The defending Big Ten champion won't be the only team from the conference searching for an identity this season. Michigan, the 2006 Big Ten runner-up, must replace seven starters on defense, including All-American tackle Alan Branch and cornerback Leon Hall. Wisconsin must replace quarterback John Stocco, and Penn State must find replacements for leading rusher Tony Hunt and linebacker Paul Posluszny.
Three other Big Ten teams figure to endure even more difficult transitions. Indiana, Michigan State and Minnesota have new coaches. The Hoosiers promoted assistant head coach/offensive coordinator Bill Lynch to succeed Terry Hoeppner, who died June 19 after an 18-month battle with a brain tumor. The Spartans hired Cincinnati's Mark Dantonio to replace John L. Smith, who was fired, and the Gophers hired former NFL assistant Tim Brewster to succeed Glen Mason, who was ousted after 10 seasons.
Uncertainty also extended to the Big Ten's most high-profile teams at the end of the 2006 season. Ohio State and Michigan flopped in bowl games, raising questions about the league's overall strength.
Those factors, combined with the questions about expansion and scheduling, seem to place the Big Ten at a crossroads in 2007.
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