Coach: Paul Chryst (fifth year)
2017 record: 13-1, 9-0 Big Ten
Key returnee: QB Alex Hornibrook
Biggest loss: CB Nick Nelson
Spring story lines: The Badgers had to cancel their spring game because of inclement weather, but that shouldn’t be cause for alarm with this veteran team. Behind an offensive line that Chryst puts among the best he has seen in Madison, freshman Jonathan Taylor rushed for 1,977 yards last season. The Badgers return nine offensive starters, including five on the line. On defense, they will miss seven starters from 2017, but have a solid trio returning in LBs Ryan Connelly and T.J. Edwards and SS D’Cota Dixon.
Coach: Pat Fitzgerald (14th year)
2017 record: 10-3, 7-2
Key returnee: LB Paddy Fisher
Biggest loss: RB Justin Jackson
Spring story lines: QB Clayton Thorson tore a knee ligament in the Music City Bowl and was limited during spring drills. Though he is expected back this season, his return date is uncertain. Jackson, a four-year workhorse for the Wildcats, will be missed, but sophomore Jeremy Larkin rushed for 503 yards and five TDs last year. Fisher (113 tackles) leads a defense that returns seven starters.
Coach: Kirk Ferentz (21st year)
2017 record: 8-5, 4-5
Key returnee: QB Nate Stanley
Biggest loss: LB Josey Jewell
Spring story lines: The Hawkeyes struggled on offense in their spring game, with Stanley throwing two interceptions and the running game sputtering. Replacing running back Akrum Wadley and center James Daniels will be key. All-America linebacker Jewell (136 tackles) will be missed, but end Anthony Nelson returns to lead a solid defensive line.
Coach: Scott Frost (first year)
2017 record: 4-8, 3-6
Key returnee: WR Stanley Morgan Jr.
Biggest loss: QB Tanner Lee
Spring story lines: It was all about the return to Lincoln of Frost, the former Cornhuskers QB who took over for fired coach Mike Riley. With Lee leaving early for the NFL, the Huskers need a new QB. Adrian Martinez, an early enrollee, could have an edge after completing 10 of 13 passes for 114 yards and rushing for 60 yards and three TDs in the spring game.
Coach: P.J. Fleck (second year)
2017 record: 5-7, 2-7
Key returnee: DB Antoine Winfield Jr.
Biggest loss: DT Steven Richardson
Spring story lines: Quarterback, quarterback and more quarterback. Redshirt freshman Tanner Morgan and early enrollee Zack Annexstad provided intrigue with strong performances in the spring game, while junior college transfer Vic Viramontes has room to improve. The return of Winfield from a season-ending hamstring injury provides the defense with a jack-of-all-trades standout.
Coach: Jeff Brohm (second year)
2017 record: 7-6, 4-5
Key returnee: QB Elijah Sindelar
Biggest loss: LB Ja’Whaun Bentley
Spring story lines: Sindelar, who split time with QB David Blough last year, didn’t play in the spring game because of a torn knee ligament suffered late last season. Blough returned from a leg injury, and early enrollee Jack Plummer impressed in practice. The Boilermakers lost seven starters on defense.
Coach: Lovie Smith (fourth year)
2017 record: 2-10, 0-9
Key returnee: QB Cam Thomas
Biggest loss: LB Tre Watson
Spring story lines: With QBs Jeff George Jr. and Chayce Crouch leaving the program, the Illini starting job is Thomas’ to lose. The dual-threat sophomore saw limited time last year but shows potential.