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College Football '98
Big Ten preview:
The usual suspects

by Brian Hamilton, CNN/SI

Posted: Wed Aug 19, 1998

Andy Katzenmoyer
All-America linebacker Andy Katzenmoyer is a Heisman Trophy candidate in '98.   (John Biever)
 
Projected Order of Finish
1. Ohio State
2. Michigan
3. Penn State
4. Wisconsin
5. Michigan State
6. Northwestern
7. Purdue
8. Iowa
9. Indiana
10. Minnesota
11. Illinois

Offensive Player of the Year
Ron Dayne, RB, Jr., Wisconsin
Ran for 1,451 yards and 15 TDs in '97, despite struggling with a variety of injuries. A healthy Dayne behind the Badgers' massive offensive line is like a snowplow behind five M-1 tanks. A soft schedule helps, too.

Defensive Player of the Year
Robaire Smith, DE, Jr., Michigan State
Can't afford to double-team the Big Ten's returning sack leader (12), because the rest of the Spartans' daunting front seven will move in for the kill.

Newcomer of the Year
James Cotton, DE, Jr., Ohio State
Buckeyes need to cinch up their line for a shot at the national title. Enter Cotton, a juco transfer who can and must produce. He was recruited from San Francisco Community College as a linebacker, but performed so well in spring practice that coaches moved him to end.

Coach on the Hot Seat
Cam Cameron, Indiana (2-9 in 1997)
Hoosiers' second-year coach is a victim of Joe Tiller Syndrome. Rival Purdue produced pronto, creating instant-gratification demands for Cameron downstate.

Conference Game-Breaker
David Boston, WR, Sr., Ohio State
Led the Big Ten with 70 catches and 14 TDs, but it's his spectacular spears that deflate opponents like a sharp pin to a balloon.

Most Underrated Players
Marcus Ray, S, Sr., Michigan; Brandon Short, LB, Jr., Penn State
Contrary to popular belief, it ain't cooler in the shadows. Ask Ray, who toiled without renown alongside Heisman winner Charles Woodson; or Short, always second fiddle to Andy Katzenmoyer among the Big Ten's middle-linebacker fraternity. But both Ray and Short make impacts with emotion—and their shoulder pads.

Best Name
Jason Czap, LB, Jr., Indiana
Runner-up: Pat Pidgeon, P, Jr., Penn State

Toughest Schedule
Minnesota's slate includes all seven Big Ten bowl teams of last year, including six in a row from Oct. 3 to Nov. 7.

Creampuff Schedule
Wisconsin's goliath linemen can devour more than just the pre-game spread. The Badgers open the year against San Diego State, Ohio and UNLV, and titanic clashes with—gasp—Indiana, Illinois and Minnesota await.

Red-Letter Games
Penn State at Ohio State, Oct. 3
It's never too early to have a game with national title implications, don't you think?
Michigan at Ohio State, Nov. 21
Another Big Ten season comes down to this. Don't you dare miss it.
Penn State at Wisconsin, Nov. 21
This one, given the Badgers' light fare all season, could be for an Alliance bid.

Drop This Name to Make Yourself Sound Smarter at the Water Cooler
Antwaan Randle-El, QB, Fr., Indiana
After sitting out '97 with academic woes, the speedy Randle-El will have to carry the struggling Hoosiers in his on-field debut.

Going Bowling
Locks: Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin
Maybes: Iowa, Michigan State, Northwestern, Purdue
No Way: Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota

Top Three Storylines
Two Good

Ohio State and defending national champ Michigan represent the Alliance-bound Big Ten's best shots for No. 1.

Hefty, Hefty, Hefty

How far can mammoth Ron Dayne and his Loch Ness linemen carry Wisconsin?

Stuck in the Middle

Uninspiring teams in the middle of the conference pack will battle for the last of the league's six precious bowl bids.

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