HOW THEY'LL FINISH
Best offensive player
QB, Ohio State, Jr.
He's big (6' 6", 233 pounds), he's fast (timed at 4.33 in the 40), and he delivered a Rose Bowl offensive MVP performance against Oregon.
Best defensive player
DE, Iowa, Sr.
A powerful pass rusher who had 11½ sacks and 20 tackles for loss last season, Clayborn (left) is a projected top 10 NFL draft pick.
True freshman to watch
LB, Michigan State
The Big Ten's lone five-star signee (according to Rivals.com), Gholston is a 6' 7", 250-pound hybrid pass rusher who will play immediately.
Coach on the rise
His 17 wins in the past two seasons are the Wildcats' most since the 1995--96 Big Ten title teams, when Fitzgerald was an All-America linebacker.
Coach on the hot seat
With his first two years having yielded a 3--13 Big Ten record and impending NCAA sanctions, Rich Rod needs a big season to survive past year three.
PLAYERS TO WATCH (Top performers from unranked teams)
WR-KR-PR, Indiana, Jr.
The Hoosiers' versatile playmaker had 1,666 all-purpose yards and six touchdowns last year, even lining up as a running back to provide an option threat.
LB, Michigan State, Sr.
A consensus first-team All-America with 154 tackles (No. 3 in the nation), Jones will set his sights this year on the Butkus Award for the nation's top linebacker.
DE, Purdue, Sr.
This 6' 4", 263-pound bull rusher keyed the upset of Ohio State last season. He led the conference with 13 sacks and led the country with seven forced fumbles.
RB, Illinois, Jr.
LeShoure, who averaged 6.8 yards a carry last year, culminated a breakthrough season with a 184-yard rushing day in the finale against Fresno State.
WR, Purdue, Sr.
A former QB and safety for the Boilermakers, Smith emerged as the Big Ten's leading receiver in '09 (91 receptions, 1,100 yards).
Michigan coach RICH RODRIGUEZ remains undecided about his quarterback. While sophomore TATE FORCIER started all 12 games last season, fleet-footed classmate DENARD (SHOELACE) ROBINSON(below) closed the gap with an impressive spring. Rodriguez says the job is "wide-open." ... Iowa's returning offensive linemen have combined for just 36 career starts, fewest in the Big Ten, but coach KIRK FERENTZ believes 6' 6", 300-pound sophomore left tackle RILEY REIFF, who started 11 games as a redshirt freshman, will be a talented anchor.... Purdue quarterback ROBERT MARVE, a former starter at Miami (Fla.), is fully recovered from last season's surgery on his left ACL and will start this fall. Top rusher RALPH BOLDEN, however, is questionable to play this year after tearing his right ACL in the spring.... After a 3--9 debacle in '09, Illinois will have new coordinators on offense (PAUL PETRINO, from Arkansas) and defense (VIC KOENNING, Kansas State).... Minnesota senior quarterback ADAM WEBER, the program's alltime leading passer, enters the season as the starter, but sophomore MARQUEIS GRAY pushed Weber in spring practice and could play if Weber struggles as he did last year.
RANDY LITZINGER/ICON SMI
Penn State RB Evan Royster
DON MCPEAK/US PRESSWIRE
MARK CUNNINGHAM/GETTY IMAGES
ERIC BRONSON/ICON SMI