Chart: Big Ten Legends Division storylines

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 25, 2013 - 9:21 PM

Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald and his Wildcats finally got to celebrate a bowl victory last season. Now, they want more in 2013.

Photo: Stephen Morton, Associated Press

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger


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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



In predicted order of finish by Star Tribune college football writer Joe Christensen



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.

Key player: Senior running back Venric Mark rushed for 1,371 yards last year and was an All-America punt returner, too.

Outlook: The Wildcats return most key weapons from a team that lost three games by a combined 19 points last season. Northwestern’s schedule is tougher, starting with crossover games against Wisconsin and Ohio State from the Leaders Division. But the Wildcats present all kinds of matchup problems of their own, with Mark and two quality quarterback options in Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian. There are playmakers on defense, too, led by safety Ibraheim Campbell and defensive end Tyler Scott.



Coach: Mark Dantonio, 69-45 overall in nine seasons, seventh year at Michigan State.

2012: 7-6 (3-5 Big Ten), defeated TCU 17-16 in Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.

Returning starters: Nine offense, seven defense.

Key player: Linebacker Max Bullough is the heart and soul of a defense that ranked in the top 10 nationally last year.

Outlook: Coming off two 11-win seasons, Michigan State sputtered last year when its final five losses came by a combined 13 points. The defense should be superb again, but a struggling offense has to replace 1,700-yard rusher Le’Veon Bell, who left early for the NFL. Dantonio kept the heat on senior quarterback Andrew Maxwell all offseason and declared that position a four-man battle during training camp with the starter TBA.



Coach: Jerry Kill, 136-89 overall in 19 seasons; third year at Minnesota.

2012: 6-7 (2-6 Big Ten), lost to Texas Tech 34-31 in the Meineke Car Care Bowl.

Returning starters: Nine offense, seven defense

Key player: Defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman has a chance to be a top-50 NFL draft pick, and opposing offenses will have to game-plan around him.

Outlook: The Gophers are counting on two junior college transfers — Damien Wilson and De’Vondre Campbell — to fill holes at linebacker. The offense returns largely intact, but it’s still a young group, with just one senior expected to start (wide receiver Derrick Engel). Philip Nelson returns to quarterback after starting seven games as a true freshman, but the team will rely on the run.



Coach: Kirk Ferentz, 112-95 overall in 17 seasons; 15th year at Iowa.

2012: 4-8 (2-6 Big Ten).

Returning starters: Six offense, eight defense.

Key player: Offensive tackle Brandon Scherff is back from a leg injury that derailed his season last year, and this unit as a whole is looking forward to better health.

Outlook: Iowa’s win totals the past four years have been 11, eight, seven and four. The Hawkeyes get an immediate test again, hosting Northern Illinois in Saturday’s opener .


  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


Team Irvin 32 FINAL
Team Carter 28
Miami 96 FINAL
Chicago 84
Oklahoma City 98 FINAL
Cleveland 108
Dallas 106 FINAL
New Orleans 109
Indiana 106 FINAL
Orlando 99
LA Clippers 120 FINAL
Phoenix 100
Minnesota 100 FINAL
Atlanta 112
Detroit 110 FINAL
Toronto 114
Milwaukee 95 FINAL
San Antonio 101
Boston 111 FINAL
Golden State 114
Washington 117 FINAL
Denver 115
Houston 99 FINAL
LA Lakers 87
Team Toews 17 FINAL
Team Foligno 12
South Florida 53 FINAL
Connecticut 66
Boston College 64 FINAL
Georgia Tech 62
Virginia 50 FINAL
Virginia Tech 47
Indiana 70 FINAL
Ohio State 82
Stony Brook 61 FINAL
Binghamton 54
Cincinnati 56 FINAL
UCF 46
Maine 70 FINAL
Hartford 61
Monmouth 64 FINAL
Manhattan 71
Fairfield 67 FINAL
Marist 73
Rowan 48 FINAL
Princeton 96
St Bonaventure 48 FINAL
Rhode Island 53
Duke 77 FINAL
St Johns 68
Saint Peters 69 FINAL
Siena 55
Drake 40 FINAL
Wichita State 74
Vermont 61 FINAL
UMass Lowell 50
Seton Hall 57 FINAL
Butler 77
South Alabama 55
Northern Iowa 54 FINAL
Illinois State 53
Louisville 80 FINAL
Pittsburgh 68
Albany 69
Niagara 64 FINAL
Iona 87
Notre Dame 81 FINAL
NC State 78
Belmont 63 FINAL
Tennessee St 55
Creighton 50 FINAL
Villanova 71
Northwestern 67 FINAL
Maryland 68
Washington 56 FINAL
Utah 77
Senior-North 34 FINAL
Senior-South 13
Seton Hall 99 FINAL
Georgetown 85
St Johns 69 FINAL
Villanova 81
Arkansas 58 FINAL
Florida 72
Maine 56 FINAL
Vanderbilt 55 FINAL
Alabama 52
Lafayette 60 FINAL
Lehigh 65
SMU 57
Utah 51 FINAL
Washington 63
James Madison 73 FINAL
Coll of Charleston 53
Delaware 56 FINAL
Drexel 61
Hofstra 56 FINAL
William & Mary 57
Hartford 58 FINAL
Albany 82
Binghamton 54 FINAL
Stony Brook 67
Towson 63 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 71
Wake Forest 80 FINAL
(17) Florida State 110
Georgia Tech 68 FINAL
Virginia 62
(22) Georgia 51 FINAL
(5) Tennessee 59
Drake 79 FINAL
Evansville 62
Iona 80 FINAL
Canisius 62
Fairfield 33 FINAL
Monmouth 59
Northwestern 75 FINAL
Penn State 76
Wisconsin 71 FINAL
Michigan State 77
Ohio State 79 FINAL
Purdue 71
Northern Iowa 57 FINAL
Indiana State 55
Butler 58 FINAL
Xavier 54
Creighton 93 FINAL
Marquette 75
Providence 42 FINAL
DePaul 90
Northeastern 77 FINAL
Elon 80
(2) Connecticut 96 FINAL
Cincinnati 31
Oregon 78 FINAL
Arizona 81
Bradley 46 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 45
NC State 49 FINAL
(23) Syracuse 66
(7) Maryland 84 FINAL
Indiana 74
Illinois State 35 FINAL
Missouri State 58
Colorado 68 FINAL
Washington St 73
Tulane 45 FINAL
South Florida 64
(14) Kentucky 83 FINAL
Missouri 69
(9) Oregon State 68 FINAL
(13) Arizona State 57
Vermont 63 FINAL
UMass Lowell 72
Iowa State 58 FINAL
(8) Texas 57
Southern Ill 61 FINAL
Wichita State 80
(15) Duke 74 FINAL
(12) North Carolina 67
Miami-Florida 55 FINAL
(4) Louisville 68
(21) Minnesota 61 FINAL
(25) Rutgers 66
California 72 FINAL
(11) Stanford 71 FINAL
USC 60
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: Do you favor the plan for expanded athletic facilities at the U of M?

Weekly Question