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Published: Wednesday, 9/1/2010

Looking ahead to another year in college football

It will be another year before the Big Ten, which is now 11, becomes 12. And, with the addition of Nebraska, the league will be split into two football divisions and add a championship game.

When that time comes, there will be six Big Ten schools in the Eastern time zone and six in the Central time zone. Using that simple, common-sense formula to create divisions would put Ohio State, Michigan, and Penn State in one and Iowa, Wisconsin, and Nebraska in another, a seemingly equitable division of strength presuming UM at some not-too-distant point reclaims its spot in the Top 25.

It would mean, of course, that OSU and Michigan could never meet for a league championship, but would accommodate The Game (no, not Harvard-Yale) remaining as last on the regular-season schedule. The latter may actually be more important to fans of both schools. And it's pretty clear it has to be one or the other.

But that's another argument for another day. The 2010 season is but hours away, so away we go.

Five must-see games:

• Sept. 11 - Miami (Fla.) at Ohio State: Unlike their national title game, this would not be a Buckeye upset. 'Canes trying to prove they're back.

• Oct. 2 - Florida at Alabama: They'll probably play twice; something for Buckeyes and Wolverines to think about.

• Oct. 16 - Texas at Nebraska: Cornhuskers still hot over '09 Big 12 title game; Longhorns, rest of league, still hot at Huskers for leaving.

• Nov. 20 - Ohio State at Iowa: Could be for national title berth considering Hawkeyes get Penn State and Wisconsin at home too.

• Dec. 11 - Army-Navy: Every year.

Five Heisman favorites:

• Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama - Of 19 underclass winners, only the great Archie Griffin has managed to repeat.

• Terrelle Pryor, QB, Ohio State - Unless you're standing next to him, it's hard to imagine how big and strong he has become.

• Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas - Didn't he used to play for Michigan? (To rub it in, Steven Threet has been named the starter at Arizona State.)

• Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Oregon State - He may be smaller than the trophy, but I'd pay good money to watch him play.

• Jake Locker, QB, Washington - Big-time talent, but can his team win enough for him to win?

Five on the hot seat:

• Rich Rodriguez, Michigan - What? I have to explain this?

• Butch Davis, North Carolina - Had the Heels thinking about BCS, but now everybody's thinking scandal.

• Lane Kiffin, USC - If he wasn't so hard to like, you might feel sorry for the guy considering the mess he inherited.

• Ron Zook, Illinois - Illini are 8-16 since Rose Bowl appearance in Jan., 2008. I'm betting there's a firethezooker.com.

• Gary Pinkel, Missouri - It has been a discomforting preseason for former Toledo coach, and some fans are never satisfied.

Five teams to watch:

• UConn - Big East darkhorse could make Michigan's season miserable from the get-go.

• Northwestern - Is there a more underrated coach in the country than Pat Fitzgerald?

• UCLA - Southern Cal's stranglehold on L.A. has not been more precarious for a decade.

• Tennessee - An SEC doormat? Well, there are lots of problems, but lots of defense too.

• Temple - Don't laugh. This should be a second straight nine-win season for new MAC power.

Five reasons to like Notre Dame:

• Charlie Weis - He's now with the Kansas City Chiefs which means, in the words of ESPN.com's D.J. Gallo, it's "a nice stepping stone for Weis to one day make it back to the pros." Good line.

• Brian Kelly - From a distance, he's as cocky as Weis, but he always backs it up.

• Receivers - Michael Floyd and Kyle Rudolph may be country's best WR-TE combo.

• Pace - If QB Dayne Crist delivers, spread offense could leave opponents breathless.

• Soft, times two - Defense is still a big issue, but the Irish have at least a seven-win schedule.

Five things I think that I think:

• Toledo will be a better team in Tim Beckman's second season, but it may not show up on the record thanks to a nonconference schedule that is out of whack and tough MAC road games in weeks 2 and 3.

• Dave Clawson may be the smartest young coach I've met, but if he coaxes seven wins from this Bowling Green team, with only five home games and just seven returning starters, we're going to have to use the word genius.

• It's a coin flip between Penn State, when the lights are on, and LSU, where the lights are almost always on, as to toughest environment for a visiting team. Wisconsin isn't far behind.

• Speaking of coin flips, Terrelle Pryor is 19-3 as Ohio State's starting quarterback. Ricky Stanzi, the master of the late rally, is 18-4 for Iowa. Circle Nov. 20.

• Michigan, meanwhile, likely will use three quarterbacks in its opener Saturday. Therein lays the difference between contenders and pretenders.

Contact Blade sports columnist

Dave Hackenberg at:

dhack@theblade.com

or 419-724-6398.



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