In a lot of years, discussions about a favorite in the Big Ten would be limited to perennial powers Michigan and Ohio State. But that won't be the case this season. The Buckeyes and Wolverines should be solid, but Iowa and Purdue also boast squads that will have a say in the league's outcome.
What also will be interesting is that all of the favorites have some question marks. Michigan looks like it will have a dynamic offense, but there are questions on defense. On the flip side, Ohio State's defense should be outstanding, but quarterback and running back are a concern. The Boliermakers return all 11 starters on defense but must replace quarterback Kyle Orton and receiver Taylor Stubblefield, while Iowa's offense should be great with Drew Tate at the helm, but there are concerns on defense, especially on the line.
What can't be questioned, however, is that there is great talent on both sides of the ball in the Big Ten this year, which is evident in the Rivals.com 2005 Preseason All-Big Ten team. Michigan paced our team with 11 selections, while Iowa and Ohio State finished with eight and seven, respecively.
The following is the Rivals.com 2005 Preseason All-Big Ten team.
2005 Preseason All-Big Ten First Team
: Drew Tate
5-11, 185, Iowa (Jr.)
Tate is small, but he has adequate arm strength and great presence in the pocket. Last season, he passed for nearly 2,800 yards and 20 touchdowns.
: LaMarr Woodley
6-2, 268, Michigan (Jr.)
Woodley is extremely athletic and can play end or outside linebacker. He was in on 70 stops last year, including 16 tackles for losses and four sacks.
: Michael Hart
5-9, 192, Michigan (Soph.)
Hart was a surpise starter in 2004 and had a huge season with 1,455 yards and nine TDs to earn Rivals.com Freshman All-America honors.
: Ray Edwards
6-6, 270, Purdue (Jr.)
Edwards has great size, but it's speed that allows him to make big plays. Last season, he had 45 tackles, including 11 for losses, and eight sacks.
: Laurence Maroney
5-11, 205, Minnesota (Jr.)
Marion Barber has moved on, and with a talented offensive line in place and more carries about to come his way, Maroney could rush for 2,000 yards.
: Gabe Watson
6-4, 331, Michigan (Sr.)
Watson is a physically imposing presence in the middle of the line and demands double-teams. He posted 37 tackles in 2004, seven for losses.
: Santonio Holmes
5-11, 190, Ohio State (Jr.)
The Buckeyes aren't known for their passing attack, but the speedy Holmes, who had 55 grabs for 769 yards last year, is a weapon on the outside.
: Brandon Villarreal
6-2, 289, Purdue (Sr.)
One of the Big Ten's most explosive defenders, Villarreal is a force in the trenches. He recorded 50 tackles last season, including 17.5 for losses.
: Steve Breaston
6-1, 179, Michigan (Jr.)
With Braylon Edwards having departed for the NFL, the physically gifted Breaston is in line to be the next in a long line of great Michigan receivers.
: A.J. Hawk
6-1, 240, Ohio State (Sr.)
Always around the ball and one of the surest tacklers in the game, Hawk was in on 141 stops in 2004. He will anchor one of the best defenses in the nation.
: Charles Davis
6-6, 260, Purdue (Sr.)
Davis was always a reliable blocker, but he emerged last season as a major threat in the passing game with 34 catches for 416 yards and three TDs.
: Abdul Hodge
6-2, 234, Iowa (Sr.)
A prototypical middle linebacker, the hard-hitting Hodge controls the middle of the field on defense. He led the Hawkeyes with 116 tackles in 2004.
: Jake Long
6-7, 338, Michigan (Soph.)
Long has great size, but he's not lacking athleticism. In 2004, he started 10 games and earned Rivals.com Freshman All-America honors.
: Chad Greenway
6-4, 234, Iowa (Sr.)
Greenway had 113 tackles, including eight for losses, in 2004 and combines with Abdul Hodge to form the best linebacker tandem in the country.
: Zach Strief
6-7, 335, Northwestern (Sr.)
Size and consistency are Strief's strengths. He has started 28 consecutive games and helped NU rank 29th nationally in total offense in 2004.
: Jovon Johnson
5-9, 177, Iowa (Sr.)
Johnson is a bit on the small side, but he's solid in coverage and makes big plays. He had 41 tackles, four picks and three pass break-ups in 2004.
: Mark Setterstrom
6-3, 295, Minnesota (Sr.)
Setterstrom isn't the biggest guard in the country, but his superior athleticism and the ability to get out on the edge make him one of the best.
: Ashton Youboty
6-1, 188, Ohio State (Jr.)
Youboty's combination of speed and intelligence makes him one of the nation's best. He had 61 tackles, 14 pass break-ups and four picks in 2004.
: Matt Lentz
6-6, 305, Michigan (Sr.)
The best player on a talented OL, Lentz was stellar in 2004, his first season as a starter, helping freshmen Chad Henne and Mike Hart to big years.
: Nate Salley
6-3, 220, Ohio State (Sr.)
Salley, who had 55 tackles and two picks last season, is one of the most feared hitters in the Big Ten. Opposing receivers know when he's in the area.
: Greg Eslinger
6-3, 285, Minnesota (Sr.)
A three-year starter, Eslinger's mobility sets him apart from other centers. He helped the Gophers average 257 yards per game on the ground last season.
: Bernard Pollard
6-2, 226, Purdue (Jr.)
Pollard has great size and hitting ability and is like a linebacker playing safety. He had a team-high 96 tackles in 2004, as well as five pass break-ups.
: Brandon Fields
6-6, 235, Michigan State (Jr.)
A weapon for the Spartans on special teams, Fields led the nation with a 47.9-yard average and had 13 punts downed inside the 20-yard line.
: Garrett Rivas
5-9, 216, Michigan (Jr.)
Rivas had a solid sophomore campaign for the Wolverines, connecting on 19 of 24 field goal tries, including 4 of 6 from 40 yards or longer and a long of 47.
: Ted Ginn Jr.
6-0, 175, Ohio State (Soph.)
Ginn exploded onto the college scene in many ways in 2004, but he was at his best returning punts, with a staggering 25.6-yard average and four TDs.
: Lance Bennett
5-5, 163, Indiana (Jr.)
Don't be fooled by Bennett's size, he's a nightmare for opposing special teams coaches. He averaged 30 yards per return in 2004, including a 98-yard TD.
: Ted Ginn Jr.
6-0, 175, Ohio State (Soph.)
Ginn's punt-return exploits have been documented. He also caught 25 passes for 359 yards and two TDs and added two more TDs on the ground in 2004.
2005 Preseason All-Big Ten Second Team
: Chad Henne
6-2, 225, Michigan (Soph.)
Henne was named the starter right before the season opener and all he did was go out and pass for 2,743 yards and 25 TDs as a true freshman.
: Mike Kudla
6-3, 265, Ohio State (Sr.)
Kudla is quick, strong and athletic and should be a great pass-rusher. Last season, he had 28 tackles, including 6.5 for losses, and four sacks.
: Brian Calhoun
5-10, 194, Wisconsin (Jr.)
Strong and shifty, Calhoun sat out last year after transferring from Colorado, where he led the Buffs with 810 rushing yards and 5 TDs in 2003.
: Loren Howard
6-4, 280, Northwestern (Sr.)
An explosive athlete, Howard missed six games in 2004 with an ankle injury. He still recorded 22 tackles, including 4.5 for losses, and three sacks.
: Jerod Void
6-2, 212, Purdue (Sr.)
A bruising runner who's automatic in short-yardage situations, Void rushed 625 yards and three TDs in 2004. His role probably will expand this fall.
: Pat Massey
6-8, 284, Michigan (Sr.)
Massey is a great pass rusher, and when he can't get to the quarterback, he uses his size to knock passes down. He had 37 tackles and five sacks in 2004.
: Clinton Solomon
6-3, 195, Iowa (Sr.)
Solomon has good size and the ability to make people miss after making the catch. He hauled in 58 passes for 905 yards and six TDs last season.
: Quinn Pitcock
6-3, 295, Ohio State (Jr.)
Pitcock has great strength, a motor that never stops and a little bit of a nasty streak. He recorded 49 tackles last season, including 7.5 for losses.
: Ernie Wheelwright
6-5, 210, Minnesota (Soph.)
A Rivals.com Freshman All-American last season, Wheelwright had 30 catches for 654 yards (21.8 yards per catch) and seven touchdowns.
: Paul Posluszny
6-2, 229, Penn State (Jr.)
Posluszny has great speed and is a punishing tackler. He paced a good Lions defense last year with 104 tackles, including 12 for losses.
: Tim Massaquoi
6-4, 248, Michigan (Sr.)
Massaqoui doesn't do anything great, but he does everything well and is extremely reliable. Last season, he caught 18 passes for 184 yards.
: Bobby Carpenter
6-3, 255, Ohio State (Sr.)
Overshadowed by Hawk nationally, Carpenter is a steady performer. He had 93 tackles in 2004, including 6.5 for losses, and added three picks.
: Adam Stenavich
6-5, 317, Michigan (Sr.)
Stenavich teams with Long to form a great tandem at tackle. He's started at left tackle in each of the last two years and has 27 career starts at that slot.
: Tim McGarigle
6-1, 235, Northwestern (Sr.)
The undeniable leader of the Wildcats defense, McGarigle is a tackling machine. He was in on 151 stops last season, including six for losses.
: Joe Thomas
6-8, 295, Wisconsin (Jr.)
Originally a tight end, Thomas made the move to tackle last season and started all 12 games. He is equally good as a run blocker or in pass protection.
: Alan Zemaitis
6-2, 201, Penn State (Sr.)
Zemaitis is big and physical, but he also has good coverage skills. Last season, he recorded 47 tackles, six pass break-ups and two interceptions.
: Tyler Reed
6-4, 307, Penn State (Sr.)
Reed has always had good mobility, but he has become a standout with improved strength. He's the top player on an experienced Nittany Lions front.
: Antwan Allen
5-10, 180, Iowa (Sr.)
Allen is solid in coverage and also a sure tackler. He recorded 54 tackles a year ago, and added four interceptions, six pass break-ups and a sack.
: Mike Elgin
6-4, 277, Iowa (Jr.)
Elgin started 11 of 12 games at center last season but will move to right guard this fall. He's a bit undersized but generally outworks his opponent.
: Calvin Lowry
6-0, 200, Penn State (Sr.)
A high-energy performer who hits with bad intentions, Lowry was the Lions' playmaker in 2004. He had 50 tackles, four picks and recovered four fumbles.
: Donovan Raiola
6-3, 294, Wisconsin (Sr.)
A starter in 25 consecutive games, Raiola is the anchor for a talented Badgers offensive line. He has good quickness and is physically strong.
: Justin Harrison
5-11, 215, Illinois (Soph.)
Harrison earned Rivals.com Freshman All-America honors last season after racking up 79 tackles and a pick. He's strong, physical and loves to hit.
: Steve Weatherford
6-3, 215, Illinois (Sr.)
Weatherford had a tremendous 2004 campaign, averaging 45.4 yards per kick with a long of 79 yards. He also had 23 punts downed inside the 20.
: Kyle Schlicher
5-9, 179, Iowa (Jr.)
Schlicher doesn't have a great leg, but he's extremely accurate from 40 yards and in. He made 21 of 26 field goals last season, with a long of 49 yards.
: Steve Breaston
6-1, 179, Michigan (Jr.)
While his role as a receiver will expand, Breaston will still return punts. He averaged 12.2 yards per attempt in 2004, including a 67-yarder for a TD.
: Pierre Thomas
5-11, 200, Illinois (Jr.)
Also a talented running back, Thomas is a super return man. He averaged 27.1 yards on 25 attempts last season, including a 99-yarder for a touchdown.
: Derrick Williams
6-0, 191, Penn State (Fr.)
Williams, the top recruit in the class of 2005, enrolled early and amazed observers in spring drills with his ability. He'll wear several hats this fall.