The Star Tribune’s College Football Preview Week continues in the Wednesday editions with a preview of the Big Ten conference. Here’s an early start to that coverage: five players to watch this season ...
1. Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin
All Taylor did as a freshman last year was rush for 1,977 yards – breaking Adrian Peterson’s FBS freshman record – and finish sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting. Look for the 5-11, 221-pounder to challenge Stanford’s Bryce Love for that stiff-armed trophy.
2. Trace McSorley, QB, Penn State
With all-everything RB Saquon Barkley now with the Giants, the Nittany Lions’ offensive burden falls on McSorley. The senior has accounted for 75 touchdowns (57 passing, 18 rushing) over the past two seasons, and he’ll help ease the transition of an offense that lost coordinator Joe Moorhead, who left to become Mississippi State’s head coach.
3. Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State
The Buckeyes will be without coach Urban Meyer to start the season as he serves a three-game suspension. That makes the play of OSU’s new starting quarterback even more important. Haskins has size (6-3, 220 pound) and a four-star pedigree. As a freshman last year, he replaced an injured J.T. Barrett and rallied the Buckeyes back from a 20-14 deficit to a 31-20 win at Michigan.
4. Chase Winovich, DE, Michigan
It’s tough to single out one player on Michigan’s star-studded defense, but the 6-3, 255-pound senior sets the tone for the Wolverines. Winovich led the Big Ten with 18.5 tackles for loss and ranked third with eight sacks.
5. The Wisconsin offensive line
OK, so I’m cheating a bit here. But the quintet of RT David Edwards, RG Beau Benzschawel, C Tyler Biadasz, LG Michael Deiter and LT Jon Dietzen (if he holds off Cole Van Lanen) is widely considered the best in college football. They’ve combined for 132 career starts and paved the way for the Badgers to average 415 yards and 33.8 points per game last year. Edwards, Deiter and Benzschawel are returning All-Americas, and Biadasz was a freshman All-America.
Star Tribune College Football Preview Week:
• Sunday’s story was a look at how the Gophers’ long and often-disappointing history of quarterback play is running right up against a coach who has proved he can work some quarterback magic: Kirk Ciarrocca, the U’s offensive coordinator. Read the story here. Columnist Chip Scoggins also wrote about quarterbacks, and how the young Gophers will be guessing for quite some time as Zack Annexstad learns on the job.
• Monday’s edition was our small college preview.
• Additionally, declining ticket sales is a big story across the country and for the University of Minnesota. Our Rachel Blount wrote about this issue for the Monday morning front page. One of the many interesting threads of that story: amid the big declines, “nonrevenue” sports, including all Gophers women’s teams, have seen an increase in ticket revenue.