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Nebraska returns a three-year starter at quarterback in Adrian Martinez and eight of its top 10 tacklers from the 2020 season.
Even so, Big Ten media members are unconvinced the Huskers have the goods to capture the West Division.
Nebraska, 3-5 a year ago, is picked to finish fifth in the seven-team division in the 2021 cleveland.com Preseason Big Ten Poll. Each of the 34 voters was asked to vote No. 1 through No. 7 in both divisions, with first-place votes worth seven points, second-place votes worth six, and so on.
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Wisconsin was the clear-cut choice to capture the West, receiving 29 first-place votes and a total of 233 points. Iowa was picked to finish second, picking up five first-place votes and 202 points.
Northwestern, last year's Big Ten West first-place finisher, was picked to wind up third (160 points), followed by Minnesota (146) and Nebraska (91½).
Nebraska opens the season Aug. 28 at Illinois, which was picked last in the West with 47 points, far behind sixth-place pick Purdue (72½).
Meanwhile, Ohio State, the national runner-up in 2020, was the unanimous choice among all 34 voters to win the Big Ten East Division and go on to win the conference championship game. The Buckeyes are the four-time defending league champions but will begin the season with a new quarterback, an unsettled running back position and new starters at more than half of their defensive positions.
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Ohio State was voted the preseason favorite for the seventh time in the past nine years. However, according to cleveland.com, it had not been the unanimous choice for champion since 2015.
The Buckeyes have a wealth of talent at the receiver positions, led by Chris Olave, who was voted preseason Big Ten player of the year by cleveland.com voters. Northwestern safety Brandon Joseph was the choice on defense.
Cleveland.com picked up the responsibility for organizing the poll when the Big Ten dropped it 11 years ago. The panel, according to the website, included at least one beat writer from all 14 Big Ten teams and a few who cover the entire league or have a national perspective.
BIG TEN WEST
1. Wisconsin (29 first-place votes), 233 points
2. Iowa (5), 202
3. Northwestern, 160
4. Minnesota, 146
5. Nebraska, 91½
6. Purdue, 72½
7. Illinois, 47
BIG TEN EAST
1. Ohio State (34), 238
2. Penn State, 192
3. Indiana, 169
4. Michigan, 144
5. Maryland, 79
6. Rutgers, 77½
7. Michigan State, 52½
BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
Ohio State over Wisconsin (29 voters)
Ohio State over Iowa (5)