The Gophers think they can build off last year’s bowl game appearance and take another step forward in Year 3 of Jerry Kill’s rebuilding project this season, but beat writers from around the Big Ten are skeptical.

Minnesota is picked to finish last in the Legends Division, behind Iowa, in the poll of 26 writers – two beat writers for each of the 12 Big Ten schools and two Big Ten bloggers from – that was released today by the Cleveland Plain Dealer (

The Plain Dealer started this poll in 2011, after the Big Ten conference stopped having writers pick the preseason conference favorite, as most conferences do.

(Note: I was one of the voters and picked the Gophers to finish fifth in the Legends Division, ahead of Iowa, but behind Nebraska, Michigan, Northwestern and Michigan State. Iowa and the Gophers finished tied for last in the Legends Division last year with 2-6 conference records.)

Ohio State is a near unanimous pick to win the Leaders Division and the Big Ten Championship Game, which will be played Dec. 7 in Indianapolis. One writer picked Ohio State and Wisconsin to tie for the division title, with the Badgers winning the tiebreaker. Here are the predictions, with total points and first-place votes:

Legends Division
1. Michigan 135.5 (14)
2. Nebraska 132.5 (14)
3. Michigan State 101.5 (4)
4. Northwestern 95.5
5. Iowa 43
6. Minnesota 38

Leaders Division
1. Ohio State 155.5 (26)
2. Wisconsin 128 (1)
3. Penn State 104
4. Indiana 74.5
5. Purdue 52.5
6. Illinois 31.5

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