Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Big Ten Football Poll Likely Not Far Off

Tuesday begins Big Ten football Media Days, as the league looks to get on with life following the historic hammer-dropping on Penn State's program Monday, both by the NCAA and B1G.

As we move into the last week of July and get ready for football camps to open, select members of the media put together a preseason Big Ten football poll.

The results? Well, I'll give them to you now, and tell you that they probably are too far separated from reality.


 1. Wisconsin (19)     139
 2. Ohio State (5)     125
 3. Purdue     79
 4. Illinois     72
 5. Penn State     65
 6. Indiana     24


 1. Michigan (16)     134
 2. Michigan State (7)     120
 3. Nebraska (1)     104
 4. Iowa     72
 5. Northwestern     51
 6. Minnesota     24

Title-game winner: Michigan over Wisconsin (11 votes), Michigan State over Wisconsin (7), Wisconsin over Michigan (5), Wisconsin over Nebraska (1).

It's about what I expected, only Nebraska didn't get as many votes in the Legends Division as I thought it would.

Michigan is the sexy pick. Brady Hoke gets a lot of starters and regulars back, including Denard Robinson, who looked more comfortable as the season wore on.

(As an example of this, Robinson's accuracy down the stretch was better than it was earlier in the season. He's still scattershot at times, which drives people nuts, I'm sure. But if he can bring that completion percentage up to 60 or higher -- it was 55 last year -- Michigan should reap the benefits.)

I think the biggest thing to look at between Michigan and Michigan State, besides the fact that their head-to-head game is in Ann Arbor this year, is the stability at quarterback and wide receiver. Michigan State has to replace Kirk Cousins and his top four receivers from last year. No easy task.

Nebraska has 14 starters back, including Taylor Martinez and Rex Burkhead in the offensive backfield. Not only that, but the Cornhuskers have outstanding senior linebackers in Will Compton and Sean Fisher.

Shockingly, Minnesota was picked last. The Gophers open the Big Ten season at Iowa Sept. 29, in a game that could decide if this team has any prayer of making a bowl in Jerry Kill's second season. I can't wait to see if MarQueis Gray has developed at all as the quarterback, or if Max Shortell -- who played as a true freshman -- has a chance to supplant him. If the team struggles, I wouldn't be surprised at all to see Shortell by mid-October. Incoming freshmen Mitch Leidner and Philip Nelson shouldn't be in this mix at all. I'm sure Kill wants to redshirt both if he can.

In the Leaders Division, it's much more cut and dried. Wisconsin is an easy favorite, with postseason-ineligible Ohio State also looking dangerous. Illinois could be a threat if Tim Beckman can get quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase to be more consistent. Outside of that, the division is pretty mediocre.

It'll be interesting to see if anyone in the Leaders Division can pick up the slack among those bottom four teams. I think Illinois is the best of the bunch, but Purdue could surprise, and Penn State's troubles could be Indiana's ticket out of the cellar.

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