COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State football begins the season with a first-time quarterback, an unsettled running back situation, and new starters at over half of its defensive positions.
Those unknowns do not lower the Buckeyes’ expectations within the Big Ten Conference.
Ohio State was the near-unanimous preseason favorite in the 2021 cleveland.com Preseason Big Ten Poll. All but one of the 34 members of our voting panel picked the Buckeyes — the four-time defending champions — to win the Big Ten East and the championship game.
(NOTE: Due to a tabulation error, Ohio State was originally credited with being the unanimous choice to win the Big Ten championship game.)
The voters picked Wisconsin as the West favorite with 29 first-place votes. Second-place Iowa received the other five first-place votes. One voter picked Wisconsin to defeat the Buckeyes in the Big Ten championship game.
Cleveland.com picked up the responsibility for organizing the poll for posterity when the Big Ten dropped it 11 years ago. The panel included at least one beat writer from all 14 Big Ten teams and a few who cover the entire league or have a national perspective.
Ohio State was voted the preseason favorite for the seventh time in the past nine years. It barely missed being the first the unanimous choice for champion since 2015. Michigan State won the Big Ten that season, as voters failed to predict the champion in each of the first six polls.
Each writer was asked to vote 1-7 in both divisions, with first-place votes worth seven points, second-place votes worth six and so on.
BIG TEN WEST
1. Wisconsin (29 first-place votes) 233 points
2. Iowa (5) 202
3. Northwestern 160
4. Minnesota 146
5. Nebraska 91.5
6. Purdue 72.5
7. Illinois 47
BIG TEN EAST
1. Ohio State (34 first-place votes) 238
2. Penn State 192
3. Indiana 169
4. Michigan 144
5. Maryland 79
6. Rutgers 77.5
7. Michigan State 52.5
BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
Ohio State over Wisconsin (28)
Ohio State over Iowa (5)
Wisconsin over Ohio State (1)
OTHER POLL NOTES
• Iowa received votes to finish anywhere from first to fifth in the West. Rutgers was the most polarizing team in the East, picked to finish anywhere from third to last.
• Many voters presumably had to make a choice between Penn State and Indiana for second place in the East. They chose the Nittany Lions by a 23-11 margin on second-place votes.
• Only one voter (cleveland.com’s Doug Lesmerises) correctly picked Northwestern to win the West in the 2020 poll. Wisconsin and Minnesota were considered the division’s top two contenders, and the consensus vote picked the Wildcats to finish fifth. Instead, they reached the Big Ten championship game for the second time in three years.
Looking back at the poll’s history, here are the favorites and the eventual league champions since the divisional split, the introduction of the title game and the Big Ten shirking a full preseason ranking.
2020: Pick: Ohio State. Actual: Ohio State
2019: Pick: Michigan. Actual: Ohio State
2018: Pick: Ohio State. Actual: Ohio State.
2017: Pick: Ohio State. Actual:…