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The biggest question facing every Big Ten team

by Joshua Doering

It looked like it would never happen, but the conference-only Big Ten football season is set to kick off on Oct. 23 with another six games slated for the 24th. Five Big Ten teams — No. 5 Ohio State, No. 8 Penn State, No. 14 Wisconsin, No. 18 Michigan and No. 21 Minnesota — are currently ranked despite the conference’s delayed start. 

To prepare for the return of Big Ten football, 110 Sports has identified the biggest question facing all 14 teams.

Photo by Hillel Steinberg / Flickr

Illinois: Will this be the best Illinois team in a decade?

It may seem like a bold question to pose, but it’s not like the Fighting Illini have had a lot of success recently. The last time they finished .500 in Big Ten play was 2010, exactly 10 years ago. Quarterback Brandon Peters has a year under his belt in Champaign and is playing behind a veteran offensive line. Former top-100 recruit Marquez Beason — who missed his freshman season with a torn ACL — joins All-Big Ten Third Team selection Sydney Brown in a secondary that looks extremely promising on paper. 

Linebacker Jake Hansen (71 tackles, 3.5 sacks) tied No. 2 overall pick Chase Young for the most forced fumbles in the FBS last season while missing four games with a back injury. Lovie Smith’s group returns more experience than any team in the conference besides Northwestern. A pretty favorable schedule and the confidence gained from last season’s upset of Wisconsin make another 4-5 campaign a realistic possibility. An unexpected victory or two could result in the Fighting Illini finishing with a winning conference record for the first time since 2007. 

On page 2: Indiana

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