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June 5, 2011

Will Ohio State still win Big Ten title?

At the College Football Roundtable each week, we ask each member of the college football coverage staff for his opinion about a topic in the sport. There are two questions this week, one Saturday and one today.

TODAY'S QUESTION: Given the turmoil at Ohio State, do you think the Buckeyes will win their seventh consecutive Big Ten title this season?

Olin Buchanan's answer:
I don't think so. Terrelle Pryor is a good quarterback and his status is in jeopardy. Losing him for five games will hurt, but he could leave for the NFL supplemental draft now that Jim Tressel is gone. I don't think the Buckeyes will crash and burn, but I do believe that all the scrutiny and distractions will take a toll. The team is replacing a lot of starters anyway. With so many key players gone for at least five games, I could see the Buckeyes losing a couple early in the Big Ten schedule.

Tom Dienhart's answer:
All of the tumult could be a galvanizing force that forges an "us against the world" mentality -- or it could prove to be a divisive force. I am leaning toward the Tressel saga being a distraction. Plus, who knows if Terrelle Pryor -- and some other key Buckeyes -- ever will play again for Ohio State with the way NCAA investigators are sniffing around Columbus? In the end, I think Nebraska wins the Big Ten in its debut season, and Wisconsin may have a great chance to finish ahead of the Buckeyes in the Big Ten Leaders Division.

David Fox's answer:
Can you imagine the chuckles if Ohio State were to win the Big Ten Leaders Division, then the Big Ten title game? That said, I don't see it happening. There's far too much controversy hanging over the program. Luke Fickell may be a good guy, but he's a 37-year-old interim coach guiding one of the most scrutinized Ohio State teams in program history. The "Buckeye Five" will miss only one Big Ten game (Michigan State), but we still have no clue if Terrelle Pryor will play at all this season. The Leaders Division is the weaker of the two Big Ten divisions, so I wouldn't be shocked to see Ohio State limp its way to a 6-2/5-3 league record and the division title. Doing that and defeating Nebraska, Michigan State, Iowa or whomever in the title game? Fat chance.

Mike Huguenin's answer:
Despite the mess, the Buckeyes remain the most talented team in the league and the other top contenders have issues. The schedule is tough in that two of the three toughest conference games (those against Legends Division contenders Michigan State and Nebraska) are the first two league games, though I think Tressel's departure means the Buckeyes will be far more aggressive offensively. Terrelle Pryor's up-in-the-air status obviously hurts, though you wonder if some Buckeyes (coaches, players and fans) are fed up with the guy and hope he leaves. I'll hedge my bets and say if Ohio State beats Michigan State, it will win the Leaders Division because no one in the division is better than Michigan State. As for the overall league title, if the Buckeyes win their division, I also would bet on them to win the Big Ten's inaugural championship game.

Steve Megargee's answer:
I doubt it. Ohio State doesn't get much help from a conference schedule that opens with a home game against Michigan State and a trip to Nebraska. The suspended players will miss the Michigan State game before returning for the Nebraska showdown. And all the new allegations surrounding Terrelle Pryor increase the likelihood that the star quarterback may have played his last game for Ohio State. Even without Pryor, Ohio State has as much talent as just about any other team in the Big Ten, but all the chaos surrounding the program right now will make it tough for the Buckeyes to stay focused, particularly now that they're playing for a rookie coach rather than Jim Tressel. I'd make Nebraska the new Big Ten favorite.

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