Michigan Football Preview 2015

2015 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 124 of 163

THE WOLVERINE 2015 FOOTBALL PREVIEW ■ 123 take longer to erect than what Meyer confronted at Ohio State in 2012. However, with his pedigree and history of turning losers into winners, Harbaugh appears to be the right man for the job. A Wide-Open West: New head coaches at Wisconsin and Nebraska might handicap the Badgers and Cornhuskers in their race to claim the West Division title this fall. UW has a better chance to hit the ground running because of Chryst's familiarity with the Badgers — he'll be doing what they do best —while Riley is introducing new schemes and culture to Lincoln. In Iowa City, the Hawkeyes have staggered lately, go - ing 15-17 in Big Ten play over the past four seasons, and Kirk Ferentz's reputation as a great developer of talent is dissipating. Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald is also known for drawing the most out of his players, but he has coached the Wildcats to 5-7 records each of the past two seasons. With uncertainty surrounding Wisconsin, Nebraska, Iowa and Northwestern, the most stable program is Minnesota, and the Golden Gophers seem poised to earn their first Big Ten title-game appearance under Jerry Kill. A turnaround artist at Saginaw Valley State (1994-98), Southern Illinois (55-32) and Northern Illinois (2008-10), Kill has produced back-to-back 8-5 campaigns in Minneapolis after the Ma - roon and Gold began his tenure in 2011 with a 3-9 mark. Still, the schedule could be the ultimate factor. Neither Iowa nor Wisconsin, incredibly, see Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State or Michigan State this season, while Nebraska only has MSU. Minnesota has to play both the Buckeyes and the Wolverines. Top 25 Players In The Big Ten 1. DE Joey Bosa — Ohio State: The 2014 Big Ten Defen- sive Player of the Year and Defensive Lineman of the Year, the 6-6, 275-pound end recorded at least one tackle for loss in 12 of the Buckeyes' 15 games, leading the conference in tackles for loss (21.0) and sacks (13.5). 2. QB Cardale Jones — Ohio State: Jones started only three games last year, but those were the biggest games of 2014. In wins over Wisconsin (Big Ten title game), Alabama (national semifinal) and Oregon (NCAA championship), Jones completed 46 of 75 passes (61.3 percent) for 742 yards and five touchdowns, and rushed for 90 yards and another TD. 3. QB Connor Cook — Michigan State: Cook ranked second in the Big Ten last year with a 149.4 pass efficiency rating, and was also second in passing yards (3,214) and touchdown passes (24). Twice named All-Big Ten second team, the 6-4, 220-pound Cook has led Michigan State to unprecedented success, accumulating a 23-3 record as a starter. 4. RB Ezekial Elliott — Ohio State: Like his quarterback counterpart, Elliott excelled on the grandest stage, rushing for more than 200 yards per game in each of OSU's postsea- son contests. His three-game total of 696 yards gave him a single-season tally of 1,878 rushing yards, second only to Eddie George's 1,927 (1995) in Ohio State annals. 5. DE Shilique Calhoun — Michigan State: The 2013 Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year was upstaged by Bosa last year, but he's back for a senior season to reclaim his title as the best pass rusher in the league. Calhoun has 16.5 career quarterback takedowns and 29.0 tackles for loss. 6. DT Anthony Zettel — Penn State: After four-sack seasons in 2012 and 2013, the fifth-year senior exploded onto the scene in 2014, recording career highs in quarter - back sacks (eight) and tackles for loss (17). He also showed remarkable versatility for a man 6-4, 278 pounds, picking off three balls among eight defended passes (five breakups). 7. QB J.T. Barrett — Ohio State: The redshirt sophomore was the Big Ten Quarterback and Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2014 after finishing with 3,772 yards of total offense, including 2,834 yards through the air. He set a single-season school record with 34 touchdown passes before a season- ending injury against Michigan. 8. LB Josh Perry — Ohio State: OSU's offense stole the headlines during the Buckeyes' playoff run, but the defense held three opponents averaging 39 points per game to 55 total (or 18.3 per game) thanks in part to Perry. The senior had 16 stops against Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon, and is the top returning tackler in the Big Ten with 124 in 2014. 9. RB Corey Clement — Wisconsin: Next in line to be a 1,000-yard back for the Badgers — UW has had at least one ball carrier reach that mark in 10 straight seasons — the 5-11, 217-pound Clement rushed for 949 yards and nine touchdowns on 147 carries (6.5-yard average) as Melvin Gordon's backup in 2014. 10. DE Drew Ott — Iowa: Carrying on the Hawkeyes' strong tradition of high-achieving defensive linemen, the 6-4, 272-pound Ott led Iowa in tackles for loss (12), sacks (eight) and quarterback pressures (seven) in 2014. He also lived every defender's dream, scoring a touchdown off a blocked punt. 11. QB Christian Hackenberg — Penn State: The junior signal-caller had a better freshman season than sophomore year in almost every major category (completion percent - age, touchdowns, interceptions and pass efficiency rating), but there is no denying his physical tools. With a stronger supporting cast, Hackenberg should improve his career completion percentage (57.2) and TD-to-interception mark (32 scoring passes compared to 25 picks). 12. OL Jack Allen — Michigan State: In 2014, Allen became the first Spartan center since 1962, and the fourth overall, to garner first-team All-America honors. The 6-2, 295-pounder did not allow a sack in 2014 and is poised to lead an experienced offensive line that returns three more starters. 13. LB Vince Biegel — Wisconsin: Used like a pass rusher, the 6-4, 244-pound redshirt junior had a team-high 16.5 tackles for loss and was second among Badgers with 7.5 sacks a year ago. He ranks first in both categories among the Big Ten's returning linebackers.

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