With the 2009 football season looming a mere 4+ months away, it’s as good a time as any to take a first look at Michigan’s upcoming schedule, and determine whether the teams the Wolverines will face this year should get better or worse (or remain the same) from last year to this. I also reserve the right to be completely wrong.
2008 Record: 9-4 (6-2 MAC)
Key losses: S Louis Delmas, LB Austin Pritchard, WR Jamarko Simmons
Key returning players: QB Tim Hiller, RB Brandon West
Projection: Same. Sure, teams lose players to the NFL every year, but it’s not fair to the Broncos (nor would it be to basically any MAC team) to assume they’ll be able to replace a second-round pick in the secondary. However, the offense should really continue trucking behind the QB play of Tim Hiller. The Broncos should be about the same as they were last year, though they’ll rely even more heavily on a high-flying offense to make up for a much weaker defense.
2008 Record: 7-6 (0-1 Syracuse)
Key losses: WR David Grimes, S David Bruton
Key returning players: QB Jimmy Clausen, RB Armando Allen, WR Golden Tate
Projection: Up. Based on roster composition alone, the Irish should be pretty rockin’ this year. One impoortant caveat: you could say that about the last two years as well, and they were somewhere between terrible and mediocre over each of the previous two seasons. Is Charlie Weis just one big, fat FAIL, or will he start to get the talent he has assembled to perform? There’s no excuse (lol book title/disingenuous motto) for the Irish to not beat up on most of their schedule this year.
2008 Record: 3-9 (2-6 MAC)
Key losses: RB Terrence Blevins, WR Tyler Jones, LB Daniel Holtzclaw, S Jacob Wyatt
Key returning players: QB Andy Schmitt, WR Jacory Stone, LB Andre Hatchett
Projection: Up. The Eagles return some key pieces, though they also lose some important ones, the upgrade at the head coaching position appears to be a substantial one. Eastern was terrible last year, save the upset of Central Michigan in their final game of the year, and even anything approaching competency would be a leap in the right direction.
2008 Record: 3-9 (1-7 Big Ten)
Key losses: RB Marcus Thigpen
Key returning players: QB Ben Chappell, QB/WR/? Kellen Lewis, WR/CB Ray Fisher
Projection: Same. You can tell the Indiana coaching staff is really grasping at straws in an effort to not get fired at the end of this year. They’re moving key players around (2nd-leading receiver Ray Fisher to corner, best offensive weapon Kellen Lewis all over the field, etc.), and completely revamping their schemes (reports say they’ve almost exclusively worked out of the pistol this spring). If it doesn’t work, Bill Lynch and co. are probably going to get the axe.
2008 Record: 9-4 (6-2 Big Ten)
Key losses: QB Brian Hoyer, RB Javon Ringer, S Otis Wiley
Key returning players: LB Greg Jones, WR Mark Dell
Projection: Down. The Spartans were beneficiaries of a bad Big Ten and some good luck last year. They were more like a 7-6 team than the 9-4 that they actually went. Take away 3 of their 4 most important players (the fourth is Jones), and they should be worse. Take away that luck, and they’re just a team. Adam Rittenberg will still predict that they win the National Championship.
2008 Record: 9-4 (5-3 Big Ten)
Key losses: RB Shonn Greene, DTs Mitch King and Matt Kroul,
Key returning players: WR Andy Brodell, LBs Pat Angerer and Jeremiha Hunter, QB Ricky Stanzi
Projection: Same. The Hawkeyes lose arguably their three most important players in Greene (no, Rittenberg, you can’t just baselessly say “I think Jewel Hampton will be at least as good as they guy who won the Doak Walker Award”) and the defensive tackles. However, they upgrade slightly at almost every other position, and assuming they can stay healthier than they have in the past couple years, they should be about as good as they were in ’08. Of course last year, they were something of an anti-MSU, and lost a couple games they shouldn’t have. The Hawkeyes will be about the same quality of team, but the record may improve.
2008 Record: 5-6 (5-3 MEAC)
Key losses: QB Vashon Winton, RBs Chris Strother and Kareem Jones, LB Kevin Conner
Key returning players: DB Avery Grant, WR Laronne Moore
Projection: Down, down down. For a team that wasn’t even good to begin with, losing 3 of your top 5 tacklers, your 4-year starter at QB, and your top 3 running backs can be little other than a recipe for disaster. Delaware State is a true 1-AA cupcake, and will be even worse this year than they were in 2008.
2008 Record: 11-2 (7-1 Big Ten)
Key losses: WRs Derrick Williams, Deon Butler, and Jordan Norwood, 3 offensive linemen
Key returning players: QB Daryll Clark, RBs Evan Royster and Stephfon Green, LB Sean Lee
Projection: Down. The Spread HD worked in 2008 because Clark was on-point all year, and the Lions had the skill position talent on the outside to force defenses to spread the whole field. With Clark tailing off in the last few games (albeit due to injury, perhaps), and the OL and wideouts gone, PSU won’t be the offensive force that they were last year. Defensively, the return of Sean Lee should help in the middle. However, the top 3 defensive ends left, and #4 is out for the season with a torn ACL.
2008 Record: 5-7 (3-5 Big Ten)
Key losses: LB Brit Miller, CB Vontae Davis, WR Will Judson
Key returning players: QB Juice Williams, WR Arrelious Benn, LB Martez Wilson
Projection: Same. Like Iowa, the record might improve, but the team will be about as good in 2009. The offense should really click with a senior Juice Williams and junior Arrelious Benn, though you could have said the same last year (and the Illini were awesome at times, just horrifically inconsistent). The defense should take major steps back with its best two players, LB Brit Miller and Vontae Davis, gone and the third best player, LB Martez Wilson, doing things like getting stabbed in a bar during the offseason.
2008 Record: 4-8 (2-6 Big Ten)
Key losses: QBs Curtis Painter and Justin Siller, RB Kory Sheets, WRs Greg Orton and Desmond Tardy, LB Anthony Heygood, S Torri Williams
Key returning players: S Joe Holland, QB Joey Elliott
Projection: Down. Purdue sucked last year, and nearly all of their best players are leaving town because their eligibility has expired (everyone but Siller) or because they cheat on exams (Siller). Couple all that with a transition to a new offensive scheme and a plan to rely on several true freshmen despite their lack of guru approval, and Danny Hope’s first year in West Lafayette may be a difficult one. There could be a coaching upgrade as Wilford Brimley had been mailing it in the past couple years, but there is basically no talent for the Boilers to work with.
2008 Record: 7-6 (3-5 Big Ten)
Key losses: RB PJ Hill, TEs Garrett Graham and Travis Beckum, LB DeAndre Levy, LB Jonathan Casillas
Key returning players: QB Dustin Sherer, WRs David Gilreath and Nick Toon, LB Jaevery McFadden
Projection: Up. The Badgers were a team that lost plenty of games they shouldn’t have, and the important question for tham is whether that was bad luck or the horrifically bad coaching ability of Bret Bielema. The early appearances are a bit of both, so the Badgers should be a bit better, but not by leaps and bounds. Hill wasn’t even Wisconsin’s best RB for much of the year, and Sherer was the better QB, despite Allan Evridge starting the year under center. Simply getting the right pieces the ball more often should help. I think Bielema has a definite ceiling, especially with players he has recruited and coached for four year.
2008 Record: 10-3 (7-1 Big Ten)
Key losses: RB Beanie Wells, LBs James Laurinaitis and Marcus Freeman, CB Malcolm Jenkins, WRs Brian Robiskie and Brian Hartline
Key returning players: QB Terrelle Pryor, RB Dan Herron, CB Chimdi Chekwa
Projection: Down. The Buckeyes really should have been awesome last year, and might have been if Terrelle Pryor had started the whole year, and not been a true freshman. Alas, this was the case, and OSU’s last best chance at a national title for the next couple years leaves town with Beanie Wells and James Laurinaitis. Regardless, the Buckeyes are never going to fall completely off the map as long as Jim Tressel is the coach, so there’s a definite floor for their team. either way, they’ll take a significant step back in 2009.
Posted under Analysis, Football