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Wisconsin: 10 reasons to be excited in 2012

Wisconsin is the hottest team in the Big Ten. It’s true. This is a new world Big Ten, where traditional heavyweights like Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and Nebraska all are looking up at Wisconsin. This is the Badgers’ world … and everyone else is just living in it. The Badgers are coming off back-to-back Big Ten titles and Rose Bowl appearances, going an aggregate 22-5 overall the last two seasons (13-3 Big Ten). Now, history beckons. Wisconsin is aiming to be the first Big Ten team to play in three consecutive Rose Bowls since Michigan turned the trick after

Purdue: 10 reasons to be excited in 2012

Purdue is coming off a 7-6, the program’s first winning mark since 2007. That has some people in West Lafayette thinking big, as the program aims for back-to-back bowls for the first time since 2006-07 when Joe Tiller still was the coach. Danny Hope’s fourth Purdue team is loaded with veteran talent, including a defense that could end up being one of the better units in the Big Ten. And an offense that is endowed with an abundance of options at quarterback could make strides after ranking seventh in the Big Ten in scoring with a 26.9-yard average in 2011.

Penn State: 10 reasons to be excited in 2012

Penn State is entering a difficult era of NCAA probation and sanctions that figure to cripple the program for years. But first-year coach Bill O’Brien is moving forward undaunted and undeterred. The Nittany Lions can’t go to a bowl or win the Big Ten title, so O’Brien and Company must focus on regular-season success in the dawn of the post-Joe Paterno era that began in 1966. Penn State will have a chance to impact who wins the conference crown with games vs. the likes of Wisconsin, Iowa and Nebraska, as it aims to begin the healing process in pursuit of

Ohio State: 10 reasons to be excited in 2012

At Ohio State, it’s about turning the page. A new era has begun—and the possibilities seem limitless. Last season was difficult, as the Buckeyes endured the program’s first losing season (6-7) since 1988, which was John Cooper’s first campaign. The program also was shackled with NCAA probation stemming from the Jim Tressel era. Enter Urban Meyer. His hiring shortly after the season energized the Buckeye Nation, leaving fans dreaming of big things on the horizon. Yes, Ohio State in ineligible for the postseason and Big Ten title. But that still doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot to play for, as

Nebraska: 10 reasons to be excited in 2012

Nebraska’s maiden voyage in the Big Ten has to be considered a success on many fronts. The Cornhuskers finished 9-4 overall and 5-3 in the Big Ten. But along the way, Nebraska found out it needs to get bigger and more physical on defense to better deal with Big Ten offenses. And the Husker offense must improve its passing game to give the attack better balance. Even with improvements in those areas, however, Nebraska still may struggle to win a competitive Legends Division that includes favorites Michigan and Michigan State. Still, there is lots to look forward to. With that,

Northwestern: 10 reasons to be excited in 2012

It’s four bowls in a row and counting for Northwestern. And that’s a school record. The next goal: Win the program’s first postseason game since claiming the Rose Bowl after the 1948 season. If you are scoring in Evanston, that’s nine bowl defeats in succession. Pat Fitzgerald knows all of this. And it keeps him motivated. His offense has been clicking and doing its part in recent years. Last season, the attack ranked second overall in the Big Ten (420.9). The passing game led the way, ranking first in the Big Ten (254.2 ypg) for an offense that was fifth

Minnesota: 10 reasons to be excited in 2012

Last season was one of transition for Minnesota. Tim Brewster was out after three-and-a-half years and a 15-30 overall record (6-21 Big Ten). Jerry Kill was in, arriving after a successful three-year run at Northern Illinois that produced a 23-16 overall mark and three bowl bids. Kill’s 3-9 debut was marked with ups and downs. Low points were home losses to New Mexico State and North Dakota State in September. The highs featured victories over Iowa and Illinois. But know this: The best is likely yet to come. Kill had losing records in his first season at his three previous

Michigan State: 10 reasons to be excited in 2012

These are high times in East Lansing, as Michigan State has gone an aggregate 22-5 the past two seasons (14-2 in the Big Ten) under Mark Dantonio with a share of the 2010 league crown and the 2011 Legends Division pennant. And Dantonio has taken the Spartans to a bowl in each of his five seasons, as he has the program playing as well as it has since the glory days of the 1960s. That momentum should continue in 2012. With that, I present 10 reasons for Michigan State fans to be excited about the coming season. 1. Linebackers. The

Michigan: 10 reasons to be excited in 2012

Brady Hoke’s debut couldn’t have gone much better last season. The moribund three-year Rich Rodriguez tenure saw Michigan go 15-22 (6-18 Big Ten) and left many disappointed. The program hit historic low points in many respects, as the Wolverines fell from the Big Ten elite. But Hoke changed all of that quickly with an 11-2 season that was capped by a Sugar Bowl victory over Virginia Tech. Now comes the encore. And there are many reasons for Michigan fans to be excited for the Wolverines’ 2012 prospects. Here are 10 of them. 1. Denard Robinson. There isn’t a more deadly

Iowa: 10 reasons to be excited in 2012

Kirk Ferentz knows what it’s like to be the best. He had his Iowa program among the Big Ten’s best from 2002-04, when the Hawkeyes went an aggregate 31-7 with two Big Ten titles. But since then, Iowa has just one double-digit victory season (2009). With that, I present 10 reasons for Iowa fans to be excited about the 2012 season playing in an uber-tough Legends Division. Earlier, I offered up 10 reasons why Illinois and Indiana fans should be excited. 1. Greg Davis. A sage mind, the new offensive coordinator arrived from his most recent job of running the Texas