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I know what you must be thinking. Every other poll and writer has Ohio State ranked first in the Big Ten. Although I think it is going to be tight, Penn State will win the Big Ten.
The first reason is the schedule: Although Penn State plays Illinois, Michigan, and Michigan St. away, they get their toughest games (Iowa and Ohio State) at home. Also, Wisconsin is not on their schedule. Overall, they have a the 72nd hardest schedule.
The second reason is there defense: They have the best linebacker corps in rising star Navorro Bowman and returning top backer (who was injured with a torn ACL last year) Sean Lee. Despite losing their top three defensive ends to the NFL, they are still stacked on DL due to the recruiting of Larry Johnson.
The projected starters at DE are veteren Jerome Hayes, and although his career has been characterized by injuries, he is still a good pass rush threat. The other, sophomore Jack Crawford, is still unproven, but was ranked as the No. 15 top DE of his recruiting class. They return their two top defensive tackles, Ollie Ogbu and Jared Odrik.
The secondary will be the only hole that needs filling, returning just one starter, in CB A.J. Wallace. Again, due to the easy schedule, the only real passing threat will be Illinois, and Ohio State if Pryor develops more into a passer, which he needs to if OSU has a shot at USC.
The third and final reason is the offense. They may only have five returning starters (which is one more than the defense, which has four), but the returnees are the most important.
They also have reliable backups. Daryll Clark is starting QB with good reason, making first-team Big Ten last season. His backup, true freshman Kevin Newsome, did well in the Spring Game. He ranks as the No. 10 QB of his recruiting class.
They also return the 1,000 yard rusher Evan Royster and speedster Stephfon Green, both of whom should expect more carries with the loss of their top three wide receivers. The offensive line lost three, including All-American center A.Q. Shiply, to the draft. The two returning starters are both on first-team Big Ten.
Finally, the receivers: They have a huge hole to fill, with the leaving of the three four-year starters, who led PSU back to its glory.
Redshirt freshman A.J Price looks like Clark's main target. Converted QB Brett Bracket will provide sure hands, along with converted defensive back, Chaz Powell. Look for the passing yards to go down, and the rushing yardage to go up.
I call them to go 12-0 in the regular season.