Big Ten Preseason Media Poll, Player Honors
Over the last four seasons, Ohio State has won two outright Big Ten titles and shared two others with Penn State. Once again, those two teams will compete for the top spot but Iowa and Michigan State are also in the mix. Surprisingly, the computer gives the nod to Michigan State.
No doubt, if you look at power ratings alone, Ohio State has the strongest team in the Big Ten. The Buckeyes will begin the year more than 4 power points ahead of Iowa, Penn State and Michigan State. Of that group, the Spartans are the only team that doesn't have to face Ohio State, and they get Iowa and Penn State at home.
Meanwhile, the Hawkeyes and Nittany Lions have to take on the Buckeyes in back-to-back November games. Penn State is a 1.45-point home underdog to Ohio State on November 4, and Iowa is an 8.26-point road dog a week later. Iowa also has the misfortune of facing the other three top contenders on the road.
A conference championship would be huge in East Lansing as the Spartans haven't had any part of a Big Ten title in football since 1990. Last year, the title slipped from their grasp when they were crushed 49-18 at Penn State in the final regular season game.
The only blemish on Ohio State's preseason forecast is a narrow 5.68-point defeat at home to USC in a rare night game in Columbus. The Buckeyes lost 35-3 to the Trojans in Los Angeles last year.
Penn State's only projected losses are the slim home defeat to Ohio State and a narrow 2.19-point setback at Michigan State.
The computer (about the computer) puts Minnesota in 5th, trailing the top four picks by just over 5 power points. In Tim Brewster's second season as head coach, the Golden Gophers improved from 1-11 in 2007 to 7-6 last year. The bad news is that the season was typical of the Glen Mason days when his squads would alternate four or five straight wins with a slew of losses and rarely beat the league's top teams. Once a dominant force in the Big Ten, Minnesota hasn't even won a share of a conference title since 1967, and has won just 3 of its last 51 games against the trio of Ohio State, Michigan and Iowa.
Minnesota will unveil its new on-campus 50,000-seat TCF Bank Stadium when it hosts Air Force on Saturday, September 12 at 7 ET.
Illinois, Northwestern and Wisconsin are within 1.19 power points of each other, and trail Minnesota by no more than 4.66 points. Drop back another 6 points and you'll find Michigan, Indiana and Purdue.
The forecast for the Boilermakers is particularly bleak. Danny Hope takes over for Joe Tiller who retired with an 87-62 record in 12 seasons in West Lafayette. Purdue was just 4-8 (2-6, Big Ten) last year for its worst finish since a 3-8 campaign in 1996. It was his second losing season ever at the school.
A projected 5-7 season for Michigan is an overall improvement from last year's 3-9 finish in Rich Rodriguez' first season at the helm, but last year was one of the worst seasons in the 129-year history of the program. It was the Wolverine's first losing campaign since 1967, and the first year they ever lost more than 7 games in a single season. Perhaps worst of all, Michigan lost to Ohio State for a record 5th straight time.
The computer sees Rodriguez equaling last season's 2-6 conference mark, but the first four games are at home. Michigan is favored by a mere 0.41 points in the opener against Western Michigan, and is only a 5.98-point underdog to Notre Dame the following week. If the Wolverines clobber the Broncos and upset the Irish, they could easily start 4-0 and gain the momentum they will need to navigate the middle part of the schedule that includes road trips to Iowa and Michigan State, and a home date with Penn State.