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Top Big Ten players: No. 21-25

Look for Nebraska QB Tommy Armstrong to thrive in Mike Riley's system this season. AP Photo/Nati Harnik

To complement ESPN's unveiling of the top 100 players in college football, we've assembled a separate, Big Ten-specific list of the league's top 25 players, based on past performance and future potential.

It starts now, with the first five -- or the last five. You get the point.

21. William Likely, cornerback, Maryland

Arguably the most active defensive back in the Big Ten, with numbers from his sophomore season that jump off the page, Likely contributed 83 tackles for the Terrapins last season and tied for the league lead with six interceptions. He returned two picks for scores and defended 15 passes, also equal to the Big Ten high, returned a kickoff for a score against Stanford and took a punt back against West Virginia. Likely plays his best in big games and adds an element to the Maryland blitz package. Look for him in nearly every facet of the Terps' defensive and special teams game plan.

22. Nate Sudfeld, quarterback, Indiana

Sudfeld has the size and arm strength to again flourish as a senior under coach Kevin Wilson after missing the second half of last season with an injury to his non-throwing shoulder. Sudfeld completed better than 60 percent of his throws in each of three years for the Hoosiers, whose system caters to his strengths. He ranks eighth at Indiana in career passing yardage and completions. His intelligence and experience provide a giant boost for the IU offense, which floundered without him in October and November last season.

23. Tommy Armstrong Jr., quarterback, Nebraska

Named a 2015 captain after spring practice, Armstrong has excelled in areas of leadership since the Huskers thrust him into the starting role two years ago as a redshirt freshman. This fall, his production may finally match Armstrong's talent. Coach Mike Riley's system, modified to capitalize on the quarterback's athleticism, appears the right place to thrive for Armstrong, who throws the deep ball well and moves the chains with his ability to escape defenses. Keys to his growth as a junior include a reduction in turnovers and improved accuracy on short passes.

24. Vince Biegel, linebacker, Wisconsin

Biegel emerged last season as a defensive force for the Badgers, starting 13 games as a key piece among a group of linebackers that ranked as the best in the Big Ten West. He led Wisconsin with 16.5 tackles. Look for more of the explosion on display this season, as a year ago in Week 10 he recorded three sacks against Purdue. Biegel, a junior, is expected to team with Joe Schobert on the outside to again form the backbone of a Wisconsin defense that must replace its inside linebackers.

25. Josh Ferguson, running back, Illinois

Ferguson ranked as perhaps the most versatile back last season among the Big Ten's unmatched stable of runners. He's shifty with a degree of power when needed, topping 700 yards on the ground and 400 yards receiving in each of the past two seasons for the Illini, which has often failed to feature a complete arsenal of offensive weapons to deflect attention from the 5-foot-10, 180-pound Ferguson. Sixth on Illinois' career all-purpose chart with 3,486 yards, the senior is one of three FBS players with more than 1,500 total rushing yards and 1,000 total receiving yards.