1. FOUR-TEAM RACE
The Leaders Division probably will turn into a two-team race between Ohio State and Wisconsin. They meet Sept. 28. The Legends Division could be a four-team scrum between Nebraska, Michigan, Northwestern and Michigan State. Michigan narrowly edged Nebraska as the division favorite in a preseason poll of 28 Big Ten writers.
2. KEY MATCHUPS
There are six key matchups: Nov. 2 — Michigan at Michigan State, Northwestern at Nebraska; Nov. 9 — Nebraska at Michigan; Nov. 16 — Northwestern at Michigan, Michigan State at Nebraska; No. 23 — Michigan State at Northwestern.
3. NORTHWESTERN, REALLY?
Even after returning most of the firepower from last year’s 10-3 squad, Northwestern was picked to finished fourth in the media poll. But hard-fought losses against Nebraska (29-28) and Michigan (38-31) and a victory over Michigan State (23-20) last year proved the Wildcats can compete.
4. TIME TO REBOUND
Michigan State won the Legends Division in 2011. The Spartans have enough talent on defense to stay in every game, and once they pick a quarterback, that player could gain confidence from this inviting October schedule: at Iowa, Indiana, Purdue, at Illinois.
5. GOOD RIDDANCE
The Leaders and Legends Divisions are going away after this season, as the Big Ten splits into East and West. The Gophers will be in the West with Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Northwestern, Wisconsin and Purdue. The East will have Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, along with Indiana, Rutgers and Maryland.
A LOOK AT THE LEGENDS
In predicted order of finish by Star Tribune college football writer Joe Christensen
|Cincinnati - WP: J. Cueto||4||FINAL|
|Pittsburgh - LP: E. Volquez||1|
|LA Angels - WP: T. Skaggs||7||FINAL|
|Washington - LP: T. Jordan||2|
|Kansas City - WP: J. Shields||8||FINAL|
|Cleveland - LP: D. Salazar||2|
|Baltimore - LP: E. Meek||3||FINAL|
|Toronto - WP: S. Delabar||9|
|Chicago WSox - LP: C. Leesman||6||FINAL|
|Detroit - WP: J. Verlander||8|
|St. Louis - WP: A. Wainwright||3||FINAL|
|NY Mets - LP: D. Gee||0|
|Miami - WP: J. Fernandez||1||FINAL|
|Atlanta - LP: A. Wood||0|
|Minnesota - LP: K. Gibson||3||FINAL|
|Tampa Bay - WP: D. Price||7|
|NY Yankees - WP: M. Tanaka||9||FINAL|
|Boston - LP: J. Lester||3|
|Arizona - LP: B. McCarthy||2||FINAL|
|Chicago Cubs - WP: J. Hammel||9|
|San Diego - WP: D. Roach||2||FINAL|
|Milwaukee - LP: A. Figaro||1|
|San Francisco - LP: M. Bumgarner||1||FINAL|
|Colorado - WP: F. Morales||2|
|Texas - WP: A. Ogando||5||FINAL|
|Oakland - LP: L. Gregerson||4|
|Houston - WP: C. McHugh||5||FINAL|
|Seattle - LP: E. Ramirez||2|
|Philadelphia - WP: A. Bastardo||3||FINAL|
|Los Angeles - LP: J. Howell||2|