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Big 10 Football Legends Division Conference Preview and Predictions
The Big Ten Legends division isn't the only new addition to the conference. The storied Nebraska Corn Huskers and their massive fan base are also a new addition in 2011. They figure to compete with conference stalwarts Michigan, Michigan State, Iowa and Northwestern as well as the rest of the member schools. Let's take a look at the Big Ten Legends division for 2011.
Nebraska Cornhuskers - This team picked a good year to pack their bags and change conferences. HC Bo Pelini gets back 5 starters on offense and 7 on defense from a 10-4 team last year. Sophomore QB Taylor Martinez is mobile and with a year of experience he will be even better. In 2010 he rushed for 965 net yards and 12 TDs as well as passing for 10 more TDs. Big time recruit Jamal Turner will make noise at WR and the RB combo of Burkhead/Green will do well in the absence of Roy Helu. On defense, the line and linebackers are both tough, but the secondary will be down with the loss of Prince Amukamara. A weak out of conference schedule has them playing Fresno State and Washington. They will get Ohio State, Michigan State, Northwestern and Iowa at home. They've got the edge to make it to the first Big Ten Title Game.
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Michigan State Spartans - Last year's dream season ended at 11-2 with a bad loss to Alabama. All in all they should be happy with what they accomplished given HC Mark Dantonio's health troubles. This year they get back 6 on both sides of the ball. QB Kirk Cousins enters his senior year and could be the best in the conference at his position. Both top RBs are back and on the whole the offense seems as good or better than last year. The defense has an incredible line with 7 of the top 8 from last year back. The schedule looks so-so out of conference with a road trip to Notre Dame. In their division they get Michigan at home, but must travel to play Iowa and Nebraska. Matching last year's win total won't be easy, but this team is every bit as talented as the 2010 version.
Iowa Hawkeyes - Most expected a record better than 8-5 last year, but Kirk Ferentz's team ended on a high note with a win in the Insight Bowl over Missouri. They return 5 offensive starters and 4 on defense. James Vandenberg takes over at QB as 3 year starter Rick Stanzi heads to the pros. RB Marcus Coker showed a ton of potential in the bowl game last year and should get plenty of carries this year. There is a small chance Adam Robinson will make it back. If he does the offense will be a lot better. The defense looks weaker on the line and the secondary. The schedule sends them to play Michigan and Michigan State at home, but they travel for their game with the Huskers. Ferentz's can work miracles, but he will have to use all his tricks to win the Big Ten this year.
Northwestern Wildcats - Get ready NU fans, this could finally be the year your team improves on that 1-8 bowl record. HC Pat Fitzgerald returns 9 offensive starters and 7 defensive starters from a team that was 7-6 last year. Senior QB Dan Persa will run the offensive show. The mobile quarterback is a dual threat with a big arm. He gets to work behind the best offensive line HC Fitzgerald has had in his career at NU. The defense is more experienced and will move forward. They get Michigan and Michigan State at home. This team is a dark horse candidate to make noise in the Big Ten.
Michigan Wolverines - Brady Hoke has got a big assignment in restoring this depleted Michigan team. He inherits 9 offensive starters as well as Heisman candidate QB Denard Robinson. Roy Roundtree will make for a great target at WR. The defense returns second leading tackler Jordan Kovacs and top DE Ryan Van Bergen. The change in schemes will take a toll on them so don't expect too much from the Wolverines as they try to adjust.
Minnesota Golden Gophers - Last year was a debacle as they ended 3-9. New HC Jerry Kill gets back 6 offensive starters and 8 on defense. The defense looks very good and will be perhaps the most improved in the nation. It is truly a shame that the offense looks to be anemic. If not for that they might have a winning season.
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