Big Ten Conference media members are predicting more of the same for Iowa football in 2015.
The consensus among 40 voters organized by Cleveland.com, which included The Register's Rick Brown, was that the Hawkeyes will finish fourth in the Big Ten West Division this fall — exactly where they finished in 2014.
Defending national champion Ohio State was a unanimous selection to win the Big Ten championship game. Eighty percent (32) of the voters had Wisconsin as the West champion (and losing team to Ohio State); five voters picked Nebraska, three took Minnesota. Nobody predicted Iowa, Northwestern, Illinois or Purdue to be best in the West.
Wisconsin scored 272 of a maximum 280 points in the West in the inverted 7-6-5-4-3-2-1 scoring format, meaning the Badgers — under first-year coach Paul Chryst — were pegged to finish no worse than second place by any of the 40 media members that voted. Iowa opens its Big Ten schedule Oct. 3 at Wisconsin in a rematch of the Badgers' 26-24 victory at Kinnick Stadium on Nov. 22.
Iowa finished 7-6 overall, 4-4 in the Big Ten last season, good for fourth in the West behind the same three teams predicted to top the division this fall.
Nebraska, under first-year coach Mike Riley, was picked to finish second (231.5 points). The Hawkeyes were a solid fourth — third-place Minnesota scored 197 points in the poll; Iowa had 158.5; and Northwestern was fifth with 125.
This is the fifth year of the Cleveland.com preseason poll. The Big Ten no longer organizes a preseason poll of top team finishers, instead releasing a watch list of 10 players (five from each division) in conjunction with its Big Ten Media Days, which begin Thursday in Chicago.
Notably, none of the previous four Cleveland.com polls correctly predicted the Big Ten champion.
Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott was tabbed as the preseason Offensive Player of the Year by media members, and Buckeyes defensive end Joey Bosa was named preseason Defensive Player of the Year.
Seven teams, including Iowa, will be made available to league media members Thursday in Chicago; the other seven go Friday. In addition to head coach Kirk Ferentz, Iowa will be represented by three seniors: offensive lineman Austin Blythe, safety Jordan Lomax and defensive end Drew Ott.
CLEVELAND.COM POLL RESULTS*
Forty media members, including the Register's Rick Brown and Chad Leistikow, voted in the poll, which fielded a larger sample size than in past years when only two media members per school were selected to participate.
BIG TEN EAST ORDER OF FINISH
1. Ohio State — 280 points (40 first-place votes)
2. Michigan State — 240
3. Penn State — 186.5
4. Michigan — 163.5
5. Maryland — 95.5
6. Rutgers — 78
7. Indiana — 76.5
BIG TEN WEST ORDER OF FINISH
1. Wisconsin — 272 (32)
2. Nebraska — 231.5 (5)
3. Minnesota — 197 (3)
4. Iowa — 158.5
5. Northwestern — 125
6. Illinois — 77
7. Purdue — 59
BIG TEN TITLE GAME PREDICTIONS
Ohio State over Wisconsin (picked by 32 voters)
Ohio State over Nebraska (5)
Ohio State over Minnesota (3)