This is the first in a series of articles I’ll be doing previewing the major conferences and perhaps a few select teams as well, more then likely ones I either attended or have a connection to somehow. I’m starting with the Big Ten, well because I’m a Big Ten guy.

First off, I won’t be referring to the divisions as ‘Legends’ or ‘Leaders’ because they are incredibly lame names and who knows what Delaney was thinking. I read somewhere, can’t quite remember the place, that the divisions should be named York and Lancaster, after the two royal houses that fought for control of the English thone during the Wars of The Roses. The Big Ten Championshp game could then be called something like ‘War for The Roses’, since the winner gets a bid for the Rose Bowl. I think this would be an awesome idea and add another layer to the inaugural Big Ten Champ Game.

Lancaster Division (Red Rose)

1) Wisconsin
Simply put Wisconsin knows how to score, in addition to having a tough defense. Transferee Russell Wilson adds an athletic dimension to the QB position and he could thrive in new scenary. Though they lost Clay, Carimi and Moffitt from the offense, they have JR RB Montee Ball to take over the carries and the returning O-line starters will pick up the slack on that front. Always a tough team against the run, the Badgers have some playmakers in the secondary that could be key to a divisional title.

2) Penn State
With the ever present Joe Paterno around, you can never really count the Nittany Lions out as they bring a stacked, veteran defense that will carry the team throughout the season. The question is if the offense can keep pace. There are some nice pieces and players that could breakout, but no one that really jumps out as a ‘star’ player. The seemingly QB controversy with Boldin and McGloin is one to watch as both performed well last season.

3) Ohio State
The end of an era? Buckeye detractors, of which there are tons, are no doubt hoping it is the case. However, this will still be a good team that has talent on both sides of the ball. The biggest mystery surrounding the team is who will replace Terrelle Pryor at QB and the hype indicates true freshman Braxton Miller. They have players ready to step up in the abscence of suspended stars, but they aren’t proven commidities. The defense will reload after personnel losses and will be the anchor for the team early on.

4) Illinois
With coach Ron Zook on the hot seat, you can bet he’ll be under intense pressure to produce. Unfortunately, excpet for dual threat QB Nathan Scheelhaase, the Illini don’t have much playmaking depth. The defense lost DT Corey Liuget and LB Martez Wilson, so new guys and returning players will need to step up in order for the team to have success this season.

5) Purdue
There are more questions then answers when it comes ot the Boilermakers. QB Robert Mavre and RB Ralph Bolden are both coming off injuries and there are no standouts at WR. The O-line does have four starters coming back and could be the lone bright spot on the offense. Losing Big Ten DPOTY DE Ryan Kerrigan has to hurt and there is no heir appearant to step in. The linback corps has been bad, but the secondary could turn out to be the best unit on the defense.

6) Indiana
Even with the signing of top QB Gunner Kiel and the hiring of former Sooner OC Kevin Wilson, my alma mater will still be in the cellar of the Big Ten. There’s no clear cut favorite at QB, they had a terrible rush offense last season, they got burned multiple times in the secondary and the linebackers need to step up. Big seasons are needed from RB Darius Willis and WRs Demarlo Belcher and Duwyce Wilson if the offense is to have any sort of effectiveness.

York Division (White Rose)

1) Nebraska

The prohibitive favorite by most pundits to win the whole conference, Nebraska joines the Big Ten loaded with talent. DT Jared Crick, LB Lavonte David and CB Alfonzo Dennard are some of the best at their respective positions and the unit as a whole will be one of the best in the nation. If QB Taylor Martinez can recover from last season’s injury and the departed Roy Helu can be replaced, then the offense will be pretty good. Though the big question will be if the O-line can be rebuilt.

2) Iowa

With Ricky Stanzi gone, someone must emerge to lead the offense, but whoever does will have an emerging star in RB Marcus Coker and steady veteran in WR Marvin McNutt to help them out with a strong line in front to hold off defenses. The Hawkeyes lost a ton on the D-line and will be hard pressed to replace such production. Linebacker and secondary lost players, but have more depth to replace the losses. However, Kirk Ferentz is at the helm and will find a way to put a top flight team on the field.

3) Michigan

Led by the best offensive player in the conference in QB Denard Robinson, the Wolverines will lean on that side of the ball at the beginning of the Hoke Era. The receiver group is stocked even with the suspension of Darryl Stonum and Robinson will combine with a stable or RBs to pace the running game. DT Mike Martin and DEs Ryan Van Bergen and Craig Roh will make up an effective D-line that will have to make up for shortcomings in the linebackers and seondary. The play of the linebackers last season has been cited as a major reason for the subpar play last season.

4) Michigan State

3 year starter QB Kirk Cousins will pace a very deep and talented group of RBs and WRs that will be among the Big Ten’s best. The only thing holding them back will be a rebuilt offensive line that will have to gel fairly quickly. Inversely, on the defense it will be the D-line that will have to hold up a defense that doesn ot return several key players and may be the achilles heel for the Spartans.

5) Northwestern

The offense will revolve around QB Dan Persa and a deep group of receivers, as there is no consistent ground game to complement. They will be helped by an offensive line that is ranked 2nd in the nation in combined career starts. They will need to perform in order to make up for a defense that is void of talent except for a few pieces.

6) Minnesota

A team that will compete for Indiana for the postion of Big Ten cellar dweller. The offense will be anemic and MarQueis Gray will have to move back to QB from WR to fill in for departed QB Adam Weber, who was consistent if not overly spectacular. The defense has no one of note and will likely be the worst in the conference.