- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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There will be no official Big Ten favorite this year, as the league's coaches, clearly concerned about their own backsides, voted to eliminate the preseason awards.
And I thought the Big Ten's little league moments ended with the elimination of the dreaded "co-champions" tag.
Aside from a 10-person Player to Watch list selected by media members, we won't have any official Big Ten preseason selections.
Fortunately, my friend Doug Lesmerises from the (Cleveland) Plain Dealer provides the next best thing. The Plain Dealer reached out to 24 Big Ten beat writers -- two who cover each league team -- and had them predict the divisions, the championship game winner, the preseason offensive and defensive players of the year and the Big Ten's top coach.
Wisconsin and Nebraska were the overwhelming choices to win the Leaders division and Legends division, respectively. The Badgers received 22 of 24 first-place votes in the Leaders, while Ohio State, which has won or shared the past six Big Ten titles, got only one first-place vote, as did Penn State. The Huskers received 19 first-place votes in the Legends, while Michigan State received four and Michigan one.
As for the championship game?
Seventeen of 24 voters picked Nebraska vs. Wisconsin in the title game. This is where it got tight. As we said, overall, Nebraska was picked as the title winner 12 times, Wisconsin was named on 11 ballots and Michigan State got the last vote.
It's interesting to see all the love for Wisconsin. The Badgers' Rose Bowl appearance plus the addition of quarterback transfer Russell Wilson this summer definitely has kept the momentum in Madtown.
Here are the complete division predictions:
Division predictions (first-place votes in parentheses)
* Voting on 6-5-4-3-2-1 point system
1. Nebraska (19) 139
2. Michigan State (4) 118
3. Iowa 82
4. Michigan (1) 71
5. Northwestern 69
6. Minnesota 25
1. Wisconsin (22) 141
2. Ohio State (1) 113
3. Penn State (1) 95
4. Illinois 76
5. Purdue 52
6. Indiana 27
The Leaders predictions are about what I expected. Northwestern gets shafted a bit in the Legends predictions, although the Wildcats didn't help themselves with the way they finished the 2010 season.
Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson, the 2010 Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, was named preseason Offensive Player of the Year in the poll. Nebraska defensive tackle Jared Crick earned preseason Defensive Player of the Year honors.
Robinson's selection is not a surprise, and I'm glad to see the Big Ten media didn't punish a player like Crick for being new to the conference. The Big Ten loses a host of standout defenders -- five defensive linemen were selected in the first round of April's NFL draft -- and both Crick and teammate Lavonte David are among the league's most accomplished returnees on that side of the ball.
Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa finished second in Offensive Player of the Year voting, followed by Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins. Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson, who hasn't played a down in the Big Ten, received one first-place vote.
Nebraska's David finished second in Defensive Player of the Year voting, followed by Michigan State defensive tackle Jerel Worthy and Iowa cornerback Shaun Prater.
Wisconsin's Bret Bielema won a narrow vote for Big Ten's best coach, defined as "the best coach in the Big Ten right now -- the guy you'd take to lead your program this season."
Bielema earned seven first-place votes for 35 total points, edging Iowa's Kirk Ferentz (31 points) and Nebraska's Bo Pelini (30 points). Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald finished fourth, followed by Michigan State's Mark Dantonio, Michigan's Brady Hoke and Penn State's Joe Paterno.
No love for JoePa! I'm also a bit surprised Dantonio didn't finish higher after bringing consistency to Michigan State. Dantonio and Bielema might have been my top two choices.
Anyway, a lot of good stuff in these polls, so check 'em out.