Big Ten

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A league once known as the “big two, little eight” became much deeper in the 1990s. But at the tail end of the current decade, Ohio State stands head and shoulders above its conference brethren. The Buckeyes have appeared in the last two BCS title games and have the pedigree to do so again this season. Of course, there’s a big difference between “appeared in” and “won” (as all SEC fans know). A third-straight BCS title loss — possibly to another SEC squad — would stamp the Buckeyes as the Buffalo Bills of college football.

Ohio State’s 2007 success was a surprise, but this year it is expected to run roughshod over the Big Ten. A win at USC on September 13 would put the Buckeyes on the fast track to the BCS title game. They are loaded on both sides of the ball, but the biggest name is tailback Chris “Beanie” Wells, the probable Heisman favorite. Quarterback Todd Boeckman is a game manager, but look for Jim Tressel to spell him with uber-recruit Terrelle Pryor to provide a spread-option look.

The line to challenge the Buckeyes forms behind Wisconsin, which gets Ohio State at home on October 4. Penn State also appears poised for a good year with 18 returning starters, while Illinois looks to build on last year’s Rose Bowl season. Iowa should be improved by virtue of a willow-soft schedule. Michigan made a splash hiring Rodriguez, but the Wolverines are facing a massive rebuilding project, with only one returning offensive starter. A bowl bid would mark this season a success in Ann Arbor.

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