SD Preseason Prediction: Leaders

Big Ten Media Day's are just a few weeks away and it's time to start looking at the Big Ten Conference for the 2011 season. How does see the conference shaking out? We start with a quick look at the teams in the Leaders division.

The 2011 season brings a few firsts as Nebraska enters the conference and two divisions will look to crown winners to battle in the first conference championship. Who will win the Leaders?

When the breakdown came out for the Leaders many picked Ohio State as the early favorite to come out of the Leaders race. However, with all the changes in Columbus, we could not pick the Buckeyes to advance.

Wisconsin – The Badgers looked to have issues at quarterback just a few weeks ago. Now many feel incoming grad student and quarterback Russell Wilson will provide the spark needed to offset the Badgers strong running attack.

Ohio State – True freshman quarterback Braxton Miller is expected to be thrust into the starting role and while the talented Miller looks to be a future star, the pieces around him for the first five games will be weakened. The Buckeyes will be at full power for all but the first week of Big Ten play and could still prove to be the winner. However, with questions still swirling around Columbus, distractions may be too many to ignore.

Penn State – There are still questions at the quarterback position despite some solid talent on both sides of the football. However, when compared to Wisconsin and Ohio State, the Nittany Lions do not look to have enough fire power to come out of the division. Is this it for JoePa? If so it could become a rallying cry and the Nittany Lions could be a surprise.

Illinois – This was a tossup pick between Ron Zook's team and Purdue. We'll go with Zook as he is again looking to show enough improvement to keep his job. Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase is the key as the offensive looks to rebound after the loss of star running back Mikel Leshoure. The defense has questions up front, but there should be enough talent to keep them in games.

Purdue – Danny Hope better hope his team improves as he enters the season with a 9-15 mark after two years. Will sophomore signal caller Rob Henry stay ahead of Robert Marve? Who will replace defensive end Ryan Kerrigan? The Boilermakers feel they have some young talent, not it must show up or there could be talk of Hope being replaced.

Indiana – New head coach with a new offense have Hoosier fans looking to become a real factor in the Big Ten. The loss of quarterback Ben Chappell will push either Dusty Kiel or Edward Wright-Baker to be responsible for Kevin Wilson's hurry-up tempo offense to work. One area the Hoosiers look strong is along the defensive front with Adam Replogle and Larry Black Jr. as anchors.

Top Offensive Player: James White – RB - Wisconsin

Top Defensive Player: Nathan Williams – DE – Ohio State

Top Newcomer: Braxton Miller – QB – Ohio State

Up next will be our look the Legends.

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