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Nebraska Cornhuskers, Wisconsin Badgers look to be in Big 10 football mix

Nebraska’s Stanley Morgan Jr., right, catches a pass in front of Wisconsin’s Faion Hicks during the first half in Madison, Wis., on Oct. 6. (AP file photo)

The power structure in the Big Ten could be in for a shakeup.

Jim Harbaugh enters his fifth year at Michigan overdue for a breakthrough, and two-time defending conference champion Ohio State is transitioning from Urban Meyer to Ryan Day and replacing a first-round NFL draft pick at quarterback.

Momentum Nebraska built the second half of last season is expected to carry over into Scott Frost’s second year. Wisconsin ceded control of the West with five losses in 2018, and the division is considered wide open with six teams capable of making it to Indianapolis for the Big Ten title game.

Nebraska, coming off a 4-8 season, brings back one of the nation’s most dynamic young quarterbacks in Adrian Martinez. Scoring has never been a problem for a Frost team, whether at Central Florida or Nebraska. The biggest question is whether the defense can improve on its No. 94 national ranking.

The Huskers benefit from a schedule that has them playing at home against Ohio State, defending West champion Northwestern, Wisconsin and Iowa.

“Nebraska is one of the teams that for a long time was one of the blue bloods of college football and winning as many game as anybody. That wasn’t built overnight. It’s not going to be built overnight again,” Frost said. “I have a strong sense that we’re way ahead of where we were a year ago, and I think we’ll keep improving from here.”

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TOP PLAYERS

Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor is the returning Doak Walker Award winner who led the nation with 2,194 yards. Purdue WR-KR Rondale Moore set school game and season records for all-purpose yards and was the first Big Ten true freshman to make first-team All-America. Martinez is coming off the most prolific freshman season in Nebraska history.

Ohio State DE Chase Young is looking to become the second Buckeye, and first since Mike Vrabel in 1994-95, to record double-digit sacks in multiple seasons. Penn State DE Yetur Gross-Matos is coming off a breakthrough season in which he had 20 tackles for loss.