Ohio State’s Urban Meyer and Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh may have made Big Ten Conference football sexy again with their impressive coaching resumes, hard-core recruiting tactics, lightning-quick turnarounds and, in Harbaugh’s case, attention-grabbing antics, but they haven’t exactly left everyone else in the dust.

In Meyer’s first six seasons at Ohio State, the Buckeyes posted a 61-6 record, reached the College Football Playoff two out of three years and won the 2014 national championship, yet they only won a single Big Ten title. In those same six years, the University of Wisconsin and Michigan State each won two conference titles and Penn State took top honors last year.

Harbaugh’s 20-6 record in two seasons at Michigan, while impressive given how far the Wolverines had fallen, still hasn’t yielded a conference title or, for that matter, a victory over Ohio State. As hard as it may be to believe, the most recent time Michigan won or shared the Big Ten title was in 2004.

Despite the wall-to-wall attention given to Ohio State and Michigan by the national media, the Big Ten is no longer the Big Two and Little Eight — or is that Little 12 these days? — like it was in the 1970s and ’80s. When this year’s preseason coaches poll came out, four Big Ten teams were ranked in the top 10: Ohio State second, Penn State sixth, Michigan ninth and UW 10th.

Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan are expected to dominate the loaded East Division this season and the smart money is on Michigan State to come roaring back after a troubled 2016 season on and off the field. UW is considered the favorite in the balanced West Division, though Northwestern, Iowa, Nebraska and Minnesota all appear capable of providing challenges.

Ohio State led all college football teams with 12 NFL draft picks in 2016 and Michigan did the same with 11 picks in 2017, but talent alone doesn’t guarantee conference titles. With that said, here is a series of top-five lists that will help define Big Ten football in 2017:


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