Thursday, July 21, 2011
Big Ten not playing (preseason) favorites
By Brian Bennett
On Wednesday, Rittenberg had an interesting post looking at preseason Big Ten favorites through the years and how those picks eventually fared that season.
Looks like that will have to serve as a historic document.
The Big Ten will not announce a preseason favorite during next week's annual media days event. The league confirmed to ESPN.com that the head coaches voted at the conference meetings in May to eliminate the media voting for top three finishers that had been conducted for years. Forget about preseason offensive and defensive players of the year, too. Instead, the Big Ten will announce on Thursday a 10-person "Player to Watch" list, with five players from the Legends Division and five from the Leaders Division.
No word yet on whether every team and player will also get a preseason participation trophy.
It's pretty easy to understand why the coaches don't want a preseason favorite named. From their perspective, all it does is add pressure to the coaches and players who are expected to win the league before play starts. Given that the media poll was batting less than .500 on preseason picks since 1996, perhaps they have a point. Preseason polls are pretty worthless except to drive interest, and the Big Ten is hardly lacking for attention.
Still, this would have been an exceptionally intriguing year to take the pulse of those who cover the league closely. Would Ohio State be expected to win at least share of its seventh straight conference title (vacated ones included)? Is Wisconsin the new favorite? How is Nebraska viewed coming into its first year of Big Ten play?
We won't get any of that, not officially at least. And the "Players to Watch" list sounds about as valuable as the preseason award watch lists that have been coming out in droves this month. It's not much of an honor, and it's barely worth mentioning.
At least we won't have co- or tri-champions at the end of the year, thanks to the Big Ten championship game. But for now, I guess, there's a 12-way tie for preseason favorite.