Big Ten spring preview: Legends Division
With a handful of schools already starting their spring practice session on Monday – with the latest being April 3 – we can get a small glance of how teams will be shaping for this fall.
Spring games usually take place in the latter end of April, but there will be some played in March.
That said, I will be releasing pre-spring power rankings for every major conference, while giving a short explanation for my decision.
Here is a spring preview of the Big Ten Conference: Legends Division.
1. Nebraska Cornhuskers (10-4, 7-1 Big Ten in 2012)
With QB Taylor Martinez and eight other returning starters on offense, Nebraska should improve as an overall unit – one that scored over 35 points per game in 2012. Martinez is coming off career-highs in every single category, and should be even more dynamic with a balanced running attack and strong offensive line. However, a porous defense led to the Huskers’ demise last season, and that could very well be the storyline once again in 2013.
2. Northwestern Wildcats (10-3, 5-3)
Northwestern is coming off one of the best years in program history – if not the best – and could be even more dangerous to fellow division foes this upcoming fall. Returning to the roster are most of the Wildcats’ top players, including quarterbacks Trevor Siemien and Kain Kolter. Both did an outstanding job in Pat Fitzgerald’s versatile system, which utilizes Kolter’s speed and Siemien’s passing accuracy. If the team can learn to close out games, we may be looking at a new division champion.
3. Michigan Wolverines (8-5, 6-2)
It may be difficult for most Michigan fans to comprehend, but the departure of Denard Robinson is great for this program. He never was a fit for Hoke’s spread and made things predictable when he went in as a running back. QB Devin Gardner played very well toward the end of the season and is a better fit for the offense. If he can continue to be productive and the running game finally clicks, the Wolverines will be right back in the thick of things for the Legends.
4. Michigan State Spartans (7-6, 3-5)
Who will be the Spartans’ quarterback this fall? Andrew Maxwell returns under center but does not have his job secured by any means. There is leeway for Connor Cook and Tyler O’Connor, but neither have much experience, if any at all. There is also room for newcomer Damion Terry – a dual-threat QB – but he won’t be on campus until summertime. There are a lot of questions surrounding this Michigan State squad that won’t be answered for a while.
5. Iowa Hawkeyes (4-8, 2-6)
What didn’t go wrong with Iowa in 2012? Half of its roster was plagued with injuries, it received poor play at the quarterback position – which was thought to be a strength – and the defense performed below expectations. Although the offense left much to be desired last season, there’s reason to believe that it will be much improved. A healthy quarterback battle between sophomore Jake Rudock and incoming freshman Nic Shemonic will be fun to watch play out, and some key players on the offensive line will be back from season-ending injuries.
6. Minnesota Golden Gophers (6-7, 2-6)
The Golden Gophers proved in the bowl game against Texas Tech that they can put up points, but can they do that against Big Ten opponents? They have a lot of positives to look forward to on the offensive side of the ball: Although Minnesota has to replace dual-threat quarterback MarQueis Gray – who missed a lot of time in 2012 anyway – it does bring back leading rusher Donnell Kirkwood and a solid receiver corps.
Click here to check out the Big Ten Leaders Division spring preview.