After going 12-0 last season, Ohio State knew the target on its back was only going to grow for 2013.
And right now, the Buckeyes are ranked No. 1 in at least one preseason poll: ESPN.com's Way-Too-Early-Preseason Top 25. Colleague Mark Schlabach moved the Buckeyes from No. 3 in his pre-spring practice poll to No. 1 now, jumping defending champion Alabama.
"I'm not saying the Buckeyes are a better football team than the Crimson Tide; I'm saying Ohio State has an easier path to an undefeated record this coming season," Schlabach writes.
"Another perfect season isn't out of the question for OSU in 2013. It doesn't play Nebraska or Michigan State during the regular season and gets Wisconsin, Iowa and Penn State at home. Sure, the Buckeyes might have to defeat an SEC opponent to win a BCS National Championship, but Meyer already has proved he's capable of doing it."
No pressure, guys. Schlabach has given the Big Ten a fair share of grief in recent years, so he must really like the Buckeyes to rank them over an SEC team.
The next Big Ten team in Schlabach's rankings is Michigan at No. 9. The Wolverines moved up from No. 12 in his previous poll.
"The Wolverines' offense will look a lot different with quarterback Devin Gardner under center this coming season," Schlabach writes. "Michigan fans caught a glimpse of the pro-style offense coordinator Al Borges wants to run in the final five games of 2012, when Gardner replaced injured starting quarterback Denard Robinson."
Nebraska checks in at No. 22, moving up one spot from Schlabach's previous installment. Northwestern stays steady at No. 24, and Wisconsin moves into the rankings at No. 25.
Those seem like the five Big Ten teams that ought to be ranked in the preseason. What do you think of Schlabach's rankings? Does Ohio State has a case for No. 1? Will the Big Ten actually have two top 10 teams this year? Anybody from the league missing from the top 25?
We'll have our latest Big Ten rankings out this Friday, so stay tuned.