Here's a sure sign that the season is just around the corner: We have our first major preseason poll.
The USA Today coaches poll just came out, and remember this one counts as part of the formula for the BCS standings. Five Big Ten teams will start the year ranked in this poll, with Wisconsin and Nebraska leading the way.
The Badgers give the league its sole top 10 team, as Bret Bielema's squad checks in at No. 10. Nebraska, the preseason favorite in the Legends Division, is right behind at No. 11.
Ohio State is No. 16, followed by Michigan State at No. 17. Surprisingly, Penn State earned the No. 25 ranking despite a 7-6 season in 2011. Is that a sign of respect for Joe Paterno from the other coaches?
In the others receiving votes category, Iowa was 30th and Northwestern 31st among vote-getters. Michigan is 34th.
Preseason rankings can help determine the eventual champion, since voters are often reluctant to move teams ahead or others in their balloting when each team wins. But Auburn came out of virtually nowhere (preseason No. 23 in the coaches poll) to win it all last year.
Here's how the Big Ten stacks up against other major conferences in preseason ranked teams from the coaches:
Big Ten: 5
Big 12: 5
Mountain West: 2
Big East: 0