We’re another step closer to the start of the season.

Another hurdle was cleared on Monday when the Associated Press released its preseason poll for the 2021 season. Five B1G teams were included in the Top 25 with two others receiving votes. A quick glimpse:

  • No. 4 Ohio State
  • No. 12 Wisconsin
  • No. 17 Indiana
  • No. 18 Iowa
  • No. 19 Penn State
  • RV: Michigan (12)
  • RV: Northwestern (8)

After looking over those rankings, I had a few quick thoughts about the preseason poll. Here are five B1G takeaways from the AP’s first Top 25 of 2021:

The B1G (and Pac-12) is on par with the “mighty” SEC

Once again, the SEC is going to be perceived as the best football conference in America, but the preseason perception isn’t that much different from the B1G. Both conferences had five teams ranked in the AP Poll on Monday. The Pac-12 also hit that number.

Yes, there was quite a disparity in where those teams fell. The SEC placed three teams in the Top 6 (No. 1 Alabama, No. 5 Georgia & No. 6 Texas A&M) and all five were within the Top 16. Ohio State (No. 4) was the B1G’s only Top 10 squad and three teams were outside of the Top 15 (No. 17 Indiana, No. 18 Iowa & No. 19 Penn State).

The SEC might have more contenders for the College Football Playoff (at least right now), but it’s fair to say the B1G is just, top to bottom, heading into the 2021 season.

Someone believes Ohio State is the best team in the country

First-place votes were scattered among five different teams in the preseason poll. The Crimson Tide received a majority of those, with Oklahoma, Clemson and Georgia also getting multiple votes. Ohio State did get one, though.

Read More

There is big news coming to the upcoming 2022-23 Big Ten football season (and NFL season). Ohio online sports betting will be officially launching on January 1, 2023. Ohio will join other Big Ten states where sports betting has become legalized such as Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois and more.

There’s no question Ohio State is the B1G favorite and a major national title challenger again this season. It’s interesting, however, that the Buckeyes received a first-place vote after losing quarterback Justin Fields, running back Trey Sermon, an entire linebacker corps and some pieces along the defensive line.

Would it be surprising if Ryan Day had the Buckeyes playing like the No. 1 team in the country at some point in the season? Not at all. There are too many questions to anoint them with that title right now.

A pair of Top 25 showdowns in Week 1

Lights, camera, action. Indiana, Iowa, Penn State and Wisconsin won’t be wasting any time this fall, as all four will be part of an exciting start to the B1G season.

With all four teams falling in the Top 25, we have a pair of ranked showdowns in Week 1:

  • No. 17 Indiana vs. No. 18 Iowa
  • No. 19 Penn State vs. No. 12 Wisconsin

Everyone anticipated this would be the case after last week’s USA TODAY Coaches Poll was released, but now it’s official. This is a great opportunity for all four programs to start the year with a signature win.

It’s also a great way to draw in fan interest early.

How quickly could Michigan and Northwestern climb into the rankings?

For the first time since 2015, Michigan was left out of the preseason AP Poll. And, as has become all-too-familiar, Northwestern was on the outside looking in despite winning the B1G West and finishing 7-2 in 2020. Both teams did receive votes, though.

That begs the question: how long would it take both teams to get into the rankings if they’re off to smooth starts?

Michigan is in a little better position. After a date with Western Michigan, the Wolverines will play No. 20 Washington in Ann Arbor. A 2-0 start with a victory over a ranked team probably propels Jim Harbaugh’s squad into the Top 25.

Northwestern does open with Michigan State, but it’s next three games are against Indiana State, Duke and Ohio. Is it crazy to think the Wildcats are 4-0 and are still left on the outside? At that point, it would be tough to keep Pat Fitzgerald’s team out, but stranger things have happened.

The preseason strength of schedule favors the B1G

So the B1G’s 9-game conference schedule isn’t tough enough for you, is it? How about the B1G playing 12 games against opponents that were ranked in the Top 25 or received votes? That’s more than 25% of the nonconference slate.

Here’s a quick look at those games:

  • No. 2 Oklahoma (vs. Nebraska)
  • No. 7 Iowa State (vs. No. 18 Iowa)
  • No. 8 Cincinnati (vs. No. 17 Indiana)
  • No. 9 Notre Dame (vs. Purdue; vs. No. 12 Wisconsin)
  • No. 11 Oregon (vs. No. 4 Ohio State)
  • No. 14 Miami (vs. Michigan State)
  • No. 20 Washington (vs. Michigan)
  • RV: Auburn (vs. No. 19 Penn State)
  • RV: Ball State (vs. No. 19 Penn State)
  • RV: West Virginia (vs. Maryland)
  • RV: Army (vs. No. 12 Wisconsin)

It’s a great opportunity for the B1G to flex its muscle early in the season and prove it’s the best conference in college football. And, if the league wins a majority of those contests — or at least finishes above .500 — it should reap the benefits when the initial College Football Playoff rankings are released. You’d like to think that, at least.

This is as tough of a nonconference schedule as the B1G has faced as a league. It’s a great chance to prove itself as a worthy contender to the SEC as the best conference in the sport.