Big Ten media days are kicking off in Chicago today and as in years past, that coincides with the annual release of Cleveland.com’s poll of the conference’s media. As you might expect, the release comes with some head-scratchers to go along with the typical chalk.
The poll is, by its nature, a bit biased in that there isn’t equal representation among all the member schools. There were 34 respondents and we can confidently report there were not 2.4285714 writers from each school responding. And then there’s the fact that writers for some schools (read Iowa) live in reality while others (read Nebraska) live in a fantasy world, apparently.
At the end of the day, each respondent gets one ballot to complete. They rank the schools in each division from 1-7. A vote for first place is worth 7 points, a vote for seventh, 1. The totals are added up, Nebraska and Ohio State totals are multiplied by three* and the rankings are set.
*This is fiction - all schools are treated the same.
In the East, things look much as you might expect, though a bit different from last year’s final results.
BIG TEN EAST
1. Michigan, 222 points (20 first-place votes)
2. Ohio State, 214 points (14)
3. Michigan State, 156 points
4. Penn State, 154 points
5. Indiana, 86.5 points
6. Maryland, 82.5 points
7. Rutgers, 37 points
Let’s start with the low hanging fruit here. There were 34 writers who voted. A last place vote is worth one point. Carry the two, divide by pi and somehow, someone voted for rutger to NOT finish last.
The other two notables here are Penn State dropping to fourth in their division. That might make Hawkeye fans a bit more confident about their date with the Nittany Lions on October 12th. And then the simple fact that Ohio State isn’t picked to return to Indy. That likely has the opposite effect on Iowa fans’ hopes for the trip to Ann Arbor on October 5th.
It also would seem to indicate people are picking Jim Harbaugh to pick up his first win against Ohio State since taking over at Michigan. It marks the first time in five years the media hasn’t picked OSU to win the East and would mean Ohio State’s Big Ten title streak stops at two.
In the West, things were a little more wild (see what I did there?).
BIG TEN WEST
1. Nebraska, 198 points (14 first-place votes)
2. Iowa, 194.5 points (14)
3. Wisconsin, 172.5 points (4)
4. Northwestern, 142.5 points (1)
5. Purdue, 110.5 points
6. Minnesota, 100 points (1)
7. Illinois, 34 points
At the bottom, the media managed not to screw this one up. 34 writers, 34 last place voted for LOLinois and Lovie Smith just keeps getting paid to sign 4-star athletes and big time transfers who can’t win a game.
But the rest is a total crapshoot. I mean, Minnesota is picked to finish second to last in the division, but also got a vote to win the damn thing. I bet the Minneapolis Star-Tribune writer who bought the fancy used boat off of Fleck feels really good about that vote.
Northwestern, similarly, was picked to finish fourth and **SPOILER ALERT** also managed to get a vote not just to win the West, but to win the whole damn conference!
Meanwhile, Wisconsin, fresh off their worst season in a decade and the first time they haven’t won at least nine games since 2012 (which, let’s be honest, may not have actually happened), garnered 4 votes to win the West.
And then there’s Iowa and Nebraska tied at the top with 14 votes each. Boy is there a lot to unpack there.
We’ll start with the fact that Nebraska, having shown no ability to stop a gnat from bulldozing the vaunted black shirts on its way to 500 rushing yards and 35+ points, managed 14 first place votes. I mean, I get it, the folks at the Omaha World-Herald have voted for them to win it every year since they joined and would cast as many votes as we’ll give them, but come on. You gotta at least show you can get to .500 before you start believing the hype, right?
[It’s going to be so glorious watching that fanbase devour itself this season.]
What should actually excite Iowa fans, however, is the fact Iowa has the same number of first place votes despite having a vastly more difficult schedule.
That is an indication the media thinks Iowa is the better team from a pure talent perspective. That seems pretty accurate. The real question is more whether Wisconsin or Northwestern will challenge for the title than whether Nebraska has a better all around roster than Iowa this season (queue the Cornhusker fans spouting off about all their 4-star talent and the Frost warning and yada, yada).
The talent point seemed to be born out in the media’s voting on offensive and defensive player of the year. While Nebraska’s star QB Adrian Martinez finished 4th in the offensive player of the year voting, Iowa had two players earn votes on the offensive side and a third garner votes for defensive player of the year.
PRESEASON OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
1. Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin RB, 78 points (21 first-place votes)
2. Rondale Moore, Purdue WR, 36 points, (3)
3. Shea Patterson, Michigan QB, 31 points (4)
4. Adrian Martinez, Nebraska QB, 24 points (2)
5. J.K. Dobbins, Ohio State RB, 13 points (3)
5. Justin Fields, Ohio State QB, 13 points (1)
7. Nate Stanley, Iowa QB, 4 points
8. Brian Lewerke, Michigan State QB, 2 points
9. K.J. Hamler, Penn State WR, 1 point
9. Tyler Biadasz, Wisconsin OL, 1 point
9. Tristan Wirfs, Iowa OL, 1 point
While it’s unlikely Iowa will see either Nate Stanley or Tristan Wirfs win player of the year, both have already made a few watch lists and both are likely to be headed to the NFL next year. Iowa will need to maximize their talents to be worthy of those first place votes.
On the defensive side of the ball, it should come as no surprise that A.J. Epenesa came in second for defensive player of the year with more first place votes than the preseason favorite. Epenesa is on the verge of what could be a historic season for the Iowa defensive end.
PRESEASON DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
1. Chase Young, Ohio State DE, 57 points (8 first-place votes)
2. A.J. Epenesa, Iowa DE, 52 points, (9)
3. Kenny Willekes, Michigan State DE, 41 points (10)
4. Paddy Fisher, Northwestern LB, 19 points (2)
5. Yetur Gross-Matos, Penn State DE, 16 points, (4)
6. Joe Bachie, Michigan State LB, 6 points (1)
7. Lavert Hill, Michigan CB, 5 points
8. Carter Coughlin, Minnesota DE, 4 points
9. Josh Metellus, Michigan S, 2 points
10. Micah Parsons, Penn State LB, 1 point
10. Joe Gaziano, Northwestern DE, 1 point
As for who will win the whole darn thing? Well, the media once again is going with the East. Michigan is the favorite with 17 votes to win it all, followed by Ohio State with 14 votes. Two (I wonder who) writers picked Nebraska and as previously mentioned, somebody has Northwestern winning it all.
Fret not, Iowa fans. There’s still hope for the Hawkeyes to bask in the glory in Indy. This poll has only correctly picked the Big Ten title winner twice in its existence. Both times the media chose Ohio State to win it all. Coincidentally, those two times were the last two seasons.
Last year, the media was in love with Wisconsin and had them winning the West. Instead it was Northwestern as Wisconsin stumbled (who could have seen that coming?!?). Will Nebraska and/or Iowa suffer a similar fate in 2019? Will Adrian Martinez play a full season? Will PJ Fleck ever come down off that sugar high? Stay tuned to find out.
Given the wackiness of some of these votes, this seems like a good place to remind you all that SB Nation is launching a brand new polling system powered by the fans on this very site. If you’d like to participate, CLICK HERE to sign up!