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SI Conference Report: Big Ten
How They'll Finish
  Conference Overall
7-1 .875 11-1 .917
6-2 .750 10-2 .833
5-3 .625 8-4 .667
5-3 .625 8-4 .667
4-4 .500 8-4 .667
4-4 .500 7-5 .583
4-4 .500 7-5 .583
3-5 .375 5-7 .417
3-5 .375 5-7 .417
2-6 .250 4-8 .333
1-7 .125 4-8 .333

Photo: AP
Players To Watch From Unranked Teams
Vontae Davis
CB, Jr. :: Illinois
The 6-foot, 204-pound lockdown corner was All-Big Ten last fall (four interceptions, 76 tackles). Physical and fast, he's projected as a future first-round pick.
Maurice Evans
DE, Jr. :: Penn State
The 6' 2" 264-pounder has matured into a dominant pass rusher. Flashing speed off the corner, he led the Nittany Lions in sacks last year, with 12 1/2.
Greg Middleton
DE, Jr. :: Indiana
As a sophomore the 6' 3" 275-pounder led the nation in sacks, with 16. This season he'll be a force on a front seven that has five returning starters.
Eric Peterman
WR, Sr. :: Northwestern
A quarterback in high school who was tried at wideout and cornerback by the Wildcats, he found his game as a receiver in 2007 with a team-high 66 catches.
Javon Ringer
RB, Sr. :: Michigan State
Despite splitting time with Jehuu Caulcrick, he was the Big Ten's No. 3 ground-gainer last season, picking up 1,447 yards while averaging 5.9 per carry.
Big Ten Notables
Best Offensive Player
Curtis Painter :: QB :: Purdue
The fourth-year starter needs 3,030 yards to surpass former Boilermaker Drew Brees as the most prolific passer in Big Ten history.
Best Defensive Player
James Laurinaitis :: LB :: Ohio State
A two-time All-America and last year's Butkus Award winner, he led the Buckeyes with 121 tackles, then passed on the NFL draft.
True Freshman to Watch
Terrelle Pryor :: QB :: Ohio State
Look for the Buckeyes to use the 6' 6", 235-pound super recruit like a young Tim Tebow.
Coach on the Rise
Mark Dantonio :: Michigan State
In his first year he took over a team that had endured three straight losing seasons and led it to a 7-6 record and a bowl game.
Coach on the Hot Seat
Kirk Ferentz :: Iowa
He was the toast of Iowa City when the Hawkeyes won 10 or more games in 2002, '03 and '04, but since then his teams are a pedestrian 19-18.
Extra Points
Michigan's starting quarterback will most likely be redshirt freshman Steven Threet, a transfer from Georgia Tech who moved up after Ryan Mallet transferred to Arkansas.... Without a returning starter at running back, Iowa will rely on its deep corps of receivers, including long-ball threat Andy Brodell, who missed eight games in 2007 with a torn hamstring. But quarterback Jake Christensen has to improve on his 53.5% completion rate if the Hawkeyes expect to score more than the Big Ten -- low 18.5 points they averaged last fall.... New defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz should help a Northwestern unit that finished 89th in the country in points allowed (31.0) and 75th against the run (167.1 yards). At Wisconsin in 2006, Hankwitz's D ranked third in scoring defense.... For coach Tim Brewster's spread offense to click, Minnesota has to get its running game back on track. The Gophers would get a major boost if junior Jay Thomas is all the way back from right ACL surgery.  --Mark Beech
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