3 Dark-Horse Candidates to Win the Big Ten Title in 2012

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3 Dark-Horse Candidates to Win the Big Ten Title in 2012
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Can the Iowa Hawkeyes make a run in the stacked Legends Division in 2012?

The Big Ten Conference division titles belonged to the preseason favorites in 2011.

The Wisconsin Badgers were loaded offensively with Montee Ball in the backfield and North Carolina State transfer Russell Wilson at quarterback as they steamrolled their way to a Leaders Division crown.

In the Legends Division, the Michigan State Spartans toyed with opposing offenses with monsters like Jerel Worthy and William Gholston on their defensive line. The Spartans held opponents to 18.7 points per game last year and their offense was not flashy, but extremely efficient with three-time captain Kirk Cousins under center.

Surprise teams like Michigan and Illinois emerged unscathed from the pack early in the season, but suffered critical losses that took them out of contention for a division championship down the stretch.

This season, Michigan will not be sneaking up on anyone after posting 11 wins in 2011 under first-year head coach Brady Hoke. The Wolverines and Spartans have been the talk of the Legends Division so far this offseason, and the two are the runaway favorites to line up against whoever emerges from the Leaders Division in the Big Ten Championship Game on Dec. 1.

With Ohio State being ineligible for postseason play in Urban Meyer's first season in Columbus, the clear-cut favorite to take the Leaders Division is once again Wisconsin. Ball is back and the Badgers will once again be led by a transfer quarterback from the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Who will be the teams in the race for the two division titles that people aren't talking about this season, though? Are there any teams quietly waiting in the wings to surprise the Big Ten favorites in 2012? Read on to find out. 

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