Big Ten Leaders Division capsules

  • Updated: August 26, 2013 - 11:42 PM

A look at the Leaders Division, in In predicted order of finish by Star Tribune college football writer Joe Christensen

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Urban Meyer's Buckeyes didn't lose a game last year. If they're undefeated again in 2013, they'll likely play for the BCS championship.

Photo: Al Behrman, ASSOCIATED PRESS

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OHIO STATE

Coach: Urban Meyer, 116-23 overall in 11 seasons; second year at Ohio State.

2012: 12-0 (8-0 Big Ten), bowl ineligible.

Returning starters: Nine offense, four defense.

Key player: Braxton Miller is the Big Ten’s top Heisman Trophy candidate, a dual-threat QB who fits Meyer’s spread offense perfectly.

Outlook: Without a marquee game on its nonconference schedule, the Buckeyes probably need to go undefeated again to be part of the BCS championship discussion. Those are the expectations in Columbus. People forget how close this team came to losing three games last year (taking Purdue and Wisconsin to overtime, and beating Indiana 52-49). Running back Carlos Hyde and cornerback Bradley Roby ran into discipline issues in July, setting a bad tone for preseason camp.

WISCONSIN

Coach: Gary Andersen, 30-31 overall in five seasons; first year at Wisconsin.

2012: 8-6 (4-4 Big Ten), defeated Nebraska 70-31 in Big Ten Championship Game, lost 20-14 to Stanford in Rose Bowl.

Returning starters: Eight offense, seven defense.

Key player: Left tackle Ryan Groy is the best blocker and the only senior on an offensive line that lost two starters and has a surprising lack of depth.

Outlook: Andersen did an impressive job rebuilding Utah State, and now he’s at a program that doesn’t need rebuilding. Even with center Travis Frederick and running back Montee Ball in the NFL, the Badgers have several marquee talents, including linebacker Chris Borland, receiver Jared Abbrederis and running backs James White and Melvin Gordon.

PENN STATE

Coach: Bill O’Brien, 8-4 in one season; second year at Penn State.

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

Returning starters: Eight offense, six defense.

Key player: Allen Robinson had 1,013 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns last year. Now that Matt McGloin is gone, Robinson will be helping to break in a new quarterback — either true freshman Christian Hackenberg or junior college transfer Tyler Ferguson.

Outlook: O’Brien earned Big Ten Coach of the Year honors last year in his debut, and the job only gets tougher now. Besides McGloin, the team must replace its top four tacklers on defense. And by next year, Penn State will have only 65 scholarships, down from 85, which will continue cutting into its depth. The Nittany Lions also still are ineligible for postseason play for the next three seasons.

INDIANA

Coach: Kevin Wilson, 5-19 overall in two seasons; third year at Indiana.

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

Returning starters: Ten offense, nine defense.

Key player: Senior safety Greg Heban led the team with three interceptions and 91 tackles last season, and this defense needs to improve.

Outlook: After going 1-11 and 4-8 in the first two years under Wilson, Indiana looks like a team on the rise. But the Hoosiers allowed an average of 35.2 points per game last year, worst in the Big Ten. The offense looks potent, especially with quarterback Tre Roberson back to full health. Three receivers — Shane Wynn, Cody Latimer and Kofi Hughes — return after putting up more than 600 reception yards last year.

PURDUE

Coach: Darrell Hazell, 16-10 overall in two seasons; first year at Purdue.

2012: 6-7 (3-5 Big Ten), lost to Oklahoma State 58-14 in Heart of Dallas Bowl.

Returning starters: Five offense, nine defense.

Key player: Defensive tackle Bruce Gaston anchors a defensive line that lost second-round pick Kawann Short to the NFL.

Outlook: Purdue was considered a team to watch last year, and the fallout led to Danny Hope’s dismissal. Hazell came highly recommended after leading Kent State to its first bowl game in 40 years and previously serving seven years as an assistant coach at Ohio State. Purdue faces Notre Dame and Wisconsin in its third and fourth games, so it could be a rough start, but Boilermakers fans should be more interested in how this team finishes.

ILLINOIS

Coach: Tim Beckman, 23-26 overall in four seasons; second year at Illinois.

2012: 2-10 (0-8 Big Ten).

Returning starters: Nine offense, four defense.

Key player: Senior quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase needs to bounce back after injuries and inconsistency left him with four touchdown passes and eight interceptions last year.

Outlook: Beckman replaced five of his nine assistant coaches, hiring former Western Michigan coach Bill Cubit as his new offensive coordinator. Cubit’s Broncos lost last year’s season opener to Illinois 24-7 — not exactly an offensive showcase. But something had to change. The Illini offense averaged only 16.7 points per game last year. Defensively, Illinois will be counting on its linebacker corps, especially senior Jonathan Brown, after allowing 32.1 points per game last year.

Outlook: Beckman replaced five of his nine assistant coaches, hiring former Western Michigan coach Bill Cubit as his new offensive coordinator. Cubit’s Broncos lost last year’s season opener to Illinois 24-7 — not exactly an offensive showcase. But something had to change. The Illini offense averaged only 16.7 points per game last year. Defensively, Illinois will be counting on its linebacker corps, especially senior Jonathan Brown, after allowing 32.1 points per game last year.

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New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Seattle
Portland 0 Postponed
Brooklyn 0
Sacramento 0 Postponed
New York 0
Philadelphia 74 FINAL
New Orleans 99
Minnesota 84 FINAL
Oklahoma City 92
Orlando 94 FINAL
Memphis 103
Boston 99 FINAL
Utah 90
Denver 98 FINAL
LA Clippers 102
Army 68 FINAL
American Univ 66
Wright State 64 FINAL
Detroit 53
Syracuse 83 FINAL
North Carolina 93
Cleveland State 56 FINAL
Oakland 59
Delaware State 54 FINAL
NC Central 55
High Point 63 FINAL
Presbyterian 54
Howard 45 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 42
Coppin State 84 FINAL
NC A&T 71
Nicholls 51 FINAL
Northwestern St 80
Hampton 56 FINAL
SC State 65
Gardner-Webb 59 FINAL
Campbell 78
MD-Eastern Shore 72 FINAL
Florida A&M 65
Stephen F Austin 82 FINAL
Lamar 65
Central Arkansas 67 FINAL
New Orleans 87
Norfolk State 70 FINAL
Savannah State 54
TX A&M-CC 70 FINAL
SE Louisiana 61
Sam Houston St 80 FINAL
Abilene Christian 63
McNeese State 84 FINAL
Incarnate Word 86
Milwaukee 48 FINAL
Valparaiso 73
Alcorn State 66 FINAL
Alabama A&M 78
Southern U 59 FINAL
Alabama State 63
Prairie View 68 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 105
Texas 86 FINAL
Iowa State 89
Texas Southern 85 FINAL
Miss Valley St 84
Long Island 85 FINAL
Bryant 88
Central Conn St 51 FINAL
St Francis-NY 49
Fairleigh Dickinson 0 Postponed
Sacred Heart 0
St Francis-PA 87 FINAL
Wagner 74
Delaware State 59 FINAL
NC Central 66
Howard 53 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 61
Coppin State 49 FINAL
NC A&T 67
Hampton 88 FINAL
SC State 53
Norfolk State 54 FINAL
Savannah State 56
MD-Eastern Shore 54 FINAL
Florida A&M 64
Angelo State 55 FINAL
Abilene Christian 70
Samford 32 FINAL
(25) Chattanooga 49
Prairie View 83 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 66
Alcorn State 58 FINAL
Alabama A&M 55
Southern U 53 FINAL
Alabama State 49
Texas Southern 63 FINAL
Miss Valley St 52
(12) Texas A&M 61 FINAL
(1) South Carolina 79
Robert Morris 68 FINAL
Mount St Marys 44
East Tenn St 72 FINAL
Mercer 70
Wofford 56 FINAL
Furman 58
Morehead St 64 FINAL
Tenn Tech 54
Illinois 57 FINAL
Michigan 70
Quinnipiac 0 Postponed
Manhattan 0
Saint Peters 0 Postponed
Rider 0
(18) Miss State 59 FINAL
Auburn 48
(15) Nebraska 72 FINAL
(20) Iowa 78
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