Football season can't come soon enough but, until that opening kickoff, we're here to help you pass the time.
Every day this week, as part of a new series, we're debating the top -- or, in some cases, second-best -- player at different positions. We won't always agree, but we'll always give you our reasons for a particular pick.
Up next: After Rutgers' Leonte Carroo, who is the best wide receiver in the Big Ten?
Austin Ward: Ohio State WR Michael Thomas
His career hasn’t exactly followed a traditional path, but it seems pretty likely to end just the way everybody anticipated when Thomas burst on the scene with a huge performance in the spring game before his true-freshman campaign.
There wasn’t much to get excited about that fall and he surprisingly took a redshirt as a sophomore, but Thomas is more than living up to the hype now after leading the Buckeyes in receptions a year ago on the way to the national title. The next step is piling up more yardage while continuing to be a reliable intermediate threat with a nose for the end zone. After posting a line of 54 receptions for 799 yards with nine touchdowns while in some ways taking a back seat to Devin Smith last season, Thomas is unquestionably the primary target and should improve on those totals across the board regardless of who winds up starting at quarterback for Ohio State.
And if Thomas is truly just hitting his stride now and living up to all the promise, he could easily stamp himself as the best in the Big Ten.
Josh Moyer: Illinois WR Mike Dudek
Sure, Dudek might still be recovering from a torn ACL in the spring. But he's healthy, he could even give our consensus No. 1 wideout -- Carroo -- a run for his money.
In case you've forgotten about this incredible video, Dudek has been running 22 mph on the treadmill since he was 16 years old. That's what New York Jets wideout Brandon Marshall is capable of now -- as a five-time Pro-Bowler. In high school, Dudek boasted a 37-inch vertical and at one point had the 15th-best SPARQ score in the country. And he's only gotten better since.
He was an ESPN.com freshman All-American and second-team All-B1G selection. He led FBS freshmen in receiving yards per game (79.8), led all B1G wideouts in receptions (50) and receiving yards (716) during conference play, and set Illinois' season freshman records for receiving yards (1,038) and receptions (76). Even with his injury, he still has the potential to leave Illinois as its all-time leading receiving leader. So, yeah, Carroo is our consensus No. 1 wideout this season. But next season? It could very well be Dudek.
Dan Murphy: Penn State WR DaeSean Hamilton
Hamilton is the headliner for an exciting, young group of receivers in State College this season. As a rookie in 2014, he led the Big Ten with 82 catches and finished fifth with 899 receiving yards. That was while shaking off the rust from a year on the sideline due to a wrist injury and playing in a stagnant offense that had trouble providing the time for receivers to get open.
Another year of practice for Hamilton and for the Nittany Lions' offensive line should help him improve and reach his goal of hitting 1,000 yards this season. It doesn't hurt that he has Christian Hackenberg, projected as the top quarterback in next year's NFL draft, delivering the ball to him. That duo said in spring that they hope to connect more on deep balls if they have the time to get down the field.
Hamilton's biggest challenge in topping last year's numbers may be competing with his teammates for opportunities. Carroo is far and away the top option at Rutgers. Hamilton will have to share the ball with capable receivers like Geno Lewis, Saeed Blacknall and Chris Godwin -- a group that might turn out to be one of the better corps in the country, let alone the conference.