Michigan will open the football season in a familiar but recently forgotten role: Big Ten favorites.
And Ohio State? So much for Urban Meyer enjoying a honeymoon period. The first-year Buckeyes coach is expected to win now.
In the Big Ten Preseason Newspaper Poll released today, the Wolverines were picked to win the Legends Division and the conference championship game. OSU was chosen to finish second behind Wisconsin in a tightly contested Leaders Division.
Michigan, which went 11-2 and won the Sugar Bowl last season but finished second to Michigan State in the division race, was selected to overtake the Spartans by a 16-7 vote. The Wolverines are also the pick to claim the Big Ten's automatic Bowl Championship Series berth, with 11 of the 24 voters opting for UM to win the second league title game. Michigan State received seven votes.
At OSU, meanwhile, Meyer is anticipated to promptly restore respect to a program wounded last year by the tattoos-for-gear scandal that led to the forced exit of Jim Tressel. Despite the Buckeyes coming off their first losing season since 1988 and no prospect of postseason play, they received five first-place votes and were voted no lower than second in the Leaders Division.
Wisconsin, with 19 top votes, was declared the division favorite and a cinch to crash its second straight Big Ten championship game. (OSU faces a one-year postseason ban.)
Purdue and Illinois, which begins its first season under former Toledo coach Tim Beckman, were picked to finish a distant third and fourth. Penn State was tabbed fifth -- a vote of no confidence in the wake of the school's child sex abuse scandal that continues to shake the country. The Nittany Lions also return only nine starters -- the fewest in the Big Ten.
The Big Ten Newspaper Poll took the measure of two dozen writers from print organizations that cover the league -- including The Blade. The ballot was created last season after Big Ten coaches voted to banish the conference's traditional preseason balloting.
In other voting, Wisconsin tailback Montee Ball edged Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson in the vote for preseason offensive player of the year while Michigan State defensive end William Gholston was the runaway pick as the league's top defensive player.
Ball, who rushed for 1,923 yards and had a conference-record 39 touchdowns, surpassed Robinson 14-9. OSU sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller also received a vote.
The defensive balloting was more spread out, though Gholston's 11 votes more than doubled those bestowed to the junior defensive end's next-closest challenger -- Purdue defensive tackle Kawann Short.
Ohio State junior defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins, projected as a first round pick in next year's NFL Draft, received three votes. Buckeyes all-conference senior defensive end John Simon earned two votes.
Contact David Briggs at: email@example.com, 419-724-6084 or on Twitter @DBriggsBlade.
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