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Published: Friday, 7/22/2011

Big Ten won't select preseason favorite

BY RYAN AUTULLO
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

The preseason favorite to win the inaugural Big Ten championship football game is -- no one.

The newly-structured league will not release a preseason media poll for either of its two divisions next week at the Big Ten media days in Chicago, a conference spokesperson confirmed Thursday. Additionally, a 10-person "player to watch" list will take place of the honors the league previously handed out to its preseason offensive and defensive players of the year.

Those changes were voted on by the league's 12 coaches in May during conference meetings in Chicago. Presumably, the coaches came to the conclusion that the league-wide acknowledgement of preseason prognostications can do more harm than good. A coach whose team is picked to win the conference will, at best, achieve expectations. Conversely, a poor preseason forecast can tarnish the perception of a team, one that has yet to even participate in its first practice.

In the past, the preseason poll revealed the three highest vote getters, in order, but did not disclose where any of the other eight teams finished in the voting.

Ohio State, which has won at least a share of the last six Big Ten titles, was named the preseason favorite in each of the past three years.

Although it lost head coach Jim Tressel and quarterback Terrelle Pryor in an NCAA investigation this offseason, OSU figures to contend for the Leaders title, perhaps with Wisconsin and Penn State. In the Legends division, Big Ten newcomer Nebraska is many people's pick to prevail over a group that includes Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern and Minnesota.

The division winners will square off Dec. 3 in the initial Big Ten championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Representing Michigan at next week's media days -- scheduled for Thursday and Friday -- will be new coach Brady Hoke and players Denard Robinson, Kevin Koger and Mike Martin. Ohio State's contingent will consist of new coach Luke Fickell and players Mike Brewster, Orhian Johnson and Andrew Sweat.

Contact Ryan Autullo at: autullo@theblade.com or 419-724-6160



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