Old Firm grip on title won't be broken
Can anyone outside of the Old Firm win the top league in Scotland this season for the first time since Aberdeen in 1984/85?
Celtic and Rangers can - and will - buy success again.
The prospect of anyone outside of the Old Firm winning the title is neatly summed up by the bookie's odds.
One high street bookie offers Dundee United at 66/1, Hibernian at 80/1
Hearts at 150/1 and Motherwell at 250/1.
Just a pound on Aberdeen - who were the last winners of the top league 25 years ago -would net you £300.
Those odds are both a damning indictment of what's wrong with the Scottish game, and a realistic assessment of the chances of the Old Firm duopoly being broken.
Winning the Scottish Premier League is an even more difficult matter than when the New Firm were in their pomp in the 70s and 80s.
For one thing, there was no Bosman ruling back then and the Dons, United, Hearts and others could assemble and keep their squads to mount a decent challenge.
The current champions, Rangers, are hamstrung by their financial crisis, but everything is relative and they still have a budget far in excess of every other club - with the exception of Celtic.
Their £3.5m bid for Nikica Jelavic of Rapid Vienna is not far short of third-placed Dundee United's entire income for the season.
That puts into perspective the achievements of the Tannadice club last season and the unrealistic possibilities of improving upon them.
Neil Lennon looks like having around £10m from Aiden McGeady's sale - and that kind of money leaves all others in Celtic's wake.
So, with budgets that dwarf every other club, Celtic and Rangers will again carve up first and second places in the title race.
They may struggle to impose themselves in Europe but in the SPL they will be too strong in terms of quality and depth.
Despite the players Rangers have lost, they still have a very strong squad and are in my book are favourites to retain the title.
But now that Neil Lennon has substantial funds at his disposal he should be able to add the quality to wrest the title from Walter Smith.
That money will be both a blessing and a curse to him.
A blessing if he buys well and Celtic win the league.
A curse if expensive signings fail to land the top prize, and probably a fatal blow to his chances of continuing in the Celtic manager's job.
To the rest then.
United have kept their squad intact, albeit without Andy Webster and Lee Wilkie. The club needs another central defender, but the chairman is holding the purse strings tight. However, they are still good enough to retain third spot.
The incentive for some United players is that continued good performances may guarantee them the moves to England which some pundits felt were certain in the wake of last season's success, but which have failed to materialise.
Only six points separated Hibs, Motherwell and Hearts - in that order - last season.
I expect all three to be gunning for the top six again, but depending on how Mark McGhee's new purchases shape up, the Dons and St Johnstone seem to have strengthened considerably and could also challenge for the top half.
Relegation from the SPL is a financial killer. However, with the SPL due to announce changes to the league structure in the coming weeks, the very slim possibility of no relegation at all next season exists.
Someone has to finish bottom, but I find it easier to suggest who it won't - than who it will.
I don't think it will be Inverness, who will be firing on all cylinders on their return to the SPL and will have Mr Motivator AKA Terry Butcher to sustain them.
I also think Billy Reid has the management nous and ability to ensure continued survival and perhaps improvement on seventh spot, for Hamilton Accies.
That leaves Kilmarnock and St Mirren. Both clubs have new managers.
Mixu Paataleinen will have 50p to spend at cash-strapped Killie while Danny Lennon has dipped into the lower leagues for many of his new signings.
I've gazed into my crystal ball, but there are too many unknown factors at this stage to guess who will take the drop.
The best I can do is predict what all of you reading this already know.
That unless you're an Old Firm fan, then the season ahead is likely to be another long hard struggle.