Top performersfrom unranked teams in the conference
August 20, 2006
The 6'2",232-pound senior moved from outside to middle linebacker last fall and had abreakout season, leading the Badgers with 121/2 tackles for loss. This year heheads one of the most athletic linebacking units in the conference.
The Big Tenfreshman of the year in '05, he topped the Wildcats in rushing (1,474 yards)and scoring (108 points) and was fourth in catches (44). With the departure ofQB Brett Basanez, the 5'9", 190-pound Sutton becomes the leader of theoffense.
He has been timedat 4.4 seconds in the 40, and he plays bigger than his 5'10", 175-poundframe. As a sophomore, Bryant led the Boilermakers with 80 catches for 960yards and four TDs while topping the Big Ten in catches per game (7.3).
One of theemerging stars on an inexperienced line last season, the 6'4", 270-poundIwebema had a team-high seven sacks and was second with 10 tackles for loss.The junior is on the watch lists for the Hendricks and Lott awards.
One of the BigTen's best, the 6'7", 265-pound senior ranked third on the Gophers lastseason with 26 catches for 333 yards and four touchdowns-impressive statisticson a team that ran the ball nearly 66% of the time.
OHIO STATE ATIOWA
The Hawkeyesshould be 4-0 heading into their Big Ten home opener and will be in position tomake a run at the conference title if they can pull off the upset. The gamefalls at the end of a tough month for the Buckeyes, who play at Texas on Sept.9 and will be coming off an emotional rematch with Penn State.
MICHIGAN AT PENNSTATE
The Nittany Lionshave had this date circled on the calendar for months. The only blemish on PennState's record last year came in Ann Arbor, a 27-25 last-play loss due in partto the referee's controversial decision to put two seconds back on the clockduring the Wolverines' game-winning drive.
MICHIGAN AT OHIOSTATE
The victorfigures to take home the Big Ten title, and a berth in the BCS nationalchampionship game could be on the line as well. This much is certain: TheWolverines won't leave Columbus with a win if they can't stop Buckeyesquarterback Troy Smith, who has burned Michigan each of the last two years.
Thebasketball-on-grass attack at PURDUE had a Big Ten-low 10 touchdown passes lastfall, but that should change under new quarterbacks coach Ed Zaunbrecher, whohas tutored a raft of accomplished passers, including Florida's Chris Leak.Zaunbrecher, who coached most recently at Illinois, should help sophomoreCurtis Painter master the deep throw.... INDIANA wideout JAMES HARDY, who quitbasketball last winter to focus on football, should have a big year. The6'7", 220-pounder caught 61 passes for 893 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2005as a redshirt freshman but struggled with leg injuries that carried over frombasketball season. He'll thrive in coach Terry Hoeppner's wide-open offense,which rolled up 659 passing yards in the spring game.... MICHIGAN STATE hasstruggled with consistency under fourth-year coach John L. Smith, and part ofthe reason has been a lack of balance between the offense and the defense. Lastyear the Spartans ranked fifth in the country in total offense but 87th indefense. The defense should get a boost this year with the addition of strongsafety Nehemiah Warrick, a transfer from Hutchinson (Kans.) Junior College anda cousin of Seattle Seahawks wideout Peter Warrick. Nicknamed "Nemo,"the 6'1" 204-pounder so delighted Smith in spring ball that he was promptlynamed a starter.... Look for ILLINOIS freshman quarterback Isiah Williams topush for playing time early on. The 6'2", 207-pound Williams has a superiorarm to that of senior starter Tim Brasic and is a much better all-aroundathlete.
[This articlecontains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]
HOW THEY'LL FINISH