Unlike other conferences the Big Ten doesn't do an official preseason poll because, well, it's the Big Ten I guess. I've never understood it, but thankfully Cleveland.com immediately stepped up to do what the conference won't: Ask sportswriters to rank teams in the summer. (If we can't rank things do we even exist?)
This is the eighth year of our preseason poll, which was started when the Big Ten stopped conducting its own vote of media members, the only power conference to shirk that duty. The Big Ten will release only a list of players to watch when players, coaches, media and fans gather in Chicago for two days of preseason hype on Monday and Tuesday.
The 28 writers (two per team beat) polled had a hard time picking between Ohio State and Wisconsin this year. The Buckeyes received 14 votes to win the Big Ten, the Badgers 13 with Michigan State picking up the remaining vote. According to Cleveland.com, that's the closest vote since 2011 when Nebraska was picked as the conference favorite over Wisconsin 12-to-11.
As for the Huskers they received votes anywhere from second to sixth in the Big Ten West and finished fourth overall behind (in order) Wisconsin, Iowa and Northwestern. All 28 voters picked Wisconsin to win the West, while Penn State and Michigan State were picked as East champions by one voter each.
You can see the complete vote totals at Cleveland.com.
A Punting Proposal
Prepare to enter an alternate reality, a hypothetical universe that would change the game in a big way. It's not an attack on football –– sorry, Larry Fedora –– just a fun thought experiment: What if it cost one point to punt?
You’re going to say, “hey, punting means you don’t have the ball anymore, and maybe they’re going to score on a punt return!” While all those things are true, those costs are still clearly not high enough to keep coaches from punting on fourth-and-short or in opponent territory or all the other times we wish they wouldn’t.
I don’t blame coaches for their hesitation. I blame the risk/reward calculus football has provided them, so I propose we change it by deducting one point from each team that punts, every time.
Nanni lays out seven ways this would make the game "better" (but, really, it's just more entertaining). That said, there are some legitimate points that are fun to think about in there. Most interesting to me is that this is a two-sided coin. It can reward good offense (punt avoidance) and good defense (forcing punts).
I did a quick calculation of punt points for the 2017 season. Alabama and Ohio State tied for the national lead at +39 points on the season followed closely by Oklahoma State (+38). UCF ranked 19th at +20, Nebraska 93rd at -7.
The worst teams in the country were UTEP (-34) and Nebraska's Week 1 opponent Akron (-33). Yet somehow the Zips went 7-7 in 2017. Nothing about that season makes sense.
The Grab Bag
- In news that broke under the inky cloak of night, Jordy Tshimanga is leaving the Nebraska basketball program.
- The weird, wild world of college football message boards.
- USA Today recaps the major beats from the various conference media days this week.
- ICYMI: Nebraka picked up its 12th commit in DT Tony Fair (5 Thoughts, DL Recruiting), Derek Peterson wrote on expectations for Nebraska's special teams this season and I wrote about overalls.
Today's Song of Today