Big Ten Writers Tab Michigan And Nebraska As League Favorites

By RossWB on July 17, 2019 at 5:00 pm
Ohio State-Nebraska? Yuck.
© Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports
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Big Ten Media Days are coming up this week in Chicago (starting tomorrow, in fact), but one thing that won't come out during Big Ten Media Days is an official prediction for the league standings. For whatever reason, the Big Ten stopped doing that a few years ago. But the Big Ten writers continue to collaborate on a preseason predictions poll, as assembled by Cleveland.com each year. This year's results? Michigan is the team to beat in the East (and overall) and Nebraska is (narrowly) the favorite in the West. 

WEST

1) Nebraska -- 198 pts (14 1st place votes)
2) Iowa -- 194.5 pts (14 1st place votes)
3) Wisconsin -- 172.5 pts (4 1st place votes)
4) Northwestern -- 142.5 pts (1 1st place vote)
5) Purdue -- 110.5 pts
6) Minnesota -- 100 pts (1 1st place vote)
7) Illinois -- 34 pts 

EAST

1) Michigan -- 222 pts (20 1st place votes)
2) Ohio State -- 214 pts (14 1st place votes)
3) Michigan State -- 156 pts
4) Penn State -- 154 pts 
5) Indiana -- 86.5 pts
6) Maryland -- 82.5 pts
7) Rutgers -- 37 pts

Iowa and Nebraska actually had an equal number of first-place votes (14 each), but Nebraska had more total points, suggesting that they were narrowly ahead of Iowa on a few other ballots (11 voters tabbed Nebraska for 2nd place, while Iowa garnered just six 2nd place votes). But five different Big Ten West teams earned first-place votes, with perennial division contender Wisconsin earning four votes and the boat-rowers from Minnesota even earning a vote from one intrepid writer. Somewhat surprisingly, Northwestern, last year's Big Ten West champion, and winner of their last 13 in a row against West opponents), only got one vote to repeat as West champion. Looks like Fitz will get to play the "no respect" card once again. 

The East looks to be a two-horse race, with Michigan and Ohio State well ahead of the pack. Given what Michigan has returning this year and that Ohio State is in the midst of a changing of the guard from Urban Meyer to Ryan Day, if the Wolverines can't break through and make their first-ever (no, really) appearance in the Big Ten Championship Game this year, it's hard to know when it will ever happen.

Speaking of the Big Ten Championship Game, the league's writers are virtually all in on the East champion (either Michigan or Ohio State) winning that game. As noted, 14 writers picked Iowa to win the West -- and none of them picked Iowa to win the Championship Game (eight picked them to lose to Michigan, while six picked them to lose to Ohio State). In fact, of the 34 Big Ten Championship Game picks, just three featured a victorious team from the Big Ten West (two picked Nebraska to beat Michigan and one picked Northwestern to beat Michigan). 

So how accurate are these picks? When it comes to the eventual champion, the assembled Big Ten media is just 2-for-8 in the history of this exercise, although they may be getting better -- they correctly tabbed Ohio State as the Big Ten champion in each of the last two seasons. (This could also be a case of stubbornness finally being proved right -- the media picked Ohio State as champion every year from 2015-2018, as well as in 2013... eventually, they were due to be right, I suppose.) They haven't done a great job of identifying the eventual Championship Game participants either; they've nailed the West or East representative in a given year just seven times (out of 16 total slots) and just once (in 2017) did they correctly predict both title game participants (Ohio State and Wisconsin). 

In other words, not getting picked by Big Ten media to win the West probably isn't a bad thing for Iowa -- and it might end up being a very good thing, if the hit rate on these predictions continues to be as sketchy as it's been over the last eight years. 

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