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Published: 9/30/2010

ESPN crew sees Big Ten title for OSU

BY MATT MARKEY
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

The Big Ten football season opens Saturday, and if the ESPN college football experts are correct, Ohio State will win a sixth straight conference championship, after fending off challenges from Wisconsin and Iowa.

Ohio State begins the Big Ten campaign on the road at Illinois.

Five of the eight ESPN talking heads picked the Buckeyes as this season's champion when the network's voices went on the record with their predictions just before the 2010 season began. The only dissenters were Lee Corso, who likes Iowa to win the league, and Desmond Howard and Ed Cunningham, who chose Wisconsin.

“They've got Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan State, and Wisconsin all at home,” Corso said while explaining why he chose the Hawkeyes. Corso played at Florida State and was head coach at Louisville, Indiana, and Northern Illinois, putting together a 73-85 career record.

Howard, the Cleveland native who won the 1991 Heisman Trophy while playing at Michigan, said it is Wisconsin's time.

“This is the year that they finally get over that hump,” he said. “They have Ohio State at home, [but] they've got to travel to play Iowa.”

Cunningham, who played center at Washington and helped the Huskies win a share of the 1991 national championship, is an in-studio analyst for ESPN's College Football Live. He said the Badgers will show their superiority in a head-to-head meeting with Ohio State in two weeks. “Call me after October 16 and make fun of this pick,” Cunningham said about choosing Wisconsin.

Former Ohio State quarterback Kirk Herbstreit, former Notre

Dame coach Bob Davie, former Notre Dame, Minnesota, and South Carolina coach Lou Holtz, former Southern Methodist running back Craig James, and former Florida quarterback Jesse Palmer all chose the Buckeyes to win the 2010 Big Ten crown.

“Terrelle Pryor will use the Rose Bowl as kind of a balancing opportunity to get into 2010 and really showcase his talents,” Herbstreit said. “I think Jim Tressel will trust him more and really attack on the offensive side.”

Holtz was the most bullish on the Buckeyes and their balance and depth. “They are a complete team,” Holtz said.

James said his pick of the Buckeyes was based on the abundance of talent, and the fact he thinks Ohio State has “a great offensive line.”

Herbstreit and Holtz picked the Buckeyes to win the BCS national championship game, with Herbstreit seeing a win over Oklahoma, while Holtz predicting a title game win over Boise State. Holtz framed his choice with an SEC disclaimer.

“The Big 10 wins the championship and Boise State loses their first game,” Holtz said. “[But] Ohio State is not the best team, Alabama is — but they lose to Florida in Tuscaloosa. With a target on your back, it's hard not to get wounded.”

Corso picked Nebraska to beat Florida in the title game, while Howard, Davie, James, and Palmer all see Alabama repeating as the national champ. Davie, James, and Palmer all think the Crimson Tide wins the crown by defeating Ohio State.

“Their speed on defense will allow them to somewhat contain Pryor,” James said.

Cunningham stuck to his guns with Wisconsin, picking the Badgers to beat TCU to win the national championship, while Howard predicted an Alabama win over Miami for the BCS title.

Contact Matt Markey at: mmarkey@theblade.com or 419-724-6510.



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