Teams in the Big Ten will be entering the season with momentum, coming off success in the postseason last year.
Big Ten teams have been criticized for their bowl performances in recent years, but they finished last season 4-3, and were just a few points from a perfect record.
This will be the last year the conference will be without Nebraska and a conference championship game.
The three teams that appear to be ahead of the pack in the Big Ten are Ohio State, Wisconsin and Iowa. They are all reasonable picks for Big Ten champs.
Five teams that all have flaws, but can beat teams at the top of the echelon, are Penn State, Northwestern, Michigan and Michigan State.
There are four teams that are rebuilding or have many flaws and just hope to win six games to become bowl eligible: Purdue, Indiana, Minnesota and Illinois.
Ohio State is the pre-season pick to win the Big Ten Championship and contend for the national championship.
The Buckeyes closed out last season with a win in the Rose bowl against Oregon to finish 11-2.
Many people think Jim Tressel will let quarterback Terrelle Pryor loose after Pryor led his team to victory against Oregon in the Rose Bowl.
Many people think Pryor is a candidate to win the Heisman trophy.
Wisconsin is coming off a 10-win season and a bowl win against Miami.
The Badgers appear to have a very good chance of contending for the Big Ten championship.
The Badgers offense will keep them in games. Their offense was ranked 25th in scoring last season and they are returning 10 starters.
The Hawkees started last season 9-0 with their eyes on the national title, but lost two games because of an injury to their quarterback.
The Hawkeyes finished by winning their last three games, including a win in a BCS bowl against Georgia Tech.
The Hawkeyes have enough talent to finish at the top of the Big Ten.
Joe Paterno is entering his 45th season as head coach. He has the most wins in FBS history with 394.
Penn State finished strong last season, with a bowl win against LSU, to finish 11-2.
The Nittany Lions biggest weakness is at quarterback.
Running back Evan Royster is the player to watch. He rushed for 1,169 yards last year.
The Wildcats finished 8-5 last year. They lost in a thrilling bowl game in overtime against Auburn.
If Northwestern makes it to a bowl game this year, it would be the first time the Wildcats made it to a bowl game for three straight years in the program’s history.
Many people think Northwestern could surprise some teams.
The Wildcats have a new quarterback at the helm, but in past years the Wildcats have had no trouble with new quarterbacks taking over.
Michigan did not receive one vote in the preseason AP poll.
After starting 4-0 last year, the wheels started to come off with the inexperience Michigan had at many positions.
It is well known that coach Rich Rodriguez is on the hot seat.
The most interesting talk of the summer is who is going to start at QB.
Tate Forcier started every game last season, but has struggled in the off season. Denard Robinson has made leaps in his passing ability. Incoming freshman Devin Gardner has also impressed the coaches.
Rodriguez made news by trying to motivate some of his players by making them wear wingless helmets; the players seemed to respond with more consistency.
Michigan’s defense was struck a blow when it lost cornerback Troy Woolfolk for the season.
Most people think the Wolverines will win eight games, which should be enough to keep Rodriguez’s status as head coach.
Mark Dantonio is entering his fourth year as head coach.
Michigan State is the team that is the hardest to predict. Six to eight wins seems to be the consensus.
Last year the Spartans were a dark horse to win the Big Ten championship, but finished 6-7.
The highlight of the Spartans season was a win against Michigan in overtime.
The player to look out for is All-American middle linebacker Greg Jones.
The biggest weakness on the defense is the secondary, which ranked 112th in the nation.
They should improve because most of the secondary is returning.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins will lead an offense that ranked 26th in the nation in scoring.
Danny Hope enters his second year as head coach.
Purdue started the season last year 1-5, but ended by winning four of their last six games.
The Boilermakers had wins against Ohio State, Michigan and rival Indiana.
The Boilermakers will start Miami transfer Robert Marve at quarterback. Purdue has high hopes for Marve.
Purdue should win enough games to become bowl eligible, which is six games.
Indiana finished 4-8 last year.
The Hoosiers record does not show how talented the they were last year; they lost three games by 3 points or fewer.
The offense looks promising this year with a good receiving corp and a senior quarterback.
The Hoosiers have enough talent on offense that they have moved some players to defense.
Still, the Hoosiers are expected to finish near the bottom of the Big Ten.
Minnesota finished 6-7. The Gophers lost by 1 point against Iowa State in the Insight Bowl.
The Gophers have almost every starter returning on offense and only two returning on defense.
The leader for Minnesota is Adam Weber, who is a three-year starter at quarterback.
The Gophers are projected to finish last in the Big Ten.
The Illini are starting from square one. They replaced many coaches and also lost Juice Williams, who was a 4-year starter at quaterback.
Head coach Ron Zook is on the hot seat for finishing 3-9 last season.
He has been given a break because of earning a Rose Bowl bid in 2007.
THIS FALL’S SCHEDULE
Sept. 4 – Connecticut
Sept. 11 – at Notre Dame
Sept. 18 – Massachusetts
Sept. 25 – Bowling Green
Oct. 2 – at Indiana
Oct. 9 – Michigan State
Oct. 16 – Iowa
Oct. 30 – at Penn State
Nov. 6 – Illinois
Nov. 13 – at Purdue
Nov. 20 – Wisconsin
Nov. 27 – at Ohio State
Sept. 4 – W. Michigan
Sept. 11 – Florida Atlantic
Sept. 18 – Notre Dame
Sept. 25 – N. Colorado
Oct. 2 – Wisconsin
Oct. 9 – at Michigan
Oct. 16 – Illinois
Oct. 23 – at Northwestern
Oct. 30 – at Iowa
Nov. 6 – Minnesota
Nov. 20 – Purdue
Nov. 27 – at Penn State