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#84 Purdue Boilermakers



Big Ten West Division PREDICTION


HEAD COACH: Darrell Hazell, 4-20 (2 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: John Shoop | DEF. COORDINATOR: Greg Hudson

showed improvement in its second season under Darrell Hazell. Unfortunately, the end result is still just four victories overall and none at home in play in Hazell's two seasons leading the Boilermakers. Sixteen starters return, giving Hazell plenty of experience to work with, but it's probably too much to expect this Purdue team to climb out of the cellar in the .

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Previewing Purdue’s Offense for 2015

Junior quarterback Austin Appleby, who started the 2014 season’s final seven games and led the Boilermakers to their only victory in coach Darrell Hazell’s two seasons at , returns but will have to improve after an ugly November in which he completed at least 50 percent of his passes in only two of four games. If he struggles early, redshirt freshman David Blough or true freshman Elijah Sindelar will be waiting in the wings.

The Boilermakers must replace their top two running backs — Akeem Hunt and Raheem Mostert — but have promising freshman Markell Jones, Indiana’s 2014 Mr. Football who rushed for 60 touchdowns as a high school senior, and sophomore Keyante Green, who rushed for 199 yards as a backup in 2014.

Led by senior center Robert Kugler, the entire starting line returns, and senior wide receiver Danny Anthrop will give the Boilermakers one of the Big Ten’s top targets if he is 100 percent after undergoing knee surgery in early December. Anthrop caught 38 passes for 616 yards in only nine games, suffering a knee injury at Nebraska in Week 10.

Previewing Purdue’s Defense for 2015

, which includes an in-depth look at all 14 teams, features and predictions for the upcoming season.

Eight of ’s 12 opponents in 2014 scored 30 points or more against a defense that was feeling its way while playing a bunch of freshmen and sophomores. Middle linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley, now a sophomore, will anchor the 2015 defense after making 76 tackles as a freshman. Junior linebacker Jimmy Herman made 56 tackles a year ago, and sophomore Danny Ezechukwu also is a returning starter.

Junior Evan Panfil and sophomore Gelen Robinson will step into the starting end slots to replace Ryan Russell and Jalani Phillips. Junior Jake Replogle returns as a starting tackle, but this unit knows it must improve after finishing 10th in total defense in the.

Frankie Williams will be the focal point of the secondary after making 74 tackles and intercepting three passes as a junior, earning All-Big Ten second-team accolades from the league’s coaches. He can play corner or safety. Senior Anthony Brown will start at one corner after making 54 tackles last season, and hard-hitting junior Robert Gregory likely will start at one of the safety positions. If Hazell decides to play Williams at safety with Gregory, junior Leroy Clark probably will start at the corner opposite Brown.


Previewing Purdue’s Specialists for 2015

With senior kicker Paul Griggs and senior punter Thomas Meadows both back as starters, special teams should be a strength. Griggs made 16-of-20 field-goal attempts as a junior along with 32-of-33 extra points. Meadows punted 58 times for a 39.8-yard average, including 15 that rolled to a stop inside the 20-yard line and seven of 50 yards or more. Williams returned 10 punts for a 17.1-yard average, and Anthrop is the likely candidate to replace Mostert as Purdue’s kickoff return specialist.

Final Analysis

Having yet to win a home game in Hazell’s first two seasons and having failed to win any game after the first week of October, needs to take a big step in 2015 to placate a fan base that is grumbling after a November free fall that included losing to rival Indiana for a second consecutive season. The defense has a chance to be much better, and the offensive line is sound with six players back who started at least six games in 2014. But other than Anthrop, the Boilermakers are lacking in proven playmakers — and he is coming off a torn ACL.

Finding a way to get out of the basement will be quite a challenge.

B1G Shoes to Fill: Who Will be Replacing Some of the Conference's Best Running Backs in 2015?

The Big Ten Conference had a bit of a revival in 2014. Star power at the running back position had a lot to do with that, as all three finalists for the Doak Walker Award came from the Big Ten. Those three backs and two other B1G stars at running back have moved on via the NFL draft. Now we...


#65 Rutgers Scarlet Knights



Big Ten East Division PREDICTION


HEAD COACH: Kyle Flood, 23-16 (3 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Ben McDaniels | DEF. COORDINATOR: Joe Rossi

After first season in the league, fans in the still don’t know what to make of the . Kyle Flood got a lot out of his team last fall but enters his important fourth season with increased pressure and a rebuilt depth chart. In a brutal division, returning to a bowl game should be a reasonable goal.

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Previewing Rutgers’ Offense for 2015

has had a revolving door for offensive coordinators, but the sixth play-caller in as many years isn’t expected to change things much from last season. Ben McDaniels spent last year as an apprentice to Ralph Friedgen, the longtime Maryland head coach who decided to retire after his one season calling plays for the Scarlet Knights. Under the 67-year-old Friedgen’s tutelage, Rutgers ranked seventh in the in total offense, but McDaniels insists he won’t tinker much with the pro-style system this fall.

There is plenty of uncertainty at the quarterback position, where a pair of redshirt sophomores will compete for the right to replace four-year starter Gary Nova. Chris Laviano held a slight edge over LSU transfer Hayden Rettig in spring practice, but Scarlet Knights coach Kyle Flood figures to use the first few weeks of training camp before anointing either player as the starter. Whichever quarterback wins the job, he will have plenty of offensive weapons at his disposal, including a wide receiver — Leonte Carroo — who stiff-armed the NFL Draft to return for his senior campaign and one of the deepest backfields in the . Paul James, Justin Goodwin, Josh Hicks, Robert Martin and Desmon Peoples have all started games for Flood, who figures to give James every opportunity to regain the starting nod after a knee injury derailed a promising campaign a year ago. 

Previewing Rutgers’ Defense for 2015

, which includes an in-depth look at all 14 teams, features and predictions for the upcoming season.

A step up in conference class resulted in defense ranking near the bottom of every meaningful statistic in the last season. In their first season under the direction of defensive coordinator Joe Rossi, the Scarlet Knights yielded a combined 180 points in losing to the league’s top four teams. A defensive unit that graduated six starters faces the same quartet again this season.

Darius Hamilton, a two-year starter at defensive tackle and returning captain, is the heart and soul of a unit that will look to shore up a run defense that ranked 106th nationally last season.

“From a talent standpoint, this might be one of the best defenses I’ve been around,’’ Hamilton says, pointing to an experienced secondary featuring cornerbacks Nadir Barnwell and Anthony Cioffi and a linebacker corps that includes returning starters Quentin Gause and Steve Longa. “This is a really talented group. I think the only After first season in the league, fans in the still don’t know what to make of the . Kyle Flood got a lot out of his team last fall but enters his important fourth season with increased pressure but a rebuilt depth chart. In a brutal division, returning to a bowl game should be a reasonable goal.


Previewing Rutgers’ Specialists for 2015

The have traditionally been a force on special teams, blocking more kicks (41) than any team in the country since the 2009 season. Kemoko Turay led the country with three blocked kicks last season, including a potential go-ahead field goal against Michigan. While Kyle Federico made 16-of-21 field goal attempts, the placekicking operation was plagued by some errant snaps from long snapper Alan Lucy, who will need to show improvement in his second season handling the job. Joe Roth and Tim Gleeson battled for the starting punting job throughout last season, and the result saw Rutgers rank fourth-worst among teams in net punting. Gleeson holds a slight edge in the competition heading into training camp.

Final Analysis

No one expected life in the to be easy for , and losses to Ohio State, Nebraska, Wisconsin and Michigan State by a combined 180–44 score showed that the Scarlet Knights have a long way to go before they can compete with the cream of the conference crop. Rutgers’ quest to reach a bowl game for the 10th time in 11 years will depend on whether Flood can find enough offense to compensate for a young defensive corps that figures to struggle against elite Big Ten competition once again.   

The Debate

Is Leonte Carroo the Best WR in the Big Ten?

Click here to join the debate.


#64 Illinois Fighting Illini





HEAD COACH: Tim Beckman , 12-25 (3 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Bill Cubit | DEF. COORDINATOR: Tim Banks, Mike Phair

Tim Beckman’s teams have improved every year he’s been at . But an offseason fraught with negative headlines and a very difficult schedule have raised questions about his long-term future with the . A critical fourth season could go either direction for a team that has underachieved for the better part of a decade.

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Previewing Illinois’ Offense for 2015

It was supposed to be a smooth transition from four-year starter Nathan Scheelhaase to Oklahoma State transfer Wes Lunt. It didn’t turn out that way. When Lunt was healthy in 2014, he was effective. But injuries forced him to miss five games. offensive coordinator Bill Cubit is happy to have Lunt back for his junior season. Lunt is in his third year working with Cubit at . He completed 64 percent of his passes in 2014 with 14 touchdown passes and just three interceptions.

“Physically, he looks better,” Cubit says. “He looks better in the pocket. He’s going to have to be real good for us to be good.”

Ask Cubit what is the strength of the offense, and he will quickly answer with a name: Josh Ferguson. The senior gained 735 yards and scored eight touchdowns on the ground in 2014. He had another 427 yards and two scores as a receiver.

Cubit’s job became more difficult on April 8. That’s when Mike Dudek, one of the top returning receivers in the , suffered a torn ACL during a morning workout. He will be out until at least midseason. Geronimo Allison returns after finishing third on the team in 2014 with 41 catches. Cubit will need him to be a bigger part of the offense. He’ll need the same from sophomore Malik Turner.

Up front, depth is a big concern. Guard Ted Karras, the top returnee in 2015, missed the spring while recovering from surgery. He will be ready for training camp. The starting tackles appear set with Christian DiLauro and Austin Schmidt.

Previewing Illinois’ Defense for 2015

, which includes an in-depth look at all 14 teams, features and predictions for the upcoming season.

It has been awhile since had heated battles for starting spots at end and tackle. Back to the Ron Zook era. “Now we do,” coach Tim Beckman says. Senior end Jihad Ward is the best of an improving group. He is the leading returner in sacks (three) and tackles for a loss (8.5). Bad news for the : Ward is better. Tackle Teko Powell is being counted on to anchor the middle. He missed the spring because of injury but is expected back.

The linebackers are growing up — in a good way. Having Mason Monheim back makes it easier for the coaches to sleep at night. T.J. Neal starts at middle linebacker. The Star position, a hybrid linebacker/safety, will be a training camp battle between James Crawford and Eric Finney.

V’Angelo Bentley returns at cornerback along with steady Eaton Spence. Taylor Barton is back at safety after finishing third on the team in tackles in 2014. Clayton Fejedelem made a late move in 2014 and will start at the other safety spot.


Previewing Illinois’ Specialists for 2015

Coordinator Alex Golesh is looking for consistency on field goals. David Reisner and Taylor Zalewski split the duties in 2014 with mediocre results. They missed 8-of-17 field-goal tries. The team has huge shoes to fill at punter after the graduation of Justin DuVernois, who averaged 44 yards per attempt. Ryan Frain and Reisner will compete for the starting punting position.  

Final Analysis

It is a simple question with a complicated answer: What does Beckman need to do to continue as football coach? The coach enters his fourth season with a 12–25 overall record and a 4–20 mark in the . No doubt the team has improved during Beckman’s tenure. But the bar was set low with a 2–10 mark his first year. The Illini won four in 2013 and six in 2014. The fans demand more.

The schedule doesn’t help. The travel to North Carolina and Iowa, while hosting powerhouses Ohio State, Wisconsin and Nebraska. Another bowl bid is doable, and six wins should keep Beckman at the school for at least another season. 

The Debate

Where Does Wes Lunt Rank Among Big Ten QBs?

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