Coach: Bo Pelini, 49-20 in five seasons, sixth year at Nebraska.
2012: 10-4 (7-1 Big Ten), lost to Wisconsin 70-31 in Big Ten Championship Game, lost to Georgia 45-31 in Capital One Bowl.
Returning starters: Seven offense, four defense.
Key player: Nebraska’s run defense ranked 90th in the nation last year, but the pass defense actually ranked fourth, led by senior nickel back Ciante Evans.
Outlook: With five home games to start the season, followed by road games at Purdue and Minnesota, Nebraska has a chance to build serious momentum, especially if it can handle UCLA at home on Sept. 14. Pelini was a defensive coordinator before becoming the head coach so fixing that unit should be his specialty. Nebraska has won at least nine games each year under Pelini, but Cornhuskers fans demand more.
Coach: Brady Hoke, 66-57 overall in 10 seasons; third year at Michigan.
2012: 8-5 (6-2 Big Ten), lost to South Carolina 33-28 in Outback Bowl.
Returning starters: Five offense, five defense.
Key player: Left tackle Taylor Lewan was a projected top-15 NFL draft pick, and his return bolstered a line that lost its starting center and both guards to graduation.
Outlook: With the Denard Robinson era over, the Wolverines are returning to more of a pro-style offense with quarterback Devin Gardner, who showed big potential in five starts last year. Michigan also will unveil the nation’s top running back recruit, Derrick Green. The team’s leading tackler last season, linebacker Jake Ryan, tore an ACL in his knee during spring practice but is determined to return by mid-October.
Coach: Pat Fitzgerald, 50-39 overall in seven seasons; eighth year at Northwestern.
2012: 10-3 (5-3 Big Ten).
Returning starters: Eight offense, seven defense.