1. Ohio State (11-1)
2. Penn State (10-2)
3. Iowa (9-3)
4. Michigan State (8-4)
5. Minnesota (7-5)
6. Illinois (7-5)
7. Northwestern (7-5)
8. Wisconsin (7-5)
9. Michigan (5-7)
10. Indiana (4-8)
11. Purdue (3-9)


MINNESOTA - Quarterback Adam Weber and receiver Eric Decker were All-Big Ten selections last fall. The offensive line has all five starters returning and the Gophers are the most experienced team in the conference based on returning starters. Four of the six team captains are on defense. Minnesota will be opening a brand new outdoor stadium and some genuine optimism surrounds the program. The Gophers will be bowling at season’s end, maybe even in the Sunshine State come January.
PENN STATE - Joe Paterno has some reloading to do. Every single starter at receiver needs replaced and the same is true for every single defensive back. This offense evolved into a success story based on the feats of receivers by the name of Williams, Butler and Norwood. They are all gone. The sturdy offensive line was a veteran unit last fall, which equates to the fact they won’t be this time around. The last four years have been good for Penn State record wise. The expectations are extremely high for a team with so much player turnover.
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: QB Terrelle Pryor - Ohio State
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: QB Juice Williams - Illinois
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: LB Navorro Bowman - Penn State
TOP NEWCOMER: WR Hayo Carpenter - Minnesota
TOP BLOCKER: Stefen Wisniewski - Penn State
TOP PASS RUSHER: Jamie Kerlew - Indiana

QB Juice Williams - Sr. - Illinois
RB Evan Royster - Jr. - Penn State
RB John Clay - So. - Wisconsin
WR Arrelious Benn - Jr. - Illinois
WR Eric Decker - Sr. - Minnesota
TE Garrett Graham - Sr. - Wisconsin
OL Stefen Wisniewski - Jr. - Penn State
OL Bryan Bulaga - Jr. - Iowa
OL Kyle Calloway - Sr. - Iowa
OL Justin Boren - Jr. - Ohio State
OL Dennis Landolt - Sr. - Penn State
K   Brett Swenson - Sr. - Michigan State
KR Troy Stoudermire - So. - Minnesota

DL Corey Wootton - Sr. - Northwestern
DL Jamie Kerlew - Sr. - Indiana
DL Brandon Graham - Sr. - Michigan
DL Jared Odrick - Sr. - Penn State
LB Greg Jones - Jr. - Michigan State
LB Navorro Bowman - Jr. - Penn State
LB Pat Angerer - Sr. - Iowa
DB Kurt Coleman - Sr. - Ohio State
DB Traye Simmons - Sr. - Minnesota
DB Amari Spievey - Jr. - Iowa
DB Chimdi Chekwa - Jr. - Ohio State
P   Zoltan Mesko - Sr. - Michigan
PR Ray Small - Sr. - Ohio State

1. Juice Williams - Illinois
2. Daryll Clark - Penn State
3. Terrelle Pryor - Ohio State

Penn State (Evan Royster, Stephfon Green, Brandon Beachum)

Illinois (Arrelious Benn, Jarred Fayson, Jeff Cumberland, Mike Hoomanawanui, Fred Sykes, Chris Duvalt)

Iowa (Rafael Eubanks, Andy Kuempel, Julian Vandervelde, Kyle Calloway, Bryan Bulaga, Dace Richardson, Dan Doering)

Ohio State (Cameron Heyward, Doug Worthington, Dexter Larimore, Thaddeus Gibson, Lawrence Wilson)

Penn State (Sean Lee, Navorro Bowman, Michael Mauti, Josh Hull)

Ohio State (Chimdi Chekwa, Andre Amos, Kurt Coleman, Anderson Russell)


1. Ohio State at Penn State (Nov. 7)
2. Penn State at Illinois (Oct. 3)
3. Iowa at Penn State (Sept. 26)
4. Illinois at Ohio State (Sept. 26)
5. Iowa at Ohio State (Nov. 14)

1. Southern California at Ohio State (Sept. 12)
2. Michigan State at Notre Dame (Sept. 19)
3. Illinois at Cincinnati (Nov. 27)
4. Arizona at Iowa (Sept. 19)
5. Notre Dame at Michigan (Sept. 12)

1. William Campbell DT Detroit, MI Michigan
2. Corey Brown DB Monroeville, PA Ohio State
3. Dorian Bell LB Monroeville, PA Ohio State
4. Justin Turner DB Massillon, OH Michigan
5. Marcus Hall OL Cleveland, OH Ohio State
6. Jaamal Berry RB Miami, FL Ohio State
7. Edwin Baker RB Oak Park, MI Michigan State
8. Terry Hawthorne WR East St. Louis, IL Illinois
9. Jamie Wood DB Pickerington, OH Ohio State
10. Justin Green RB Louisville, KY Illinois

STRENGTHS: This high octane passing offense (tops in the conference last fall) returns fourth year starting quarterback Juice Williams and boasts the league’s best receiving corps in Preseason All-American Arrelious Benn, five-star Florida transfer Jarred Fayson, senior Jeff Cumberland and All-Big Ten tight end Mike Hoomanawanui. The running back cupboard with Daniel Dufrene is full with the off-season emergence of Jason Ford and Mikel Leshoure. Defensively the secondary looks sturdy with experience at both corner spots while tackles Sirod Williams and Corey Liuget support the middle of the line.

CONCERNS: Many holes exist on the defensive side, especially at linebacker where youth and inexperience will surely cause a few headaches. The early loss of cornerback Vontae Davis, LB Brit Miller and both defensive ends leaves the Illini short on proven defensive playmakers. Turnovers continue to be the dent in Juice Williams' armor. If this situation cannot get ironed out, Illinois will continue to miss the post-season.

PROGNOSIS: The read-option offense that suits the strengths of Juice Williams, a strong-armed thrower and a shifty rusher, won't change much under new coordinator Mike Schultz who was hired away from TCU to replace Mike Locksley. The defensive personnel is unproven at numerous spots due to player departures. Ergo, the offensive aerial attack is what will keep Illinois in the bowl hunt. The talent level is here to produce a top three-conference finish. The schedule however is absolutely brutal. The first three conference games will include Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan State. The back-to-back non-conference games to close the season are Cincinnati and Fresno State. Ouch!


STRENGTHS: No better defensive end combination can be found in this league. Greg Middleton and Jammie Kirlew have both received looks on All-American lists the past two seasons. A talented group of linebackers are in place to booster the front seven. Austin Thomas and Nick Polk should be recovered from knee injuries to provide the secondary with a pair of quality safeties.

CONCERNS: The dismissal of athletic quarterback/receiver Kellen Lewis is obviously a set back. A new "Pistol" offense has been installed with Ben Chappell taking over. He shared the duties behind center last season. Although Chappell appears to have a strong arm, this looks to be another run dominated scheme so expect the passing totals to remain near the bottom of the Big Ten. The offensive line is still uncertain after dealing with injuries a year ago. Ample pass protection is severely lacking.

PROGNOSIS: The defense has nine starters back but had trouble stopping both the run and the pass a year ago (11th in Big Ten total defense). Expect enough improvements on this side of the ball to give Indiana a fighting chance in most of their games. Some of the biggest questions remain unanswered on offense. The offensive line and running back committee needs to become more of a force for this new scheme to work. Getting the respect Hoosiers across the state desperately seek won't happen overnight...or this season.


STRENGTHS: This could be a defense that was better than it was in 2008...quite a statement for a unit that finished ranked No. 2 in the Big Ten. Linebacker will be the source of the success with all three starters returning. Pat Angerer is the leader in the middle with A.J. Edds on the outside. In the secondary, three starters return from a group that tied the school record with 23 interceptions. Quarterback Ricky Stanzi is poised to be more than just a game manager.

CONCERNS: The Hawkeyes will need to replace much of the star power that made them a conference contender. Gone are big time defensive tackles Mitch King and Matt Kroul, running back Shonn Greene left early for the NFL and a few major clogs up front providing the blocking are missing. King and Kroul had 95 starts between them and were the teeth of the defense. Reforming the line of scrimmage may be the biggest challenge.

PROGNOSIS: Continuing the success of last season's nine win campaign has to start with reloading on the line of scrimmage as well as locating a replacement for 1,850 yard rusher Shonn Greene. Running with the ball and stopping the run is what made Iowa formidable and that formula is about to get tested. Plenty of talent is available however, especially on defense, to put Iowa back into a January Big Ten Bowl. Ricky Stanzi is progressing as a signal caller. He needs to prove it this fall for Iowa to reach the same type of won-loss mark.


STRENGTHS: The offense returns every starter outside of quarterback and depth is much more plentiful. Some of the thinnest positions are now some of the deepest. Running back Brandon Minor has All-Conference potential and should get better blocking from a much-improved offensive line led by Stephen Schilling at guard. Brandon Graham is one of the better rush ends in the league. The team's leading tackler is back (LB Obi Ezeh). Punter Zoltan Mesko is a front-runner for the Ray Guy Award.

CONCERNS: New defensive coordinator Greg Robinson takes over a young group. The veteran bunch of a year ago surrendered a school record 347 points. He will have work to do as the defensive line and secondary will go through a major rebuilding project. Head coach Rich Rodriguez will attempt to make his spread offense work more efficiently with a true freshman at quarterback in Tate Forcier. The passing game will likely continue to be non-existent.

PROGNOSIS: This won't be the year Michigan returns to glory. Just getting bowl eligible is going to be a major hurdle still. Experience is readily available on offense, just not loads of talent. The key to any Rodriguez offense is a mobile quarterback. San Diego product Tate Forcier is a four-star dual-threat prep quarterback who enrolled early this January. He may be the answer after he gets comfortable running this system, but that won't be in 2009 barring a miracle. The defense does not have the numbers statistically or from a manpower stance to keep opponents out of the end zone. This could be another long season, just not as long as 2008 and the natives are still restless.


STRENGTHS: Receivers Mark Dell, Blair White, B.J. Cunningham and tight end Charlie Gantt served as the four leading receivers a year ago and the whole quartet will be lining up again this fall. The all combined for 139 catches and more than 2,100 yards. The Spartans have two quality hit men to build a defense around with end Trevor Anderson and linebacker Greg Jones. Each unit on defense returns multiple starters so expect this to be the steady side of the football.

CONCERNS: Someone needs to get these quality receivers the ball since quarterback Brian Hoyer is no longer tossing the passes. The force behind him, Javon Ringer, will also not be available to carry the ball. Two sophomores, Kirk Cousins and Oklahoma transfer Keith Nichol will battle for top honors as the signal caller all the way into the opener. The defensive line needs someone else to step up so Anderson does not get taken out as much by double-team efforts.

PROGNOSIS: MSU took a surprising step forward last year and was playing for a share of the Big Ten title in its finale. This year's team will be more of the same with the big exception of a new quarterback and running back. This puts the challenge of continued success on the shoulders of other units, a situation head coach Mark Dantonio is well equipped for. This will be a better defense while the offense grows through a learning curve. The effort won't be enough to win the Big Ten, but it won't be far off again.


STRENGTHS: Quarterback Adam Weber and receiver Eric Decker ensure the passing game will be just fine. Both were All-Big Ten selections last fall and Decker will get All-American looks this time around. The offensive line has all five starters returning. The Gophers may be the most experienced team in the conference. Four of the six team captains are on defense. Tackles Eric Small and Garrett Brown are senior stalwarts. Senior linebackers Simoni Lawrence and Lee Campbell are the playmakers. Senior Traye Simmons is an All-Big Ten honoree at cornerback.

CONCERNS: No doubt the lack of a running game is killing the Gophers (104th nationally). Other than DeLeon Eskridge and QB Adam Weber, no other player had more than 50 carriers. The running back group is still made up of first or second year players. The offensive line has not been productive at opening holes. The secondary will have to do more with three returning starters. They had major issues guarding against the pass last fall.

PROGNOSIS: Minnesota will be opening a brand new outdoor stadium. The leap from one victory in 2007 to seven wins in 2008 leaves a genuine optimism surrounding the program, especially with so many returning starters back in the fold. To reach higher goals will require the Gophers to get back to a punishing running style like the one perfected by former head coach Glen Mason. The offensive line should be better equipped to take a step in that direction. The defense is full of tacklers and playmakers. That means Minnesota has the ability to surprise somebody on the schedule.


STRENGTHS: Defensive end Corey Wootton gives the Wildcats an All-Big Ten anchor to carry over a defense that will continue to be stingy defending the run. The secondary has all four starters back - three of them are seniors. The offensive line with four starters back is the most experienced group on the offensive side.

CONCERNS: The running back spot is missing a permanent every down fixture with the loss of Tyrell Sutton. Senior Mike Kafka inherits the quarterbacking duties from C.J. Bacher. His nimble feet will likely be the best option in terms of the ground game. He also will have to work with a totally brand new set of receivers, an issue that could truly hamper the Cat's offensive production through out the fall.

PROGNOSIS: Northwestern is building a championship caliber defense with plenty of experience. The key will be how well the offensive newcomers can perform at the crucial skill positions. Mike Kafka did not implode when forced into action behind center last fall. If the offensive line with four starters back can keep the offensive strides positive, the non-conference schedule (Towson, Eastern Michigan, Syracuse and Miami OH) will allow this team to make its way into bowl contention once again. They are just missing an offensive playmaker.


STRENGTHS: A legend is already starting to grow in Columbus regarding true sophomore quarterback Terrelle Pryor. He has a ton of room for improvement in terms of throwing the ball, but as expected he is on pace to become the most dangerous man in college football from behind center using his feet. The defensive line is poised to be one of the best in years where three starters and a deep pool of subs remain plentiful. Preseason All-American Kurt Coleman forms a sturdy safety package with senior Anderson Russell.

CONCERNS: All of the skill positions of offense are new with the exception of Pryor. Not having a premier pass catcher will only hamper the already low passing numbers. The offense will also need to find another Beanie Wells type of rusher to take some of the heat off of Pryor. The linebackers are getting retooled after the losses of James Laurinaitis and Marcus Freeman while a pair of three-year starters at cornerback gets replaced. One of them, Malcolm Jenkins, won the Thorpe Award last season.

PROGNOSIS: Ohio State wins with two main functions...coaching and recruiting. With only 13 starters returning the Buckeyes are still the predicted front-runner to win the conference as a Top 10 poll performer. QB Terrelle Pryor represents the recruiting side of Columbus. The heralded prep star is now ready to make the splash everyone hoped for, but he will have to do it with new faces surrounding him. The defense will be the key ingredient that keeps this team at the top. The USC home game on September 12 has been circled for a long time. A few key positions need to grow up fast before this test. The Buckeyes will be favored in all the rest.


STRENGTHS: Two very legitimate Heisman candidates will be in this offensive backfield. QB Daryll Clark eerily reminds people of successful former QB Michael Robinson in terms of running this spread based offense. He accounted for a school record 29 touchdowns last fall. Running back Evan Royster is the other part of the Heisman equation and represents the best ball carrier in the Big Ten. It's just another season at Linebacker U. where Navorro Bowman and Sean Lee, who sat out all of 2008 with a knee injury, represent two legitimate Butkus Award candidates.

CONCERNS: Every single starter at receiver needs replaced and the same is true for every single defensive back. This offense evolved into a success story based on the feats of receivers by the name of Williams, Butler and Norwood. They are all gone. The secondary left cause for major concerns according the coach Joe Paterno this off-season. The sturdy offensive line was a veteran unit last fall which equates to the fact they won’t be this fall.

PROGNOSIS: The good news is that there is enough top quality players at key positions to make up for the significant lack of experience elsewhere. Quarterback and running back is a good place to start and Penn State has some good ones to say the least. The crucial building projects will be with the passing game on both sides of the ball. The names catching passes and defending against them are all fresh. The Nittany Lions are heavy favorites to chase the Buckeyes for the conference crown and the light non-conference schedule makes getting ten wins quite attainable for the second year in a row.


STRENGTHS: The defense looks fairly solid led by three returning starters in a secondary that finished atop the Big Ten in pass defense. The linebackers may be the largest area of improvement on either side of the ball making this back seven extremely formidable. The offensive line is the only unit on the entire offense that has returning starters in the lineup. Without these four starters Purdue would be in big trouble.

CONCERNS: How about the entire offensive skill sets? First year coach Danny Hope inherits an offense that lost four-year starter Curtis Painter at quarterback, the top two wide outs and the top running back. No one at quarterback has earned a start and the spring made matters worse when Justin Siller was suspended for the year for academic improprieties. The situation at receiver is not much different all the way down to the tight end.

PROGNOSIS: The Boilermakers still want to throw the ball around, but don't have anyone proven who can catch or throw. This is poised to be a descent year from a defensive standpoint but it won't be enough to overcome the shortcomings of talent across the board, especially on offense. No one on the list of incoming recruits is set to have an immediate impact and first year head coach Danny Hope will find difficulties improving on the four win season of a year ago.


STRENGTHS: Two aspects are always certain in Madison...running back and tight end. Wisconsin will carry on these traditions with John Clay carrying the pigskin and Garrett Graham catching it respectively. The Badgers led the Big Ten in rushing last fall and despite the loss of P.J. Hill, the running backs will “carry on” with Clay. The depth behind him is well stocked too. In addition to Graham, the receivers are a mature group of top athletes with four guys of equal capability. The pillar of the defense is in the secondary where three starters return.

CONCERNS: The Badgers lost four of their top six tacklers. The defensive front seven was almost completely gutted and the depth at linebacker is scarce. Last year's predominant starter behind center, Dustin Sherer is still battling Curt Phillips for the job. The possibility of rotating quarterbacks is a good bet. This situation has to be much improved compared to the same Sherer/Allan Evridge combo of 2008.

PROGNOSIS: A rebuilding effort of some sorts is taking place. The front seven on defense only returns two starters total and the quarterback outlook does not appear to be any better than it was last season. The rushing attack will continue to be priority No. 1 with a slew of backs easily capable of carrying on this unit's stellar tradition. John Clay looks to be the next Wisconsin household name taking the handoffs. Head coach Brett Bielema is now at a crossroads season after going 17-1 in his first 18 games. Unfortunately, this team is not as good as the ones he initially inherited.



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