Ohio St, Michigan no favorites in new Big Ten

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NEBRASKA _ Key players: QB Taylor Martinez, DT Jared Crick; LB Lavonte David. Returning starters: 6 offense; 7 defense.

Notes: Martinez started his freshman season looking like a Heisman Trophy candidate, but injuries slowed him and defenses started to adjust. … Over the past two seasons, Nebraska has allowed the fourth fewest points in the nation. … The Huskers’ first Big Ten schedule is brutal. They DON’T play Indiana, Illinois and Purdue.

MICHIGAN _ Key players: QB Denard Robinson; DT Mike Martin; WR Roy Roundtree. Returning starters: 9 offense, 9 defense.

Notes: Hoke brings a prostyle offense back to The Big House. Robinson excelled in the spread, averaging 328 total yards per game, but Hoke is confident he’ll be just as good spending less time in the shotgun. … New defensive coordinator Greg Mattison is switching to a 4-3 scheme.

NORTHWESTERN _ Key players: QB Dan Persa, SS Brian Peters, Jeremy Ebert. Returning starters: 9 offense, 7 defense.

Notes: The school is pumping up Persa, one of the most overlooked players in the country last season, as a Heisman contender in 2011. The campaign slogan is PersaStrong and the school has been sending media members a set of purple 7-pound dumbells in the mail.

IOWA _ Key players: WR Marvin McNutt; CB Shaun Prater; T Reily Reiff. Returning starters: 5 offense, 5 defense.

Notes: QB James Vandenberg replaces the departed Ricky Stanzi. Vanderberg was thrown into big games as a freshman in ‘09 and had some memorable moments. … Sophomore C.J. Fiedorowicz could be Iowa’s next All-American tight end.

MINNESOTA _ Key players: QB MarQueis Gray; LB Gary Tinsley; WR Da’Jon McKnight. Returning starters: 6 offense, 8 defense.

Notes: What has Minnesota fans excited is Gray being installed as the starting quarterback by new coach Jerry Kill. He was a huge quarterback recruit out of high school, but has mostly played receiver.

LEADERS

WISCONSIN _ Key players: QB Russell Wilson, RB LB Chris Borland, RB James White. Returning starters: 6 offense, 6 defense.

Notes: Coach Bret Bielema called Wilson, the North Carolina State transfer, a “potential starter” during Big Ten media day. In reality, he’s the type of player who could push the Badgers into national title contention … First true road game comes Oct. 22 at Michigan State. Then Badgers play at Ohio State the next week.

OHIO STATE _ Key players: DT John Simon, OT Mike Adams, WR DeVier Posey. Returning starters: 6 offense, 4 defense.

Notes: Who plays quarterback? With Pryor gone, it opens the possibility that freshman Braxton Miller could grab the job. Senior Joe Bauserman might be the front-runner to start … Posey, Adams, Herron and DE Solomon Thomas will miss first five games. Of those five, a trip to Miami and the Big Ten opener vs. Michigan State could be problematic.

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