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4C - The Michigan Daily -Thursday, September 7, 2006
BIG TEN PREVIEW
9C - The Michigan Daily - Thursday, September 7, 2006
1. Ohio State
The Buzz: If the top-
ranked Buckeyes live up
to the preseason hype and ride to the
national championship, their explo-
sive offense led by quarterback Troy
Smith will be what brings them there.
Make no mistake about it: Ohio State
will light up the scoreboard.
The Scoop: Although Ohio
State's offense is money in the bank,
its defense is anything but. The Buck-
eyes return just two starters from
their 2005 squad. Ohio State has
talent waiting in the wings, but it's
anybody's guess as to how well the
team's new defense will gel.
The Bottom Line: Even if Ohio
State's defense struggles, few teams
will be able to match the Buckeyes'
offensive firepower. At worst they'll
be in the mix for a Big Ten title. And
the 2006 season as the sexy pick for
Big Ten darkhorse. Iowa coach Kirk
Ferentz returns after he flirted with
making the jump to the NFL's Green
Bay Packers. Rejoining Ferentz is
the core of the offense on a team that
went 7-5 last season.
The Scoop: Most of Iowa's hype
is a product of its schedule. The
Hawkeyes don't play Penn State and
get conference powers Ohio State
and Wisconsin at home. The team's
lone tough road game is against
The Bottom Line: The stars may
be aligned for Iowa to make a run
at the Rose Bowl, but the Hawkeyes
must find a way to replace their All-
American linebacking corps of Chad
Greenway and Abdul Hodge. With-
out this defensive anchor, the likely
high-powered offensive attack could
be all for naught.
but they still boast a top-notch line-
backer corps. Defending Butkus
Award winner Paul Posluszny leads
the deep, talented and experienced
The Scoop: Junior quarterback
Anthony Morelli has huge shoes to
fill with the graduation of last sea-
son's Big Ten Most Valuable Player
Michael Robinson. Morelli doesn't
have Robinson's athleticism, but he
has a live arm.
The Bottom Line: Having
lost 25 lettermen from last season,
Penn State probably doesn't have the
goods to repeat as Big Ten cham-
pion. But if the linebackers carry the
defense and Morelli moves the ball,
Penn State will find itself near the
top of the conference. If not, expect
JoePa's bunch to move back to the
middle of the Big Ten pack.
offense, but his 2006 arsenal could
be severely lacking. Star back Brian
Calhoun is history, leaving a jumbled
mess of backs. The wide receiver sit-
uation is even messier - the Badgers
lost their top seven receivers from
The Bottom Line: Thanks
to a laughable nonconference
schedule, Wisconsin is a virtual
lock to win eight or nine games.
But given the Badgers' gaping
holes at the offensive skill posi-
tions, don't expect Bielema's
inaugural season to be anything
6. Michigan State
The Buzz: Just as in
years past, the topic of foot-
ball in East Lansing begins and ends
with Drew Stanton. Spartan nation
will be carried as far as Stanton can
take it in his final season. The real
question is whether or not his sup-
porting cast will give him enough to
work with to get the Spartans past the
The Scoop: John L. Smith is
on the hot seat, so the creativity he
showed as Louisville's head coach
may increasingly find its way into the
Spartan playbook. A running-back-
by-committee backfield could pay
dividends, but could also prove to be
Michigan State's downfall.
The Bottom Une: Too many
questions and not enough answers
means that Michigan State prob-
ably won't have enough to challenge
the perennial powers in the Big Ten.
But Stanton's athleticism and enough
solid role players may be able to get
the Spartans into at least a bowl game,
which is progress from years past.
The Buzz: In lieu of the
usual preseason talk, the
Northwestern football program spent
the summer dealing with the sud-
den death of its 52-year-old coach,
Randy Walker. Thirty-one-year-old
Pat Fitzgerald steps in for Walker,
becoming the youngest coach in Divi-
The Scoop: Fitzgerald will have
his hands full replacing departed
quarterback Brett Basanez, who set
virtually every Northwestern pass-
ing mark during his career in purple
and white. Redshirt freshman Mike
Kafka won the starting job after a
three-way training camp battle.
The Bottom Une: With a cupcake
nonconference schedule,the Wildcats
may very well go into the Big Ten sea-
son 4-0. And given Northwestern's
propensity for sneaking up on teams,
a heartwarming trip to a bowl game
is not out of the question.
See BIG TEN, page 9C
if Ohio State's nine new defensive 5. Wisconsin
starters click, the Buckeyes may just 4. Penn State
steamroll all the way to Glendale. '''The Buzz: New coach
The Buzz: They call it Bret Bielema takes the
3. Iowa "Linebacker U" for a rea- reins from legendary Barry Alvarez
son. The Nittany Lions lost plenty of and has quite a few tools to work with,
The Buzz: Iowa enters " talent from last season's 11-1 squad, especially on the defensive side of the
ball. Linebacker Mike Zalewski and
safety Joe Stellmacher are ballhawks
who know how to punish offensive
The Scoop: Experienced John
Stocco returns to lead the Badger
Continued from page 5C
definitely pushed me harder to get my
rehab done and try to come back."
Finally, on Oct. 22, 2005 in Iowa
City, Long was ready to make his
return. He wasn't fully recovered,
but he immediately made his pres-
ence felt, helping the Wolverines put
together a 68-yard touchdown drive
during his first series on the field.
Eventuallythe tightly contested game
struck first,connecting on a field goal.
Michigan responded, marching the
ball Iowa's one-yard line. With inches
standing between the Wolverines and
victory, Carr called on Long to usher
reserve tailback Jerome Jackson into
the end zone. One yard later, Michi-
gan celebrated a 23-20 win.
Long's performance was even
more impressive considering the con-
dition he was in at the time.
"Definitely the first couple games
it wasn't 100-percent" Long said. "It
was really weak, painful. But you
know during games you just kind of
shut that out of your mind and just
play through it."
Long fought his way through the
pain and started every game for the
rest of the season. By willing his way
back ontothe field and helping Michi-
gan through the latter part of a tumul-
tuous 2005 campaign, Long earned
plenty of respect from the Michigan
"He spent an exorbitant amount
of time in that training room, getting
treatment on a daily basis," Carr said.
"He came back much sooner than we
expected, because he had a will and a
desire and a determination to play"
Long's vigorous rehab and recov-
ery bolstered his leadership creden-
tials and likely contributed to the
lifelong Michigan fan's election as
team captain. But Long is not simply
the strong, silent type who leads by
example and lets his actions speak for
For one, Long brings his goofy
sense of humor to the often all-too-
serious world of college football.
Riley smiled as he recounted his
linemate's antics at the first meeting
of summer training camp.
"Everybody's pretty amped when
Coach Carr comes in, and we do
various things to show our intensity"
Riley said. "Big man decided to take
his shirt off and wave it in the air. Not
a good sight for us considering we're
men - but maybe some young ladies
somewhere liked it."
Although Long's sense of humor
helps keep his teammates loose, the
true test of his leadershipcomes when
it's time to hit. That's when the usu-
ally fun-loving Long shuts off the
smile and shows off the scowl. It's a
seamless transition Long's co-captain
- and frequent recipient of Long's
playful trash-talking barbs - knows
all too well.
"You know when camp comes
around that you've got to deal with
big Jake, you know he's going to
be coming at you," Woodley said.
"Because you know even though
we joke around, he's still going
to back those words up. Because
he knows I'm going to try to back
mine up. At the end of the day atj
practice, either he's going to get
talked about by me, or I'm going to
get talked about by him."
Putting it together
Moving from right to left tackle,
Long is now responsible for protect-
ing Henne's blindside - an especially
important task given Michigan's pre-
carious back-up quarterback situation.
Even for such a big manthe transition
is a tall order. But Long welcomes theI
"(Left tackle is) a tough spot,"
Long said. "And a lot of responsi-
bility comes on that side. And I'm
really excited to try to live up to that
Heavily recruited out of high
school and long pegged as a poten-
tial NFL prospect, Long is accus-
tomed to high expectations. But this
year, the hype surrounding the 2004
freshman All-American has reached
a whole new level. Long is widely
considered one of the premiere
offensive linemen in the nation,
evidenced by his placement on the
watch list for the Outland Trophy,
awarded annually to the top interior
lineman in college football.
Despite all the talk and preseason
accolades, most of Long's book has
yet to be written. Sure, he opened
plenty of eyes while earning a start-
ing job as a redshirt freshman. Sure,
he managed to contribute during his
redshirt sophomore season while
playing on a severely injured left
leg. But no one knows exactly what
Long can do.
According to his coach, the sky's
"He's an enormously talented guy
with a love for the game and the com-
ability - he has the chance to be one
of the great players we've had here:"
All the ingredients for great-
ness are on the table. A massive
serving of size. An equally huge
portion of willpower. A heap-
ing tablespoon of character. And
now, after a rocky 2005 season,
a healthy, experienced Chef Jake
appears ready to use these items
to their fullest potential- by dic-
ing, grilling and devouring oppos-
ing defenders - his weight-loss
Continued from page 4C
The Buzz: No Big Ten team lost a
larger percentage of contributors than the Gophers.
Still, 12 starters from a team that finished 7-5 and
beat Michigan in Ann Arbor will return.
The Scoop: Like the NFL's Denver Broncos,
Minnesota uses a zone blocking scheme, and many
feel that it doesn't matter who is running the ball.
If this is the case, whoever joins quarterback Brian
Cupito in the backfield could still pose a formidable
rushing attack for Minnesota to build upon.
The Bottom Line: Glen Mason's squad will still
be able to put away the Indianas of the Big Ten, but it
will be a struggle for the Gophers to return safely to
bowl play without last season's nucleus.
The Buzz: Things can only go up
from last season, when the Boilermak-
ers had a losing season and missed a bowl'game for
the first time in 10 years. Purdue coach Joe Tiller
felt the sense of urgency in the offseason, signing
11 junior college players to help the Boilermakers
The Scoop: Quarterback Curtis Painter took over
as the starter midway through last season, giving him
some much-needed experience coming into his first
season as the full-time starter.
The Bottom Line: Tiller's worries are war-
ranted. Purdue possesses the Big Ten's worst
secondary and arguably the conference's worst
defense as a whole. But the Tiller spread offense
has confused defenses since its inception. With
Dorien Bryant returning as the Big Ten's leading
receiver from a year ago, the Boilermakers may be
able to play spoiler.
The Buzz: Year two of Ron Zook's
rebuilding process can't be any worse
than year one. Zook, usually a disciple of the air-
it-out school of thought, has put an extra emphasis
on the ground game in the offseason, adding bulk
to his offensive line.
The Scoop: The Illini allowed 435 points last
season. Though a slight improvement may occur
this year, not enough of Zook's recruits will make
an immediate impact on the defensive side of the
The Bottom Line: Steps in the right directions
are being made, but they look like baby steps. Illi-
nois will have to fight hard not to be cellar dwell-
ers for the second consecutive season.
The Buzz: Six-foot-7 wide receiver
James Hardy is a definite NFL prospect
and has halfway decent quarterback Blake Pow-
ers throwing to him. But there's not much else
The Scoop: This team has stunk for a long,
long time. And there's no reason to believe that
The Bottom Line: Indiana will be lucky to
match last year's Big Ten win total of one.
A SEASON IN THE
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