Just because the Big Ten no longer does a preseason poll doesn't mean there isn't an expected order of finish.
The Cleveland Plain-Dealer's Doug Lesmerises organized a Big Ten writers' preseason poll last summer. Bob Asmussen of the Champaign News-Gazette handled those duties for the 2012 poll, with 24 writers giving their input (Note: Neither Adam nor I were asked to participate),
Here are the results of that poll:
1. Wisconsin (19 first-place votes)
2. Ohio State (5)
5. Penn State
1. Michigan (16 first-place votes)
2. Michigan State (7)
3. Nebraska (1)
Big Ten championship game winner: Michigan (11 out of 24 votes)
Offensive MVP: Montee Ball, Wisconsin (14 votes)
Defensive MVP: William Gholston, Michigan State (11)
Some thoughts: The big surprise here is Penn State fifth in the Leaders Division, probably owing much to the uncertainty of the state of that program right now. But the Nittany Lions have too much talent to be a fifth-place team. Wisconsin earned the nod by a pretty wide margin over Ohio State in the Leaders race, though the Buckeyes are ineligible to win the division and that may have played in some voters' thinking. The choice between Michigan and Michigan State was a little closer. Michigan is the favorite in most preseason rankings, though Adam and I have had Michigan State No. 1 in our power rankings. There seems to be a pretty clear pecking order for the top three in the Legends Division.
Seven voters picked the Spartans to win the Big Ten championship game, while six had Wisconsin. Denard Robinson got nine votes as offensive MVP, while Ohio State's Braxton Miller picked up the other one.
Gholston got some love, based obviously on his tremendous potential and his big showing in the Outback Bowl. But the race seems pretty open, as six other players got votes for defensive player of the year. They are: Kawann Short, Purdue (5); Johnathan Hankins, Ohio State (3); John Simon, Ohio State (2); Denicos Allen, Michigan State (1); Chris Borland, Wisconsin, (1); and Gerald Hodges, Penn State (1).
Preseason polls mean very little in the long run. But this one, voted on by those who follow the league as closely as anyone, gives you an idea of the perceived expectations for teams and players heading into 2012.