Leader of the pack

1. Michigan
1999 Record: 10-2 overall, 6-2 Big Ten
Last Game: Beat Alabama 35-34 in the Orange Bowl
Outlook: With the departure of quarterback Tom Brady (2,586 yards, 20 touchdowns), the Wolverines will finally find out if QB Drew Henson has as much potential as coach Lloyd Carr keeps saying he does. If Henson produces, Michigan should be solid on offense since running back Anthony Thomas (1,297 yards, 17 TDs) decided to return for his senior season.

2. Illinois
1999 Record: 8-4, 4-4
Last Game: Beat Virginia 63-21 in the MicronPC.com Bowl
Outlook: The Fighting Illini are excited about what quarterback Kurt Kittner (2,702 passing yards, 24 TDs) could do next season. And running back Rocky Harvey (1,210 all-purpose yards) is as solid as they come in the backfield. If Kittner plays as well or better than he did last season, and Harvey continues to produce, Illinois could find itself fighting for a second- or third-place finish in the Big Ten.

3. Purdue
1999 record: 7-5, 4-4
Last Game: Lost to Georgia 28-25 in Outback Bowl.
Outlook: Senior quarterback Drew Brees and his golden arm return for the Boilermakers. Brees led the Big Ten in passing last year (3,909 yards, 25 TDs). WR Vinny Sutherland (7 TDs) returns, but Purdue will miss WR Chris Daniels (1,236 yards, 7 TDs) and SS Adrian Beasley (5 INTs), who was the one solid link in an otherwise weak secondary.

4. Penn State
1999 Record: 10-3, 5-3
Last Game: Beat Texas A&M 24-0 in the Alamo Bowl.
Outlook: The Nittany Lions hopes for a Big Ten championship were put in jeopardy when quarterback Rashard Casey (1,002 yards, 6 TDs) was charged last week with allegedly assaulting a police officer. If Casey is out for a while, Penn State will look to RB Eric McCoo (782, 4 TDs) to pick up the slack on offense. The defense could have its own problems with the losses of linebacker LaVar Arrington and defensive end Courtney Brown to the NFL.

5. Ohio State
1999 Record: 6-6, 3-5
Last Game: Lost 24-17 to Michigan
Outlook: The Buckeyes had a disappointing 1999 season and failed to make a bowl game appearance. Ohio State returns key offensive starters in WRs Reggie Germany and Ken-Yon Rambo, who combined for 1,489 yards and 84 catches last year. QB Steve Bellisari (1,616 yards, 12 TDs) will return as the Buckeyes’ signal caller. On the defensive end, cornerback Nate Clements and his 90 tackles from a year ago will help anchor the Buckeyes’ defense.

6. Wisconsin
1999 record: 10-2, 7-1 Big Ten
Last game: Beat Stanford 17-9 in the Rose Bowl
Outlook: The Badgers come into the 2000 season as back-to-back Rose Bowl champs. But they will have to deal with the loss of RB Ron Dayne (2,034 yards, 20 TDs), who set the NCAA record for career rushing yards in his senior season. Wisconsin will be relying heavily on the arm of sophomore quarterback Brooks Bollinger, and a passing game that averaged only 141.8 yards per game last season.

7. Michigan State
1999 Record: 10-2, 6-2
Last Game: Beat Florida 37-34 in the Citrus Bowl
Outlook: The Spartans offense took a big hit when wide receiver Plaxico Burress decided to jump to the NFL a year early. Quarterback Ryan Van Dyke (393 yards, 4 TDs) will become the full-time QB with the exit of Bill Burke (2,214 yards, 20 TDs) and will need to have a big year if Michigan State is to make it back to a New Year’s Day bowl.

8. Indiana
1999 Record: 4-7, 3-5
Last Game: Lost 30-24 to Purdue
Outlook: QB Antwaan Randle El (2,277 passing yards, 17 TDs, 788 rushing yards, 13 TDs) was one of the few bright spots on a inconsistent team. Randle El will need help from RB Levron Williams, who did well to gain 817 yards last year, but will have to reach the end zone more than four times next year. On the other side of the ball, the Hoosiers will look to DE Kemp Rasmussen (12 sacks in 1999) to anchor the defense.

9. Northwestern
1999 Record: 3-8, 1-7
Last Game: Lost 29-7 to Illinois
Outlook: QB Zak Kustok is the No. 1 starter this season after splitting time with Nick Kreinbrink last year. Kustok will have a number of returning receivers to throw to if they can stay healthy, including Teddy Johnson (354 yards, 4 TDs). And running back Damien Anderson (1,128 yards) could have another productive year in the backfield, although he must get into the end zone more than three times next year. NU’s offense must overcome its inability to put points on the board — the Wildcats only scored more than 20 points in two games. On defense, the Cats will look to fifth-year senior lineman Dwayne Missouri (52 tackles, 5 sacks) as well as linebacker Kevin Bentley (151 tackles).

10. Minnesota
1999 Record: 8-4, 5-3
Last game: Lost to Oregon 24-20 in the Sun Bowl
Outlook: The Golden Gophers turned heads last year with their fourth-place finish in the conference a year ago. However, they have a big question at quarterback with the loss of Billy Cockerham (831 rushing yards, 10 TDs) and running back Thomas Hamner (1,426 rushing yards, 10 TDs). Freshman Asad Abdul-Khaliq looks to be the front-runner to take Cockerham’s place.

11. Iowa
1999 Record: 1-10, 0-8
Last Game: Lost 25-21 to Minnesota
Outlook: No team was happier to see last season end than Iowa. The Hawkeyes had no consistency at the quarterback position — employing three different starters in 1999 — and were forced to start two redshirt freshmen on the offensive line. The one constant in Iowa’s offense was running back Ladell Betts, whose totals of 857 yards and 5 TDs are more impressive than they sound, considering the blocking.