MINNESOTA — Key players: QB MarQueis Gray, LB Mike Rallis, WR Brandon Green, OL Ed Olson, LB Keanon Cooper. Returning starters: 7 offense, 6 defense.
Coach Jerry Kill thanked a reporter for asking him how his health was and then said he was feeling fantastic. Kill had a seizure on the sideline of a game against New Mexico State last season. ... Gray's dual threat abilities and athleticism give the Golden Gophers hopes of improving on last year's three-win season. He set school records for single-game (174) and single-season rushing yards by a quarterback (966). As a passer last season, Gray — who had also been a wide receiver during his career — threw eight TD passes and eight interceptions, while competing 51 percent
NEBRASKA — Key players: RB Rex Burkhead, QB Taylor Martinez, WR Kenny Bell, LB Will Compton, DE Cameron Meredith. Returning starters: 8 offense, 7 defense
Nebraska's Blackshirt defense lost two of its best in linebacker Lavonte David and Alfonzo Dennard, voted the league's best cornerback. ... Burkhead had seven 100-yard rushing games last season, including five against league opponents. ... Nebraska went 9-4 — 5-3 in the conference — during its inaugural Big Ten season.
NORTHWESTERN — Key players: QB Kain Colter, S Ibraheim Campbell, LB David Nwabuisi, OL Brian Mulroe, WR Demetrius Fields. Returning starters: 5 offense, 6 defense.
The Wildcats must replace QB Dan Persa and the job will fall to Colter, who rushed for 654 yards and nine TDs a year ago. ... The winless bowl run continues for the Wildcats, something they hope to finally nix. They're 1-9 in postseason games, including last year's loss to Texas A&M in the Car Care Bowl. Last bowl win — only bowl win — was the 1949 Rose Bowl. That came a quarter of a century before current NU coach Pat Fitzgerald was born.
ILLINOIS — Key players: QB Nathan Scheelhaase, LB Jonathan Brown, DE Michael Buchanan, C Graham Pocic. Returning starters: 7 offense, 7 defense.
The Illini roared out of the gates with a 6-0 record last season only to lose six straight in a head-shaking slide that cost Ron Zook his job. The Illini did win the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl over UCLA to finish 7-6. .... Scheelhaase has played in 26 games the last two seasons, passing for nearly 4,000 yards and rushing for another 1,492. ... First-year coach Tim Beckman said some of his coaches went to State College trolling for transfers shortly after the Nittany Lions were hit with sanctions.
INDIANA — Key players: DT Adam Replogle, QB Tre Roberson, RB Stephen Houston, C Will Matte, DT Larry Black, Jr. Returning starters: 7 offense, 8 defense.
The Hoosiers won't improve until their defense does. They gave up 459 yards per game last season and had trouble stopping the run during a 1-11 season. Indiana was winless in the Big Ten. ... Coach Kevin Wilson played 16 true freshmen and 16 redshirt freshmen last season. The Hoosiers started 46 different players in 12 games.
OHIO STATE — Key players: QB Braxton Miller, WR Devin Smith, WR Corey Brown, DT Johnathan Hankings, DL John Simon. Returning starters: 7 offense, 8 defense.
Coming off a 6-7 season that followed the tattoos scandal, the Buckeyes turned to Meyer, who brought two titles to Florida before health issues sent him to the TV booth for a year. Meyer has been tested already. The Buckeyes have had three players arrested this summer. ... Meyer's first season in Columbus could be aided by a favorable schedule that features eight home games, including five of the first six.
PENN STATE — Key players: DT Jordan Hill, LB Gerald Hodges, QB Matt McGloin, LB Michael Matui. Returning starters: 4 offense, 4 defense (as of July 30).
First-year coach Bill O'Brien says he got a boost from a conversation with his former boss, Bill Belichick, when the New England Patriots coach told him he doesn't buy the talk that Penn State football is dead. ... After all the difficult times the Nittany Lions have encountered answering questions about the sanctions that followed the Jerry Sandusky sex scandal, O'Brien said the Nittany Lions can't wait for practice to start. O'Brien promises they will have some fun, despite all the distractions, though he lost star running back Silas Redd to USC.