The Big Ten championship game should have a very familiar look to it from just one year ago as Michigan State and Wisconsin — despite both having young, inexperienced quarterbacks — should be the strength of the conference once again. The Spartans must first fend off their pesky in-state rival, Michigan, who have Big Ten and national title aspirations after a resurgence under second year head coach Brady Hoke. Also, while Ohio State may be the most talented team in the conference, they will need some time to adjust under new head coach Urban Meyer and are not eligible for the Big Ten championship game anyhow. However, look for the Buckeyes to finish well.
- Michigan State
- Ohio State
- Penn State
Iowa and Purdue will be surprisingly competitive with better-than-expected quarterback play out of James Vandenberg and Caleb TerBush, respectively, so look for them to pull off an upset or two throughout the year. Meanwhile, expect two traditional powers, Penn State and Nebraska, to struggle a bit in 2012. We are all well aware of the reasons why Penn State may struggle. As for the Huskers, a mighty schedule and the continued inconsistent play and injuries to quarterback Taylor Martinez will be the downfall.
All-Big Ten Offense:
QB – Denard Robinson, Michigan
RB – Montee Ball, Wisconsin
RB – Le’Veon Bell, Michigan State
WR – Keenan Davis, Iowa
WR – Antavian Edison, Purdue
TE – Jacob Pedersen, Wisconsin
OL – Travis Frederick, Wisconsin
OL – Chris McDonald, Michigan State
OL – Andrew Norwell, Ohio State
OL – Fou Fonoti, Michigan State
OL – Taylor Lewan, Michigan
K – Dan Conroy, Michigan State
KR – Raheem Mostert, Purdue
All-Big Ten Defense:
DL – John Simon, Ohio State
DL – Jordan Hill, Penn State
DL – Kawann Short, Purdue
DL – William Gholston, Michigan State
LB – Chris Borland, Wisconsin
LB – Jonathan Brown, Illinois
LB – Denicos Allen, Michigan State
DB – Johnny Adams, Michigan State
DB – Micah Hyde, Iowa
DB – Jordan Kovacs, Michigan
DB – CJ Barnett, Ohio State
P – Brett Maher, Nebraska
PR – Jared Abbrederis, Wisconsin
Best Offensive Player:
Denard Robinson – QB, Michigan
From 2010 to 2011 Wolverines quarterback Denard Robinson’s passing abilities seemed to take a nose-dive. He threw for 400 less yards, dropped over seven percent on his completion percentage and threw four more interceptions as a junior when compared with his sophomore season. So why does he top this list? It’s because Robinson can change a college football game with his legs from the quarterback position like possibly no one else in the history of college football. He has put up 3,229 yards rushing and has accounted for 75 overall touchdowns in the last three years….35 of them on the ground.
Best Defensive Player:
William Gholston – DE, Michigan State
The younger brother of former Ohio State standout Vernon Gholston is just one man on an absolutely ferocious and loaded Spartans defense. The important part, however, is that he is probably also the most physically imposing and feared piece of that tremendous defense. Gholston plays the game with an extremely high level of intensity and physicality. His nasty demeanor is second to none. The defensive end accounted for 70 tackles, 16 TFL and five sacks as a sophomore in 2011. As long as he keeps his focus he should improve even further on those numbers this season.
Former Boilermakers coach Joe Tiller made it to 10 bowl games in his 12 years at the school. New coach Danny Hope made his first bowl game appearance last year, a 37-32 victory over Western Michigan and will now be expected to continue that trend in West Lafayette. Winning close games is always a sign of a really good team and Purdue had two of those to finish last season; and they were big. Before beating Western Michigan in their bowl game they had also upset Ohio State by a score of 26-23. Another thing that Purdue possesses in spades is a wealth of talent and speed at the skill positions; especially the pass-catchers. All four starters at the wide receiver and tight end positions hail from the speed-heavy state of Florida. At least eight wins are definitely possible for the Boilermakers in 2012.
Huskers head coach Bo Pelini has averaged just under 10 wins per season during his first four years in Lincoln, much improving a team that seemed lost before he came to town and revitalized the program. However, there are many things that point to a disappointing season in 2012. Quarterback Taylor Martinez just isn’t an elite signal-caller. He has struggled in big games, throws too many interceptions and is way too fragile to take the pounding of the physically imposing Big Ten defenses week after week for an entire season. Their schedule is a bear, too. The Huskers' first three out-of-conference opponents combined for 28 wins last season. On top of all this, their defense is just average.
Instant Impact Freshman:
Greg Garmon – RB, Iowa
Second-team All-Big Ten running back Marcus Coker was suspended for last year’s Insight Bowl. He was welcomed to return for the Hawkeyes, but instead chose to transfer. This move opens the door very wide for Garmon, a true freshman speedster out of Pennsylvania who is probably the most gifted back on the Hawkeyes' roster. A slew of other backs will also have the opportunity to assert themselves, but look for Garmon’s abilities to win him the starting job. “Ball-Game” Garmon (6’1”, 200 lbs) rushed for 2,859 yards and 27 TD in his high school career.
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