A look around the Big Ten
Should Ohio State QB Justin Zwick be looking over his shoulder? Who will replace Michigan State QB Jeff Smoker? Our Big Ten notebook addresses those questions, along with looks at the surprisingly deep Northwestern lines, JoePa's grudge against Pitt and more.
Defensive linemen Chris Norwell and Charles Myles give the Illini hope that their defense won't give up nearly 40 points per Big Ten game, as it did last season. Norwell, a former offensive lineman, and Myles, a 320-pound sophomore who didn't qualify academically as a freshman, have stood out in practice.
Cornerback Jovon Johnson will get plenty of attention Saturday when the Hawkeyes host Kent State. Johnson verbally committed to Kent State and was set to become the centerpiece of the school's recruiting class. Then Iowa stepped in and snagged him.
Coach Lloyd Carr finally named Matt Gutierrez the starting QB for Saturday's game against Miami of Ohio. But while Gutierrez, who performed well as a backup last year, will start, strong-armed Clayton Richard figures to get a look, and so might true freshman Chad Henne, a Wyomissing, Pa., native who used spring break of his senior year to learn the Wolverines' offense and observe practice.
The Spartans needs to replace QB Jeff Smoker, and coach John L. Smith wants it to be Drew Stanton. But Stanton had to miss some practices last week because of swelling in his surgically repaired right knee. Smith hasn't settled on an alternative -- the talented but erratic Stephen Reaves or fifth-year senior Damon Dowdell.
The Gophers don't regret moving Matt Spaeth from defensive end to tight end a year ago. Spaeth caught 12 balls last year but drew more attention for his blocking. "Unbelievable player," assistant coach Mitch Browning told the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Every starting lineman returns -- on both sides of the ball. But highly acclaimed DE Loren Howard seriously injured his left ankle last week in practice and might be lost for the season. Howard led NU last year with eight sacks and 16 tackles for loss.
Tailback Tony Hunt has a slight edge over fellow sophomore Austin Scott, a prep superstar who ended up on the bench much of last season. Coach Joe Paterno said Hunt "may be a little more persistent and consistent than the other kid. But the other kid will be fine."
Just three starters return from the conference's third-best defense, but the Boilermakers say the young whippersnappers won't disappoint. "Although we're young, everybody's really athletic," said returning tackle Brent Grover.
Wisconsin coaches have pulled out Georgia Tech game tapes from the late '90s to prepare for Saturday's game with Central Florida. The reason? UCF coach George O'Leary, who coached Tech from 1994-2001.
Teddy Greenstein covers the Big Ten for the Chicago Tribune.