The Gophers football team finished 5-7 overall and 2-7 in the Big Ten in P.J. Fleck’s first season as head coach in 2017. That put Minnesota ahead of only Illinois (0-9 in the conference) in the Big Ten West.
The experts do not believe things will get much better for the Gophers in 2018.
Cleveland.com’s annual preseason poll of 28 sportswriters who cover the Big Ten has the Gophers finishing ahead of only, you guessed it, Illinois in the West. Wisconsin was the unanimous choice to win the West. Ohio State received 23.5 first-place votes to win the East with one voter picking the Buckeyes and Michigan to tie for first. Michigan State (2), Penn State (1) and Michigan (1) also got first-place votes.
Ohio State won the Big Ten Championship game last December beating Wisconsin by six points. In the Cleveland.com poll, Ohio State received 14 votes to win the Big Ten this season and Wisconsin had 13. Michigan State got the only other vote.
Cleveland.com started doing a preseason poll eight years ago when the Big Ten stopped doing its own. The conference will release a list of players to watch next week during its preseason media event on Monday and Tuesday in Chicago.
Here is how the voting looked by division.
BIG TEN EAST
1. Ohio State, 191.5 points (23.5 first-place votes)
2. Michigan State, 142 points (2)
3. Penn State, 141.5 points (1)
4. Michigan, 140.5 points (1.5)
5. Maryland, 75.5 points
6. Indiana, 60 points
7. Rutgers, 33 points
BIG TEN WEST
1. Wisconsin, 196 points (28 first-place votes)
2. Iowa, 155 points
3. Northwestern, 138 points
4. Nebraska, 104 points
5. Purdue, 98.5 points
6. Minnesota, 64.5 points
7. Illinois, 28 points