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Riley

Nebraska head coach Mike Riley walks from sideline to sideline during the Red-White Spring Game in April.

Nebraska will fail to finish first in its Big Ten division for a fifth straight year.

That was the overwhelming sentiment of the 38 voters from around the conference who participated in the seventh annual cleveland.com preseason football poll. Results were released Friday morning.

As expected, Wisconsin was the pick in the Big Ten West, receiving 31 first-place votes and 259 points. The Badgers were followed by Northwestern with 219 points and five first-place votes, Nebraska (176.5, 2) and Iowa (164.5).

Ohio State was the runaway pick to win the East, receiving 34 first-place votes. The Buckeyes received 260 points in all and were followed by Penn State (231.5) and Michigan (192).

Ohio State was predicted to win the Big Ten by 29 voters.

What's more, the Buckeyes boast the preseason defensive player of the year in end Tyquan Lewis, who edged Iowa linebacker Josey Jewell in the voting. Penn State running back Saquon Barkley was the overwhelming choice for offensive player of the year.

Nebraska was picked to finish second in the West behind Iowa in this poll last season. The poll serves as the closest thing to an official Big Ten prediction, because the league doesn't conduct its own balloting.

Count Gerry DiNardo, the BTN analyst and former college coach, among those who would be surprised if the Huskers finished first in their division for the first time since winning the Legends Division in 2012.

Exactly how surprised would he be?

"Medium to high," he said this week during an appearance on "Early Break" (93.7 FM The Ticket).

Like most prognosticators, DiNardo — who wasn't a voter in the cleveland.com poll — likes Wisconsin to win the West.

As for Nebraska, DiNardo said, "I think the big picture is this: When you hire an established coach like Mike (Riley), the one thing you expect is staff stability and scheme stability. We've seen neither this year. He's changed schemes on both sides of the ball, and there's one defensive coach left from the (original) staff. I think that slows up the progress.

"It's not anybody's fault," DiNardo added. "Mike played the cards he had, which was the fact Tommy Armstrong was their best quarterback (in 2015 and 2016), but he wasn't the style Mike wanted. But to not play Armstrong, and not to play his style, would have been a bigger mistake."

As for the January firing of Nebraska defensive coordinator Mark Banker, DiNardo regarded it as a shocking development. Banker had coached alongside Riley for several years at Oregon State and elsewhere.

However, "When you're at Nebraska, you can afford to hire a different staff than you can afford to hire at Oregon State," DiNardo said.

DiNardo is like a lot of Nebraska fans in that he's interested to see how smoothly the Huskers adapt to all the change.

As usual, Ohio State is expected to have a smoother ride than everyone else in the Big Ten. But it should be noted that the cleveland.com poll is 0-for-6 in picking the conference champion.

Here are the full standings as predicted by the voters. All voters ranked teams one through seven and could include ties. Points were assigned on a reserve basis, with seven points for first place, six for second and so on.

EAST DIVISION

1. Ohio State, 260 points (34 first-place votes)

2. Penn State, 231½ (7)

3. Michigan, 192 (1)

4. Michigan State, 128

5. Indiana, 114

6. Maryland, 100½

7. Rutgers, 38

(first-place votes equal more than 38 because of some ties for first)

WEST DIVISION

1. Wisconsin, 259 points (31 first-place votes)

2. Northwestern, 219 (5)

3. Nebraska, 176½ (2)

4. Iowa, 164.5

5. Minnesota, 131

6. Purdue, 57

6. Illinois, 57

BIG TEN CHAMPION

Ohio State (29 votes)

Wisconsin (4)

Penn State (4)

Michigan (1)

BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

Ohio State over Wisconsin (22 votes)

Ohio State over Northwestern (5)

Ohio State over Nebraska (2)

Wisconsin over Ohio State (3)

Wisconsin over Penn State (1)

Penn State over Wisconsin (4)

Michigan over Wisconsin (1)

COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF

26 voters said Ohio State will make playoff

4 said Wisconsin will make playoff

3 said Penn State will make playoff

1 said Michigan will make playoff

3 said both Ohio State and Penn State will make playoff

1 said both Ohio State and Wisconsin will make playoff

No voters said the Big Ten will have zero playoff teams

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Saquon Barkley, Penn State, 103 points (30 first-place votes)

J.T. Barrett, Ohio State, 59 points (5 first-place votes)

Trace McSorley, Penn State, 30 points (2 first-place votes)

Justin Jackson, Northwestern, 25 points, (1 first-place vote)

Mike Weber, Ohio State, 2 points

L.J. Scott, Michigan State, 2 points

Alex Hornibrook, Wisconsin, 2 points

Rodney Smith, Minnesota, 2 points

Troy Fumagalli, Wisconsin, 1 point

Simmie Cobbs, Indiana, 1 point

Jamarco Jones, Ohio State, 1 point

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Tyquan Lewis, Ohio State, 61 points (12 first-place votes)

Josey Jewell, Iowa, 59 points (11 first-place votes)

Rashan Gary, Michigan, 23 points (3 first-place votes)

Tegray Scales, Indiana, 19 points (4 first-place votes)

Jerome Baker, Ohio State, 12 points (2 first-place votes)

Sam Hubbard, Ohio State, 11 points (2 first-place votes)

Jack Cichy, Wisconsin, 10 points (1 first-place vote)

Maurice Hurst, Michigan, 9 points (1 first-place vote)

Marcus Allen, Penn State, 9 points

T.J. Edwards, Wisconsin, 7 points (1 first-place vote)

Nick Bosa, Ohio State, 4 points (1 first-place vote)

Godwin Igwebuike, Northwestern, 2 points

Steven Richardson, Minnesota, 1 point

Blessuan Austin, Rutgers, 1 point

Reach the writer at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraSip.

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Husker columnist

Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.

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