Also read our Legends Division Rundown.
Bret Beilema is on a roll in Wisconsin with back to back Rose Bowl appearances and the inaugural B1G Championship. 2011 Heisman candidate Montee Ball returns and will be backed up by the almost equally impressive James White. The Badgers once again have a transfer QB in Danny O’Brien from Maryland. O’Brien may not be the star that Russell Wilson was as Maryland only won two games in 2011 and O’Brien threw more Interceptions than Touchdowns. WR Jared Abbrederis returns as a major receiving threat however the Badgers will need players to step up and accompany Abbrederis as receiving threats.
Wisconsin’s Defense will be led by returning leading tacklers Mike Taylor and Chris Borland at Linebacker. The Badgers weakness may be up front where Wisconsin returns just two starts Brendan Kelly and Ethan Hemer who each had a sack apiece in 2011 and combined for only 3 tackles for a loss. The Badger secondary will be led by returning CB Devin Smith. Wisconsin’s first real test will be when they travel to Lincoln Sept. 29.
This year the Buckeyes will be introduced to the new normal. Jim Tressel is gone and while Ohio State is still suffering the bowl and B1G Championship ineligibility the Buckeyes have moved into the Urban Age. I cannot recall a first year head coach with the heightened expectations attached to Urban Meyer’s tenure at Ohio State. Can Meyer possibly live up to such lofty expectations this season? This won’t be the Tresselball the B1G is used to Meyer’s Offense is expected to be a no-huddle spread. Ohio State is entering a brave new world. Urban’s premier Buckeye Offense will be led by Sophomore QB Braxton Miller and RB Jordan Hall, however the offensive line and receiving core (looking at you Stoneburner) will require major improvements from last year.
The Buckeyes defense returns 10 starters including Jr. S C.J. Barnett and Sr. DE John Simon, who Meyer called, a “Tebowish” “warhorse”. Meyer hasn’t yet coached a down for the Buckeyes and already many are hailing Ohio State as a 2013 National Title Contender. It may be wise to temper expectations in Columbus a tad, at least until after Meyer’s inaugural season. However, expect the Buckeye’s to improve upon 2011′s 6-6 season.
Purdue was decimated by injuries last year yet was able to put together a 6-6 (4-4 B1G) record and a bowl win. Caleb TerBush, Robert Marve, and Rob Henry are all healthy and will all be vying for the starting Quarterback job. Unfortunately, there is no clear cut frontrunner for the position. The Boilermakers should have plenty of talent available at RB with Akeem Hunt, Akeem Shavers, and Raheem Mostert. On the other hand, Purdue’s bad luck seems to continue with Ralph Bolden tearing both ACL’s and his arrest in April at a bar and last year’s leading WR Antavian Edison was arrested with a gun in his car in Florida. It will also be difficult to replace All-B1G K/P Carson Wiggs.
Projected first round draft choice DT Kawann Short leads what should be a formidable defensive line for the Boilermakers. Ricardo Allen heads a capable defensive backfield. The largest concern for Purdue’s defense is depth at linebacker a concern that is somewhat alleviated now that Dwayne Beckford has been returned to scholarship after his December DUI arrest.
The Zooker has moved on and first year Head Coach Tim Beckman seems to be killing it on the recruiting trail. As of writing this it is unclear weather veteran Nathan Scheelhaase or Riley O’Toole will lead the Illini Offense in 2012. Donovonn Young and Josh Ferguson should split time at running back. It appears as if Beckman is going to run a spread offense but not the craptacular run first spread implemented by Zook last year. Illinois offense should be explosive but may need practical game-time experience before it fully blossoms.
Illinois’s Defense was good last year but lost a lot of talent to the NFL. DE Michael Buchanan returns and should be a force to reckon with since he seems to have recovered fully from a broken jaw injury during the off-season. It is difficult to predict how the Illini Defense will react to a new coaching staff but they return enough starts and talent Illinois should have a more than respectable defensive unit in 2012.
This year Penn State enters the Bill O’Brien era. It won’t be pretty. The NCAA dropped the banhammer for the coverup of the Sandusky atrocity. Although the Nittany Lions have not experienced the mass exodus of talent many expected. O’Brien has named Matt McGloin the starting QB which should provide the Offensive squad more stability than the Quarterback carousel that was last year. Of course, McGloin didn’t impress last year (%54 completion 8 TDs 5 Ints) splitting time. The Penn State receiving corps and offensive line will need to seriously up their game as well. The Nittany Lions will miss the contributions of transferred players Silas Redd (RB to USC), Anthony Fera (K to Texas), Justin Brown (WR to Oklahoma), among others.
Linebacker U should have good play from Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges. The Defensive line should be stout again this year. The Nittany Lions defensive weakness may be the secondary and in a changing B1G that is predicted to strengthen its passing game a weak secondary could cause problems. However the best part about 2012 for Happy Valley is that one thing that’s been all over the news is finally behind them.
Head Coach Kevin Wilson enters his second season with the Hoosiers looking to improve upon a dismal 2011 season (1-11). Sophomore Quarterback Tre Roberson will marshal the Indiana offense with Jr. WR Kofi Hughes, and running back tandem Stephen Houston and D’Angelo Roberts. Indiana will need the offensive line and receiving corps to step up and produce in order to qualify for a bowl.
Indiana returns 9 starters on defense including the entire defensive line. However, those are 9 starts from the same defense that finished last in the B1G in scoring defense, yardage, and run defense. The Hoosiers should improve in 2012 but by how much remains the question. Expect at least another year before Coach Wilson takes Indiana bowling.