It’s unanimous: Big Ten Conference media members think Wisconsin will win football’s West Division this fall.
All 28 panelists in the Cleveland.com poll picked the Badgers, who return nine starters on offense, four on defense and three on special teams from a squad that went 13-1 and came within an eyelash of the College Football Playoff in 2017.
Iowa was projected to finish second in the West, followed by Northwestern, Nebraska, Purdue, Minnesota and Illinois. Like Wisconsin at the top, the Illini were a unanimous last-place selection.
This is the eighth year of the Cleveland.com preseason media poll, which was originated because the Big Ten itself stopped doing one.
Thirteen of the 28 panelists also have the Badgers winning the Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis; 14 chose Ohio State, and one chose Michigan State. This marks the fourth straight year that the Buckeyes are viewed as the league favorites.
How to assess Iowa’s preseason West placement?
The Hawkeyes emerged as the media favorite in the race for second place, despite losing consensus all-Americans Josey Jewell and Josh Jackson on defense, their two best offensive linemen and star running back Akrum Wadley from an 8-5 team in 2017. That’s a fair measure of respect for the consistency 20th-year coach Kirk Ferentz brings to the program.
But it’s also a reminder that nobody thinks Iowa has enough to take down Wisconsin.
The media also selected Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley (offense) and Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa (defense) as its preseason players off the year.
Big Ten media days kick off Monday in Chicago.
Cleveland.com polling results
BIG TEN EAST
1. Ohio State, 191.5 points (23.5 first-place votes)
2. Michigan State, 142 points (2)
3. Penn State, 141.5 points (1)
4. Michigan, 140.5 points (1.5)
5. Maryland, 75.5 points
6. Indiana, 60 points
7. Rutgers, 33 points
BIG TEN WEST
1. Wisconsin, 196 points (28 first-place votes)
2. Iowa, 155 points
3. Northwestern, 138 points
4. Nebraska, 104 points
5. Purdue, 98.5 points
6. Minnesota, 64.5 points
7. Illinois, 28 points
Ohio State over Wisconsin (14)
Wisconsin over Ohio State (9)
Wisconsin over Michigan (2)
Wisconsin over Penn State (1)
Wisconsin over Michigan State (1)
Michigan State over Wisconsin (1)