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I have just completed the two-day marathon known as Big Ten media days, in which the league’s 14 coaches and a trio of players from each school come to Chicago to discuss their hopes and dreams.

In the coming pre-season weeks, I will weigh in on their chances of success.

In the meantime, here are the columns I posted for the Chicago Sun-Times on our local heroes, the Fighting Illiniand the Northwestern Wildcats.

Illinois is heading into Year Two of its rebuild under Lovie Smith. With only one recruiting class under his belt, Smith and his staff will need to work a fair amount of magic to improve on last year’s 3-9 slog.

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At Northwestern, the expectations are much higher, and with good reason. The Wildcats return 17 starters from a squad that overcame a brutal 1-3 start to win six of its last nine games, including competitive losses to heavyweights Wisconsin and Ohio State.

Your upcoming Big Ten Playbooks at TMGcollegesports will include more in-depth views on likely Big Ten juggernauts such as Wisconsin, and every team in the Big Ten East not named Michigan State, Indiana, Maryland and Rutgers. (We will discuss the travails of that quartet, but not tout them as contenders.)

Always off-the-wall Jim Harbaugh might have garnered the most interesting line of the week. While talking about taking his team on a spring-practice trip to Rome—he was barred from going to Naples, Fla., by paranoid SEC types—Harbaugh uttered this gem: “The Colosseum [was] around for 600 years [as an active stadium]. Around here, 30, 40 years and they tear it down. Amazing, really.’’

My favorite line, though, came from a sportswriter/subscriber to TMG. Actually, it came from his wife, who noticed TMG on their credit-card bill and wondered what that was about. He assured her it was not what she thought it might be.

We can assure you of that, too: We intend to keep providing nothing more than the finest in college-football analysis—all for the early-bird bargain rate of just $14.95.