Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, August 28, 2012

I have written much about the 2012 season, which starts on Thursday when Minnesota plays at UNLV. But before the first kickoff of the first game, I'm offering my look at how I think the Big Ten race will shape up this fall. My colleague Brent Yarina did this on Monday to give you another perspective.

BTN aired the first of two hour-long football preview shows, one for each Big Ten division. "Big Ten Football Preview: Legends Division" aired at 8 p.m. ET (full TV schedule for later airings). You can see selected clips over here, too. Our "Big Ten Football Preview: Leaders Division" airs Wednesday night at 8 p.m. So I'm starting with my Legends Division piece this afternoon and you can check back here on Wednesday for part two.

1. Michigan State 11-1 7-1
2. Michigan 10-2 6-2
3. Nebraska 10-2 6-2
4. Iowa 8-4 4-4
5. Northwestern 6-6 2-6
6. Minnesota 6-6 2-6

Champ: Michigan State

Best Offensive Player: Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan. What more can be said about ?Shoelace,? who is aiming to become the all-time leading rusher among quarterbacks in NCAA annals this fall? I have run out of adjectives. Oh, and the senior also supposed to be a better passer.

Best Defensive Player: William Gholston, E, Michigan State. Yes, the junior will demand lots of attention from blockers, but Gholston still will find a way to make plays and be the ultimate disruptive force. He?s a pterodactyl off the edge. Just frightening.

Breakout Offensive Player: Bennie Fowler, WR, Michigan State. He flashed big-play skills as a freshman in 2010 before suffering foot injuries that ruined 2011. Now, the junior is ready to shine as the Spartans? top wideout.

Breakout Defensive Player: Ra?Shede Hageman, T, Minnesota. The mammoth junior seems to have found a home inside after trying tight end and defensive end. If he?s dialed in, the 6-6, 300-pounder could be a wrecking ball on the interior for a surging Gopher program.

Top Offensive Newcomer: Greg Garmon, RB, Iowa. The true freshman has no choice but to play because of attrition. And he won?t disappoint with his speed and explosiveness for a team that?s desperate for a runner.

Top Defensive Newcomer: Mohammed Seisay, CB, Nebraska. He?s a big, physical JC cornerback who began his career at Memphis. Look for Seisay to be a force in coverage and vs. the run for a much-improved Husker defense.

Team to watch: Iowa. Kirk Ferentz?s teams usually do some of their best work when expectations are low. And, that?s the case this year. An overhauled staff must try to find a ground game on offense and develop a line on defense. If those things happen, look out. senior writer Tom Dienhart is on Twitter and Facebook, all of his work is at, and you can subscribe to it all via his RSS feed. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below.

And if you want to leave a comment on this post, use the box below. All comments need to be approved by a moderator.