Even with a lighter Big Ten schedule this year, the Gophers are listed as heavy underdogs in the Big Ten West.

Minnesota was picked fifth in the division — behind Iowa, Nebraska, Wisconsin and Northwestern — in the annual preseason media poll released Friday by Cleveland.com.

The Gophers also were picked fifth two years ago, when they went 5-3 in conference play, losing a decisive game to Wisconsin for the division title.

Last year, the media picked the Gophers third in the West, and they went 2-6 in conference play, tying for fifth place.

This year, the Big Ten is switching to a nine-game conference schedule. After drawing interdivision games against heavyweights Ohio State and Michigan the past two years, the Gophers appear to have a lighter load this year, facing Penn State, Maryland and Rutgers from the East.

Tracy Claeys is entering his first full season as Minnesota's coach, and senior Mitch Leidner returns at quarterback for a squad with a new offensive coordinator, Jay Johnson.

The media picked Ohio State to win the Big Ten championship. The Buckeyes received 27 of 39 votes despite losing 16 starters from last year's team. The Buckeyes were picked first in the East, followed by Michigan and defending conference champion Michigan State.

Big Ten Media Days run next Monday and Tuesday in Chicago.

Two linemen added

The Gophers received two verbal commitments Friday, giving them 10 for the Class of 2017. Brett Kitrell, an offensive lineman from Ashland-Greenwood in Nebraska, committed over reported offers from Central Florida, Air Force and Ohio. And Joshua Croslen, a defensive tackle from Steele High School in Cibolo, Texas, chose the Gophers over reported offers from Houston, Rice, SMU and Colorado State.

Both players, consensus three-star recruits, announced their decisions on Twitter.