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2010 Big Ten conference report

Big Ten Conference Report
Is Ohio State ready to set Terrelle Pryor loose? Has Penn State found a quarterback? Can Rich Rodriguez save his job? SI.com's 2010 conference reports continue with Stewart Mandel's Big Ten breakdown.
 
How They'll Finish
 
 ConferenceOverall
Ohio State 7-111-1
Wisconsin6-210-2
Iowa6-29-3
Penn St.5-38-4
Michigan St.4-48-4
Northwestern4-48-4
 
 ConferenceOverall
Purdue4-47-5
Michigan3-56-6
Illinois3-55-7
Indiana1-75-7
Minnesota1-72-10
 
Offensive MVP
 
QB
Terrelle Pryor
2009 Season Stats: 2,094 pass yards, 18 TDs, 11 INTs, 779 rush yards
2010 Projected Stats: 2,730 pass yards, 26 TDs, 8 INTs, 660 rush yards
In his third season as starter, the athletic star should continue the momentum generated by his breakthrough Rose Bowl performance. With a healthy knee, improved decision-making, more touch on his deep ball and a plethora of weapons around him, Pryor will primarily be a passing threat while using his elite scrambling ability to produce big gains out of broken plays. He gets the slight nod here over Wisconsin running back John Clay.
GALLERY: Pryor headlines SI.com's All-Big Ten Team
 
Defensive MVP
 
DE
Adrian Clayborn
2009 Season Stats: 70 tackles, 11.5 sacks, 20 tackles for loss
2010 Projected Stats: 62 tackles, 13 sacks, 23.5 tackles for loss
Coming off a monstrous junior season in which he forced four fumbles, blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown against Penn State and earned MVP honors in Iowa's Orange Bowl win over Georgia Tech, Clayborn should establish himself as the nation's top defensive end in 2010. His production might not increase significantly due to the wealth of other elite defenders around him, but his presence will be felt by opposing quarterbacks and rushers on virtually every snap.
 
Impact Freshman
 
LB
William Gholston
High School Stats: 115 tackles, 27 sacks, 44 tackles for loss
2010 Projected Stats: 22 tackles, five sacks, 7.5 tackles for loss
The gifted 6-foot-7, 237-pound Gholston was the conference's top-rated recruit last winter and just happens to fill an immediate need for the Spartans. MSU is looking for a third starting linebacker to go alongside All-American Greg Jones and veteran Eric Gordon. Gholston might not get the nod on opening day, but should become a frequent contributor, possibly as a hybrid rush-end whom coaches can use in certain blitz packages.
 
Coach On The Hot Seat
 
Rich Rodriguez
Last Season: 5-7 (1-7 Big Ten)
Career at Michigan: 9-15 (3-13 Big Ten)
While a transition period was inevitable after the former West Virginia coach replaced the retired Lloyd Carr, no one could have foreseen such a nightmarish two years both on the field and off it, where Rodriguez's program stands accused of the school's first-ever major NCAA violations. If the Wolverines reach a bowl and show they can compete with the league's upper-echelon, Rodriguez will be fine. But another embarrassing finish will be too much for the administration to bear. Note: Illinois' Ron Zook -- coming off a 3-9 debacle -- is on similarly thin ice.
VIDEO: Can Rich Rodriguez save his job?
 
Three Key Nonconference Games
 
Connecticut at Michigan
Saturday, September 4
3:30 p.m. ET (ABC)
If Rodriguez wants to start rebuilding enthusiasm in Ann Arbor, he needs to win the school's first game in the remodeled Big House -- no small chore against the Huskies.
 
Miami at Ohio State
Saturday, September 11
3:30 p.m ET (ESPN)
This rematch of the thrilling and controversial 2003 Fiesta Bowl should indicate whether the Buckeyes have what it takes to reach this year's championship game in Arizona.
 
Penn State at Alabama
Saturday, September 11
7 p.m. ET (ESPN)
The Nittany Lions' new quarterback -- likely sophomore Kevin Newsome -- faces a daunting first road start against the defending national champions.
 
Three Key Conference Games
 
Michigan State at Michigan
Saturday, October 2
TBD
In what could be a benchmark game for both programs, the Spartans look to build on their first two-game winning streak over Michigan in 42 years.
MANDEL: Michigan seniors looking to go out on high note
 
Ohio State at Wisconsin
Saturday, October 16
7:15 pm. ET (ESPN or ESPN2)
The Buckeyes' first real conference test may well be their toughest -- the Badgers are 25-3 at home in four seasons under coach Bret Bielema.
 
Ohio State at Iowa
Saturday, November 20
TBD
Last year's winner-takes-the-conference showdown in Columbus was an overtime thriller, and this year's edition could well be for the same stakes.
 
Did You Know?
 
Eleven of the conference's top 12 rushers from 2009 return, including three (Dan Herron, Terrelle Pryor and Brandon Saine) from Ohio State.
While Iowa boasts four accomplished starters on its defensive line, its returning offensive linemen have combined for just 36 career starts -- fewest in the Big Ten.
The Big Ten's top three returning receivers all play in the state of Indiana: Purdue's Keith Smith (91.7 yards per game) and Indiana's Tandon Doss (80.2) and Damario Belcher (64.2).
Big Ten Video Preview
Top Contenders
Source: SI
SI.com breaks down why Ohio State, Wisconsin and Iowa look like the top Big Ten contenders in 2010.
 

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