Football Big Three: Opposing players

BY SETH ROBERTS | JULY 27, 2011 7:20 AM

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After breaking down the Iowa football team's top trap games and best freshmen, The Daily Iowan turns its sights to the Big Ten's most dangerous players. The following are the individuals who could post the biggest numbers against Iowa this season.

3) Denard Robinson, Michigan quarterback

There once was a time when no one had head of Denard Robinson.

Then, 2010 happened.

Robinson needed just one start to turn the head of every football fan in the country. In Michigan's season-opener against Connecticut, he threw for 186 yards and ran for 197 more.

That performance paled in comparison with his next game, when the Florida native shredded Notre Dame for 502 yards of total offense.

Iowa found a way to limit his effectiveness last year, though; Robinson hurt his shoulder against the Hawkeyes, and finished with only 96 passing and 105 rushing yards. Of course, he notched those numbers in just one half.

Robinson will run teams into the ground, and then he'll kill them with his arm. Expect him to be a serious contender for the Heisman Trophy this year.

2) Jared Crick, Nebraska defensive line

With 140 tackles and 19 sacks in the past two years, Crick is one of the best defensive tackles in the nation.

People have noticed.

Crick was one of four defensive linemen to be named to the prestigious Playboy Preseason All-America team, and has been named to four other first-team All-American lists as well.

A 6-6, 185-pound monster from Cozad, Neb., Crick could crack the Nebraska record book in numerous categories; he's seventh in Husker history in sacks, and he could become just the 22nd Nebraska player to be a three-time all-conference selection.

1) Dan Persa, Northwestern quarterback

Persa has impeccable timing.

After spending an afternoon slicing up the Hawkeye defense all game long last year, the senior from Bethlehem, Pa., waited until immediately after he threw a game-winning touchdown to rupture his Achilles' tendon.

Several months later, he's healthy and ready to run a potent Wildcat attack that has given the Hawkeyes fits over the past several years.

The first-team All-Big Ten gunslinger racked up 2,581 yards through the air last season and connected on an astonishing 73.5 percent of his attempts. He was a monster on the ground, too; in just 10 games, he scampered for 519 yards and nine touchdowns.

His name appears on a variety of award watch-lists, including those for the Walter Camp national player of the year and the Heisman, and it's not hard to see why.

Honorable mention: Rex Burkhead, Nebraska running back

Last year, Burkhead was an honorable-mention All-Big 12 honoree after he ran for 951 yards and seven touchdowns.

Imagine what he'll do when he's actually the Huskers' primary rusher.

Burkhead was technically the secondary running back behind now-Washington Redskin Roy Helu, and his numbers should explode with the added carries now that he'll be the featured back.

The Big Three is a five-part series and will be published all week.

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