What will Michigan State do for an encore? Last season was one for the ages, as the Spartans went 13-1, won the Big Ten and captured the Rose Bowl. The challenge is to stay hungry. Will MSU still have that chip on the shoulder? That spark? That desire to win big now that the Spartans have scaled the summit?
No sugarcoating it: This is a big season for Michigan and Brady Hoke, who has seen his win total drop each of his three seasons in Ann Arbor. Last year ended in a heap, as the Wolverines saw a 5-0 start melt into a 7-5 finish. The offense was an abomination, as Michigan struggled to get a push up front and run. As a consequence, coordinator Al Borges lost his job and Doug Nussmeier was hired from Alabama. Will it help? Stay tuned.
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Wisconsin has been a bellwether Big Ten program, going to Rose Bowls from 2011-13 and just missing a BCS game last year before landing in the Capital One Bowl. Can the beat go on for Gary Andersen in Year Two? “Lots of questions on offense,” said Andersen. “Wide receiver is the big question mark. We need some men to step up.”
Looking for a bounce-back team? Look no further than Northwestern in what should be an intriguing and wide-open Big Ten West race. The Wildcats began 2013 glowing, coming off five bowls in a row with dreams of a division title dancing in their head. But after a 4-0 start, NU slumped to a 5-7 mark. Close losses were killer. There was a three-point defeat to Minnesota; seven to Iowa; three to Nebraska; and a triple-overtime loss to Michigan.
Quick! Who is the Big Ten’s returning passing yards leader? Chances are, you’re thinking it’s Christian Hackenberg or Nate Sudfeld, right? Nope, it’s Devin Gardner (2,960 yards). Who will find his name on top of the passing yards list at season’s end? See Tom Dienhart, Sean Merriman and Brent Yarina’s predictions in this post.
There is only one way for the Purdue offense to go after last season: up. That’s good news for coordinator John Shoop. He isn’t dwelling on the past. He’s trying to learn from it and move forward. Negativity won’t help. Positivity will. And Shoop emotes good thoughts.
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