During the '70s, it answered to the "Big Two and the Little Eight.'' If nothing else, the Big Ten was then mathematically correct; something it hasn't been since adding Penn State in 1993.

During the '70s, it was "Bo and Woody and their peeps.'' Michigan's Bo Schembechler and Ohio State's Woody Hayes were center stage. And virtually everybody else in the conference was a prop.

During the '70s,  it was either the Wolverines or the Buckeyes or both atop the Big Ten standings for 10 consecutive seasons; an historic run that started in the '60s and extended into the '80s.

From 1968 through 1982, the aforementioned run totaled 15 seasons, until Illinois finally broke through in 1983 and won the conference title outright with a 9-0 record. Michigan was 8-1.

Why should you care? Well, the Ohio State Buckeyes have a chance to revisit the '70s by winning a sixth consecutive Big Ten crown in 2010. And they definitely will be favored to do so.

Can you see the Vest jumping into a Hot Tub Time Machine? In a sense, Jim Tressel is already a throwback to a different era. Over the last five seasons, his teams have gone 36-4 in the Big Ten.

How can you go wrong picking Ohio State? Of course, there's is the issue of credibility when it comes to the conference's media corps which gathers every year in Chicago for the Kickoff Luncheon.

Their winning percentage rivals Ron Zook's. Since 1996, they've taken 14 swings at predicting a champ, and whiffed eight times. But they have been right on the Buckeyes in three of the last four years.

Iowa looms as the No. 1 challenger to the Buckeyes, based on their returning personnel (especially on defense) and schedule. The Hawkeyes get Ohio State, Wisconsin and Penn State at home.

Their toughest road trip may be to Arizona for a nonconference matchup the third week of the season. The Hawks will also travel to Michigan, Indiana, Northwestern and Minnesota. Very manageable.

The Big Ten title could very well be decided on Nov. 20 when the Buckeyes show up at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City. In this context, who will offer a challenge to Ohio State and Iowa?

Wisconsin is the trendy pick. The Badgers get the nod over Penn State because they return a starter at quarterback (Scott Tolzien), and the Nittany Lions still have major questions about that position.

Who's the sleeper? Michigan State and Michigan could factor into the race, particularly if the Spartans get off to a fast start, which would include winning the Big Ten opener against Bucky in East Lansing.

It becomes more problematic for the Spartans later in the season with road games at Iowa (Oct. 30) and Penn State (Nov. 27). Plus, they have yet to show any measurable stability, on or off the field.

Michigan could make things interesting if the Wolverines pass their first two tests: Connecticut at home and Notre Dame on the road. Rich Rod doesn't have any margin for error, though.

When UW coach Bret Bielema was asked about his team's lofty preseason expectations, he said, "This is when you really put the hammer down. You really try to push your guys on, 'How good do you want to be?' We have the ingredients to make some pretty good recipes but the bottom line is how we mix it all together.''

Badger defensive end J.J. Watt noted, "The keys for us are team chemistry and work ethic. Last year, our team chemistry was at an all-time high. We all bonded, we all played for each other.''

Quizzed on work ethic, Bielema said, "In the recruiting process, there's a certain level of talent we need to come here and be successful. But they've all got to be willing to work. They've got to live it daily, they've got to breath it, and they've got to believe in it.''

The season officially begins Monday with the Big Ten media assembly at Chicago's Hyatt Regency McCormick Place. And regardless of their track record in picking such things, Ohio State  still is the safe choice.


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