Web Links: A list of things to watch in Big Ten in 2012

Two stops remain on BTN’s annual summer bus tour. Today, we’re at Michigan State, the reigning Legends Division champ, and then we head to instate rival Michigan before heading back to Chicago. It’s been a fun journey across the Big Ten landscape. Read all my tour coverage here and check out Wednesday’s web links in this post.

HUSKER TAKING ADVANTAGE: Brent Qvale has gone from reserve to starting left offensive tackle with the unexpected departure of Tyler Moore. And Qvale looks good.

And, it’s better late than never for the fourth-year junior, who will be protecting Taylor Martinez’s blind side.

FIGURING OUT BUTKUS’ LINE: Illinois offensive line coach Luke Butkus has his work cut out for him trying to build his unit.

The unit has seemingly been in transition since the spring. The latest configuration has Michael Heitz at left tackle; Alex Hill at left guard; Jake Feldmeyer at center; Alex Karras—a redshirt freshman–at right guard; Graham Pocic at right tackle. Once Hugh Thornton gets healthy, expect the shuffling to ensue. But, one positive to all of this: The unit should have versatility throughout the season if injuries crop up.

WORKING WITH WISCONSIN’S RECEIVERS: Wisconsin receivers coach Zach Azzanni has done a good job developing the receiving corps.

Azzanni has developed six wideouts to form what should be a solid group of receivers. Jared Abbrederis will the leader, but I saw some good youngsters who should impact this fall working with new signal-caller Danny O’Brien. One is redshirt freshman Jordan Fredrick, who along with Abbrederis seems to have emerged as the best of the bunch. Reggie Love is a true freshman who impresses, too. Chase Hammond and Isaiah Williams also are in the mix for this underrated corps.

TWELVE THINGS TO WATCH: The great Randy Peterson of the Des Moines Register offers 12 Big Ten storylines to watch in 2012.

No. 9 is a good one: How’s this for a schedule grind? Michigan opens the regular season against defending national champion Alabama and finishes it against Ohio State. And don’t forget Notre Dame on Sept. 22.

MORE BACKFIELD QUESTIONS: With Iowa freshman running back Barkley Hill out for the season with a knee injury suffered over the weekend, how are the Hawkeyes impacted?

Well, Damon Bullock remains No. 1, and true freshman Greg Garmon remains No. 2. True freshman Michael Malloy also is in the mix. And a junior walk-on named Andre Dawson also could figure in. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a mess … again.

Rob Oller of the Columbus Dispatch wonders if Urban Meyer can speed up the winning timetable for first-year coaches at Ohio State.

WHAT’S IN STORE IN YEAR 1? Rob Oller points out that Ohio State has averaged about seven-eight wins in the first season with a new coach (128-73-190). Jim Tressel went 7-5 in his debut in 2001. This Buckeye team may win nine or 10, according to some pundits—including myself. So, I am banking on Meyer bucking the trend and enjoying a banner debut in Columbus this fall. The key: The offense.

BREAKOUT WOLVERINES: Michigan fans, are you looking for some breakout players? Check out these guys. Nice list!

TIME FOR TIGHT ENDS: Can Minnesota become “Tight Ends U” again?

Drew Goodger hopes so. When I watched him practice a few weeks ago, I was impressed. He looked good working in concert with quarterback MarQueis Gray. And John Rabe also looks good, as the two are working in a rotation for now. By the end of the season, they may be mentioned in the same breath as former Gopher tight ends like Ben Utecht and Matt Spaeth.

TWEETS THAT MATTER

My take: This, no doubt, is impressive. I know he arrived in Lincoln amid much hype. He looked good when I watched Nebraska’s practice last week. He’s a big target with quickness. Nice weapon for an offense that needs playmakers.

My take: Look, no one is going to “out gamesmanship” the Alabama defense. Offenses will have to line up and beat this talented and fast crew. Nick Saban will have a good plan—Fitz Toussaint or no Fitz Toussaint.

My take: Borland could start for any Big Ten team. The kid is a Tasmanian Devil who never stops working or moving. Love him.

My take: This is an amazing fact. The football gods must be angry at Iowa for something.

My take: And that is the issue: depth. The front-liners I saw at State College are good. But injuries could wreck this team … quickly.

BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is on Twitter and Facebook, all of his work is at btn.com/tomdienhart, and you can subscribe to it via his RSS feed. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below.

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