The Terrelle Pryor for Heisman train has officially reached full speed, and he certainly is the catalyst to the Bucks' season. If he doesn't play up to the hype, Ohio State will stumble once or twice. If the kid's as dominating a passer as he is a presence, the Buckeyes are headed back to the BCS championship game.
2) Iowa (11-2, 6-2)
In a player poll by ESPN the Mag, the Hawkeyes were voted the likely conference champion. The defense continues to be regarded as among the best in the nation, and while the Adrian Clayborn-led unit is stout, losing LBs Pat Angerer and A.J. Edds to the NFL should not be overlooked. An improved offense could make Iowa BCS-bound even if the Hawkeyes can't catch the Buckeyes.
3) Wisconsin (10-3, 5-3)
A long time ago, a certain student beat writer said that 2010 was the year Wisconsin won the Big Ten because of quarterback play. Well, Pryor's better than ever, and the guy who looked like the Badgers' quarterback of the future is sidelined for perhaps the whole year. But while Curt Phillips' time will have to wait, Scott Tolzien has blossomed. Factor in that John Clay fellow for a high-powered offense, but the defense must improve after losing O'Brien Schofield.
4) Michigan State (6-7, 4-4)
Put me down for a bounceback year in East Lansing. You figure the Spartans should stop the ball better than that, especially with Greg Jones around for what it seems like his eighth year. Michigan State doesn't leave home until Oct. 9, but road games at Northwestern, Iowa and Penn State make a .500 Big Ten record seem distinctly possible.
5) Penn State (11-2, 6-2)
Talk of the demise of the Nittany Lions is trendy, what with Darryl Smith out the door and the ageless Joe Paterno figuring to lose his recruiting pitch with each passing year. But much like Bo Ryan's basketballers, Penn State just finds a way every season to be strong, so it's hard to imagine PSU slipping out of the upper half of the conference.
6) Northwestern (8-5, 5-3)
It seemed egregious to place the Wildcats in the top four in anything pertaining to athletics. But darnit, Northwestern might do it this year. The schedule stacks up for NU to potentially carry eight or nine wins into Camp Randall for the season finale on Turkey weekend.
7) Michigan (5-7, 1-7)
Well, Rich Rod's gotta put a quality product on the field one of these years, right? With the cheating and all. Seriously, the Wolverines' brutal schedule won't let Michigan reach those old days of double-digit wins. But the first bowl game in the Rodriguez regime isn't a stretch.
8) Illinois (3-9, 2-6)
Put me down for a bounceback year in Champaign. And yet, sadly, for the Illini, it doesn't take much to bounce back from just three wins. Ron Zook's seat is hotter than the fire sauce at Taco Bell, but a Bounty-soft home schedule - you know, after hosting Ohio State to open Big Ten play - should help ease UI to an increased win total.
9) Purdue (5-7, 4-4)
What rhymes with Brett Favre and transferred to Purdue this year? Robert Marve, who gets to throw to Keith Smith this year. Hey, how come Marve isn't spelled Mavre? Seems like it would be the logical thing to do for a quarterback. Looks like the Miami transfer wants to cavre his own path.
10) Minnesota (6-7, 3-5)
Adam Weber really should be better than this. But with Eric Decker gone to the professional ranks, it looks like the best receiver on the team might be MarQueis Gray, Weber's stocky backup. Tim Brewster talks a big game, but his squad doesn't look quite up to the task.
11) Indiana (4-8, 1-7)
The program has never recovered from being stricken with tragedy in coach Terry Hoeppner's death. Tandon Doss is an exciting wide receiver to watch, but there's not much else to cheer in Bloomington.