The large majority of media members who cover the Big Ten don’t believe the University of Wisconsin will be able to navigate a tough schedule well enough to end the season in Indianapolis.
In a Cleveland.com survey of 39 voters who cover the conference, the Badgers were picked to finish third in the division behind Iowa and Nebraska. The Hawkeyes won the West last season after a 12-0 regular season, while Nebraska struggled to a 5-7 mark.
Ohio State received 27 votes to become the overwhelming favorite to win the Big Ten, while 24 of those voters thought the Buckeyes would defeat Iowa in the Big Ten Championship game. Eleven picked Michigan to win the conference, while the other vote went to the Hawkeyes.
Only three of the 39 voters selected UW to win the Western division. Northwestern was picked to finish fourth in division, followed by Minnesota, Illinois and Purdue.
Michigan was picked to finish second in the Eastern division, followed by Michigan State, Penn State, Indiana, Maryland and Rutgers. The Badgers will face Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State in cross-division conference games this season.
The Cleveland.com poll has failed to pick the correct Big Ten champion in five tries. Ohio State was also the pick of media members last season before Michigan State went on to win the conference. Iowa, who lost to the Spartans in the title game, was picked to finish fourth in the Western division a year ago.
This group of media members also voted on Big Ten preseason offensive and defensive players of the year.
Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett was the clear choice on the offensive side of the ball. He finished with 34 of 39 first-place votes and earned more than double the point total of second-place Saquon Barkley of Penn State.
Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard finished third, followed by Northwestern running back Justin Jackson and UW running back Corey Clement.
Clement, who rushed for 949 yards and nine touchdowns while backing up Melvin Gordon in 2014, missed most of last season due to injury but has also earned watch-list honors for the Doak Walker and Maxwell awards over the past few weeks.
Michigan linebacker Jabrill Peppers edged out Iowa cornerback Desmond King for top honors on defense. King earned 16 first-place votes to Peppers’ 13, but Peppers received more second-place votes and finished with five more total points.
Michigan State defensive lineman Malik McDowell finished third in the voting, followed by Ohio State linebacker Raekwon McMillan, Michigan cornerback Jourdan Lewis and Northwestern linebacker Anthony Walker.
The poll correctly picked Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott as the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year in 2015 but selected Buckeyes defensive lineman Joey Bosa in the preseason over eventual Defensive Player of the Year winner Carl Nassib of Penn State.