Things haven’t changed much as far as preseason expectations go for football in the Big Ten in 2021. Ohio State is still the prohibitive favorite, Nebraska still isn’t expected to challenge for the West Division crown.
That’s according to a poll of 34 conference media members, including “at least one beat writer” covering each of the 14 teams, conducted by Cleveland.com. The outlet began conducting its own preseason poll––coordinated with Big Ten media days, which begin tomorrow in Indianapolis––11 years ago, when the conference chose to stop releasing preseason projections and All-Big Ten teams.
Nebraska, which hasn’t finished better than fifth in the division since 2016, was picked to finish fifth in 2021. Wisconsin received 29-of-34 first-place votes in the West. Iowa picked up the other five, followed by Northwestern, last year’s division champ, and Minnesota. Purdue and Illinois were picked sixth and seventh.
The Huskers were picked fourth in the division in the Cleveland.com preseason poll last year, first in 2019 and fourth in 2018. Nebraska finished fifth, sixth and sixth respectively.
Ohio State, which must replace a starter at quarterback and multiple starters on defense, was the unanimous choice to win the East Division and the Big Ten title. The Buckeyes took all 34 first-place votes in the division, with 29 media members picking Ohio State to beat Wisconsin in the title game and five picking Ohio State over Iowa.
Penn State beat out Indiana for second in the East. That pair was followed by Michigan, Maryland, Rutgers and Michigan State.
Big Ten Media Days get underway tomorrow morning. Nebraska head coach Scott Frost and players Austin Allen, Ben Stille and Deontai Williams will speak with the media Thursday.
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.