If you were a betting person, who would you pick as the nation’s No. 1 team? What about the Big Ten’s best? And what about soon-to-be-Big-Ten member Nebraska?
Oh, yes. Where does the Big Ten, which started all this expansion exuberance, rate among the nation’s elite conferences?
Let’s take a look.
A lot of the work has been done by the four major preseason college football magazines -- Phil Steele, The Sporting News, Lindy’s and Athlon -- plus CBSSports.com. They have come up with their annual preseason previews, which provides plenty of food for thought.
What they all show is Ohio State is once again picked to rule the Big Ten, as it has for the last five years. It helps to have a Heisman Trophy candidate in quarterback Terrelle Pryor, but even without him, it has a ton of talent, as it does every year.
Combine all the preseason polls, shake and stir, and you see the Buckeyes are picked No. 2 nationally behind defending national champ Alabama. Does this mean they actually have a chance to win a national championship? Perhaps, and Pryor is the key. He has to become a more accurate passer. If he does, and if Ohio State continues the dominating defense it’s shown in recent years, look out.
Iowa looks to be the Big Ten’s second-best team and is looking at a No. 12 position nationally. Once again don’t expect the Hawkeyes to be a thing of offensive beauty, but they make the big plays when they need them, and are just really, really tough.
Then comes Wisconsin at No. 14 and Penn State at No. 23. Those teams are solid, but not great. Penn State has enough quarterback inexperience to make you wonder if Joe Paterno will reach 400 victories this season.
If not, he will get there in the 10 or so more seasons he’ll coach. The guy just won’t retire.
Nebraska, which will start Big Ten play in 2011, but is still a member of the Big 12, is a No. 7 choice.
When you look at everything, the nation’s best conference is the SEC. That’s no surprise given what Florida and Alabama and LSU have done in recent years in terms of winning national championships. The SEC has six top-25 teams with Alabama, Florida, Arkansas, Auburn, LSU and Georgia. You might think the Big Ten would be second. You would be wrong. The ACC has five top-25 squads with Virginia Tech, Miami, Florida State, North Carolina and Georgia Tech.
Could that mean the ACC has surpassed the higher-profile Big Ten, even for one season?
We’re just asking.
The Big 12 has three top-10 teams with Oklahoma (Phil Steele actually picked the Sooners No. 1 ahead of Alabama), Texas and Nebraska.
However, the Big Ten’s three top-15 teams (Ohio State, Iowa and Wisconsin) matches that of the ACC and Big 12. So don’t get confused and think that the Big Ten is not a national player.
So what does all this mean? Nothing. It’s just speculation, talk, something to think about amid basketball recruiting obsession and LeBron James drama.
And if somehow Indiana gets into Big Ten contending mix, well, isn’t that what summer is for, to dream about possibilities before reality rips them away?