Just like that, the Fourth of July is behind us, Media Days are around the corner and the start of Big Ten football is only 40+ days away. The anticipation is even higher with full stadiums and complete schedules on tap in 2021.

With our favorite time of year suddenly closer than we might realize, we rank the league’s best position groups — those who play on scrimmage downs only — heading into 2021.

7. Indiana quarterbacks

It’s unclear when possible Heisman candidate Michael Penix Jr. will return from a torn ACL, but backup Jack Tuttle has borne objective evidence he’s capable of leading the Hoosiers to victory. In 3 games last season, the latter completed 61% of his passes and averaged 5 yards per attempt. Penix, meanwhile, was a machine — 7.5 yards per throw with 14 touchdowns.

6. Minnesota running backs

Any group with reigning Big Ten running back of the year Mohamed Ibrahim (153.71 yards per game last season) has to be in this conversation. We’re counting on either Cam Wiley, Treyson Potts or both to make big strides ahead of their second seasons in the program.

5. Wisconsin linebackers

Is 2021 really a “return to normalcy” unless Wisconsin’s linebackers are causing disruption on the regular? Jack Sanborn and Leo Chenal are back after combining for 98 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, 12 quarterback hurries and a pair of forced fumbles. So is freshman Nick Herbig, whose 6 TFLs tied with Chenal for the team lead. If the Badgers bounce back this fall, this bunch will be a big reason.

4. Northwestern defensive line

With losses across the back seven, the defending B1G West champions will lean heavily on the big boys up front. The departure of Eku Leota as a graduate transfer to Auburn hurts, but the Wildcats return a lot of experience, including Adetomiwa Adebawore (2 sacks and 6 tackles for loss in 2020). It’s also Northwestern, which has proven particularly adroit at developing defensive talent under coach Pat Fitzgerald.

3. Indiana defensive backs

The B1G’s latest startup success brings back Jaylin Williams (4 interceptions, 1 pass break-up, 5 passes defended), Tiawan Mullen (3 INT, 4 PBUs, 7 passes defended), Reese Taylor (1 INT, 7 PBUs, 8 passes defended) and Devon Matthews (1 INT, 6 PBUs, 7 passes defended). The Hoosiers had Pro Football Focus’ 10th-ranked FBS secondary at the end of 2020, and it’ll be tough to pass against them again this fall.

2. Iowa offensive line

Iowa returns 4 starters from PFF’s 12th-highest graded offensive line last season. Center Tyler Linderbaum — one of FBS’ top movers — gets a lot of the headlines, but Cody Ince, Jack Plumb and Kyler Schott are three more reasons stopping Iowa could prove problematic this season.

1. Ohio State receivers

With 194 yards per game, 13 touchdowns and 24 plays of 20 yards or more in 8 games last year, Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson might be the best receiving tandem in college football. But don’t sleep on Marvin Harrison Jr., Emeka Egbuka, Julian Fleming or Jaxon Smith-Njigba; heck, even pass-catching tight end Jeremy Ruckert is back. All of which has to be a comforting thought for whichever Ohio State quarterback earns the right to replace Justin Fields.