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The Man In The Box
'14 Bowl Upsets Champ

Illinois Spring practice starts March 29, Spring Game April 23
What needs working on ... Attitude. Ron Turner was a solid head coach who couldn't get Illinois football to become the power it should've been. Ron Zook has to find a way to make Illinois more than just a basketball school. On the field, the Illini has to start playing better defense. It's been years since the secondary has been able to slow down a decent passing attack.
The most important position to watch is ... Quarterback. New offensive coordinator Ed Zaunbrecher doesn't have a Chris Leak to work with, but Brad Bower and Chris Pazan are interesting prospects. 99% of last year's offensive problems came from an inability to decide on a starting quarterback; this has to be resolved by spring ball.
Spring attitude... Losing can no longer be tolerated. It's not like Illinois was happy to lose under Turner, but there was almost a sense that things were never going to turn around. Zook is an uber-positive coach who has a decent group of athletes to work with on both sides of the ball and, arguably, the best 1-2 running punch in the league in E.B. Halsey and Pierre Thomas. There's a lot to get excited about, but there's also a long way to go.

<TABLE id=table3 cellSpacing=4 width=130 align=right border=0><TBODY><TR><TD bgColor=#ffffcc>Predicted finish before spring ball
1. Ohio State
2. Iowa
3. Michigan
4. Purdue
5. Minnesota
6. Michigan State
7. Penn State
8. Wisconsin
9. Northwestern
10. Illinois
11. Indiana
Indiana Spring practice starts March 22, Spring Game April 15
What needs working on ... Defense. Indiana and new head coach Terry Hoeppner have to address the problems on defense before ever hoping to be more than a Big Ten bottom feeder. The Hoosiers allowed 453 yards and 31 points per game last year hurt most by a porous run D. If you can't stop the run in the Big Ten, you can't win.
The most important position to watch is ... You name it. The offense needs playmakers to emerge this spring as the team's attack, RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis, transferred and QB Matt LoVecchio and WR Courtney Roby are gone. The defense has to replace most of the starters from last year's disaster.
Spring attitude... Start from scratch. Hoeppner has taken on one of the most difficult tasks in college football and has to completely change everything about the program. Every position has to be open from day one and all remnants and ideas from past years have to be flushed out.

Iowa Spring practice starts March 23, Spring Game April 16
What needs working on ... Getting used to a running game. A ridiculous number of injuries to the running backs made Iowa a one-dimensional attack finishing 116th in the nation in rushing. QB Drew Tate is the unquestioned leader of the offense, but that doesn't mean he couldn't use a little bit of help. While head coach Kirk Ferentz won't have to go to the number six running back on the depth chart this year, he'll want to build up the depth in case there's a problem again.
The most important position to watch is ... Defensive lineman. Jonathan Babineaux and Matt Roth were terrors on the Hawkeye line last season while Derek Robinson and Tyler Luebke were more than solid. Now the line has to be completely rebuilt needing to replace 22 of the team's 30 sacks and 51.5 tackles for loss.
Spring attitude... Act as if. Iowa needs to act as if it's the favorite for the Big Ten title. The offense has to act as if it'll be among the most effective in America and the linebacking corps has to act as if its the best in college football. This isn't a nice little overachieving team anymore; this is a full-fledged powerhouse good enough to beat anyone.

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<EMBED src='http://bannerfarm.ace.advertising.com/bannerfarm/47710/sc_300x250.swf?clickTag=http://servedby.advertising.com/click/site=0000697646/mnum=0000240819' quality=high WIDTH=300 HEIGHT=250 TYPE='application/x-shockwave-flash' PLUGINSPAGE='http://www.macromedia.com/shockwave/download/index.cgi?P1_Prod_Version=ShockwaveFlash'></EMBED></OBJECT><!-- ---------- Copyright 2000,---------- --></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE></P>Michigan
What needs working on ... Improving the defense. The offense has more than enough weapons to have another great season, but the Wolverines won't win the Big Ten title if the defense doesn't play better than it did at the end of last year. The back seven was helpless against Ohio State's Troy Smith and never made a play against Vince Young in the lost to Texas in the Rose Bowl. UM allowed an average of 33 points per game over the final four outings.
The most important position to watch is ... Punter and defensive back. You don't get better by losing Ernest Shazor, Marlin Jackson and Markus Curry from your secondary. Punter Adam Finley averaged 43 yards per kick and put 13 inside the 20 as one of the team's unsung weapons.
Spring attitude... Michigan has to use this spring to tweak. It'll be one of the favorites to win the loaded Big Ten, but there are several minor question marks. Can the passing game flourish after the loss of Braylon Edwards? Can Chad Henne make a jump in production? Can Mike Hart do that again? Will the defense be better? The way last season ended will prevent the Wolverines from being complacent.

Michigan State
Spring practice starts March 25, Spring Game April 22
What needs working on ... Holding on to the ball. John L. Smith teams are always known for being a bit high risk/high reward, but the Spartans only forced 14 takeaways and turned it over 24 times for the Big Ten's worst turnover margin. The run defense could stand to be stronger.
The most important position to watch is ... Placekicker. Outside of the right side of the offensive line, the only major loss is at kicker where Dave Rayner connected on 22 of 31 field goals last year with five of his nine misses coming from beyond 50 yards. Steady placekickers don't just come along every day.
Spring attitude...This has to be a bowl year. The Spartans blew too many chances last season starting off with a puzzling 19-14 loss at Rutgers, hurt most by a triple-overtime gag against Michigan and finishing up with a bizarre 37-13 loss to Penn State and a 41-38 loss to Hawaii. There's too much returning talent to shoot for anything less than a top five Big Ten finish

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What needs working on ... The return game and pass defense. The Gophers lose top CB Ukee Dozier and SS Justin Fraley from a secondary that allowed a Big Ten worst 266 yards per game. Worse yet, the secondary never came up with a big stop highlighted by the game-winning drive by Michigan in the season chancing 27-24 Wolverine win. The Gophers could use some work returning kicks after only averaging 7.1 yards on punt returns and 18.55 yards on kickoffs even though Marion Barber III was the main return man.
The most important position to watch is ... Defensive end and kicker. The Gopher pass rush was anemic last year outside of Darrell Reid and his 7.5 sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss. The faster someone can step up as the team's dominant pass rusher, the better life will be for the secondary. Rhys Lloyd was a steady field goal kicker hitting 12 of 18 with five of his misses coming from beyond 40 yards. He wasn't a great punter, but he still averaged 39.8 yards per kick putting 13 inside the 20.
Spring attitude... Minnesota is always the team looking for respect and demanding to be considered among the Big Ten's best teams. Respect has to be earned and there can't be the meltdown there was last year losing five of the final six Big Ten games starting with the heartbreaking Michigan loss. This is the most loaded team Glen Mason has had since arriving in Minneapolis; now he has to prove he can get his program to the next level.

Spring practice starts March 29, Spring Game April 23
What needs working on ... Pass defense. The Wildcats allowed 252 yards per game hurt by horrific bookend performances starting off against TCU and ending with Hawaii. CB Marvin West and SS Dominique Price are gone, so this will be a major area of concern this spring.
The most important position to watch is ... Defensive tackle. Luis Castillo and Colby Clark were rocks on the inside with Castillo finishing with 75 tackles with two sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss while Clark made 39 stops with 2.5 sacks. The run defense finished eighth in the Big Ten, but it wasn't all that bad only allowing 139 yards per game. If the defensive interior isn't fortified, the linebacking corps will see a lot of work its way.
Spring attitude... Improve on last year. As long as replacements can be found on the lines, there's no reason the Wildcats can't be as productive as last season when they finished 6-6 missing out on a bowl game. They've been kicking themselves over close losses to TCU and Hawaii, but they were able to win three overtime games including a classic over Ohio State. There has to be a little bit of improvement in all areas to hope for a winning record with a nasty Big Ten schedule.

Ohio State
Spring practice starts March 31, Spring Game April 23
What needs working on ... Improving the consistency of the offense and holding on to the ball. The attack exploded over the final two games of the year hanging 27 on Michigan and 33 on Oklahoma State. Now the Buckeyes have to do that from game one with enough potential to have the best offense yet under Jim Tressel. The turnovers need to slowdown after giving up 23 last year. Tressel ball relies on ball security.
The most important position to watch is ... Kicker. How do you immediately replace one of the greatest kickers in college football history? How many times did Mike Nugent bail out the anemic offense and prove to be the difference maker in tight wins? Buckeye fans will be eager to see how the kicking situation looks this spring.
Spring attitude... Almost all of the key cogs are returning for the Buckeyes in what has the potential to be a huge season. Everyone will be excited about the early season showdown against Texas as a win will show that OSU will be in the hunt for the national title. This spring has to be about generating more out of the offense and making sure the defense gets strong enough so there aren't any letdowns like there were last year against Northwestern and Iowa.

Penn State
Spring practice starts March 28, Spring Game April 23
What needs working on ... Take a wild guess. The offense averaged 311 yards and 17.7 points per game last season with five games scoring in single digits. There's going to be an infusion of young talent from the great recruiting class this summer, but the main pieces have to be in place this spring. Most importantly, the passing game has to be better as it was flat out painful throughout last season. If there aren't any field stretchers, the running game will suffer once again.
The most important position to watch is ... Quarterback. Will Michael Robinson use his experience to get the starting nod, or will he be used as a jack-of-all-trades again so Anthony Morelli can get the job? The Nittany Lions need as many offensive playmakers as possible so the hope will be for Morelli to grow into the position and Robinson can be used as an explosive wideout. The worst case scenario is for more quarterback confusion like there has been the last few years; either Robinson is a quarterback or he isn't. Joe Paterno has to settle on one guy.
Spring attitude... It's time to pull out all the stops. Things have been down for too long by Penn State standards, but the defense is in place to demand nothing less than a winning season and a run at the Big Ten title. If the offense doesn't produce more and can't come up with a new wrinkle or two, it'll be a fight for a winning season with another great defensive year wasted.

Spring practice starts April 2, Spring Game April 23
What needs working on ... Pass defense and punt returns. The Boilermakers were 112th in the nation returning punts with a 5.22 yard average and 89th in pass defense allowing 240 yards per game. Chalk up the problems in the secondary to a little bit of youth, but the hope is for experience to turn into production with everyone returning.
The most important position to watch is ... Offensive lineman. Guard Tyler Moore and tackle David Owen are gone from the right side of the line. That's the only real concern on a team loaded with experience and potential. Few teams could lose a Kyle Orton and Taylor Stubblefield and be just fine.
Spring attitude... There's no reason not to think Big Ten title. The two deep on the defense from the Sun Bowl loss to Arizona State returns intact while QB Brandon Kirsch should make sure the offense continues to roll. With no Michigan or Ohio State on the schedule, there's no excuse not to finish among the top two in the final conference standings.

Spring practice starts March 10, Spring Game April 16
What needs working on ... Passing. The passing attack has too many veterans and too many good players not to be better. Colorado transfer Brian Calhoun will make sure the running game still works, but he'll have a hard time doing much if QB John Stocco isn't better. Reigned in by the confines of the offense, Stocco wasn't able to do much with his great receiving corps with the exception of a great performance against Minnesota. When he had to step up and be effective late in the season, he wasn't able to.
The most important position to watch is ... Defensive line. The battle for the starting quarterback spot between Stocco and Tyler Donovan will be the talk of spring ball as new co-offensive coordinator Paul Chryst will have some evaluating to do. Things will be fine in the offensive backfield, but the same can't be said for a defensive line that loses three NFL starters in Erasmus James, Anttaj Hawthorne and Jason Jefferson along with sure-draft pick Jonathan Welsh. Offensive guards Dan Buenning and Jonathan Clinkscale will also be missed.
Spring attitude... Rebuilding is a dirty word. The Badgers hit a wall late last year and crashed hard losing the final three games and blowing a chance at the Rose Bowl. The rest of the Big Ten (outside of Indiana) is better than 2004 while Wisconsin is a little bit worse. Go ahead Wisconsin and play the "nobody believes in us" disrespect card as motivation.
I think what they wrote about us is pretty fair for the most part. I think they took a safe angle in their writing and it's for the most part all true. They should have maybe mentioned our need to find some consistency and reliability at the RB spot. Other than that it was fairly basic and briefly thorough.
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Piney said:
I will assume a typo. But I do love CFN. Best place to get information about college football bar none.
Agreed...Fiutak is 2nd behind Bill Simmons as my favorite sports writer, despite the fact Fiu almost always picks against the Buckeyes.
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The most important position to watch is ... Kicker. How do you immediately replace one of the greatest kickers in college football history?

*tips his hat* g'luck out there nuge. we miss you already.

4 years ago i would have laughed histerically at the thought of one of my all time fav bucks would be a kicker.
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