In Part 2 of this four-part series, Jim ranks the teams in the 21-30 slots with three of the places filled by Big Ten squads: Wisconsin Badgers, Iowa Hawkeyes and Illinois Fighting Illini.
30. T.C.U: Undervalued again! TCU went 11-2 SU, 8-4 ATS last season, 32-16 ATS the last four years. Coach Gary Patterson has 6 starters back on offense and 4 on defense. Patterson likes offensive balance and in 2008 the Frogs averaged 35 points, 215 yards rushing and 201 pass yards. Junior QB Andy Dalton has been playing since his freshman season and threw 11 TDs, 5 picks last fall for 2,242 yards.
The Horned Frogs' top rusher is back in senior RB Joseph Turner (577 yards, 4.0 ypc), plus QB Dalton ran for 432 yards, third most on the team. Three key players are back on the O-line, while junior WR Jimmy Young (988 yards) is back. The defense loses it top pass rushers, but still has 4 starters back, including DE Jerry Hughes. TCU allowed just 10.9 ppg. They are talented enough to challenge for the Mountain West title and carry an 11-1 SU/10-1 ATS home record into the new season.
29. Missouri: Mizzou was explosive offensively last season, averaging 42 points, 157 yards rushing and 340 yards passing. They lost their top offensive threats to the NFL, so Head Coach Gary Pinkel turns to sophomore QBs 6-foot-5 Blaine Gabbert and Jimmy Costello. New offensive coordinator Dave Yost is expected to tweak the spread offense a bit and use more power running. The focus will be on junior RB Derrick Washington, who ran for 1,036 yards, 5.9 yards per carry as a sophomore.
Three starters are gone off the defensive front and the secondary needs three new starters. At least LB Sean Weatherspoon is back to anchor a good linebacking corps, while the secondary has senior CB Hardy Ricks. Mizzou is 14-6 over the total the last two years, 30-11 SU, 20-16 ATS its last 41 home games. They should go bowling, but won't be as dominant offensively as 2008.
28. Iowa: Kirk Ferentz has 6 starters back on offense and 8 on a defense that was 12th in the nation while allowing 13.3 ppg. The offense was mainly running, averaging 30 points, 189 yards rushing, 4.8 ypc, and 184 passing. Junior QB Rick Stanzi had a strong sophomore season, with 1,956 yards, 14 TDs and 9 picks.
They lost RB Shonn Greene and his 1,850 yards to the NFL, which is a huge, so the guy to watch is 5-foot-9 sophomore RB Jewel Hampton (463 yards, 5.1 yc). The top receivers are back, led by junior WR Derrell Johnson-Koulianos (639 yards) and senior WR Andy Brodell. The defense led the Big Ten in pass efficiency D and gets the entire linebacking corps back. The only drawback is the schedule, with road games at Penn State, Wisconsin, Michigan State and Ohio State. Iowa is 38-8 SU, 28-14-2 ATS at home.
27. Wake Forest: Run-oriented Wake Forest has always been competitive under 9th-year Demon Deacons Head Coach Jim Grobe. The last three years they have been sensational, at 28-12 SU, 24-15 ATS. QB Riley Skinner (13 TDs, 7 picks) is back for a fourth season to pilot the offense. The running game by committee is loaded, as usual, with junior RB Josh Adams, sophomore RB Brandon Pendergrass (528 yards, 3.5 ypc) and senior Kevin Harris.
The swarming defense has been great, allowing just 18.3 ppg. The defense is an attacking unit, though Wake is 16-9 over the total the last two years and loses LB Aaron Curry to the NFL. Wake is 7-4 ATS as a dog the last two years, 8-4 over the total their last 10 road games and 11-3 SU, 10-2 ATS their last 14 home games.
26. Illinois: Ron Zook took the Illini to the Rose Bowl in 2007 and has a shot at bouncing back from a losing campaign because of the offense. They averaged 28.7 points and 169 yards rushing (5.0 ypc) and 269 yards passing and return senior QB Juice Williams (22 TDs, 16 picks, 3,173 pass yards and 719 rushing yards).
He has all his key parts back from junior WR Arrelious Benn (1,055 yards) and Jeff Cumberland and tight end Michael Hoomanawanui. Senior RB Daniel Dufrene (663 yards) is a quick back who averaged 5.7 yards per carry. Keep an eye on junior WR Jarred Fayson, a former transfer from Florida. The defense is a concern along with an O-line that loses three starters. Note that Zook is 6-5 SU/4-7 ATS his last 11 games as a home favorite.
25. Utah: The Utes went 12-0 in 2004 under Urban Meyer, then topped that last season under Kyle Whittingham, a perfect 13-0 SU, 8-4 ATS 2008 season. Utah averaged 37 points, 168 yards rushing, 4.0 ypc, and 236 passing. The offense has new faces, though, with junior QB Corbin Louks taking over for QB Brian Johnson. Louks is an excellent runner, plus redshirt freshman QB DeVonte Christopher is in the mix, the 2007 Nevada Gatorade Player of the Year.
New defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake will keep the defensive scheme the same, which has remained essentially intact for the past 15 years. They allowed 17 ppg last fall. Seven starters return on defense, led by senior All-America candidate LB Stevenson Sylvester. In the Sugar Bowl, he ravaged Alabama with three sacks and seven tackles. Utah is 31-6 SU, 23-10-1 ATS its last 37 home games.
24. NC State: If momentum is huge, NC State should be fired up for 2009, ending last season on a 4-1 SU, 5-0 ATS run under second-year coach Tom O'Brien. In fact, they have covered 8 straight games. The Wolfpack (6-7 SU, 10-2 ATS) found a quarterback in sophomore Russell Wilson, who was sensational with 17 TDs and only one interception! He expects to be fully recovered from a knee injury suffered in the Papa Johns Bowl.
The top pass catcher returns in 6-foot-3 junior WR Owen Spencer (609 yards, 5 TDs), along with 6-foot-4 junior WR Jarvis Williams (432 yards). The defense is a concern, giving up 26 ppg, as NC State was last in the ACC in pass defense. Safety Javon Morgan is expected to return after missing all of 2008 with a knee injury. The Wolfpack is 7-4 and 6-5 over the total the last two years with an improving pass offense and a suspect defense.
23. Oregon State: Mike Riley's Beavers are off a 9-4 SU/ATS season, including a thrilling 27-21 upset of USC. They like balance and this offense averaged 32 points, 165 yards rushing and 253 passing per game. Freshman of the Year RB Jacquizz Rodgers earned numerous All-America honors after rushing for 1,253 yards and scoring 12 touchdowns.
Five-foot-7 junior RB James Rodgers (607), the brother of Jacquizz, caught 51 passes for 607 yards. They are a dynamite backfield pair, though small and injury-prone. More good news is that 6-foot-4 senior QB Sean Canfield (6 TDs 2 INTs) is back, along with 5-11 senior QB Lyle Moevao (19 TDs, 13 picks, 2,534 yards). Oregon State is 11-2 SU, 8-3 ATS its last 13 home games.
22. Cincinnati: Head coach Brian Kelly has done a great job and the Bearcats are off an 11-3 season with a Big East championship. The offense rotated a lot of QBs because of injuries, but still averaged 27 points, 121 yards rushing and 251 passing. For 2009, 7 starters return on offense, but they lost 10 on defense. They had to rotate an incredible 4 quarterbacks last season because of injuries, but that means they are loaded for 2009, led by 6-6 senior QB Tony Pike (2,407 yards, 19 TDs and 11 picks).
The passing game is deep with senior WR Marshwan Gilyard (1,276 yards, 11 TDs) and junior WR Marcus Barnett (277). They should have the top passing attack in the Big East. The defense is being overhauled, but allowed 20 ppg. Cincy is 24-6 SU, 16-8 ATS at home the last five years, 10-3 SU on the road the last two. A winning season and another bowl is likely with this coach and all the returning offensive talent. Sports bettors note that Cincy is 4-2 SU, 5-1 ATS as a dog the last two seasons.
21. Wisconsin: Coach Bret Bielema is a defensive guy, but the story for 2009 is the offense. They averaged 28 points, 212 yards rushing and 192 passing last fall and the offense gets back seven starters, including fifth-year senior QB Dustin Sherer (1,389 yards, 6 TDs, 5 INTs). Junior RB John Clay (884 yards, 5.7 ypc) led the team in rushing behind a solid offensive line.
Bielema and OC Paul Christ have toyed with the idea of adding the spread-option, if only to complement UW's base offense and give defenses more to worry about. Dave Doeren has gone from recruiting coordinator to defensive coordinator and he has to replace some key cogs up front. The schedule is soft, with only a trip to Ohio State as the killer. Wisconsin is 31-4 SU, 19-12 ATS the last five years at home. They carry a 6-2-1 run over the total into the new season.
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