According to the newspaper reporters covering the Big Ten, Nebraska and Wisconsin are locks to meet in the conference's inaugural title game, but the outcome of that game is far more uncertain.
     But the two dozen beat writers were almost unanimous about one thing: Jerry Kill won't rescue the Gophers from last place this year.
     Nebraska was the predicted champion of 12 of the 24 writers, two from each Big Ten city, in a poll organized by the Cleveland Plain Dealer, while Wisconsin was chosen by 11 voters. The remaining championship vote went to Michigan State.
     The Big Ten normally surveys the league's media, but has chosen not to do so this season, prompting the first Big Ten Newspaper Poll. And 23 of the 24 voters projected Minnesota last in the Legends Division.
     Six-time defending champion Ohio State, which lost its coach, quarterback and reputation to scandal this summer, was picked by only one voter to win the Leaders Division, with Wisconsin nearly unanimous as champion, scooping up 22 of 24 votes. Nebraska received 19 votes in the Legends Division, with Michigan State polling four votes. A Wisconsin-Nebraska championship game was the prediction of 17 voters.
     The predicted order of finish, with points awarded on a 6-5-4 scale for each vote:
     Legends -- Nebraska (19 first-place votes) 139 points, Michigan State (4) 118, Iowa 82, Michigan (1) 71, Northwestern 69, Minnesota 25.
     Leaders -- Wisconsin (22) 141, Ohio State (1) 113, Penn State (1) 95, Illinois 76, Purdue 52, Indiana 27.



     UPDATE: Denard Robinson ran away with the Offensive Player of the Year voting the same way he ran away from would-be tacklers. Robinson, Michigan's junior quarterback who broke several QB-rushing records last year, was the runaway choice to repeat as the league's top offensive player, picking up 14 of the 24 first-place votes.
     Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa, the league's first-team all-conference quarterback a year ago, finished a distant second, with four first-place votes and 26 points, half of Robinson's 52. Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins was third (2/18), followed by MSU running back Edwin Baker (1/16), Wisconsin running back Montee Ball (1/14), Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson (2/9), Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez (4 points), Wisconsin running back James White (2), Ohio State center Mike Brewster (2) and Penn State wide receiver Derek Moye (1).
     The choice for Defensive Player of the year was almost as clear-cut, though the player is far less well known in this league. Defensive tackle Jared Crick of Nebraska, who has recorded 9.5 sacks in each of the past two seasons, received 15 first-place votes and 58 points overall, well ahead of teammate Lavonte David, a linebacker who received seven first-place votes and 37 points. The Cornhuskers will be playing their first season in the Big Ten this fall.
     Defensive lineman Jerel Worthy of Michigan State was fourth with 10 points, while Iowa cornerback Shaun Prater (8 points) and Nebraska cornerback Alfonzo Dennard (7) each received one first-place vote. Ohio State defensive tackle John Simon was sixth (6), followed by Penn State linebacker Mike Mauti (5), Michigan defensive tackle Mike Martin (3) and Ohio State defensive end Nathan Williams (2).
     No Gophers received votes from the 24-member panel for either award.


     ONE MORE UPDATE: Bret Bielema is the conference's best coach, according to the survey of beat writers, though he received only seven of the 24 first-place votes. Voters were asked not to name a Coach of the Year, since that award normally goes to an overachieving team's coach, but to just list the three "best" coaches in the league right now.
     The task was made more difficult by the fact that four teams will be led by new coaches this year, and Nebraska is a relative unknown, at least as far as the Big Ten. But one notable result: Joe Paterno received only a single third-place vote.
     The results: Wisconsin's Bielema was first with 35 points, followed by Iowa's Kirk Ferentz (6 first-place votes, 31 points), Nebraska's Bo Pelini (3 and 30), Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald (4 and 27), Michigan State's Mark Dantonio (4 and 18), Michigan's Brady Hoke (2 points), and Paterno.


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