NCF Nation: Hayo Carpenter
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
The games are back, and so are the picks. Hold your applause. Every Thursday this fall, I'll forecast what will happen in the Big Ten.
Last year, I went 71-17 (80.7 percent) during the regular season. That's all you need to know.
Indiana 27, Eastern Kentucky 17: The pistol offense gets off to a slow start, but Indiana's defense contains Eastern Kentucky and buys time for Ben Chappell and Co. to get going. Running backs Demetrius McCray and Darius Willis have a big night and the Hoosiers rack up five sacks as they open new-and-improved Memorial Stadium with a win.
Ohio State 38, Navy 10: The Mids receive the greeting they deserve from Buckeye Nation, but the reception on the field will be different. Ohio State's defensive line is disciplined enough to stop the triple option, and Navy doesn't appear to be as strong as it has been in past years. Buckeyes quarterback Terrelle Pryor has a nice debut in the win, and Dan Herron has a big day on the ground.
Penn State 45, Akron 17: Joe Paterno returns to the sideline and enjoys the view as running back Evan Royster opens with a 150-yard effort in the opener. Akron quarterback Chris Jacquemain and his veteran wide receivers make some plays against an iffy Nittany Lions secondary, but Penn State pulls away in the second quarter and never looks back.
Northwestern 34, Towson 6: Those expecting a drop-off from Northwestern forget that defense carried this team in 2008 and will do the same this fall. Towson's offense has major question marks and manages just two field goals against the Wildcats, who start slow on offense but pick things up in the second half behind quarterback Mike Kafka and freshman running back Arby Fields. Towson allowed more than 230 rush yards a game last fall.
Michigan State 31, Montana State 13: The Bobcats from Bozeman aren't pushovers, having upset Colorado in 2006 and keeping things close for a while against Minnesota last year. Standout defensive end Dane Fletcher makes some plays early, but Kirk Cousins eventually gets on track and uses his many weapons at wide receiver and tight end. Spartans backup quarterback Keith Nichol also logs time and performs well, keeping the competition tight heading into Week 2.
Minnesota 31, Syracuse 21: One of the more intriguing Week 1 matchups goes to the Gophers, who struggle a bit early amid the hoopla over Doug Marrone's Syracuse debut and Greg Paulus' return to football. Paulus makes a play or two against the Minnesota defense, but Adam Weber and a dynamic group of Gophers wideouts steal the show. Eric Decker and Hayo Carpenter each catch two touchdowns as Minnesota pulls away in the third quarter.
Purdue 31, Toledo 24: Some tense moments in head coach Danny Hope's debut at Purdue, but the Boilermakers prevail thanks to a solid rushing attack led by Ralph Bolden and Jaycen Taylor. Toledo's offense returns plenty of veterans and moves the ball against an iffy Purdue front seven. Bolden turns the tide early in the fourth quarter with a long touchdown run.
Iowa 28, Northern Iowa 9: Iowa needs its defense to step up from the get-go, and the unit comes through against Northern Iowa, a formidable FCS opponent. Hawkeyes junior quarterback Ricky Stanzi displays obvious improvement and finds the rejuvenated Tony Moeaki for two touchdowns. The run game is so-so for Iowa, but it doesn't need much from Paki O'Meara and Adam Robinson in the win.
Michigan 28, Western Michigan 24: Popular opinion is going against the Wolverines after everything that happened this week in Ann Arbor, but Rich Rodriguez's crew finds a way to start 1-0. Tim Hiller and the Broncos have their way with Michigan's secondary in the first half, but Wolverines defensive end Brandon Graham turns the game with a sack and a forced fumble early in the third quarter. Quarterbacks Tate Forcier, Nick Sheridan and Denard Robinson make enough plays against a vulnerable WMU defense.
Illinois 44, Missouri 38: The Illinois-Missouri matchup usually oozes offense, and this year will be no exception. But Juice Williams gets the final say against Sean Weatherspoon and the Tigers, as he finds four different receivers for touchdowns. Sophomore running backs Jason Ford and Mikel LeShoure both show improvement as a dynamic Illini offense secures a big win in the Edward Jones Dome.
Wisconsin 30, Northern Illinois 23: The Huskies are on the rise under second-year coach Jerry Kill and boast a dangerous quarterback in sophomore Chandler Harnish. Wisconsin worries me a bit on both sides of the ball, but running backs Zach Brown and John Clay should have a big day against an NIU defense that lost star Larry English. It'll be tight for a while, but I can't see the Badgers losing a night game at home.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
As most Big Ten blog readers know, I'm a pretty big Adam Weber fan. He has been put under some pretty tough circumstances at Minnesota and performed well, passing for 5,656 yards and 39 touchdowns in his first two seasons as the starter. Though Minnesota's program remains a work in progress, Weber has proven himself as a leader and shown his toughness, leading the Gophers past Illinois last October just six days after undergoing knee surgery.
|Scott Boehm/Getty Images|
|Adam Weber threw for 2,761 yards and 15 TDs last season.|
After operating in the spread offense for two years, Weber will run a new system this fall under coordinator Jedd Fisch. He was limited this spring following left shoulder (non-throwing) surgery, but he's 100 percent entering camp, which began Monday.
Check out some of Weber's thoughts on the upcoming season:
How does it feel to be back on the field again?
Adam Weber: It felt great. We're all a little anxious after spring ball because we left a lot of plays out there. Watching tape, we didn't really execute to our abilities. We took a lot of time this offseason to watch tape and really put things together so we could come out here in this practice and hit the ground running, which I believe we did.
You have the most experienced team in the Big Ten and you're probably dealing with the most change as far as new coaches and scheme. Does it help with the learning curve that you guys are older?
AW: If we were a very young team, we'd be hurting pretty bad right now. But with the amount of veterans we have on the team, we can really throw anything at them because we're all kind of used to it at this point. With the veteran group, there's a commitment level they understand. It's not easy learning a new offense and trying to get used to a new coordinator, but all it takes is time. It's just a matter of how much time do you want to put in. We all sacrificed this summer to give time up here at the complex so we can be really explosive.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Prognostication guru Phil Steele released his preseason All-Big Ten teams Tuesday, and fans of Penn State and Ohio State undoubtedly will be pleased.
Although both teams lost sizable and decorated senior classes, Penn State put six players on Steele's first team, while Ohio State has four. The big surprise is that Penn State quarterback Daryll Clark, widely considered the league's best signal-caller, slipped to the third team behind Illinois' Juice Williams and Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor.
Steele also released his preseason All-America teams, and here's the breakdown for the Big Ten:
First team -- Illinois WR Arrelious Benn, Michigan P Zoltan Mesko
Third team -- Michigan DE Brandon Graham, Penn State DT Jared Odrick, Penn State LB Navorro Bowman, Ohio State PR Ray Small
Fourth team -- Ohio State LG Justin Boren, Northwestern DE Corey Wootton, Illinois LB Martez Wilson, Michigan State LB Greg Jones
Getting back to the Big Ten list, which was generally pretty solid but had some interesting notes and surprises:
- There are clearly two elite wide receivers in the Big Ten in Benn and Decker. After that, it's a crapshoot. Purdue's Keith Smith was the third wideout named to Steele's first team. Unproven players like Minnesota's Hayo Carpenter (second team), Ohio State's DeVier Posey (third team) and Northwestern's Andrew Brewer (fourth team) also earned recognition.
- I was a little surprised to see Purdue's Jaycen Taylor listed as a second-team running back ahead of Iowa's Jewel Hampton. Taylor comes off an ACL injury and never beat out Kory Sheets for the starting job when he was healthy. Hampton filled in very well behind Shonn Greene last year.
- Michigan State running back Edwin Baker was the only incoming freshman to make Steele's list as a fourth-teamer.
- Illinois defensive tackle Josh Brent, who was suspended for spring ball after receiving a DUI in February, is listed on the first team next to Odrick. Brent is a talented player, but Purdue's Mike Neal might have been the safer pick here.
- The offensive line selections were interesting. Experience beat out potential as Wisconsin's John Moffitt earned the second-team nod over Ohio State's Mike Brewster. I was very surprised not to see Northwestern linemen Al Netter or Ben Burkett on the list. Indiana had two linemen selected (Cody Faulkner and Rodger Saffold) despite really struggling in that area a year ago, and Iowa surprisingly only had tackles Bryan Bulaga (first team) and Kyle Calloway (second team) on the rundown.