Originally created 08/20/04

Defense could have day in sun



Following a mass exodus of offensive stars and starting quarterbacks, defense could dominate the Big Ten this season.

A capsule look at the teams in predicted order of finish:

MICHIGAN: The Wolverines have perhaps the best receiving corps in the country with Jason Avant, Braylon Edwards and Steve Breaston.

OHIO STATE: A record 14 Buckeyes were taken in the NFL Draft, leaving Tressel with only nine returning starters. Freshman CB Ted Ginn Jr. should make an immediate impact.

IOWA: Coach Kirk Ferentz has led the Hawkeyes to a school-record 21 wins the past two seasons. QB Drew Tate replaces departed Nathan Chandler. RB Jermelle Lewis steps in for Fred Russell.

WISCONSIN: Allowed an uncharacteristic 306 points last year in a 7-6 season. That's not likely to happen again with eight returning starters on defense.

PURDUE: Returns three defensive starters, but the offense should be wide-open again. Orton threw 15 TDs and seven interceptions as the Boilermakers led the conference in turnover margin.

MINNESOTA: The Golden Gophers feature twin 1,000-yard runners, Marion Barber III and Laurence Maroney. Bryan Cupito takes over at QB..

PENN STATE: After losing records in three of the last four seasons, the Nittany Lions are looking to bounce back. Coach Joe Paterno has 339 wins, second only to Florida State's Bobby Bowden in Division I-A.

MICHIGAN STATE: Big Ten coach of the year John L. Smith took over a 4-8 team and went 8-5, thanks to the development of Jeff Smoker. Freshman Stephen Reaves and sophomore Drew Stanton are competing to replace Smoker. The Spartans return their top five rushers, top six receivers and top three tacklers.

NORTHWESTERN: Wildcats return all starting linemen on both sides of the ball. Brett Basanez is one of the few returning starters at QB in the league.

ILLINOIS: Just three seasons removed from a Big Ten title, coach Ron Turner needs to get the Illini back on track. QB Jon Beutjer received a sixth year of eligibility because of injuries.

INDIANA: The Hoosiers have 21 starters back, including QB Matt LoVecchio, leading rusher BenJarvus Green-Ellis and WR Courtney Roby.