How They'll Finish
This is an article from the Aug. 17, 2009 issue
Players to Watch
Top performers from unranked teams in the conference
WR, Jr., Illinois
The favorite target of QB Juice Williams, he caught 67 passes for 1,055 yards in 2008 and is a threat as a punt and kick returner.
LT, Jr., Iowa
As a 6'6" 312-pounder and a starter since his freshman year, he has drawn comparisons to former Hawkeye Robert Gallery, the 2003 Outland winner.
RB, Soph., Wisconsin
A 6'2" 247-pounder who blends speed and power, he averaged 5.7 yards a carry and rushed for nine TDs as a backup last season.
DE, Sr., Indiana
After finishing second in the conference in sacks with 10½, Kirlew (6'3", 263) was the only Hoosier named All--Big Ten (second team) in '08.
CB, Soph., Northwestern
The 5'11", 180-pound Mabin, who doubles as a return man, had three interceptions last season and was named a freshman All-America.
Minnesota is coming off its first winning season since 2005, but the Gophers lost their final five games after starting 7--1. Third-year coach TIM BREWSTER is junking the spread in favor of a pro-style attack. JEDD FISCH, formerly the Broncos' receivers coach, was hired as offensive coordinator, and the 33-year-old veteran of eight NFL seasons has set about fixing a ground game that last year averaged 104 yards a game and 3.1 yards per rush, both Big Ten lows.... Another team looking to improve its running game is Indiana, where third-year offensive coordinator MATT CANADA is experimenting with the pistol, which combines the shotgun and the I formation. Key to this transition will be the play of redshirt freshman tailback DARIUS WILLIS, who, at 6 feet, 219 pounds, possesses size and speed.... On a Purdue offense bereft of playmakers, freshman running back AL-TEREK MCBURSE stands out. A four-star recruit who turned down offers from Georgia Tech and Miami, the 6-foot, 204-pound native of Winter Springs, Fla., enrolled in January, only to miss spring ball while awaiting NCAA clearance. He's a threat as both a runner and a receiver.
Best offensive player
QB, Sr., Penn State
Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor might be more gifted, but he's not yet at the level of Clark, who directs one of the nation's most versatile backfields.
Best defensive player
LB, Sr., Penn State
A second-team All--Big Ten pick in 2007, when he was second in the conference in tackles, Lee returns after an ACL tear wiped out his '08 season.
to watch Tate Forcier
The San Diego product enrolled in January and had fans chanting his name at the spring game, when he threw for four TDs and ran for another.
Coach on the rise
He turned a team in disarray into a winner, going 7--6 and 9--4 in his first two seasons. With 15 starters back, the Spartans could be a Big Ten sleeper.
Coach on the hot seat
Since Bielema burst onto the scene with a 12--1 record in his first season, the Badgers have gone 9--4 and 7--6 and have struggled offensively.