Dienhart: Reaction to preseason Coaches Poll

Braxton Miller

The coaches poll came out today—and there weren’t many, if any, surprises. Five Big Ten teams are ranked: No. 2 Ohio State; No. 17 Michigan; No. 18 Nebraska; No. 22 Northwestern; No. 23 Wisconsin.

Alabama is No. 1. The Crimson Tide return a loaded roster from a national championship team. Alabama is college football’s “it” program, winning three national championships in the past four seasons. Any school that wants to win the last BCS title before a playoff begins in 2014 likely will have to walk through Nick Saban’s Tide.

Ohio State could be that team.

Coming off a 12-0 season, the Buckeyes look like a legit contender for their first national crown since 2002 in Urban Meyer’s second season in Columbus. Year Two has been kind to Meyer at previous stops. He went 12-0 at Utah in his second season in 2004 and won a national title at Florida in Year Two in 2006. And Jim Tressel was in his second season in Columbus when he won that national crown for the Buckeyes.

It’s a 15-spot drop to No. 17 Michigan to find the next Big Ten team. But that’s no shock. Ohio State really is the lone elite Big Ten team in 2013. And to see Nebraska (18) and Northwestern (22) bunched right behind the Wolverines makes sense. Either could win a Legends Division race that should be exhilarating.

I still like the Cornhuskers better than the Wolverines and Wildcats when it comes to picking the top squad in the Legends Division. No one part of Michigan’s team looks exceptional. But Nebraska looks to have one of the nation’s top offenses.

This looks to be the best Wildcats team in eons, coming off a 10-win season and the program’s first bowl win since the 1948 season. The offense is loaded with the likes of quarterback Kain Colter and running back Venric Mark, while the defense has perhaps its best collection of speed and athletic ability ever. But the schedule is a doozy, which in my mind mutes expectations in Evanston.

Wisconsin (23) could have been a bit higher. Perhaps the arrival of a new coach caused some consternation among voters. But Gary Andersen has inherited a loaded roster. There are questions at receiver on offense and in the secondary on defense. Still, coming off three Rose Bowls in a row and teeming with talent, I thought Wisconsin would be a bit higher.

Michigan State (28) was third among schools receiving votes. The issues on offense have to be why the Spartans are unranked. I wouldn’t have ranked MSU. But if that attack gets on track with new coordinators, MSU may be a surprise team that could win the Legends behind a defense that will be among the nation’s best.

No other Big Ten team received votes. And no other Big Ten team deserved to. Rutgers, which joins the Big Ten in 2014, got one vote.

About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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Your Opinion?
Show Comments (6 Comments)
Robert G on 8/1/2013 @ 12:29pm EDT Said:

Really? How could you possibly like a defenseless Nebraska better than Michigan? How have teams with bottom 50 defenses performed in the Big Ten in recent history?

Ryan Tell on 8/1/2013 @ 1:45pm EDT Said:

It’s one spot in a meaningless preseason poll, Robert…relax.

bob jones on 8/1/2013 @ 1:51pm EDT Said:

Wisconsin is the surprise team, I remember Bielema saying how excited he was about it with all of the returning talent. Plus they’ve won a few lately haven’t they? That seems to be the team getting the least respect at this point, they could be very, very good.

shookwriter27 on 8/1/2013 @ 2:14pm EDT Said:

I really wonder how many of these head coaches actually do their own voting. A lot of them don’t.

Success With Honor on 8/1/2013 @ 3:38pm EDT Said:

People really shouldn’t take Penn State lightly. Penn State has the best starting lineup in the conference and have a host of players that are in the top two at their positions, including a lot of number ones.

#1 End – Deion Barnes
#1 Tackle – Daquan Jones
#1 Outside Backer – Mike Hull
#1 Inside Backer – Glenn Carson
#1 Free Safety – Adrian Amos
#1 Strong Safety – Malcolm Willis
#2 O Tackle – Donovan Smith
#1 O Guard – John Urschell
#1 Tight End – Kyle Carter
#2 Tight End – Jesse James
#1 Receiver – Alan Robinson
#1 Running Back (tied) – Zack Zwinak

On top of that, Penn State has the top secondary, linebackers, D-line, O-line, Tight ends and receivers in the Big Ten bar none. Running backs are top three and there is no player with more upside than Hackenberg. Penn State also has the top coaching staff. If the QB comes along at a decent pace and they avoid injury in the defensive front seven, Penn State will almost certainly be the Big Ten’s best team.

Matthew Milko (@B1Gcast) on 8/2/2013 @ 1:52am EDT Said:

Penn State will be good, but they are lacking one key thing when it comes to a successful season…DEPTH! One or two of those players go down and it’s not gonna be easy for them. The fact that you have Zack Zwinak tied for #1 back in the B1G proves how little you know about this league.