Chances are cabin fever is in full swing across most of Big Ten country. Don't fret, every Friday we'll give you a break from all of that with our Big Ten Q&A. How do you get involved? You can submit questions each week by tweeting at me @andycoppens or e-mailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Let's get to this week's questions to get this offseason started right.
Whoa, whoa, whoa...not so fast on the Ohio State is the early favorite train, will you? Who won the Big Ten Championship and who didn't? I think that team in East Lansing has a thing or two to say about who should be the favorite.
Sure, in our way-too-early power rankings the Buckeyes were No. 1, but on the field and in power rankings are two different things, and MSU is still king until someone takes that crown on the field.
Yes, Ohio State is also Vegas' early favorite based on national title odds, but those are betting odds, and what else would you expect out of Las Vegas?
However, to your question, let's just assume you are right, and Ohio State is the favorite to win the Big Ten next season. Who will be the team to challenge Ohio State the most for that title?
I think you can immediately include at least one other team from the Big Ten East Division and that's Michigan State, who happens to be Vegas' second choice at 18-1 for the national title next year.
The Spartans lose a lot of leadership off their defense, and its two best offensive linemen depart as well, but we've seen Michigan State plug-and-play when losing stars in the past. If they can do it in 2014, the Spartans are going to be a serious challenge to the Buckeyes inside the division.
On the other side of things, Nebraska, Wisconsin and Iowa come to mind as teams that could challenge. Nebraska has questions to answer on the offensive line, Iowa loses a lot of talent at linebacker and Wisconsin needs to replace all but one starter off their front seven on defense.
So, while all three have some very nice pieces coming back in Ameer Abdullah, Melvin Gordon and Jake Rudock, respectively, all three could fall far short of being a true challenger. Luckily for them, all you need is one shot in the Big Ten Championship game and you win the title.
The beauty of the new Big Ten era is that along with realignment, there is a ton of turnover of stars in the conference and 2014 could be one of the more wide-open years in recent Big Ten memory.
Oh, you are so clever. Don't think you got that one past me. Well played with that #B1Gest hashtag there Ben.
You bring up a very interesting and I'm sure controversial question, but for me this is an easy answer—Michigan State winning the Rose Bowl.
It's no secret that the conference has struggled over the past 10 contests in Pasadena, and to the Pac-12 and Big Ten, this game matters more than any other, except the National Championship Game (and some would say it matters more).
The Big Ten came into this Rose Bowl with a 1-9 record in the past 10 Rose Bowl appearances, and losing for a fourth straight year would've been another embarrassment for the conference.
However, Michigan State stopped the No. 5-ranked Stanford Cardinal from winning back-to-back Rose Bowl titles and capped off New Year's Day in style for the conference.
It helps that the game was another classic in the 100th playing of the Rose Bowl Game. People are going to remember this game outside of Big Ten and Pac-12 territories, and that's important as well.
A win like that can propel a team from being just a good Big Ten team to a yearly contender in the conference. Just look at what the Rose Bowl appearances in the '90s did for Wisconsin.
Now the trick will be to find out if Michigan State can sustain some of this success and get to the Rose Bowl on a more often basis or participate in the College Football Playoff as well.
Thanks for all of the questions this week, and if you want to see more of this, then join me on Twitter or feel free to e-mail me as well. The more questions you give, the better the answers.
*Andy Coppens is the Big Ten football lead writer. All odds are courtesy Bovada.com.