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 was 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 ESPN.com — released Monday by the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

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

Ohio State was a near unanimous pick this year 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.

The writers selected Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller as the Big Ten’s preseason offensive player of the year, and Buckeyes linebacker Ryan Shazier as the preseason defensive player of the year. Indiana was picked as the team most likely to surprise, while Michigan State was voted the team most likely to disappoint.

JOE CHRISTENSEN