My hope was that after the Spring practices ended, things would seem more clear in the Big Ten. I think that there is only one thing that is clear: there is no national champion coming from our ranks this season. As I look through the league, I see a deep, balanced league. That should be great for exciting games between seven and eight win teams. It should also mean that we won't see a team run through conference play undefeated.
To be honest, picking the conference champion is a question of likelihoods. In other words, how shocked would you be if Team X won the Big Ten? I break it down this way:
Best Guesses: Ohio State, Wisconsin, Nebraska
I Could See That: Penn State, Michigan, Michigan State, Iowa, Northwestern
Who Saw That Coming?: Illinois, Purdue, Indiana, Minnesota
If you're following my logic, I think that 8 of the 12 teams have the possibility of winning the league. Fans of those eight teams are probably looking at that list and thinking, "well, if he develops, and if we can plug that hole, and if we catch a break..." Not since 2002 has the league been more ripe for the taking. Who will take it? Maybe I'll have a better idea in August...
First, let's remember that there are rules:
- The best teams don't always go to the best games. In the end, butts in the seat and eyes to the television are the biggest factors.
- The order of BCS selection is 1) Replacement for #1 Team; 2) Replacement for #2 Team; 3) Fiesta Bowl; 4) Sugar Bowl; 5) Orange Bowl.
- If a Big Ten or Pac-10 team qualifies for the BCS Championship Game, the Rose Bowl will NOT be required to take a non-automatic qualifier. This was only required of the Rose Bowl the first time it occurred over the current four-year contract.
- The Insight Bowl picks its Big Ten team ahead of the Gator Bowl this year. It will rotate the other way next year.
Got it? Good. Let's get on to the projections.