Could Iowa push past Wisconsin, Nebraska in the Big Ten West?

  • Updated: August 27, 2014 - 10:31 AM

The Big Ten West, in predicted order of finish by Star Tribune college football writer Joe Christensen:

IOWA

Coach: Kirk Ferentz (16th year)

2013: 8-5 (5-3 Big Ten)

Top returnees: LT Brandon Scherff (first-team All-Big Ten last year), DT Carl Davis (second-team All-Big Ten)

Early test: Sept. 20 at Pittsburgh

Outlook: They’re not flashy, but the Hawkeyes should be tenacious again in the trenches. Three starters return on the offensive line, and three on the defensive line. Junior QB Jake Rudock is back, along with Mark Weisman and three other leading rushers. The big question is linebacker, where all three starters graduated. With a soft schedule, the Hawkeyes could be 8-0 when they come to Minnesota on Nov. 8.

 

WISCONSIN

Coach: Gary Andersen (second year)

2013: 9-4 (6-2)

Top returnees: RB Melvin Gordon (1,609 rushing yards), RT Rob Havenstein (second-team All-Big Ten)

Early test: Aug. 30 vs. LSU at Houston

Outlook: Jared Abbrederis graduated, and none of the returning wide receivers caught more than 10 passes last year. That could add difficulty for new starting QB Tanner McEvoy, but the Badgers will have a dominant running game again with Gordon, Corey Clement and another mammoth offensive line. Wisconsin must replace eight starters — including LB Chris Borland and DT Beau Allen — from a defense that ranked sixth nationally last year in scoring defense.

NEBRASKA

Coach: Bo Pelini (seventh year)

2013: 9-4 (5-3)

Top returnees: RB Ameer Abdullah (1,690 rushing yards), DE Randy Gregory (10 ½ sacks)

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