The Big Ten preseason poll comes out in the lead-up of Big Ten Media Day each year, and it’s always interesting to see where each program is at from a perception standpoint.

It’s Michigan’s year! Nebraska is back! Those were just a few of the takeaways from the poll that featured votes from 34 media members.

But that poll came out two months ago. Those takes are stale. Here’s what it looked like in July:


1. Michigan, 222 points (20 first-place votes)

2. Ohio State, 214 points (14)

3. Michigan State, 156 points

4. Penn State, 154 points

5. Indiana, 86.5 points

6. Maryland, 82.5 points

7. Rutgers, 37 points


1. Nebraska, 198 points (14 first-place votes)

2. Iowa, 194.5 points (14)

3. Wisconsin, 172.5 points (4)

4. Northwestern, 142.5 points (1)

5. Purdue, 110.5 points

6. Minnesota, 100 points (1)

7. Illinois, 34 points

Disclaimer: I did not vote in the media poll, but I did agree with a lot of it. I thought Michigan would win the Big Ten, I thought Nebraska would win the West and I thought Purdue and Minnesota would make things interesting in that division, which appeared to be one of the most wide open and balanced divisions in college football.

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Since most teams begin Big Ten play on Saturday, let’s pretend the poll was released this week. What would it look like? Let’s examine.

1. Michigan is not the favorite; Ohio State still undoubtedly is the top dog

It all lined up so perfectly this year for Michigan. An experienced quarterback with arguably Jim Harbaugh’s most talented team would finally break through and win the Big Ten like those fans have been waiting for the last four seasons. Harbaugh even handed over the keys to his offense to up-and-coming assistant Josh Gattis, who drew high marks during his stints with Penn State and Alabama.

And Ohio State, while very talented as well, lost a quarterback to the first round of the NFL Draft and lost its head coach. Remember last time Ohio State had to transition from a legendary coach? It did not go so well.

But then the season started. Michigan nearly (or should have) lost to Army and has looked sloppy on offense. Plus, Georgia transfer Justin Fields has looked terrific for the Buckeyes, and Ryan Day seems to have a grip on this head coaching thing.

Translated: It’s still Ohio State’s Big Ten until further notice.

2. Nebraska is not back

The media narrowly voted Nebraska as the favorite in the West, with some even picking it to win the Big Ten championship game, but it’s clear that the Huskers are not the top team in the West. At best, they are the No. 3 team in that division, and if the West hadn’t been so underwhelming thus far, they would probably be even lower.

We all pointed to what Scott Frost did in his second year in UCF and what the Huskers did in the second half of 2018, how Adrian Martinez looked in the final six games. He was a Heisman candidate. But the sophomore QB has started slow, with a lackluster performance against South Alabama and then a poor finish at Colorado. Unless he goes crazy in Big Ten play, Martinez has probably already played his way out of that discussion.

Nebraska isn’t a team that looks ready to fulfill those lofty expectations quite yet. When the schedule came out, that game against Ohio State looked like one to circle on the calendar for casual fans. Now, let’s just hope Nebraska can keep it close.

It’s early, but I don’t like how sluggish Nebraska looked in the opener and how it blew a 17-point lead in the second half at Colorado. The schedule lines up well for the Huskers and they should win some games, but this isn’t a team ready to go 10-2.

3. Wisconsin was very underrated

The Badgers were voted third in the West — with a new quarterback and a relatively inexperienced squad — and that prediction seems silly now. Claiming Wisconsin as the third-best team in the entire Big Ten is probably underrating the Badgers at this point.

It’s obviously very early as the Badgers have only played two games, but they are the only team in the country to not allow a point this season. Jonathan Taylor looks like a Heisman candidate, and Quintez Cephus has been terrific thus far.

And Cephus is one reason why Wisconsin wasn’t picked to win the West. Back in July, Cephus wasn’t with the program yet. In August, he was found not guilty of two counts of sexual assault and then was reinstated to the university and football team after missing all of last year. In the first two games, Cephus has looked like a stud, totaling 169 yards and two touchdowns. And those numbers could be even bigger if not for Jack Coan missing him on a few throws in the South Florida game.

Speaking of Coan, if he continues to improve, I’d be surprised if the Badgers aren’t playing Ohio State for the Big Ten title. The schedule lines up well for Wisconsin too, even though it has a tough crossover schedule with Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State. It gets Iowa, Michigan, Northwestern, Michigan State and Purdue all at home. It’s manageable.

Wisconsin is the second-best team in Big Ten, and I think it will show that on Saturday against Michigan.

4. The West is not wide open and balanced, it’s top-heavy

As explained above, Wisconsin has separated itself in the West, and I think Iowa is right up there too. Then in that next tier, I think Nebraska, Northwestern, Minnesota and Purdue are significantly lower. Purdue doesn’t even belong in that group until it gets Elijah Sindelar back at quarterback.

Remember the preseason when the West appeared to be one of the most balanced divisions in college football? No one thought you were crazy for picking Minnesota or Northwestern, because who really knew?

But if the first three weeks have taught us anything, it’s the same as it ever was. Wisconsin has been the second-best team in the Big Ten in the last three years (21-6 in conference play), five years (34-9) and 10 years (62-21).

If I had to vote right now, here’s how I would do it:


1. Ohio State

2. Michigan

3. Michigan State

4. Penn State

5. Maryland

6. Indiana

7. Rutgers


1. Wisconsin

2. Iowa

3. Nebraska

4. Northwestern

5. Minnesota

6. Purdue

7. Illinois

It’s only been three weeks, some of these teams have only played two games. A lot could change. But I think this is a much more accurate representation of where the league stands than what we thought back in July.