Another outstanding year of Big Ten football approaches, who's on the rise, who's staying the same and who's falling...
1. Ohio State (7-1 in '07) - With only 14 lost lettermen, another Big Ten title and opportunity to crash the BCS Title game again is clearly possibility for the Buckeyes. Hold
tied 2. Illinois (6-2 in '07) - Coach Ron Zook lost a conference leading 24 letterwinners, including top RB, PK and top 3 tacklers, so there is some retooling required for the Fighting Illini in '08. Slight Fall
tied 2. Michigan (6-2 in '07) - New coach Rich Rodriquez must replace 23 letterwinners from Lloyd Carr's team, including 16 offensive lettermen; 8 starters on offense... it may be a rough welcome for the Wolverines new head coach in '08. Fall
4. Wisconsin (5-3 in '07) - Coach Bret Bielema, like the Illini, must replace 24 letterwinners from last year, including quarterback, 2 wideouts, top cover corner, placekicker and punter... a lot of starters return for the Badgers, but depth is a concern and 3 key positions will have untested players. Hold
tied 5. Penn State (4-4 in '07) - One has to ask, if this could be Joe Paterno's last season for the Nittany Lions? The Nittany Lions must fill the void of 23 lost lettermen, including starters at QB, RB on offense and MLB and CB on defense... though a key LB went down this spring and will redshirt. Rise
tied 5. Iowa (4-4 in '07) - Head coach Kirk Ferentz enters his 10th season in Iowa City, after replacing J Hayden Fry... the past 2 years have been down for Iowa (12-13), but only 14 letterwinners were lost from a team that played 31 freshmen last year, including 12 true freshmen. Rise
tied 7. Michigan State (3-5 in '07) - 2nd year coach Mark Dantonio must replace 20 letterwinners from last year, so there may be some ups and downs in '08, but the future in East Lansing appears strong with recruiting taking full swing. Slight Rise
tied 7. Northwestern (3-5 in '07) - Pat Fitzgerald will open '08 with a induction into the College Hall of Fame as a player, but as a head coach in Evanston, he will have to replace 19 departed lettermen, including 3 starting linemen on offense and 2 linebackers and 2 members of the secondary on defense. Slight Rise
tied 7. Purdue (3-5 in '07) - Coach Joe Tiller will close out his final season in West Lafayette in '08, needing to overcome the loss of 23 lettermen, including 5 starters each on offense and defense; and the Boilermakers punter from last year. Slight Fall
tied 7. Indiana (3-5 in '07) - 2nd year coach Bill Lynch pulled lead the Hoosiers to their first bowl bid, since 1993, last year. The Hoosiers lose 19 letterwinners, including 5 starters on offense, 4 starters on defense and their punter, from last year. Fall
11. Minnesota (0-8 in '07) - 2nd year coach Tim Brewster only loses 17 lettermen from last year cellar dwelling team, including 4 offensive and 5 defensive starters, so there is plenty of work to be done in Minneapolis for the Golden Gophers. Slight Rise
The defending Big Ten champs, Ohio State, return 20 starters for the 2008 season, so clearly the Buckeyes are the team to beat again. The Buckeyes have won at least a share of the Big Ten title the past three years.
New coach Rich Rodriquez has the most work to do on all sides. Implementing a new scheme and a new coaching staff will create a transition for the Michigan Wolverines. Coach Rodriquez lost 13 starters from last year's team that tied for 2nd place.
Last year, the Top 5 teams in the Big Ten finished in the final USA Today Top 25 Poll. While Ohio State, Michigan, Illinois and Wisconsin finished in the final AP Top 25 Poll. It will be interesting to see the chips fly in '08, as the season kickoffs on August 30th.