1. Ohio State is really, really good: The rest of the league, not so much. In building up to this point, the Buckeyes have played in the last two BCS title games. This is the team that was supposed to win it all. As long as the SEC doesn't show (Ohio State is 0-9 vs. the conference in bowl games) the Bucks should win the national championship.
Meanwhile, the rest of the league has slipped in recent years. While Ohio State is chasing its fourth consecutive conference title (third outright), no team has stepped up to challenge it. It certainly isn't Michigan (lost six of the seven to Ohio State). Iowa and Purdue have declined. Northwestern is Northwestern. The Big Ten was 2-5 in bowls last season. Only 28 players were drafted, fifth-best among I-A conferences.
2. Illinois is the IT team: It's not all about trashing the rest of the league. The Illini fired a shot across Ohio State's bow by winning in Columbus then advancing to the Rose Bowl. Ron Zook wants his previously scatter-armed quarterback Juice Williams to complete 70 percent of his passes. (Williams says he can do it). The defense should be the strength even with the loss of linebacker J Leman. If Illinois gets past Missouri in the opener this could be a special year.
3. However, Wisconsin will finish second: Bret Bielema has won 12 and nine games in his two seasons in Madison. He is loaded again this season and gets Ohio State at home. The only question is at quarterback which never seems to matter at Wisconsin. Going back to 2004, the Badgers are 25-1 at Camp Randall. Look for another January bowl.
Wisconsin is one of only three teams to play in that month each of the last four seasons. The others are USC and West Virginia.
4. JoePa doesn't know: He spelled it out at Big Ten media days when asked (again) how long he's going go. "I-D-O-N-T-K-N-O-W". The Nittany Lion In Winter is working without a contract this season. That's going to make it easier for president Graham Spanier to make a change after the season. The next question (and battle) is whether the replacement comes from inside or outside the staff.
5. Rich Rod takes off: With no proven quarterback, tailback or receiver Rich Rodriguez brings his zone read spread option to Ann Arbor. Piece of cake, right? Well, the last "outsider" at Michigan (Bo Schembechler) seemed to do OK.
Rodriguez has been well received and should finish 8-4 or 7-5 in his first season. Watch out, though, in Years 2 or 3.