One Great Season
There's been plenty of offseason talk about the Big Ten's strong showing during last winter's bowl season and how it might be a harbinger for the league's fortunes in 2010.
But those games were a long time ago. By the time these squads take the field for their season openers this week, eight months will have passed. By now, no one cares what you did for Christmas.
Like all preseason publications, however, this one places emphasis on returning starters. The aforementioned teams have significant players, if not entire units, coming back in 2010.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Complete Preseason Preview
For example, Terrelle Pryor and his top skill-position players around him return for Ohio State. Iowa brings back eight returning starters from a defense that allowed only 15 points per game in 2009. Wisconsin returns 10 offensive starters from the Big Ten's highest-scoring unit last year.
Other than returning starters, a good quarterback and a manageable schedule are key. Pryor, Iowa's Ricky Stanzi and Wisconsin's Scott Tolzien are the league's three best signalcallers. Pryor is a dual-threat star, Stanzi is a born leader and Tolzien is accurate and has a chance to be prolific in 2010.
Regarding the schedule, Iowa has a slight edge. It welcomes Penn State, Wisconsin and Ohio State to Kinnick Stadium, regarded as the loudest venue in the conference.
Ohio State has the toughest go in 2010; it gets Penn State at home, but visits Wisconsin and Iowa. Wisconsin and Penn State great a break from each other on this year's schedule.
Regardless of how threatening the Hawkeyes look in 2010, they do so in Ohio State's rear-view mirror. And until they beat a Buckeyes team that's good enough to win a national championship this year, Iowa will be a great second-place finisher. These four teams won a combined 43 games last year, and I'd expect the same this season in another very tight race. But Ohio State will navigate its tricky league schedule and win a record-tying sixth straight Big Ten championship.
Predicted Order Of Finish:
Interesting Storylines: Rich Rodriguez's seat in Ann Arbor is the hottest in America, Ron Zook's is pretty warm at Illinois and Purdue transfer QB Robert Marve could surprise some.
Not An Interesting Storyline: Joe Paterno's age. Quit talking about it already.
One Game You Can't Miss: Ohio State at Iowa, Nov. 20