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New Illinois football coach Tim Beckman.

Darrell Hoemann, Associated Press

Chart: Five Big Ten Leaders Division story lines

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER
  • Star Tribune
  • August 27, 2012 - 11:56 PM

1 MOTIVATION ON PROBATION

Ohio State and Penn State cannot advance to the Big Ten Championship Game or a bowl, so what's to play for? Both teams' coaches will emphasize rebuilding their programs on solid foundations, not to mention playing in front of 100,000-strong crowds, but the challenge will be to keep building toward something.

2 HOPE FOR THE FUTURE?

Danny Hope has yet to post a winning record during the regular season or in Big Ten games, so pressure might be building at Purdue in the coach's fourth season. On the other hand, he did beat Ohio State last year.

3 STARTING A FIRE

Illinois and Northwestern are supposed to be rivals, but new Illini coach Tim Beckman judged it lukewarm. He intends to change that, first of all by putting injured or suspended players in purple jerseys. He also refuses to call the Wildcats "Northwestern"; rather, they are "The Team Up North," a tactic that Urban Meyer and Brady Hoke like to use, too.

4 RENT-A-QB

Wisconsin hit the jackpot when Russell Wilson transferred from North Carolina State to Madison for one season, so expectations are remarkably high for another transfer, Danny O'Brien. But the new QB wasn't successful running Maryland's offense last year, so he's a far bigger question mark than his predecessor.

5 KEEP IT INTERESTING

After bottoming out by going 0-11 against FBS-level teams, Indiana needs to start small. Here's a good starting point: Take a second-half lead against a Big Ten opponent, if even for a moment. It never happened in 2011.

PHIL MILLER

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