This weekend and the start of next week will mark the beginning of camp for the Big Ten Conference. There are a number of questions facing the conference as a whole and many teams as well. Today we'll take a look at many of the biggest storylines facing the Big Ten teams.
How will the new coaches fare in year 1?
This year four new Head Coaches will make their debut in the B1G. Newcomer Bo Belini at Nebraska joins Brady Hoke (Michigan), Jerry Kill (Minnesota), and Kevin Wilson (Indiana). Pelini has rebuilt the Blackshirts in Lincoln in only a few brief years, but has yet to solve Nebraska's recent offensive woes. Brady Hoke, a former Michigan assistant from 1995-2002, looks to rebuild a tarnished program that ranked nearly dead last in a number of defensive categories, while somehow managing to perfect the leagues top offensive unit.
As for Jerry Kill, Minnesota fans are just looking for some honest, tangible improvement. Kill and his staff are great talent developers who coach the heck out of their teams, but the Gophers are basically starting over at a number of positions. In Bloomington, first-time Head Coach Kevin Wilson is looking to improve Indiana's conference record, which has been dismal, as well as improving a defense that has been terrible as well.
Will Ohio State bounce back?
Turmoil, suspensions, the resignation of their Head Coach Jim Tressel plagued the Buckeyes throughout the off-season. Now, they finally have a chance to show the rest of the conference and the nation that are still the elite team that has won or tied for 6 straight Big Ten Titles. New Head Coach Luke Fickell will need to replace a number of starters off another great defense, while a three-quarterback race needs to find a clear-cut winner.
The Buckeyes are loaded on defense (on paper), and their backfield is extremely deep and talented, so the new quarterback shouldn't be pressured into throwing to win too often.
Is Michigan State the real deal to contend for a Conference Title?
Last season the Spartans trounced rival Michigan for the third year in a row, en route to a 11-2 finish and a tie for the Big Ten Championship. The Spartans return much of their offensive firepower, including star QB Kirk Cousin, three talented running backs, and a solid receiving corps. But Michigan State was demolished in their Bowl Game against Alabama, and caught a few lucky breaks last season as well. This is the time for Head Coach Mark Dantonio and his team to prove they belong among the Big Ten's upper echelon.
Is there any hope left for Michigan's defense?
Michigan was a top 10 offensive team in a number of categories last year, but gave up 30 points or more in 9 games, and were nearly dead last in a number of other categories. Enter new Head Coach Brady Hoke, a former Defensive Line Coach, and Greg Mattison, who coached at Michigan, Florida, Notre Dame, and the Baltimore Ravens for the past three years.
There is talent on the Michigan roster, including in the front four, but the linebackers are young and unproven, and half the secondary is either young or recovering from season-ending injuries. The Michigan coaching staff have their work cut out for them.