Training camps are heating up, and lineups across the Big Ten are starting to come into clearer focus. But there are still some notable competitions around the league that have yet to be resolved and which could be crucial in determining division and conference titles this fall -- or even the national championship.
First up in the look around the Big Ten: The Illinois Fighting Illini.
Top position battle: Wide receiver
What once looked to be a loaded unit full of targets for quarterback Wes Lunt is now facing some uncertainty heading into the opener next month, with injuries robbing the Illini of two likely starters and potentially putting some pressure on a couple of fresh faces to deliver for the passing game.
Illinois already knew it would be without the services of Mikey Dudek for at least the first half of the season after he tore his ACL during spring practice, but the loss of Justin Hardee for the first few games due to a broken foot is another setback for a program that can't seem to catch a break lately. Illinois still has Geronimo Allison around and poised for a big campaign after finishing second among the wideouts in receptions with 41 last year, and sophomore Malik Turner also has shown flashes of big-play potential after hauling in 25 passes a season ago.
But the Illini could still use another weapon or two to emerge during the competitive practices of camp, which will put young talents such as Sam Mays or Desmond Cain under the spotlight. And if one or both can make a case for a regular role this month, there's no doubt that Lunt will put them to work when the season finally kicks off.