 9 wins this season, but they should be able to sleepwalk their way to another bowl game. PLAY AGAINST: vs. Minnesota (9/26)

OHIO STATE – *4 / 7


The definition of a dual-threat quarterback is one who has exceptional ability passing and running the football. The epitome of the same is Terrelle Pryor, Ohio State’s sophomore sensation. In his freshman season, he ran for 631 yards and threw for 1311 yards while completing 60.6 percent of his pass attempts. To those who question his passing ability, we say rubbish. His 146.5 QB rating was the best in the Big 10. The word around Columbus this year is “expect the unexpected”. What we expect to see is a newly unveiled “pistol offense”, one designed to maximize Pryor’s talents. “I can tell you the coaches are fired up. Coach Tressel is really fired up. I think this is going to be very fun. Everyone seems to be looking forward to this,” exclaimed Pryor. With no back-to-back travelers this season, a 5th straight Big 10 title looms. PLAY ON: vs. IOWA (11/14)

PENN STATE – *5 / 4


There are not many coaches we can do this with so, while we still can, let’s revisit the Joe Paterno library. Since Joe Pa became the head coach at Penn State in 1966, there have been 839 head coaching changes in Division-1 football programs – an average of more than seven per team. The octogenarian’s teams are 40-11 the last four seasons, while his defense is ranked No. 4 overall in that span, allowing 294 YPG. His 383 career-wins keeps him one-up on Bobby Bowden in the race of all-time winningest coaches. More important, he’s fully recovered from hip surgery and is back on the sidelines with his troops. The Lions were hit hard with player losses, especially in the defensive backfield, where all 4 starters are gone. “I’ve very concerned about it. We’ve got a long way to go,” said Paterno. Let’s hope he does, too. PLAY ON: as dog vs. Ohio State (11/7)

PURDUE – 4 / 7


There was a tear in our eye when Joe Tiller left the Boilermakers. After all, he was, pure-and-simple, a moneymaking machine. In home games, that is, where Purdue was 41-29-1 ATS under his tenure. In what is fast becoming a trend in college football these days, a replacement had already been hired in anticipation of Tiller’s retirement. At Purdue, it was Danny Hope, head coach at Eastern Kentucky from 2003-07, where his teams went 32-8 in conference play. Hope worked under Tiller last year and during the 1997-2001 seasons. The offense loses Big 10 passing leader, Curtis Painter, in addition to WR Desmond Tardy and RB Kory Sheets. 5th-year SR QB Joey Elliott hopes to fill Painter’s shoes. “He has all the intangibles to be very good for us,” said Gary Nord, Purdue’s OC. Here’s hoping Nord is right. PLAY ON: vs. Ohio State (10/17)

WISCONSIN – *6 / 5


You can pretty much assess a coach’s worth after his first three years on the job. If this coach owns a better record than his predecessor posted in the previous three year span, the new guy is generally on the path to success. If his team is underachieving, it’s almost always a matter of time before a pink slip is issued. In Brett Bielema’s case, he inherited a team that went 26-12 in its previous three seasons, all under his current boss, Barry Alvarez. The results are in and Bielema has passed the test. He went 28-11 in his first three seasons with the Badgers, and, in the process, improved an already staunch team. Last year’s unit set a school record with six games were decided by 3 or less points. That’s a tendency of good defensive coaches. They out-coach other coaches, even the better ones. PLAY ON: vs. Michigan State (9/26)

Note: Marc Lawrence is a 30-year veteran handicapper. He finished No.1 in the nation (88-63 +25.7 Net Units) in MLB during the 2007 season as documented by Sports Watch in Las Vegas.

Comments are Welcome!!!


Marc Lawrence Has Been Handicapping Sports Professionally Since 1975 – Check Out His Weekly Picks & His DAILY MLB PlAYS Today Here at Capperspicks.com >>>


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  1. As usual, the big game in this conference will be on November 7th when Penn State visits Ohio State. The timeless one, Paterno will have his team primed for an upset in the Big House.

  2. Patrick Murray says:

    Ohio State plays PSU in Happy Valley in 2009.


    Football – 2009 Schedule & Results

    Date Opponent Location Time (ET) Results Media
    Alumni Band Day

    Sat, Sep 05 Navy Columbus, Ohio 12:00 p.m.

    Sat, Sep 12 USC Columbus, Ohio 8:00 p.m.

    Sat, Sep 19 Toledo at Cleveland, Ohio 12:00 p.m.
    ESPN Plus

    Hall of Fame

    Sat, Sep 26 Illinois Columbus, Ohio TBA

    Sat, Oct 03 Indiana * at Bloomington, Ind. 7:00 p.m.
    Big Ten Network

    Sat, Oct 10 Wisconsin Columbus, Ohio TBA

    Sat, Oct 17 Purdue at West Lafayette, Ind. TBA


    Sat, Oct 24 Minnesota Columbus, Ohio 12:00 p.m.

    Sat, Oct 31 New Mexico State Columbus, Ohio TBA

    Sat, Nov 07 Penn State at State College, Penn. TBA

    Sat, Nov 14 Iowa Columbus, Ohio TBA

    Sat, Nov 21 Michigan at Ann Arbor, Mich. TBA

  3. Patrick Murray says:

    One more thing, the “Big House” is Michigan Stadium’s nickname. Ohio Stadium is nicknamed “The Horsheshoe”.