Quick: Who is the clear-cut Big Ten favorite in 2011?
Don't all talk at once. I know you love your teams and have a tough time seeing flaws or the bigger picture.
This is actually a pretty tough question with no obvious answer. You could make a case for at least four teams, and possibly more.
For now, I'll focus on Ohio State, Wisconsin, Nebraska and Michigan State.
The Ohio State suspensions make the Big Ten picture a lot cloudier entering 2011. After a win Tuesday night in the Allstate Sugar Bowl, the Buckeyes almost certainly would be labeled the favorites if quarterback Terrelle Pryor and four others hit the ground running in Game 1 this coming season.
But Pryor, running back Dan Herron, receiver DeVier Posey, left tackle Mike Adams and defensive lineman Solomon Thomas are suspended for the first five games, pending appeal. Could Ohio State still start 5-0? Sure. But it'll be tougher. And when Pryor returns to the field in October, there could be an adjustment period.
Wisconsin would be the other potential favorite in the Leaders division. The Badgers certainly are on the rise after reaching the Rose Bowl. But they will lose a large group of decorated seniors, including quarterback Scott Tolzien, and possibly a few juniors to the NFL draft. Bret Bielema already has lost defensive coordinator Dave Doeren and might need to replace offensive coordinator Paul Chryst as well.
Handicapping the Legends division is even tougher. Big Ten newcomer Nebraska boasts a stout defense and an offense that surged for part of the season before grinding to a halt late. Don't be surprised if the Huskers enter the fall as the division favorite, but their poor finish, a tortuous schedule and the adjustment to Big Ten play, particularly on offense, will challenge Bo Pelini's crew.
Had Michigan State "measured up" against Alabama in the Capital One Bowl, the Spartans likely would be the Legends division favorite. But their noncompetitive loss to the Tide casts doubt on whether Michigan State can take the next step in 2011 and try to repeat as Big Ten champ.
See, it's not so easy.
Who's your 2011 Big Ten favorite? State your case (looking for good arguments, not "just because") and I'll include the responses later Thursday.