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HN Big 10 Picks: 6th & 7th

May 26, 2010

Written by Jon Miller

Hawkeye Nation

Jon Miller is back with his 2010 Big Ten Conference football predictions.  We’re up to his picks for 6th & 7th place.  If you missed the earlier predictions from this week, here they are:

Picks 8th & 9th
Picks 10th & 11th

T-6th Michigan State 4-4 in Big Ten play, 8-4overall:  The Spartans return 13 starters; seven on offense and six on defense including several of their top playmakers.  Last year, Sparty was tabbed as the #3 team in the league by the conference’s media in Chicago, but they fell short of that perch, finishing 4-4 in league play and 6-7 overall, losing to Texas Tech in the Alamo Bowl.

They return two quarterbacks that saw time last year; Kirk Cousins (2,680 passing yards, 19 touchdowns to 9 INT’s) and Keith Nichol.  They return a pair of young running backs in Larry Caper and Edwin Baker that showed promise last year.  However, they lose three of their five starting offensive linemen and leading reciever Blair White and his 70 receptions for 990 yards.  He became an Eric Decker-like presence for Michigan State last year, so his loss will be significant.

Last year’s Big Ten Defensive MVP Greg Jones returns at linebacker, one of the best tacklers in the nation (154 in 2010, to go along with nine sacks).  Sparty loses their nose tackle and a starting defensive end, in addition to the loss of a starting linebacker, corner and safety.

This continues to be a program that recruits well enough to perform better on the field than they do, if that makes sense.  This has been a program that has underachieved for the better part of the last two decades.  Mark Dantonio enters his fourth year in East Lansing with a record of 22-17, which is respectable, but their fans feel a bit let down by the 2009 performance.

Then again, some might argue that Sparty’s job is to just get the fans to mid October and the start of basketball season; anything else is a bonus.  I think they’ll get that bonus this year when others don’t expect it.

Predicted Wins: W. Michigan, Fla. Atlantic, Notre Dame, No. Colorado, Illinois, @NW, Minnesota & Purdue

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Predicted Losses: Wisconsin, @Michigan, @Iowa & @Penn State

Bowl Projection:  I see Sparty going to the Insight, which is the 5th pick in the Big Ten pecking order.  However, since I once again see the Big Ten sending two teams to the BCS, this will be the fourth pick from the league, behind the Cap One,  Outback and Gator Bowls.  This is the slot formerly occupied by the Alamo Bowl, which no longer has an affiliation with the Big Ten.

T-6th Illinois 4-4 in Big Ten play, 6-6 overall:  After having made my picks over the weekend and looking at them again this week as I write these capsules, there are some instances where I am second guessing myself.  This is one of them…however, I my head hurts too much to go back in and change the math, so we’ll go with this pick for right now and see what develops out of the summer. I typically do this exercise again just before the season starts and after we have had a chance to digest any training camp injuries, so Illinois is a candidate to move south, while Northwestern is a candidate to move north.

But having gone through their schedule, and knowing they do have talent on that roster and the Illini getting to host Indiana, Purdue and Minnesota, there is three wins right there that I can see.

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They lose quarterback Juice Williams, but I am not so sure they won’t be able to get as much production out of Nathan Scheelhasse as they did out of Juice last year.  Once Juice lost Rashard Mendenhall after the 2007 season, the Illini coaching staff lost any sort of mojo they had…as well as losing their influential offensive coordinator after the 2008 season, Mike Locksley.  Juice went from a power option quarterback and one that could throw a bit, to a player that was asked to throw it too much for his skill set.  Not surprisingly, Illinois has suffered the past two years.

They return three of five starters on the offensive line, and talents in RB Mikel Leshoure and WR Jarred Fayson.  They still have skill position talent in the older classes, but the Zooker’s window is closing fast.  They return seven starters on defense, and five of their front seven.

This pick might come back to sting, and I can see myself moving them down in late August.  But we’ll keep them here for now.

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Predicted Wins:  So. Illinois, No. Illinois, Indiana, Purdue, Minnesota & @NW

Predicted Losses: Missouri, Ohio State, @Penn State, @MSU, @Michigan, @Fresno State

Bowl Prediction: Texas Bowl.

NOTE:  I also have Purdue going to the Dallas Bowl, something I did not denote on Tuesday but have changed that in their capsule.

COMING THURSDAY: Two teams that I see tying for 4th place in the league
COMING FRIDAY: This year’s Big Ten Champion and Rose Bowl qualifier, plus the next two in line

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