Ohio State overwhelming favorites in Big Ten preseason poll, dominates watch lists

Gregory Shamus

Ohio State lost their starting running back and could lose an All-American cornerback, but still have the best offensive player and best defensive player in the Big Ten and are the media's pick to win the conference.

Ohio State's off-the-field issues don't bother those in charge of predicting the Big Ten. The Buckeyes projected to win the conference nearly unanimously, per an unofficial poll put together by the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and was the only school to put three players on the watch lists released by the conference.

Here's how voters picked the order of finish in each conference in the Plain Dealer poll, with the amount of first-place votes received in parentheses:

Leaders Division

1. Ohio State (26)

2. Wisconsin (1)

3. Penn State

4. Indiana

5. Purdue

6. Illinois

Legends Division

1. Michigan (14)

2. Nebraska (14)

3. Michigan State (4)

4. Northwestern

5. Iowa

6. Minnesota

One voter picked Ohio State and Wisconsin to tie at the top of the Leaders Division, but all 26 writers picked the Buckeyes to represent the division in the Big Ten Championship game. Michigan won the conference on the only ballot that didn't select Ohio State as the champion.

Although Doak Walker watch list running back Carlos Hyde and 2012 All-American cornerback Bradley Roby are two of the players in trouble at Ohio State, voters think the Buckeyes would still have the conference's most important player on offense and defense. 24 of 26 voters in the Plain Dealer selected quarterback Braxton Miller as the conference's preseason offensive player of the year, while linebacker Ryan Shazier won defensive player of the year by a healthy margin. Roby received two votes for defensive player of the year, but that was well off the 16 Shazier received.

Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez and Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner earned the other two votes for conference player of the year, while Wisconsin linebacker Chris Borland, Michigan State linebacker Max Bullough and Northwestern defensive end Tyler Scott received four, three and one vote(s) for defensive player of the year, respectively. Roby received a pair of votes, despite his uncertain status with the Buckeyes.

The conference didn't release preseason all-conference teams, but did make a watch list of important players, regardless of position. Here are their lists, by division:

Legends:

Devin Gardner, QB, Michigan
Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Max Bullough, LB, Michigan State
Taylor Martinez, QB, Nebraska
Venric Mark, RB, Northwestern

Leaders

Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State
Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
Ryan Borland, LB, Wisconsin
Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State

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