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Take Two: Team in danger of a drop-off?

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Our crew of Big Ten reporters will periodically offer takes on burning questions that face the league. We'll have strong opinions, though not the same view. We'll let you decide who's right.

Today's Take Two topic might be kind of a bummer for a couple of teams, but we're asking: Which Big Ten team is in danger of a drop-off in 2015?

Take 1: Mitch Sherman

The perceived top tier of the West Division includes three teams as we head toward the 2015 season, down one from a year ago. Gone is Iowa after the Hawkeyes struggled to tread water for much of 2014. The bottom fell out in November as Iowa lost big at Minnesota, then dropped close games at home to Wisconsin and Nebraska after a road victory over Illinois.

Four losses in five games -- capped by a postseason flop against Tennessee -- secured a third season in four years with fewer than eight wins for coach Kirk Ferentz, entering his 16th season in Iowa. What do all those numbers mean? The Hawkeyes are at a crossroads. Ticket sales are down. Momentum is lagging. Ferentz took a more aggressive approach to personnel decisions this offseason.

Iowa needs a spark. But from where is it coming? Quarterback C.J. Beathard offers more upside than two-year starter Jake Rudock, though Beathard is a risk, with limited experience and consistency issues during his time at the helm.

If he falters, Iowa is in trouble. Of course, the same can be said on nearly every Big Ten campus outside of Columbus, Ohio. But Iowa lost its top running back and most productive receiver from a year ago in addition to Louis Trinca-Pasat and Carl Davis, difference-makers on the defensive line.

Iowa visits Wisconsin and Nebraska in 2015. Potentially more troubling, it plays at Indiana and Northwestern, programs whose level toward which the Hawkeyes may be slipping.

Take 2: Brian Bennett

Maryland had a solid debut season in the Big Ten, winning seven games while beating Iowa, Penn State and Michigan. But I think the Terrapins could take a step backwards in Year 2.

Few teams lose more starting experience than Randy Edsall's squad, which is replacing eight senior starters -- including basically the entire front seven -- on defense, reconfiguring much of its offensive line, restocking at wide receiver after stars Stefon Diggs and Deon Long both departed and turning to a new quarterback after C.J. Brown's long career came to an end.

That's an awful lot of turnover, even though Edsall's recent recruiting efforts mean that the incoming talent is intriguing. New starting quarterback Caleb Rowe is hardly a proven commodity, as he played in just four games last year and missed spring practice while rehabbing a torn ACL. Brown provided much of the Terrapins' rushing threat last season, and none of the team's running backs have yet to distinguish themselves.

Then there's the schedule, which includes a tough game at West Virginia, crossover matchups against Wisconsin and at Iowa and the rugged East Division that should include improved versions of Penn State and Michigan. I think good things lie ahead for Edsall's program, but not before a small step backward in 2015.