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2012 Big Ten Preview - Leaders Team Breakdown
Illinois DT Akeem Spence
Illinois DT Akeem Spence
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 15, 2012


Preview 2012 - CFN Big Ten Team By Team Quick Looks and Predicted Finish


Preview 2012

Big Ten Leaders Team By Team

 
LEADERS
- 2012 Illinois Preview | 2012 Indiana Preview
- 2012 Ohio State Preview | 2012 Penn State Preview 
- 2012 Purdue Preview | 2012 Wisconsin Preview

LEGENDS
- 2012 Iowa Preview | 2012 Michigan Preview
- 2012 Michigan State Preview | 2012 Minnesota Preview  
- 2012 Nebraska Preview | 2012 Northwestern Preview  

- 2012 Big Ten Preview
- 2012 Big Ten Unit Rankings
- 2012 CFN Schedules & Picks
- 2012 CFN All-Big Ten Team & Top 30 Players
- 2012 Big Ten Leaders Team Looks & Predicted Finish  
- 2012 Big Ten Legends Team Looks & Predicted Finish  
 
Predicted Big Ten Championship: Michigan State over Wisconsin

Note: Predictions based on team talent and schedules.

1. Wisconsin
2012 CFN Prediction: 11-1
2012 Big Ten Prediction: 7-1

Offense: Run, run some more, and run even more. Wisconsin, as always, will have one of the best ground games in America led by Heisman finalist Montee Ball, who along with Melvin Gordon and James White should combine for over 3,000 rushing yards working behind yet another massive line. But the big question mark will be a passing game that was among the most efficient in college football with Russell Wilson at the helm. Maryland transfer Danny O’Brien isn’t Wilson, but he’s a talented passer who could be in a perfect situation to maximize his skills. He’ll get 19 days to throw – if he can hold off Joel Stave and Joe Brennan for the starting job – but will the targets be there to balance out the attack? Jared Abbrederis has to grow into a No. 1 wide receiver and tight end Jacob Pedersen has to do even more.

Defense: Somewhat quietly compared to the press the offense gets, the defense should be outstanding with a little more help from the pass rush. The linebacking corps is loaded with Mike Taylor and Chris Borland two tackling machines who should be all-stars with All-America potential. As good as the linebackers will be, the secondary could be even better with the return of top corner Devin Smith from a foot injury and with the safety tandem of Shelton Johnson and Dezmen Southward among the best in the Big Ten. The tackles will also be a positive with a terrific rotation to hold up against the run, but there isn’t a killer of a pass rusher to rely on. Getting into the backfield more would be nice, but defensive coordinator Chris Ash isn’t going to sell the house to be more disruptive; the D won’t have to take any major chances.

2. Ohio State
2012 CFN Prediction: 9-3
2012 Big Ten Prediction: 6-2

Offense: Give it a little bit of time. Any improvement after finishing 107th in the nation will be a positive. The pieces are there and the coaching staff is tweaking to get the spread attack in place, but it’s going to take some adjusting. Offensive coordinator Tom Herman knows how to get big things out of a mobile quarterback, and Braxton Miller appears to be the perfect fit to grow into the offense. Not only is he quick, he’s improving as a passer after not being allowed to do too much as a true freshman. The running backs are fine, but top option Jordan Hall will be out for a chunk of the season with a foot injury. The line has to be far more productive and consistent after struggling way too much in pass protection and with plenty of shuffling after losing three starters. The receiving corps has to be far more explosive when it’s time to start making big plays, but speed and size aren’t a problem. Overall, it will take a little while, but almost all the key parts are going to be around for at least next season.
Defense: Co-defensive coordinators Luke Fickell and Everett Withers are about to take a good defense and make it special. It’s not like the young D was bad last season – it finished 19th in the nation and allowed just 21 points per game – but it was inconsistent and didn’t seem to be able to put the clamps down in close games. That shouldn’t be a problem this season with nine returning starters led by a deep and loaded secondary that should be among the best in the country, and a defensive front with two future NFL stars in tackle Johnathan Hankins and end John Simon. The underwhelming linebacking corps might not be up to normal Ohio State snuff, but it’s experienced and has young talents in Ryan Shazier and Curtis Grant to get excited about.

T3. Illinois
2012 CFN Prediction: 7-5
2012 Big Ten Prediction: 4-4

Offense: Co-offensive coordinators Billy Gonzales and Chris Beatty have some work to do to jumpstart an attack that died down the stretch. It might be a season-long effort to find the right mix and enough stars to build around, but there’s plenty of upside. Nathan Scheelhaase is a playmaking quarterback to build around, but he needs help from a backfield that doesn’t have much experience and needs back Josh Ferguson to shine like he did this offseason. The loss of A.J. Jenkins hurts a question mark of a receiving corps that has to unearth playmakers as soon as possible. There’s speed, but there’s not much in the way of proven stars. A line that struggled in pass protection has a nice mix of young prospects and proven seniors with center Graham Pocic and guard Hugh Thornton needing to dominate.

Defense: New defensive coordinator Tim Banks isn’t going to change things up too much from a defense that finished sixth in the nation in sacks, fourth in tackles for loss and third in pass defense. Even with the loss of Whitney Mercilus the line is going to be fantastic with Akeem Spence inside and Michael Buchanan on the end leading the way. Jonathan Brown is an All-America caliber linebacker, but he’s hardly going to have to do everything by himself with a great group of athletes around him helped by the linebacker-safety combination position called the Star. The great secondary of last year gets three starters back but loses top corner Tavon Wilson. As long as the pass rush is working all will be fine in the defensive backfield.

T3. Purdue
2012 CFN Prediction: 7-5
2012 Big Ten Prediction: 4-4

Offense: The offense was great against the weak and the sad, but it sputtered and coughed against the defenses with a pulse. It was way too inconsistent and wasn’t explosive enough, but with eight starters returning and lots of good options the attack should be better. The quarterback situation is deep with Caleb TerBush, Robert Marve and Rob Henry all starters who can make the offense move, but they need to start generating more big plays with a speedy and dangerous receiving corps to work with. There are plenty of athletes and home run hitters in the backfield, and they should get lots of room to move with a veteran line that might seem like a bit of a ragtag bunch, but should be solid as long as injuries don’t strike.

Defense: The defense wasn’t all that bad despite giving up close to 400 yards and 27 points per game. The depth is limited and a bit of a concern, but the starting 11 should be extremely strong and aggressive led by a superior tackle tandem of Kawann Short and Bruce Gaston in the middle. With Ryan Russell looking like the next-big-thing at end, the line should be a major plus. The linebackers are thin, but Dwayne Beckford and Will Lucas are tackling machines who should put up huge numbers. There isn’t a better tackling corner tandem in the country than Ricardo Allen and Josh Johnson, but the safeties are a bit of a concern and the pass defense has to be better against the stronger quarterbacks.

5. Penn State
2012 CFN Prediction: 5-7
2012 Big Ten Prediction: 2-6

Offense: How fast can Bill O’Brien turn around one of the nation’s worst offenses? The running game was mediocre, the passing game was abysmal, and now everyone has to go from the slow and stodgy conservatism of the old attack to a high-flying offense that wants to spread the ball around. The problem is that the quarterbacks aren’t in place to do what O’Brien wants. Matt McGloin is hardly a top-shelf Big Ten passer. Paul Jones is the wild-card, but he hasn’t done it in game action. The attack needs a running game after losing Silas Redd to USC, and the new backs will be working behind a green line with four new starters. If the quarterback play can be merely adequate the receiving corps should be in for a nice year despite the loss of top target Justin Brown to Oklahoma. There are plenty of bodies and options across the board, and now it’s a race to see who can pick up the intricacies of O’Brien’s scheme.

Defense: The defense should be a rock despite some heavy losses. The secondary loses all four starters, but there aren’t many passing teams on the schedule and the pass rush should be just good enough to make life easier. On the plus side there’s speed, athleticism and a whole slew of options to play around with in the defensive backfield. There’s just not much in the way of sure-thing star power like there is in the front seven. If Michael Mauti can finally stay healthy – and that’s a huge if – the linebacking corps could be the best in the country with Gerald Hodges and Glenn Carson two veteran tackling machines who’ll clean everything up the line doesn’t get to. The front four loses Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Devon Still and top end Jack Crawford, but the return of Pete Massaro on one side should help make the pass rush shine, and Jordan Hill and DaQuan Jones should be terrific for Ted Roof’s defense in the interior.

6. Indiana
2012 CFN Prediction: 4-8
2012 Big Ten Prediction: 1-7

Offense: New offensive coordinator Seth Littrell will continue with the theme that came down from head coach Kevin Wilson from the beginning of last year. The team has to be tougher and more physical with the hope coming from a line that took its lumps early on but now knows what it’s doing with four starters returning. The receiving corps gets seven of the top nine targets returning but needs a No. 1 target to emerge to throw a scare into an opposing defense. The plus side should be a backfield with Tre Roberson and Cameron Coffman two good quarterback options and Stephen Houston leading a suddenly deep stable of backs. Now the production has to come after finishing 101st in the nation in scoring and averaging 360 yards per game.

Defense: The defensive coaches did what they could, but the speed and athleticism weren’t there in the back seven and the production didn’t come from the front four. The line was shoved around and didn’t get any semblance of a pass rush from the outside, and the secondary only came up with five picks and got torched by anyone who could throw a forward pass. There’s hope for co-coordinators Doug Mallory and Mike Ekeler with a great recruiting class of linebackers and a few good JUCO transfers ready to provide an instant upgrade to the corps, and with veteran tackles and four returning starters to the secondary. Overall the D has to find one thing it can do well with the experience needing to translate into production.

LEADERS
- 2012 Illinois Preview | 2012 Indiana Preview
- 2012 Ohio State Preview | 2012 Penn State Preview 
- 2012 Purdue Preview | 2012 Wisconsin Preview

LEGENDS
- 2012 Iowa Preview | 2012 Michigan Preview
- 2012 Michigan State Preview | 2012 Minnesota Preview  
- 2012 Nebraska Preview | 2012 Northwestern Preview  

- 2012 Big Ten Preview
- 2012 Big Ten Unit Rankings
- 2012 CFN Schedules & Picks
- 2012 CFN All-Big Ten Team & Top 30 Players
- 2012 Big Ten Leaders Team Looks & Predicted Finish  
- 2012 Big Ten Legends Team Looks & Predicted Finish