Big Ten heads into unusual season with PSU, OSU

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Robinson has already set the NCAA single-season record for rushing by a quarterback when he picked up 1,702 yards as a sophomore. His numbers dropped off a bit _ as did his carries _ a year ago but he still had 1,176 in Brady Hoke’s highly successful first season that ended in a Sugar Bowl victory. Robinson has a jaw-dropping 8,160 yards total offense for his career, most of it over the last two seasons. … Kovacs has 266 tackles, five sacks, five forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and four interceptions in his career for the Wolverines.

MICHIGAN STATE _ Key players: QB Andrew Maxwell, LB Max Bullough, DE William Gholston, DB Johnny Adams, S Isaiah Lewis, RB Le’Veon Bell. Returning starters: 5 offense, 8 defense

Notes: Michigan State has had back-to-back 11-win seasons for the first time in school history. … The Spartans have won more conference games (24) over the last four years than any other team in the league. … Replacing three-year starter Kirk Cousins will be a challenge. He set nearly every school passing record and the Spartans were 22-5 during his last two seasons.

MINNESOTA _ Key players: QB MarQueis Gray, LB Mike Rallis, WR Brandon Green, OL Ed Olson, LB Keanon Cooper. Returning starters: 7 offense, 6 defense.

Coach Jerry Kill thanked a reporter for asking him how his health was and then said he was feeling fantastic. Kill had a seizure on the sideline of a game against New Mexico State last season. … Gray’s dual threat abilities and athleticism give the Golden Gophers hopes of improving on last year’s three-win season. He set school records for single-game (174) and single-season rushing yards by a quarterback (966). As a passer last season, Gray _ who had also been a wide receiver during his career _ threw eight TD passes and eight interceptions, while competing 51 percent

NEBRASKA _ Key players: RB Rex Burkhead, QB Taylor Martinez, WR Kenny Bell, LB Will Compton, DE Cameron Meredith. Returning starters: 8 offense, 7 defense

Nebraska’s Blackshirt defense lost two of its best in linebacker Lavonte David and Alfonzo Dennard, voted the league’s best cornerback. … Burkhead had seven 100-yard rushing games last season, including five against league opponents. … Nebraska went 9-4 _ 5-3 in the conference _ during its inaugural Big Ten season.

NORTHWESTERN _ Key players: QB Kain Colter, S Ibraheim Campbell, LB David Nwabuisi, OL Brian Mulroe, WR Demetrius Fields. Returning starters: 5 offense, 6 defense.

The Wildcats must replace QB Dan Persa and the job will fall to Colter, who rushed for 654 yards and nine TDs a year ago. … The winless bowl run continues for the Wildcats, something they hope to finally nix. They’re 1-9 in postseason games, including last year’s loss to Texas A&M in the Car Care Bowl. Last bowl win _ only bowl win _ was the 1949 Rose Bowl. That came a quarter of a century before current NU coach Pat Fitzgerald was born.

Leaders Division:

ILLINOIS _ Key players: QB Nathan Scheelhaase, LB Jonathan Brown, DE Michael Buchanan, C Graham Pocic. Returning starters: 7 offense, 7 defense.

The Illini roared out of the gates with a 6-0 record last season only to lose six straight in a head-shaking slide that cost Ron Zook his job. The Illini did win the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl over UCLA to finish 7-6. …. Scheelhaase has played in 26 games the last two seasons, passing for nearly 4,000 yards and rushing for another 1,492. … First-year coach Tim Beckman said some of his coaches went to State College trolling for transfers shortly after the Nittany Lions were hit with sanctions.

INDIANA _ Key players: DT Adam Replogle, QB Tre Roberson, RB Stephen Houston, C Will Matte, DT Larry Black, Jr. Returning starters: 7 offense, 8 defense.

The Hoosiers won’t improve until their defense does. They gave up 459 yards per game last season and had trouble stopping the run during a 1-11 season. Indiana was winless in the Big Ten. … Coach Kevin Wilson played 16 true freshmen and 16 redshirt freshmen last season. The Hoosiers started 46 different players in 12 games.

OHIO STATE _ Key players: QB Braxton Miller, WR Devin Smith, WR Corey Brown, DT Johnathan Hankings, DL John Simon. Returning starters: 7 offense, 8 defense.

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