Not surprisingly, Ohio State's Jim Tressel received the most votes for coach who must win this season. Although Tressel's biggest win needs to come Aug. 12 before the NCAA's Committee on Infractions, he can maintain his goodwill in the eyes of Ohio State's power brokers by continuing to get it done on the field, especially amid all the adversity. There's not much patience for Brady Hoke out there, as the Michigan coach finished second in the voting. Perhaps the Hoke love fest among Wolverines fans will end quickly if things don't go well on the field. Illinois coach Ron Zook finished third, which is to be expected despite the team taking a step forward in 2010. I'm surprised Purdue's Danny Hope didn't receive more votes before what could be a pivotal season.
Jim Tressel is under fire by the NCAA.
Nebraska fans showed up in force as the Huskers were the overwhelming pick to win the Big Ten in their first season as a league member. Will a taxing schedule sidetrack Big Red? We'll find out this fall. Ohio State and Wisconsin finished practically neck and neck for second place, followed by Michigan State. It's odd not seeing the Buckeyes as the Big Ten favorite among fans, but Ohio State will face unique challenges this fall.
Quarterback Dan Persa's success and Northwestern's recent run of bowl appearances made the Wildcats your clear pick for surprise team in 2011. Northwestern likely will enter the fall projected in the middle of the Big Ten pack, but the Wildcats avoid both Ohio State and Wisconsin on the schedule. They could make some noise if they win some critical road games (Iowa, Nebraska). Both Illinois and Purdue also got some love as potential surprise teams.
The controversy enveloping Ohio State and Tressel has led many of you to select the Buckeyes as the league's biggest disappointment in 2011. I still wouldn't bet against Ohio State with its track record and the talent it still has on both sides of the ball, but there will be significant distractions and personnel challenges this fall. Michigan State finished second in the voting, which likely points to the Spartans' brutal road schedule (Ohio State, Nebraska, Northwestern and Iowa). A chunk of you also think Penn State will fail to meet expectations for the second straight year.
The can't-miss game polling went as expected, as Ohio State-Nebraska received nearly 50 percent of the votes. The Game also got some love as Hoke leads Michigan against "Ohio." I've got a feeling that after several noncompetitive contests, Ohio State-Michigan will be more intriguing this year. In hindsight, I should have substituted Iowa-Nebraska for Michigan State-Nebraska as a potential can't-miss game. It might have surpassed The Game for second place.