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HN Big 10 Picks: 8th & 9th

May 25, 2010

Written by Jon Miller

Hawkeye Nation

Yesterday Jon Miller shared his predictions for the teams he believes will finish in 10th and 11th place in the Big Ten for the 2010 season.  Today, it’s time to look at his picks for which teams finish 9th & 8th.  I know we told you yesterday we’d also add one more team today, but with the way the teams broke out and their projected Big Ten records, Miller see’s two teams tying with four wins and two with five, so the math breaks easier this day…on either Thursday or Friday, you will have an odd number of teams showing up in these previews…ok math wizards, there is a clue for you.

9th NORTHWESTERN 2-6 in Big Ten play, 5-7 overall:  The Cats return 14 starters from an eight-win team that could have been a ten win team fairly easily.

However, they suffer a huge loss in quarterback Mike Kafka to graduation.  He was my 1st team All Big Ten quarterback from last year, not that my vote counts but I watch every Big Ten team play at least half of their games.  Iowa fans got to see Dan Persa in action, and he will be the likely replacement for Kafka and his 3,430 yards passing and 16 touchdown passes, and 299 yards rushing.  Persa is no where near the thrower Kafka built himself in to, or wasn’t when we saw him last fall in Kinnick.

However, he will have all five offensive linemen back this year, a huge boost.  He’ll lose the Cats two top receiving targets who each had over 855 yards with Andrew Brewer having nine touchdown receptions.

It’s a different story on defense, the unsung hero for the Cats the last two years.  Corey Wootton is gone, and though he wasn’t fully healed during last season after his Alamo bowl ACL injury, he was still someone you had to keep an eye on (see sack of Rick Stanzi that busted him up, even if it was a facemask).  Four of Northwestern’s top five tacklers are gone and Wootton wasn’t among those four.  Three of their four starting members of the secondary are gone, too.

Predicted Losses:  @ Vanderbilt, @Minnesota, Michigan State, @Penn State, Iowa, Illinois @Wisconsin

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Predicted Wins: Illinois State, @Rice, C. Michigan, Purdue & @Indiana

I could see this being a shaky pick as well…there are really just two bad teams in the league this year; Indiana and Minnesota, so teams five through nine are hard to pin down.  A team with an inexperienced quarterback and a suspect defense don’t fare well on the road.

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8th PURDUE 3-5 in Big Ten play, 6-6 overall:  The Boilermakers got a boost a few weeks back when coach Danny Hope announced that quarterback Justin Siller would be reinstated after having gotten the boot last year due to some academic improprieties.  He’ll be the odds on favorite to replace the departed Joey Elliott who threw for over 3,000 yards last year and 22 touchdown passes.  Four of Purdue’s top five receiving targets return along with three of five starting linemen, but leading rusher Ralph Bolden, who gained nearly 1,000 yards last year, suffered and ACL injury this spring and will not likely be ready for the 2010 season.

That’s a big blow and can be the difference between six to eight wins, in my opinion.  Then again, maybe not; look at Iowa from 2009.  However, the Hawkeye defense was best in the nation status, where Purdue’s defense will not be that good this year, although they do return three of four on the line and two of three linebackers.  Maybe I am selling Purdue a bit short here, and of all of my predictions, this one might be the biggest miss I have on the board…this one, or Michigan, which you will see later this week.

Predicted Losses:  @Notre Dame, @Northwestern, @Ohio State, @Illinois, Wisconsin & @ Michigan State

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Predicted Wins:  Western Illinois, Ball State, Toledo, Minnesota, Michigan and Indiana

As you can see with my projected losses, there is room for debate.  I could see them beating Northwestern, Illinois and Michigan State.  However, all three of those games are on the road, and I am not sold on Siller’s maturity. As was the case with Northwestern, you have to pack a defense to win on the road, and you need consistent play and leadership from your quarterback; I think Purdue is lacking in both these areas until I see differently.

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