As summer is now upon us, it's about time to begin speculating about how the 2010 college football season will play out.
As if we haven't already been doing that since immediately following Alabama's hoisting of the national championship trophy in January.
Anyways, although everyone has their own picks for who is going to win conference championships and the national championship, which team is the "safest" when making selections?
Specifically, if you were betting your hard-earned money, in which team would it be in your best interest to pick?
Well, if you're interested at all in picking who will win the Big Ten in 2010, maybe this can be of some help.
Despite making a Rose Bowl appearance just three years ago, don't expect to see Illinois anywhere near Pasadena next year.
The Illini lose many of their key players from last year's team and inexperience will spell doom in the Big Ten in 2010.
If you want to make a lot of money, throw down a few bucks on Illinois and hope for the best—but don't count on the Illini for next month's rent.
Like Illinois, Indiana is probably going to struggle in the Big Ten. In fact, if you base your gambling technique on recent history, you would probably never put any money on the Hoosiers.
Basketball success doesn't necessarily translate into success on the gridiron, that's for sure.
The Hoosier 'O', led by quarterback Ben Chappell, should be decent—but certainly not enough to overcome their defense and reach a .500 record, much less win the Big Ten championship.
Going into the 2010 season, many people (myself included) think that Iowa will win the Big Ten and possibly even make a run for the national championship.
Although with their returning starters and incredibly favorable home schedule there is a great shot they could just do that, they shouldn't be considered the "safest" team to win the Big Ten.
They will probably have the best defense in the conference, and if Ricky Stanzi limits his mistakes, their offense should be solid as well.
But, the fact is, Ohio State has a better team and although Iowa does get the Bucks in Iowa City, the margin for mistakes on the part of the Hawkeyes is razor-thin.
In my opinion, the Hawkeyes should have enough to get by the Buckeyes, and the rest of their schedule for that matter, but you simply can't call them the odds-on favorite to win the title.
Heading into the 2010 season, the Michigan football program is in turmoil.
Not only is Rich Rodriguez being accused of NCAA violations, but many simply don't believe he can get the job done in Ann Arbor.
However, Michigan should be slightly improved from 2009.
If Denard Robinson can prove to be a reliable quarterback, the Wolverine offense should score some points. But their defense is still a huge question mark.
A bowl game is certainly a possibility. A Big Ten title?
Not as likely.
With quarterback Kirk Cousins under center and many of last year's starters returning, Michigan State will have one of the most powerful offenses not only in the Big Ten, but nationally as well.
Not many teams will be able to stop this machine.
But the question is whether Sparty will be able to stop anyone themselves.
Their defense is a weak spot, and if a good defense (like Iowa or Ohio State) is able to contain the Spartans, will green-and-white's 'D' be able to keep them in the game?
However, they should stick in the race for the better part of the year. They're worth taking a shot on.
Simply put, Minnesota is not going to be very good in 2010.
The huge loss of wide receiver Eric Decker in the offseason, inconsistent play from quarterback Adam Weber, and what will likely be one of the worst defenses in the Big Ten will likely lead the Gophers to a last-place finish in the conference.
But, then again, crazier things have happened. But that's why they're called "crazy."
Don't waste your money.
Ah, the perennial losers of the Big Ten.
However, in case you've been living under a rock the last few years, Northwestern hasn't looked anything like a loser.
In fact, they've made it to two consecutive bowl games, but fell in heartbreaking fashion both times.
2010 is a rebuilding year however (they lost almost all their skill starters on offense), but don't expect a huge letdown.
With new starting quarterback Dan Persa leading the way, the Wildcats should still field a prolific offense and should finish in the top half of the conference standings.
A conference title may be slightly out of reach however.
Certainly the favorites to win the Big Ten next year, Ohio State will have one of their best teams in years in 2010.
And that's saying something considering they won the Rose Bowl last year and have been to two BCS championships in the last five years.
Led by quarterback Terrelle Pryor, the Buckeye offense should be high-powered, while Cam Heyward will anchor what should be a stout defense.
But remember, the Bucks must travel to both Madison and Iowa City. Escaping from either of those places with a win will be quite an accomplishment, even for Ohio State.
That said, anything less than a Big Ten title would be a huge disappointment in Columbus.
After a Capital One Bowl victory to cap last season's 11-win campaign, the folks in Happy Valley will have to deal with what will probably be a rebuilding season in 2010.
Not to say Penn State won't still compete for a shot at the Rose Bowl.
It's just that losing your starting quarterback and a good portion of your defense tends to set you back more than a step.
Although the Nittany Lions return star running back Evan Royster for his senior season, they still haven't found a quarterback.
However, with Joe Paterno back for yet another season, Penn State shouldn't be counted out just yet.
With the addition of former Miami (FL) quarterback Robert Marve, Purdue should be one of the up-and-comers in the Big Ten.
However, that doesn't mean that will translate into immediate conference championship-caliber success.
If Marve can transition well into the Boilermaker offense and running back Ralph Bolden can return from an ACL tear, Purdue should be difficult to stop.
But they may not be able to stop their opponents. After all, they allowed almost 30 points a game last year and lost their entire secondary from last year.
It will probably be another year before the Boilermakers make a serious run for the Big Ten.
With 10 of their starters returning from last year's prolific attack, Wisconsin will feature one of the best offenses in the country in 2010.
John Clay, Scott Tolzien, Nick Toon, Lance Kendricks...the list goes on.
The defense is another story, however.
Last year, the secondary experienced some monumental struggles and not much looks like it's changed for next year.
But, if the defensive backs can pull it together and the Badger 'D' can recover from the loss of star defensive end O'Brien Schofield, they should be adequate enough to keep Wisconsin in the title race.
Many have picked Wisky as their darkhorse in the Big Ten. With this kind of talent and huge expectations in Madison, it's really hard to even consider them a dark horse anymore.