My 2010 Conference Outlook: Big Ten (& Notre Dame)

Northwestern (8-4, 4-4) Northwestern has been one of the most consistent teams in the Big Ten over the past few seasons but they’ve remained in the middle of the pack. Will this be the season the Wildcats make a climb up to the top?
Michigan (6-6, 3-5) Rich Rod very likely will be on his way out of Ann Arbor if he doesn’t produce a Bowl-caliber team this season. Right out of the gate Michigan will face a UConn team that was red-hot last season and then travel to Notre Dame the following weekend for what will most likely be a slugfest. I think they take 1-2 but if they’re able to win both those games my prediction is that they’ll finish strong enough to play in a late December bowl game. Michigan will certainly be able to whoop up on the teams that they’re supposed to beat up on and maybe even steal a win from a team that they’re not.
Purdue (6-6, 3-5) Danny Hope’s first season probably didn’t go as expected at Purdue but he didn’t do terribly. Purdue could have very easily ended up being a surprise team in 2009 if it weren’t for so many close losses (i.e.—Oregon, Notre Dame, MSU). The motto for the Boilermakers this season ought to be: FINISH.
Illinois (4-8, 2-6) Illinois had a very disappointing 2009 season and 2010 could be do or die for Ron Zook. U of I will have to find a new identity after losing Juice to graduation. Towards the end of his 4-year career Juice Williams hardly lived up to the hype but he was not the sole reason for Illinois’ failures.
Indiana (4-8, 0-8) Indiana is, well…Indiana, and I don’t expect much from this team in ’10. They almost pulled off a thrilling upset against Michigan last year but they’ll be lucky to get 1 conference win this year.
Minnesota (3-9, 0-8) The Golden Gophers have played in December the past two years and they’d like to play another bowl game again this year. That’s going to be hard after losing the most underrated wide receiver in the Big Ten last season in Eric Decker. Fortunately, Minnesota returns plenty of other starters on offense including signal-caller Adam Weber. However, on defense only 2 players return in the secondary. The lack of experience on the other side of the ball could kill Minnesota this season.
Notre Dame (6-6) Things will get better in South Bend before it gets worse, but for 2010 I don’t see Notre Dame making any dramatic improvements. 6-6 is a solid start for Brian Kelly in year one. 


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