2012 Pre-Preseason Rankings - Big Ten Leaders
Ohio State QB Braxton Miller
Ohio State QB Braxton Miller
Posted Jan 18, 2012

The too early look at how good the Big Ten Leaders should be in 2012.

CFN 2012 First Look Rankings

Big Ten Leaders

2011 CFN Pre-Preseason First Look Rankings
The Top 10 | Rankings 11-25 | Rankings 26-50
- Rankings 51-75 | Rankings 76-100The Bottom 20  

2011 CFN Final Season Rankings
The Top 10 | Rankings 11-25 | Rankings 26-50
- Rankings 51-75 | Rankings 76-100The Bottom 20

- CFN 2011 FINAL Rankings

It might seem way too early, but considering the returning starters and the teams coming back, where does everyone stand before Signing Day and spring ball? Here's CFN's first look at all the teams for 2012 based on how good they appear to be at the moment.

- CFN 2012 Pre-Preseason Big Ten Legends Rankings

1. Wisconsin (11-3)

The Badgers might win the Leaders by default with Ohio State not eligible for the Big Ten title and Penn State in trouble, but there's one big question. Is there another Russell Wilson out there?

Jon Budmayr has an elbow issue that's having a hard time healing, while Curt Phillips is a tremendously talented prospect who can't catch a break when it comes to knee injuries. The starting quarterback won't have to do too much passing with Heisman finalist Montee Ball returning to mount another assault on the record books. Center Peter Konz is leaving early for the NFL, but the line was just fine when he missed time during the year hurt; it'll once again be one of college football's best front fives. Chris Borland and Mike Taylor form one of America's best linebacking duos, but five starters are gone off a defense that needs more speed and athleticism.

2. Ohio State (6-7)

Urban Meyer's team might not have anything to play for this year – being ineligible for the Big Ten title and a bowl game – but there's still a ton of talent and plenty of excitement. Even after top recruiting class after top recruiting class under Jim Tressel, there's no one leaving early for the NFL, and the returning team is loaded with promise and potential … for 2013.

Braxton Miller will challenge Michigan's Denard Robinson for the honor of being the Big Ten's most thrilling player, and he'll get a year of experimenting and experience to be ready to be truly special in two years. Three starters are gone off the offensive line, while top receiver DeVier Posey and running back Dan Herron have to be replaced. On the other side, the line could be the best in the Big Ten, and linebacker Ryan Shazier appears to be a mortal lock for All-Big Ten honors. In all, ten starters could be back on defense, both kickers return, and of course, the coaching situation is a major positive. Now it'll all be up to motivation.

3. Illinois (7-6)

New head coach Tim Beckman isn't exactly making a great first impression after having problems filling out his coaching staff, but he has a good team in place to work with. Star end Whitney Mercilus is gone to the NFL, but three starters are back on the line and big-time tackler Jonathan Brown leads a strong linebacking corps. The secondary gets three starters back and shouldn't have too big a problem replacing corner Tavon Wilson. The offense starts with QB Nathan Scheelhaase, but he needs to find a new No. 1 target with A.J. Jenkins gone. Donovonn Young will get the first look to handle the running game, working behind a line that loses tackle Jeff Allen but should be strong with a little bit of tweaking.

4. Purdue (7-6)

Shockingly, QB Robert Marve got another year of eligibility, but the offense should still be Caleb TerBush's to fly. The 1-2 rushing punch of Ralph Bolden and Akeem Shavers should be among the Big Ten's most productive if the line can replace three starters. Leading receiver Justin Siller is gone, but Antavian Edison and O.J. Ross are promising. The defense caught a huge break when DT Kawann Short chose to return for one more year to anchor a defensive front that should be the best in the Danny Hope era. The secondary loses both safeties but gets back top corner Ricardo Allen. Raheem Mostert led the nation in kickoff returns.

5. Penn State (9-4)

Forgetting about the baggage and the problems the program will be dealing with over the next several years, Bill O'Brien's team has a major, major problem on the field – it needs a quarterback. Matt McGloin and Rob Bolden both had issues throughout the season, but the offense will have RB Silas Redd to count on. The line has to replace four starters, leading receiver Derek Moye is done, and the depth at running back is questionable. Defensively, the line loses all-star tackle Devon Still and pass rusher Jack Crawford, but the linebacking corps should be terrific with Gerald Hodges ready to break out on a national scale. All four starters have to be replaced in the secondary.

6. Indiana (1-11)

The Hoosiers failed to beat an FBS team, but the biggest loss came this offseason when star QB prospect Dusty Kiel ultimately chose Notre Dame after verbally committing to IU. Second-year head coach Kevin Wilson had a really, really young team, and now the hope is for quarterbacks Tre Roberson and Edward Wright-Baker to play like experienced veterans. Stephen Houston and D'Angelo Roberts are promising backs to work the running game around, while Kofi Hughes is a good No. 1 target. The defense was a disaster finishing last in the Big Ten in yards, scoring D, and run defense, but all four starters are back on the line and three starters in the secondary are back. Leading tackler Jeff Thomas is gone from the middle.