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2008 Big Ten Preview - Unit Rankings
Penn State WR Deon Butler
Penn State WR Deon Butler
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jul 31, 2008


2008 CollegeFootballNews.com Preview - Big Ten Unit Rankings

2008 CFN Big Ten Preview

Unit Rankings

Team Previews & Predictions
Illinois | Indiana | Iowa | Michigan | Michigan State | Minnesota
Northwestern | Ohio State |
Penn State | Purdue | Wisconsin

- 2008 CFN Big Ten Preview
- CFN All-Big Ten Team & Top 30 Players
- Big Ten Team-by-Team Capsules

- Big Ten Schedules & Predictions

Offenses
1. Ohio State
The Buckeyes are loaded with ten returning starters and the one new face to the mix, sophomore right tackle Bryant Browning, is on the verge of being a star. A shockingly balanced attack last year, averaging 197 yards per game both rushing and receiving, might lean even more heavily on the running game with Chris "Beanie" Wells a Heisman candidate working behind a durable, tough front five. The passing game gets back the dangerous receiving tandem of Brian Robiskie and Brian Hartline, while QB Todd Boeckman will once again be a steady, efficient triggerman. The key will be to get more offensive scoring pop and to figure out how to mix in all the talented young backups. How will super-recruit Terrelle Pryor fit into the quarterback rotation, if at all? Can speedy tailback Brandon Saine get more carries? There's an embarrassment of riches to get excited about.

2. Wisconsin
3. Penn State
4. Illinois
5. Northwestern
6. Purdue
7. Michigan State
8. Michigan
9. Iowa
10. Minnesota
11. Indiana

Quarterbacks  
1. Purdue
The passing game was among the best in the nation last year, and now it'll have to be more efficient with Curtis Painter needing to use all his experience to make everyone around him better. He doesn't have last year's receiving corps to work with, but if he can make quicker decisions and better reads, that might not matter. Joey Elliott is a good backup and Justin Siller is a strong No. 3.

2.
Ohio State
3. Illinois
4. Indiana
5. Northwestern
6. Minnesota
7. Michigan State
8. Wisconsin
9. Penn State
10. Iowa
11. Michigan

Running Backs
1. Ohio State
Chris Wells is a superstar, No. 1 overall pick type of back who can carry the Ohio State offense on his back. And he has help. Maurice Wells is a quick runner who can be a good third down back or can be the featured runner from time to time. The star in the making is Brandon Saine, the 217-pound speedster who has good power and jaw-dropping moves. This backfield is deep, fast, big and very, very talented.

2. Wisconsin
3. Michigan State
4. Michigan
5. Northwestern
6. Penn State
7. Purdue
8. Minnesota
9. Illinois
10. Indiana
11. Iowa

Receivers
1. Penn State
By now, everyone knows what Derrick Williams, Deon Butler and Jordan Norwood can do. They're all solid, they can all step up and be the main man when needed, and they'll all produce. They're not going to blow anyone away, but they're good, reliable receivers who'll be a major plus for the new starting quarterback. The tight end situation is excellent with or without Andrew Quarless.

2.
Ohio State
3. Illinois
4. Iowa
5. Northwestern
6. Wisconsin
7. Michigan
8. Michigan State
9. Purdue
10. Minnesota
11. Indiana

Offensive Line
1. Penn State
The line paved the way for 194 rushing yards per game, and if it's Daryll Clark under center, the offense will crank out well over 200 yards per outing behind this group. Pass protection is hardly a problem, even though the tackles are very good, and not next-level superior. This is a talented, smart, experienced line that'll be the reason the Nittany Lions win a few games. Few defensive lines will be able hold their own for a full 60 minutes against this group. The big task will be preparing for next year by getting several new players prepared to take over at key spots.

2. Ohio State
3. Illinois
4. Wisconsin
5. Purdue
6. Minnesota
7. Iowa
8. Michigan 
9. Michigan State
10. Minnesota
11. Indiana

Defenses
1. Ohio State
Sackmaster Vernon Gholston and productive all-around LB Larry Grant are gone. That's about the only negative on what was the nation's best total and scoring defense. The stunning decisions by LB James Laurinaitis and CB Malcolm Jenkins to return for their senior seasons, when they would've been first round draft picks this year, makes the already good-looking defense something special. All four starters return to the secondary that helped lead the way for the nation's best pass defense. Laurinaitis and running-mate Marcus Freeman will make up for the potential issue at the third linebacking spot, while Lawrence Wilson, Cameron Heyward, and Thaddeus Gibson are great-looking ends who should be camped out in opposing backfield. The key will be the tackles. Mediocre last season, at least by Buckeye standards, Todd Denlinger, Doug Worthington, Dexter Larimore and Nader Abdallah are expected to be far better.

2. Michigan
3. Wisconsin
4. Illinois
5. Penn State
6. Michigan State
7. Iowa
8. Indiana
9. Purdue
10. Northwestern
11. Minnesota

Defensive Lines
1. Illinois
If ends Derek Walker and Will Davis do what they did last year, and maybe take another step up, this could be the Big Ten's best defensive line. There's size, athleticism, and talent, and considering the coaching staff likes to keep a steady rotation going, it used ten players in a rotation last year, there will be plenty of work for everyone.

2. Penn State
3. Michigan
4. Ohio State
5. Indiana
6. Iowa
7. Wisconsin
8. Michigan State
9. Purdue
10. Northwestern
11. Minnesota

Linebackers
1. Ohio State
With two All-America-caliber stars in James Laurinaitis and Marcus Freeman, the linebacking corps will be among the best in America. There are good backups to count on in a pinch, but the starting strongside job will be the focus until Tyler Moeller, or possibly Curtis Terry, takes the gig by the horns.       

2. Wisconsin
3. Michigan State
4. Michigan
5. Illinois
6. Iowa
7. Indiana
8. Penn State
9. Purdue
10. Northwestern
11. Minnesota

Defensive Backs
1. Ohio State
There's a lot to be excited about as the nation's best pass defense brings everyone back. As long as there isn't a suspension problem with Donald Washington, Jamario O'Neal, and Eugene Clifford in the doghouse this off-season, everything should be fine. Malcolm Jenkins should be in the NFL right now, but he'll be an All-America shut-down performer no one will want to throw at. There are strong backups, next-level starters, and for so much returning experience, enough youth to build around for next year, too. More interceptions would be nice, and everyone will have to do more with the pass rush to likely be a little bit weaker, but there's no reason to worry.

2.
Michigan
3. Wisconsin
4. Michigan State
5. Penn State
6. Iowa
7. Illinois
8. Purdue
9. Indiana
10. Northwestern
11. Minnesota

Special Teams
1. Penn State
Ohio State has the best kicking game in the Big Ten, but Penn State could have the best all-around special teams in America. The spotlight is on for this to be one of the team's biggest strengths. P Jeremy Boone and PK Kevin Kelly have big-time range, and the experience to go with it. KR A.J. Wallace is a big-time weapon who'll force several teams to squib it.

2.
Ohio State
3. Indiana
4. Iowa
5. Purdue
6. Minnesota
7. Northwestern
8. Wisconsin
9. Michigan
10. Michigan State
11. Illinois