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Gold and Black Illustrated, Vol 26, Digital 6

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GOLD AND BLACK ILLUSTRATED VOLUME 26, ISSUE 6 82 they have talent and the best quarterback in the league in J.T. Barrett. But are they going to replicate their suc- cess? I have my doubts." The West Division figures to be balanced as well, with Iowa maybe a notch above the rest. The Hawkeyes have a seasoned returning quarterback in C.J. Beathard, and that should really help. "It is hard to minimize the Hawkeyes, because, like Ohio State, they have great experience at quarterback," Dienhart said. "The line is always good and they have some good backs returning. They have to manage the ex- pectations that many have and I think they will be able to do that." The schedule and crossover games (see box on Page 62) will also play a role, especially when the presumably inferior West battles the East. Wisconsin has a murder- er's row of crossover games with the Spartans, Buckeyes and Wolverines all on the docket in addition to an ear- ly-season showdown with LSU in Green Bay. For others, it isn't quite as daunting. "You have to like Minnesota's schedule," Mason said about the school he led to a 64-57 record from 1997- 2006. "They should win their non-conference games and should have some momentum heading into league play. That might allow them to surprise in the West, especially since they avoid the East's big three." The job Northwestern has done in the last decade un- der Coach Pat Fitzgerald has been remarkable and the Wildcats hope to build on last year's 10-3 season. But, again, the schedule will be a factor as it is a little more daunting this season. The Wildcats face Ohio State and Michigan State this year and must travel to Iowa City. "The simple fact is that Pat's teams are developing a tradition of having super-tough defenses," Mason said. "It seems to always come down to close games for them. (If) they win them, then they have a season like they did last year. But if they don't, they may struggle to win more than seven games." Nebraska, under second-year coach Mike Riley, avoids Game Changers Does one game make a season? Probably not, but here is our list of games that will likely be turning points for each Big Ten team. Illinois: North Carolina (Sept. 10) Iowa: at Penn State (Nov. 5) Indiana: Michigan State (Oct. 1) Maryland: Purdue (Oct. 1) Michigan: at Michigan State (Sept. 29) Michigan State: at Notre Dame (Sept. 17) Minnesota: at Penn State (Oct. 1) Nebraska: Oregon (Sept. 17) Northwestern: Nebraska (Sept. 24) Ohio State: at Oklahoma (Sept. 17) Penn State: at Pitt (Sept. 10) Purdue: Cincinnati (Sept. 10) Rutgers: Illinois (Oct. 15) Wisconsin: LSU (Sept. 3) Ohio State A relatively inexperienced Ohio State team will have a wealth of experience at QB with J.T. Barrett behind center.

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