Leaders Division: Can Badgers Pull Off Repeat?

Earlier I presented my look at the Legends Division. Now, I roll out my look at the Leaders Division as well my overall picks for awards across both divisions. Agree? Disagree? Tell me what you think on Twitter and via my mailbox.

BTN airs the second of two hour-long football preview shows Wednesday night at 8 p.m. ET as Dave Revsine, Gerry DiNardo and Howard Griffith present “Big Ten Football Preview: Leaders Division.” On Tuesday BTN aired “Big Ten Football Preview: Legends Division.” Now, let’s get to how I see this Leaders Division race shaping up.

LEADERS OVERALL BIG TEN
 1. Wisconsin  10-2  6-2
 2. Ohio State  10-2  6-2
 3. Illinois  7-5  3-5
 4. Purdue  6-6  3-5
 5. Penn State  5-7  2-6
 6. Indiana  4-8 1-7

Champ: Wisconsin

Best Offensive Player: Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin. The Heisman 2011 finalist is back to resume his assault on record books after opting to return to Madison for his senior season. Can he rush for 2,000 yards this season? Can he score 40 touchdowns?

Best Defensive Player: John Simon, E, Ohio State. He’s a relentless force who plays to the echo of the whistle—and then some. The senior is equally adept playing the run as he is rushing the passer for what will be one of the top lines in the nation. And did I mention that Urban Meyer has described Simon as being “Tebow-ish” in his leadership and personality?

Breakout Offensive Player: Bill Belton, RB, Penn State. The former receiver steps into the spotlight after Silas Redd transferred to USC. Belton has quickness and a burst, and the sophomore will run behind a solid line for an offense that needs playmakers.

Breakout Defensive Player: Ryan Russell, E, Purdue. The sophomore is a force off the edge of what should be a very good Boilermaker defensive line. Russell combines strength, speed and a steely will to excel as Purdue’s next great end.

Top Offensive Newcomer: Danny O’Brien, QB, Wisconsin. The Maryland transfer and 2010 ACC Rookie of the Year is poised to pick up where Russell Wilson left off. O’Brien isn’t as athletic as Wilson, but the junior is an accomplished passer with 17 career starts who can keep this prolific offense chugging.

Top Defensive Newcomer: Noah Spence, E, Ohio State. The true freshman is lightning fast off the edge and will emerge as a pass-rushing force on third downs before developing into a four-down player later in his career.

Team to watch: Illinois. The defense could be one of the Big Ten’s best. The key will be the development of the offense in the new spread scheme of first-year coach Tim Beckman. QB Nathan Scheelhaase looks like a nice fit, but will the line and receivers develop?

OVERALL BIG TEN WINNERS

Big Ten Championship Game: Michigan State over Wisconsin
Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year: Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin
Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year: William Gholston, E, Michigan State
Big Ten Coach of the Year: Mark Dantonio, Michigan State

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 all via his RSS feed. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below.

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1 Comment

Your Opinion?
Show Comments (1 Comment)
aroznowski on 8/29/2012 @ 1:39am EDT Said:

Ohio State will finish atop the standings in the Leaders Division. Wisconsin will finish second, advance to the conference championship game, and lose to Nebraska, a team that has a better quarterback and defense than the Badgers and that also has one of the conference’s top running backs in Rex Burkhead.

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