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Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Five post-spring questions for the Big Ten


Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Before adjourning for the weekend, it's time to take a look at five lingering questions for the Big Ten following spring practice.

1. Will the quarterback play improve? If the spring practice was any indication, it will. Returning starters Daryll Clark, Juice Williams, Terrelle Pryor and Ricky Stanzi all elevated their play, and teams like Michigan State and Minnesota can feel better about their depth at quarterback. But these players have to get it done consistently on the field. The Big Ten had only one passer (Clark) rated in the top 25 nationally last year, a number that must increase.

2. Can the Big Ten notch a signature nonconference win? It didn't really happen last year, and more opportunities arrive this fall. No game carries more meaning than Ohio State-USC, as the Trojans have done more damage to the Big Ten's national reputation than any other team. The Big Ten also would benefit from Minnesota knocking off Cal, Illinois beating Missouri and at least two teams downing Notre Dame.

3. Will Penn State repeat for the first time in the Big Ten? The schedule certainly sets up for another Nittany Lions championship run, as both Iowa and Ohio State must visit Happy Valley. Penn State lost a sizable chunk of starters and must make upgrades during the summer in the secondary and along the offensive line. But with Clark and linebacker Sean Lee leading the way, the Lions should be right in the mix again.

4. Which new scheme will work right away? Minnesota overhauled its offense, while Indiana now will operate almost exclusively from the pistol formation. Michigan welcomes new defensive coordinator Greg Robinson, and Purdue must pick up nuances from new coordinators Gary Nord and Donn Landholm. Though the Gophers might have the most work to do on offense, they have the talent to do some special things if the system clicks.

5. Will Michigan be back this fall? The Wolverines likely are a year away from being back in the Big Ten title picture, but they must rebound from a disastrous 2008 campaign. Many of the pieces appear to be in place on offense, but all eyes will once again be on the quarterback position this summer. If the running game and the defense make expected progress, Michigan should be able to get back on the right side of .500.