Big Ten: Coaches' Poll

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

In case you don't check the college football main page religiously (shame on you if you don't), the American Football Coaches Association decided coaches won't have to reveal their final ballots in the coaches' poll beginning in 2010. 

This is yet another move to shield the public from pertinent information in a sport that does so more than any other. Making the final votes public can prevent lobbying and adds to the responsibility these men have in participating in these polls. 

Seven Big Ten coaches voted in last year's poll, and there were some interesting final-ballot quirks

The AFCA also eliminated the system that awarded bonus votes to conferences that ranked high in a previous season's poll. The Big Ten will be represented by six coaches in future polls. 

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

The polls are out, and four Big Ten teams are in the final rankings. 

As the only Big Ten team to win its bowl, Iowa finally cracked the Top 25 at No. 20 in both the Associated Press and coaches' polls. Two other Big Ten teams -- Penn State and Michigan State -- moved down the rankings, while Northwestern fell out following its overtime loss to Missouri. 

Penn State finished at No. 8 in both polls, marking the team's 22nd final top 10 ranking under head coach Joe Paterno.

Ohio State actually moved up a spot to No. 9 in the final AP Poll, a good indication of the respect the Buckeyes regained with their performance against Texas in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. The Buckeyes fell one spot to No. 11 in the final coaches' poll.

Michigan State finished No. 24 in both polls, dropping from No. 19 in the AP and No. 18 in the coaches'. 

I voted Penn State at No. 8, Ohio State at No. 12 and Iowa at No. 20 in my final ballot for the ESPN.com Power Rankings. I might have weighted bowl victories more than most. Both Michigan State and Northwestern dropped out of my rankings, but not by much. And because Northwestern performed better in its bowl and finished the season stronger than the Spartans, who peaked in early October, I think both teams are in the 26-30 range. 

How the Big Ten coaches voted

December, 8, 2008
12/08/08
5:29
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Count me among those who would like to see the Coaches' Poll publicize its voting every week. Alas, we only get to see the ballots after the final regular-season votes are tallied. 

You can see how all 61 coaches voted by clicking here, but around these parts, we're interested the Big Ten.

Seven Big Ten head coaches voted in this season's poll: Wisconsin's Bret Bielema, Michigan State's Mark Dantonio, Indiana's Bill Lynch, Michigan's Rich Rodriguez, Purdue's Joe Tiller, Ohio State's Jim Tressel and Illinois' Ron Zook.

Some obversations from each coach's ballot:

Bret Bielema -- Bielema had Oklahoma and Florida at Nos. 1 and 2. He loved Penn State and was one of only two coaches -- Rutgers' Greg Schiano being the other -- who ranked the Nittany Lions at No. 4, ahead of both USC and Alabama. Bielema had Ohio State at No. 8 and Michigan State and Northwestern at Nos. 17 and 18. He also showed some love for his alma mater, Iowa, putting the Hawkeyes at No. 20.

Mark Dantonio -- Dantonio had Oklahoma first, followed by Florida. He showed some Big Ten pride by putting Penn State at No. 6, Ohio State at No. 8, his own team at No. 18, Northwestern at No. 19 and Iowa at No. 25. Dantonio had his former team, Big East champ Cincinnati, at No. 12. He also gave some love to the non-BCS, putting four teams (Utah, Boise State, TCU and BYU) in his top 16. 

Bill Lynch -- Texas' head-to-head win against Oklahoma resonated with Lynch, who put the Longhorns at No. 2, behind Florida. Lynch's Big Ten ties also showed up, as he had both Michigan State (15) and Northwestern (19) in the top 20 and Iowa at No. 23. Lynch wasn't a huge ACC fan, putting Georgia Tech at No. 16 and league championship participants Virginia Tech and Boston College at Nos. 24 and 25. 

Rich Rodriguez -- Rodriguez had Oklahoma at No. 1 and Florida at No. 2. He showed some love for his new conference with four teams among the top 18, but I found it interesting that he put rival Michigan State at No. 18, two spots behind Northwestern, a team the Spartans beat. Rodriguez was one of three coaches -- Urban Meyer and Tiller the others -- to put Northwestern at No. 16. He was the only Big Ten coach not to have Iowa on his ballot. 

Joe Tiller -- Tiller had one of the more intriguing ballots, with Oklahoma and Texas at Nos. 1 and 2. Maybe he's sick of all the SEC love or ticked off that Michigan didn't have a chance for a rematch with Ohio State in 2006. Tiller and Buffalo's Turner Gill gave Ohio State its highest ranking (7) among the 61 coaches. He had five Big Ten teams in the top 20. 

Jim Tressel -- Like Tiller, Tressel also had Oklahoma and Texas in the top two spots, followed by Florida and USC. He had Penn State at No. 6 and his own team at No. 8. He also was pretty generous to former assistant Dantonio, giving Michigan State its second-highest ranking at No. 14. Tressel didn't think nearly as much of Northwestern, putting the Wildcats at No. 21, two spots ahead of Iowa. 

Ron Zook -- The Zooker had Oklahoma at No. 1, a spot ahead of his former team, Florida. He liked Penn State (5) and Ohio State (8), and gave the ACC more love than most of his Big Ten colleagues. Zook didn't have too much love for his former conference, the SEC, not ranking Mississippi at all and putting Georgia at No. 19. 

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Winning ugly has consequences, as Ohio State found out today.

As top-ranked USC sat at home and Georgia, Oklahoma and Florida posted wins over solid opponents, Ohio State fell to No. 5 in both polls after Saturday's too-close-for-comfort win against Ohio. The good news for the Buckeyes is they likely will grab the No. 1 ranking by knocking off USC on Saturday in Los Angeles. Ohio State deserved to drop. An elite team shouldn't trail Ohio heading into the fourth quarter at home. But the Buckeyes should work their way back to the top 3 at some point, even if they fall to USC.

Wisconsin moved up a spot to No. 10 as West Virginia tumbled, but the Badgers need a strong effort at Fresno State to stay there. Another slow start won't cut it on the road, and Wisconsin needs tight end Travis Beckum and linebacker Jonathan Casillas back on the field.

Penn State's rout of Oregon State moved the Nittany Lions up two spots to No. 17 in both polls. If Daryll Clark, Evan Royster and the offense keep rolling, Penn State will continue to climb. But defensive line depth is becoming a greater concern after Penn State lost end Jerome Hayes to a season-ending knee injury. With the status of starters Maurice Evans and Abe Koroma very much in doubt, Penn State can't afford to lose more bodies up front.

Illinois remained at No. 24 in the AP Poll and just outside the coaches' poll. The Illini can make their move in the first two weeks of Big Ten play, when they visit Penn State and Michigan.

Iowa got four votes in the coaches' poll and Northwestern somehow got a vote, too. Is that you, Pat Fitzgerald?

Big Ten in the polls: Few surprises

September, 2, 2008
9/02/08
6:54
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

The Big Ten presence in this week's polls played out mostly as expected.

USC's impressive showing bumped Ohio State down a spot in the AP Poll, and concerns about Beanie Wells' health make it hard to put the Buckeyes higher. Georgia has more injury issues than Ohio State but none that quite match the magnitude of Wells'. If the Bulldogs struggle Saturday against Central Michigan, they could swap places with the Buckeyes. Fortunately for Ohio State, it has a chance to claim the No. 1 ranking -- possibly for good -- with a win against USC in Week 3.

Wisconsin's move to No. 11 in both polls stemmed more from Clemson's disaster than anything the Badgers did against Akron. I had the Badgers at No. 14 in my latest power rankings more because of lingering injury problems. Don't underestimate the loss of defensive end Kirk DeCremer. He was a young playmaker who provided depth on a defensive line filled with guys coming off major injuries. The Badgers really need linebacker Jonathan Casillas on the field next week at Fresno State.

Penn State's move up to 19th also looks about right. This isn't a reward for beating Coastal Carolina but an acknowledgment that the Nittany Lions could be a force in the Big Ten this season. They have a ton of weapons on the offensive side, and if quarterback Daryll Clark limits mistakes, there's no reason to think the unit won't average 30-35 points a game. A win against Oregon State should keep Penn State in the 15-20 range in the rankings.

We knew Illinois would drop after allowing 52 points to Missouri, but how far? The Illini barely remained in both polls -- I had them at No. 24 in my rankings -- and soon could be bumped by Cal and East Carolina. Looking at the overall talent, Illinois is clearly one of the nation's 25 best teams, but it can't afford fundamental breakdowns on defense like the ones last Saturday. Sure-fire wins against Eastern Illinois and Louisiana-Lafayette should keep Illinois in the polls before a Sept. 27 visit to Penn State.

Michigan dropped out of the coaches' poll after never deserving to be in there in the first place. Coach Rich Rodriguez acknowledged as much after the first preseason practice. The Wolverines shouldn't be worried about rankings right now, but they have a chance -- after the Miami (Ohio) game -- to get noticed with matchups against Notre Dame, Wisconsin and Illinois.

Michigan State should be back in the fringe soon, but the Spartans first have to correct some problems in crunch time.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

One week away. 'Nuff said.

  • First, a breakdown of the voting in the Coaches' Poll from Pollspeak.com. Rich Rodriguez retained his vote even though he moved from West Virginia to Michigan, giving the Big Ten seven voters and the Big East only four. The Big Ten has the highest percentage of teams with a coach voting
  • Sophomore Bo Flowers leapfrogged Donsay Hardeman at safety on Bob Asmussen's projected depth chart for Illinois.
  • Indiana freshman wideout DaMarlo Belcher wants to be the next James Hardy, Terry Hutchens writes in The Indianapolis Star. Belcher, a Fort Wayne native like Hardy, certainly looked the part in Wednesday's practice. Hutchens also breaks down a good few days for Indiana, which faces decisions at quarterback, cornerback and safety.
  • A comprehensive Iowa preview from the Iowa City Press-Citizen, starting with the team's need to get beyond the last three seasons. There are also items on the Hawkeyes' young defensive ends, highly touted offensive lineman Dan Doering and reporters' picks for the season. Quarterback Jake Christensen, fighting to reclaim his starting job, takes the blame for last season, Eric Page writes in the Quad City Times.
  • No official announcement yet, but a deal between the Big Ten Network and Mediacom looks imminent, Randy Peterson writes in the Des Moines Register. Iowans rejoice.
  • Michigan running backs coach Fred Jackson, the sole holdover from Lloyd Carr's staff, adapts to a new regime, John Heuser writes in The Ann Arbor News. The Michigan schools will be featured on the Big Ten Network this weekend, reaching an audience that largely didn't have the channel last season, Michael Zuidema writes in The Grand Rapids Press.
  • Michigan State tight end Charlie Gantt won't try to be the next Kellen Davis, but he should be a factor in the passing game following a good preseason, Andrew Mouranie writes in the Lansing State Journal.
  • Minnesota wideout Eric Decker is probably the team's best player, even though he might end up playing baseball down the line, Kent Youngblood writes in the (Minneapolis) Star Tribune. Coach Tim Brewster's eternal optimism might not be going over well with every Gopher fan, Patrick Reusse writes in the Star Tribune.
  • Ohio State has its own version of the Four Horsemen in the backfield this fall. In not-so dramatic lore, their names are "Wells and Mo Wells, Boom and Zoom," Tim May writes in The Columbus Dispatch. Linebacker James Laurinaitis joins a select crowd of two-time captains at Ohio State. The Cleveland Plain Dealer's Doug Lesmerises has a good synopsis of the Big Ten Network-Time Warner Cable-Ohio State mess.
  • Whenever Joe Paterno chooses to step down, he wants to leave his successor with something to work with at Penn State, Jeff Rice writes in the Centre Daily Times. Penn State's offensive line is stacked with experience, but hopes are highest for underclassman Stefen Wisniewski. 
  • Purdue's defense had the edge in Friday's scrimmage, as freshmen Derek Jackson and Tommie Thomas recorded interceptions. But the best sign was wideout Aaron Valentin, a junior college transfer who racked up 100 receiving yards, Tom Kubat writes in The Journal and Courier.
  • Wisconsin's Mike Newkirk is back at his natural position of defensive tackle, Jeff Potrykus writes in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez opened his news conference Monday afternoon by clarifying the status of running back Kevin Grady, who remains suspended for games but can now practice with the team. Rodriguez also addressed several other topics following the Wolverines' first workout, including the quarterback candidates, his first look at several freshmen and Michigan cracking the preseason coaches' poll.

Let's take a look:

  • Rodriguez seemed satisfied with the quarterback play Monday and highlighted the performance of sophomore Nick Sheridan. But the competition for the starting spot is far from over and could stretch well into the season. Sheridan and redshirt freshman Steven Threet emerged as the frontrunners after spring ball, and fleet-footed freshman Justin Feagin joined the mix Monday.
"I hope that we have at least two that we feel we can win with, that's the goal," Rodriguez said. "Not so much just finding a starter as finding two that we feel we can win with."
Both Threet and Sheridan said they felt more comfortable running the system Monday after a rocky spring. Michigan spends the first few practices reviewing the portions of the scheme installed this spring before moving on to new plays and formations.
Sheridan came away happy with his performance but admitted he's "nowhere near ready to play."
"It wasn't a walk in the park," Threet said.
  • With so many questions on the offensive depth chart, Monday's most encouraging sign could have been the performance of the freshman skill players. Rodriguez came away pleased with what he saw from several slot receivers, namely Martavious Odoms and Terrance Robinson, two players who also impressed Sheridan.
Running backs Michael Cox, Sam McGuffie and Michael Shaw also got in some good work. Several of those players will audition as punt and kickoff returners.
"Our goal in recruiting this class was to improve our skill, in particular because of all the formations we like to do in the spread," Rodriguez said. "I think we did that with these guys. ... They're pretty intelligent guys as well, which is something you don't know for sure, until you put in a system, how quickly they can pick it up."
How quickly Feagin picks up the offense likely will determine when he sees the field this fall. The freshman likely has the most speed of the four candidates, but the other three benefited from going through spring practice.
"He tries to learn a lot, he asks questions, he's a good kid," Sheridan said of Feagin. "He's a freshman, so he's swimming a little bit, particularly at this position, but so far, so good."
  • Glad to see I'm not the only one who shares this opinion about preseason rankings and Michigan's inclusion in the coaches' poll. Rodriguez doesn't think too much of his team cracking the rankings.
"Who cares?" Rodriguez said. "If it gets the fans excited, but we already sold our tickets, I think. Sometimes if you're not used to that and your team's ranked high, it sells a few more tickets. That's good, rah, rah. ... It's fun for everybody to write about an opinionate about, whatever, but they shouldn't probably even take a poll till October. The reason why we're probably ranked there -- because we lost a lot of players -- is because the reputation of Michigan, I assume."
  • Real men read poetry, and Michigan's defenders will continue to do so this season. In past seasons the Wolverines' starting defense convened the night before games and recited Rudyard Kipling's poem, "The Law for the Wolves."
Despite all the changes at Schembechler Hall this season with Rodriguez's arrival, Kipling's poem remains on the wall.
"That's such a great thing to have on defense, a great motto to have," senior cornerback Morgan Trent said. "It's been there since I've been here."
  • The practice field isn't the only place where Threet and Sheridan will be paired together. The quarterbacks are also roommates this summer, an arrangement that is working out well so far.
"He wasn't a snorer last night, so that was good," Sheridan said. "We're going to have to lower the temperature in the room. It was a little hot. He agreed, too. It sounded like he slept well. I was rolling around."
  • Rodriguez weighed in on the music blaring from a golf cart during the early portions of practice. "We'll see if anybody can dance," he joked, "You know that show, 'So you think you can dance.'"
The music is actually used to simulate crowd noise and create distractions for the offensive players, particularly the quarterbacks. Football administrative assistant Dusty Rutledge currently is in charge of the song selection, but Rodriguez plans to let the players make nominations.
  • Wide receiver Junior Hemmingway was limited in Monday's practice as he recovers from a high ankle sprain sustained during spring drills. Rodriguez expects Hemmingway to be at full strength in a few days. Rodriguez is doubtful that offensive lineman Elliott Mealer will be able to practice before the season. Mealer suffered a shoulder injury in a car accident that killed his father and his girlfriend last Christmas Eve.

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