While every college football team will dream of winning a national title this offseason, only a select few will have a real opportunity. Such things like program history, blue-chip ratio, and returning starters all play a role in determining contenders from pretenders.
Returning starters isn't a 100% predictor of future success, yet it offers a glimpse into the uphill challenges teams face in replacing lost production.
Thankfully there's a Phil Steele for that. The football oracle, who produces an annual tome of CFB info, broke down the returning starters for every one Division I team.
Here is how the Big Ten shakes out among national rankings:
For comparison: Syracuse, with 20 returning starters, is No. 1 in the country.
Penn State tied for No. 9 shows why Nittany Lion fans expect James Franklin to repeat his 2016 performance in 2017.
Ohio State tied at No. 25 isn't bad. Add in the recruiting rankings of players likely to replace the departed starters, and it's easy to see why the Buckeyes are considered a playoff contender.
Michigan at No. 129 is hilarious and intriguing. A year after finishing third in the Big Ten East with one of the most veteran teams in the country, what will Jim Harbaugh be able to conjure with what could be the youngest team in the country in 2017?