Rome wasn't built in a day. And neither was the Realests' Big Ten Preview. It took us two months, but we finally conclude this year's conference breakdown with - who else? - THE Ohio State University. But first, let's take a look back:

11. Minnesota
10. Indiana
9. Iowa
8. Northwestern
7. Purdue
6. Michigan
5. Penn St.
4. Michigan St.
3. Illinois
2. Wisconsin

2007 Preview: Here
2007 Record: 11-2 (7-1)
Projected 2008 Finish: 1st
Returning Starters: 18
Head Coach: Jim Tressel
Best Player: RB Beanie Wells

Good News:

- Where do we begin with this team? How about the defense, which is absolutely LOADED with NFL talent. It wouldn't even have been fair if Vernon Gholston had returned for his senior year. James Laurinaitis came back despite being a top 15 pick in last year's draft, forcing us to hear his name roll off Brett Musberger's tongue for another year. He and CB Malcolm Jenkins should both go in the top 10 next year. And the pass rush? The Bucks lose Gholston but still have freak of nature (and son of "Ironhead") Cameron Heyward and the much-hyped Lawrence Wilson. It's a toss up between OSU and USC for best defense in the country.

- After struggling with a fumbling problem freshman year, Beanie Wells morphed into Jim Brown last year. The guy's an absolute truck at 240 pounds and still has the speed to pull away from the entire Michigan defense. A Heisman is certainly within reach if he stops pretending to limp off the field after every play.

- Jim Tressel never gets enough credit for the offensive guru he is. He always knows exactly how much he can ask out of his players and caters to the team's strengths. After employing a spread offense around Troy Smith in 2005, OSU went back to Tresselball last year due to replacing all of the unit's skill players. They still kept lighting up the scoreboard. Unfortunately Todd Boeckman's ineptitude couldn't be hidden any longer against LSU.

- The entire offensive line is on anabolic steroids. The smallest guy? Center Jim Cordle, who's just 6-4 and 300 pounds. The left side is especially massive with LG Steve Rehring (6-7, 335) And LT Alex Boone (6-8, 312) setting up shop.

- Believe all the hype around Terrell Pryor. Just like Tim Tebow's freshman year, defensive coordinators will let out a huge sigh of relief every time he exits for the starter.

- Good solid role players pretty much all around. Brian Robiskie and Brian Hartline are very quietly one of the Big 10's best WR combos. The special teams are solid, though not spectacular. LB Marcus Freeman would be the star linebacker on almost any other team and their no-name safeties (Kurt Coleman and Anderson Russell) - though they played like poop vs. LSU - would get lots more pub if they could hang onto an INT (0 last season).

Not-So-Good News:

- Did anyone see Rivals.com's list of "fatal flaws" for the best teams in the country? They list Ohio State's as wide receiver. Um, apparently no one there watched Todd Boeckman play. We don't care if he was First Team Big Ten and is getting hype as a first-day draft pick. The guy was completely exposed down the stretch. He basically scored 14 points for Michigan State, stunk up the joint with three picks vs. Illinois and got rag-dolled by the entire LSU defense by holding onto the ball longer than John Navarre (we'll never get tired of this play).

- Of course Tressel has it all under wraps, but starting CB Donald Washington and reserve safety Jamario O'Neal are suspended for the first two games. Word on the street is a failed drug test. Considering Steve Bellisari missed just one game for blowing a .22 behind the wheel, we're guessing they messed up pretty bad.

- 117th in kickoff returns? That's not Jim Tressel football!

- Defensive tackles Doug Worthington and Todd Denlinger don't do much else other than fill space.

- The BCS Title Game choke factor. After falling behind 17-10 to LSU, OSU had acid flashbacks of the '07 title game and completely packed it in. If they get to the national title game, the pressure on this team will be suffocating and after the first mistake everyone will be thinking, "Not again..."


You've got to like Ohio State over USC at this point. They throttled Texas in Austin (2005) and Washington in Seattle ('06) - granted, the Huskies turned out to suck - and you never know which team Pete Carroll will show up with. Figuratively and literally. Half of the USC roster is hurt.

And though the Bucks have to face Wisconsin and Illinois on the road, we don't see either upset happening. Wisconsin's offense won't do jack against the Bucks and no chance Ron Zook outcoaches Jim Tressel two years in a row. Other than that, it's pretty much a cakewalk for OSU to its third straight BCS Title Game (barring a '69-style upset by Big Blue!).

So yeah, we've got the Bucks playing for the national title - again. The choke factor will be working against them, but there's no way OSU gets blown out again with this experienced of a defense. Another brain fart from Boeckman is much more likely to cost OSU the title unless Tressel sacks up and starts splitting playing time with Pryor 50-50.