By Tyler Fenwick @Ty_Fenwick on May 17, 2014
I think it's safe to say summer is here. And with that comes all the speculation of the approaching college football season. I'll stick with the Big 10's West Division, which isn't all that strong, but could be a fun race to watch. Wisconsin is almost unanimously on top of it, but where does the rest of the conference fall?
Last season was miserable for the Boilermakers -- 1-11 under first-year coach Darrell Hazell, and that single win was against Indiana State. This season does have some potential though. To-be sophomore QB Danny Etling will have a full offseason of prep work as the starter, and the defensive front seven only loses two starters from a season ago.
Illinois finished last season 4-8 and was the only Big 10 team to lose to Northwestern. The offense will take a big hit with the losses of Nathan Scheelhaase and the top four receivers from last season, but the Illini defense is looking to be in much better shape with nine starters returning from 2013.
2013 was supposed to be a good year for Northwestern football, but that ended up in an absolute collapse. This season's squad looks sturdy on paper, but I'm hesitant to trust. QB Trevor Seimian really won't have a problem replacing Kain Colter; he'll be getting some needed help though with an entire offensive line returning from a season ago and a healthy Venric Mark.
Last season, almost everything revolved around RB Ameer Abdullah; this season may have to be an even more exaggerated effort in the similar direction. That will heavily depend on Tommy Armstrong, Jr.'s progression at quarterback.
Iowa's 2013 offense had its moments, but overall it was not very productive, only averaging 5.3 yards per play. That will hopefully improve with returning QB Jake Ruddock, but there are still a few question marks on offense. Defensively, the Hawkeyes lose all three starting linebackers from a season ago. That has the potential to be a huge blow this year.
The Gophers were supposed to be the losers when Philip Nelson transferred, but that move doesn't seem so devastating after his recent arrest. Anyway, Nelson's replacement, Mitch Leidner, will do just fine in this offense. Though he's not quite the passer you'd like to see, he's a moose on wheels when he tucks it and runs.
No surprise. Wisconsin will need to somehow replace the production of WR Jared Abberderis and LB Chris Borland, but those honestly aren't losses that will kill a team. The heart and soul of the Badgers' attack in 2014 will be Melvin Gordon, one of the early Heisman favorites.
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