One of the Big Ten’s stranger stands is on preseason polls. The conference doesn’t do one — most others do — and that has been great news for Cleveland.com, which, seven seasons ago, started compiling a de facto Big Ten preseason poll.
The latest edition was published on Friday. Ohio State’s your favorite again, by some distance, which in the past has meant some other school will end up winning it:
The Buckeyes have never won the Big Ten when this poll has picked them to do so. Tabbed the preseason favorites in 2013, 2015 and 2016, they saw Michigan State, Michigan State again and Penn State win the title those years. In 2014, the Buckeyes weren’t the pick – and that year they did win.
So a poll of the most experienced and dedicated writers in the league is zero for six in picking the conference champ since this poll began in 2011. This is a comprehensive group, with at least one writer that covers each of the 14 schools taking part, along with several writers who cover the Big Ten as a whole.
Ohio State took 34 of the first-place votes in the East Division, followed by Penn State (seven) and Michigan (one). Wisconsin has a similar edge in the West, taking 31 first-place votes. Northwestern (five) and Nebraska (two) were the only other West-Division teams to receive votes. Both of the pollsters who picked the Huskers to win the West also had Nebraska losing to Ohio State in the championship game.
But that’s a little bit of progress. There are just eight predictions listed at Stassen.com at this point, but half have the Huskers third in the division and half project Nebraska to finish fourth.
Overall there are only two small departures in the Cleveland.com poll from the consensus forming at Stassen.com: One, Indiana is picked ahead of Maryland in the East (I’m with Stassen on this one), and, two, Purdue and Illinois are tied for sixth in the West at Cleveland.com, while the Illini are alone in last based on the preseason consensus (I’m with Stassen on this one, too).
Gosh A Mighty!
As you presumably know by now, Hugh Freeze is no longer the football coach at Ole Miss, where he won a bunch of high-profile recruiting battles, beat Alabama twice and was staring down a bunch of potential NCAA sanctions. But the surprise resignation, per Ole Miss brass, had nothing to do with that current investigation.
No, it had to do with a phone call to a number linked to an escort service, something Ole Miss AD Russ Bjork termed a “pattern of conduct” that resulted in Freeze’s resignation. If you want to crawl around in the college football muck, this story seems to have it.
The call reportedly came to light as part of a recent defamation lawsuit filed on behalf of former Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt. He got involved last year. From the Commercial Appeal:
Back in 2016, facing a notice of allegations from the NCAA, Ole Miss officials indicated — both privately and publicly — that most of the allegations involved former coach Houston Nutt.
That turned out not to be true. Nutt was understandably displeased. So in May, Nutt asked for an apology. Ole Miss and Freeze declined.
That was the hubris. If Freeze had apologized, it’s possible the matter would have ended there. Instead, Nutt — and here comes the vengeance — decided to sue for defamation of character. In preparation for that lawsuit, Nutt requested phone numbers from Ole Miss for a six-day period in January of 2016, when Nutt suspected Freeze was disparaging him in off-the-record conversations with reporters.
As it happens, a strange number popped up. It was a Detroit number linked to a Florida-based escort service. Nutt’s attorney, Thomas Mars, then shared that number with reporters from USA Today and Yahoo Sports.
So now the Rebels head into 2017 with a voluntary postseason ban (trying to at least temper what the NCAA might have in store), a slew of alleged infractions that still have to be answered for and without the head coach the university had, as recently as Monday, continued to defend.
Just when you think you’ve seen it all, college football awakens to show you that you definitely haven’t.
The Grab Bag
- Dave Rimington, in an interview with the Omaha World Herald, may have just created the Nebraska football fan’s motto: “Four-star, five-star receivers don’t do anything for me. It’s the people up front who win football games.”
- BTN analyst Gerry DiNardo is taking a “wait-and-see” approach with Tanner Lee.
- Steven Godfrey of SB Nation is well-connected at Ole Miss. Here’s his story on yesterday’s events.
- Any teams need a 4-star running back? B.J. Emmons is available after announcing he will transfer from Alabama.
Today’s Song of Today
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.