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Big Ten Preview

With Iowa, Michigan and OSU, this league is loaded

Posted: Tuesday August 16, 2005 11:14AM; Updated: Tuesday August 16, 2005 3:19PM
Ted Ginn
Will the rest of the Big Ten be looking up at Ted Ginn and the Buckeyes this season?
Al Tielemans/SI
The Skinny
Team on the rise Penn State
Team on the decline Wisconsin
Toughest schedule Iowa
Most favorable schedule Purdue
Coach on the hot seat Randy Walker, Northwestern
Newcomer to watch Derrick Williams, WR, Penn State
Game of the Year Ohio State at Michigan, Nov. 19

By Stewart Mandel, SI.com

The Big Ten has been viewed by many the past couple years as being "down." Not this season, people. In what could wind up being one of the most competitive races in the venerable league's history, Ohio State, Michigan and Iowa all enter the year looking like legitimate top-10 teams. Purdue, sporting its most experienced team of the Joe Tiller era, may not be far behind. Penn State, following two straight losing seasons, is expected to get back to its winning ways. And Minnesota, Michigan State and Wisconsin all could go in either direction.

OSU, Michigan and Iowa all exhibited split personalities last season. The Buckeyes looked dead in the water after starting 0-3 in Big Ten play, but after unleashing QB Troy Smith and speedster Ted Ginn Jr., OSU soared down the stretch, routing Michigan and Oklahoma State to end the season and inspiring talk of a national-title run this season. Similarly, the Hawkeyes bumbled to a 2-2 start before winning their final eight games behind blossoming star QB Drew Tate. It was the Wolverines, however, who went to their second straight Rose Bowl behind freshman sensations Chad Henne and Michael Hart, but not without exhibiting serious defensive problems at the end of the year.

In this writer's eyes, Ohio State is the team to beat. On paper, the Buckeyes, with 18 returning starters, look an awful lot like their 2002 national-title edition, but more explosive on offense. If they can knock off Texas at the Horseshoe the second weekend of the season, they may go into Ann Arbor undefeated at the end of the year. That is, unless Tate and the Hawkeyes get to them first. Or, perhaps the Boilermakers -- who somehow manage to avoid both Ohio State and Michigan on their schedule -- will sit back and let everyone else knock each other off. In a conference that's seen eight different teams claim titles the past 11 seasons, anything could happen.