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But what about any lottery ticket-type players across the Big Ten?
Here are the 14 X factors from across the conference.
Michigan Wolverines: The freshmen
Head coach Jim Harbaugh was busy in his first full recruiting cycle in Ann Arbor, signing ESPN's No. 6 overall class. The group includes the country's top overall prospect, defensive tackle Rashan Gary; ESPN 300 four-star running back Kareem Walker; and early enrollee Devin Bush Jr., who could start at linebacker from Day 1. The youngsters join a roster stocked with experienced talent, so if enough members of this class contribute right away, they could push the Wolverines over the top.
Thanks to the Buckeyes' wealth of passers in 2015, the former five-star quarterback prospect redshirted last year, then made the full-time switch to wideout. And with the departure of last season's leading wide receiver trio -- Michael Thomas, Jalin Marshall and Braxton Miller (1,599 receiving yards combined) -- Gibson will have ample opportunity to earn playing time this fall. The Florida native is an elite athlete, and Barrett will need a weapon to help him shoulder the load.
Penn State Nittany Lions: New offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead
Head coach James Franklin went bold in hiring Moorhead, the former Fordham head coach, to revitalize a feeble offensive attack (133.9 rush yards per game in 2015, No. 105 in the FBS; 214.5 pass yards per game, No. 74; 23.2 points per game, No. 101). The new offensive coordinator employs a no-huddle spread that aims to run at least 75 offensive snaps per game. Penn State averaged just 63.8 last season, fewest in the Big Ten.
The sophomore drew favorable comparisons to former Spartan Darqueze Dennard (MSU's first-ever defensive back to take home the Jim Thorpe Award) last summer. He looked ready to take the reins as the Spartans' next lockdown corner in Week 1 (two tackles for loss, one interception) but was lost for the season after fracturing a vertebra in his neck in Week 2. If Copeland is 100 percent healthy this fall, he'll be instrumental in reinstituting Sparty's "No Fly Zone." Two years after allowing 5.2 ypa (No. 2 in the FBS), Michigan State gave up 2 more yards per attempt in 2015 (No. 78).
Indiana Hoosiers: New defensive coordinator Tom Allen
Here's how dire Indiana's defensive straits are: Allen is the fifth defensive coordinator (or co-coordinator) under sixth-year head coach Kevin Wilson. Since 2004, the Hoosiers rank 116th in the FBS in yards allowed. Holding to tradition, Indiana was one of just 10 FBS programs in 2015 to surrender 500-plus yards per game, as opposing offenses scored at will (31 two-minute touchdown drives, second most in the Power 5). If Allen can upgrade the unit to merely serviceable, the Hoosiers could have another bowl-eligible year in their sights. Here's the challenge: He brings an Ole Miss- like 4-2-5 scheme to Bloomington ... minus the Ole Miss-like talent.
Maryland Terrapins: The Jacobs brothers
Wide receivers Levern and Taivon Jacobs have speed and skill, but the Terps are still awaiting the duo's breakout. Levern, a senior, was suspended for 2014 for violating the student code of conduct; Taivon, a junior, missed the same season with a knee injury. Last year Maryland's quarterbacks struggled to get the ball to anyone but opposing defenders (29 interceptions, six more than any other FBS team). The quarterbacks must find the Jacobses more often for the new up-tempo attack to take flight in 2016.
The freakishly athletic pass rusher emerged as a redshirt freshman in 2014, making 7.5 sacks and blocking three kicks, including one to beat Michigan. Then he all but disappeared in 2015. While coping with nagging injuries, Turay chipped in just nine tackles and two sacks in his 11 game appearances. The new staff's ability to harness his 2014-level play will be crucial for a team that sorely missed a pass rush last year. Rutgers managed only 14 sacks (tied for 120th in the FBS), fewer than the nation's leading sack artist, Penn State's Carl Nassib, totaled on his own (15.5).
Chalk up last season to a lost year for the speedy junior. Sidelined with foot and knee injuries, he appeared in just five games, managing 19 touches all fall. But before he was a nonfactor, Pierson-El flashed his game-breaking ability as a freshman in 2014, totaling 596 punt-return yards -- 164 more than any other team nationally. If he returns to the roster in good health, Nebraska's already-robust wideout group (each of its top four wide receivers from last year returns) gets an instant infusion.
The Badgers regularly field elite linebacking corps, but losing reigning Big Ten linebacker of the year Joe Schobert, who forced five fumbles (tied for second in the FBS) and 19.5 tackles for loss (tied for 11th), leaves a playmaking hole. The Badgers will need Biegel, a senior with 15.5 sacks over the past two seasons, to step into the role of top playmaker to help avoid a drop-off for the nation's fourth-best run defense last year (95.4 yards per game).
The South Dakota product is not the fastest or strongest Big Ten wide receiver -- just 50.8 percent of his catches went for a first down or touchdown last year (league average: 61.1). But he is a reliable target for C.J. Beathard, especially over the middle, with a team-high 65 grabs in 2015. Still, the Hawkeyes mustered just 20 catches of 25-plus yards last year (tied for 96th in the FBS), so a downfield threat still eludes Iowa.
The former running back is the first player in program history to return three kicks for touchdowns in a career and offers the Wildcats burst that is lacking elsewhere. Northwestern's 22 catches of 20-plus yards in 2015 was No. 123 in the FBS, and the Cats were one of three Power 5 teams without a receiver hitting the 400-yard mark. They'll look to Vault's explosiveness to help stretch the field on offense this fall.
He threw a 42-yard TD pass at Iowa. He ran for 174 yards versus Illinois. He caught 17 passes on the season. And he did it as a true freshman. Look out for Brooks again this year, even as he splits time with fellow sophomore Rodney Smith. Brooks offers the Gophers, who plodded along at 5.3 yards per play last year (No. 90 in the FBS), a much-needed big-play option. The dynamic back ranked fourth among Big Ten rushers in yards per catch last year (6.0).
Clark is a playmaker, plain and simple. He led the Boilermakers in tackles (88). He led them in pass breakups (nine). He didn't lead in interceptions (two) but did in interception return yards (66). The elite Miami native is a leader at safety, perhaps Purdue's best unit, and is one of maybe two players on the roster who could start at any Big Ten program. When your team is as lackluster as the one out of West Lafayette has been, that kind of juice is welcome.
After Josh Ferguson, Illinois' top rusher from 2014, was sidelined midyear by a shoulder injury, Vaughn emerged as a promising -- and durable -- backfield threat in 2015. With Ferguson out for the better part of four games, Vaughn took 71 of the Illini's 96 handoffs. At 5-foot-10, 205 pounds, he has good size and should push for 1,000 yards this fall. That's a level of production Illinois has lacked since 2010.