LINCOLN — If a poll of beat and ESPN writers turns out to be accurate, it’ll be the year of the Buckeye in Big Ten football.
Ohio State — which finished 12-0 in coach Urban Meyer’s first year — was the near-unanimous pick to win the league championship, according to a 26-member media poll conducted by the Cleveland Plain Dealer, which tapped two beat writers for each team and ESPN’s two Big Ten bloggers for preseason predictions. The Buckeyes got 25 of the 26 votes. The other vote went to Michigan.
The Wolverines (135.5 total points) are a slight favorite to win the Legends Division over Nebraska (132.5), which finished second. NU and UM received 12 votes each to advance to the Big Ten title game. Michigan State, which finished third in the poll with 101.5 points, received the other two invites to the Big Ten title game. Northwestern (95.5), Iowa (43) and Minnesota (38) finished out the Legends Division.
In the Leaders Division, OSU finished with 155.5 out of a possible 156 points. Wisconsin (128), Penn State (104), Indiana (74.5), Purdue (52.5) and Illinois (31.5) completed the division. The Buckeyes’ No. 1 running back, Carlos Hyde, was suspended from all team activities Monday following his involvement in an alleged weekend assault.
Writers picked Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller as the preseason Offensive Player of the Year. Miller received 24 of the 26 votes. NU quarterback Taylor Martinez received one of the remaining two votes, while Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner got the other.
Buckeye linebacker Ryan Shazier was picked as preseason Defensive Player of the Year. He received 16 of 26 votes, with Wisconsin linebacker Chris Borland (4), Michigan State linebacker Max Bullough (3), OSU cornerback Bradley Roby (2) and Northwestern defensive lineman Tyler Scott (1) receiving the others. Roby was arrested last weekend in an incident unrelated to Hyde’s and will not represent the Buckeyes at this week’s Big Ten media days.
Half the writers picked Indiana as the “most surprising” team this year. The Hoosiers finished 4-8 last year but lost four games by four points or fewer. Northwestern (6), Michigan State (2), Purdue (2), Iowa (1), Wisconsin (1) and Minnesota (1) received the other votes.
In voting for “most disappointing” team, Michigan State led the way with six votes, followed by Michigan (5), Northwestern (4), Iowa (4), Nebraska (3), Penn State (2), Minnesota (1) and Wisconsin (1).