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COLUMN

Nearly perfect – Ohio State big favorite to win Big Ten title

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For more on college sports, follow Pete DiPrimio via Twitter at www.twitter.com/pdiprimio

Indiana is picked to be the league's surprise football team

Tuesday, July 23, 2013 - 9:56 pm

Do you believe sports writers are never wrong, especially when it comes to predicting Big Ten football outcomes?

Are you convinced they write stories while walking on water?

Then go ahead and bet the family savings account -- for security reasons don't tell your spouse -- because Ohio State is the overwhelming favorite to win the Leaders Division and then the Big Ten title game.

That's the word from 26 veteran Big Ten sports writers in a poll conducted by Doug Lesmerises of the Cleveland Plain Dealer ahead of this week's Big Ten football media day event in Chicago.

In other words, so let it be written, so let it be done.

And speaking of actor Yul Brynner as the Egyptian pharaoh Rameses (hey, how often do you get a chance to reference the movie "The Ten Commandments" in a column?), Indiana was picked to be the Big Ten's most surprising team.

Thirteen sports writers, at least one of whom has yet to be wrong this century (we don't like to brag, so we won't identify who it is), have the Hoosiers making a big turnaround in coach Kevin Wilson's third season. They previously were 1-12 and 4-8.

All signs point to IU making its first bowl game since 2007 (when former Elmhurst standout James Hardy was the All-America receiver) and just the second since 1993.

Purdue, under new coach Darrell Hazell, got two votes to tie Michigan State for third in the surprising category. Northwestern had six. The Boilers finished 6-7 last year, mostly under former coach Danny Hope (he was fired before the Heart of Dallas Bowl loss to Oklahoma State). If Hazell can find a consistent quarterback (veteran Rob Henry and heralded freshman Danny Etling are the main contenders) and get some decent offensive line play, Purdue might challenge for a third straight bowl appearance.

One big question -- can the Boilers survive a brutal non-conference schedule that includes a trip to Cincinnati, and home games against Notre Dame and Northern Illinois?

If Hazell's recruiting success is any indication -- he got standout defensive end Gelen Robinson to commit, and is favored to land Carroll safety Drue Tranquill to commit tonight -- Purdue might better than expected.

Despite returning only four starters from a pass-vulnerable defense, Ohio State got all 26 votes to win the Leaders Division (IU was picked fourth and Purdue was fifth). Only one writer picked against the Buckeyes to win the Big Ten title game. That vote went to Michigan.

The Wolverines were picked to edge Nebraska for the Legends title.

Ohio State was the only team in the country to go undefeated last year, finishing 12-0. The Buckeyes missed a chance to play in the Big Ten title game, and vie for a national championship, because of a postseason ban as punishment for former coach Jim Tressel's transgressions.

However, off-field issues remain, this time under coach Urban Meyer. The Columbus Dispatch reported that running back Carlos Hyde was suspended indefinitely after being named a person of interest in an alleged assault against a woman in a bar in Columbus. Hyde, who hasn't been charged, rushed for 970 yards and 16 touchdowns last season.

Also, cornerback Bradley Roby was arrested in Bloomington on Sunday on charges of battery resulting in bodily injury for his role in a fight. Roby was a first-team all-conference selection last season. His status with the team is uncertain. He won't attend this week's Big Ten media gathering.

Another player, tight end Marcus Baugh, was suspended for the season opener against Buffalo after being arrested for underage possession of alcohol and possession of a fake ID. Defensive lineman Tim Gardner was kicked off the team following an arrest last weekend on charges of obstructing official police business.

Despite the turmoil, Meyer was voted as the Big Ten's best coach, getting 21 of 26 first-place votes.

Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller got 24 of 26 votes to overwhelmingly win preseason offensive player of the year. Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner and Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez got the other two votes.

Miller threw for 2,039 yards and rushed for 1,271. He is the Big Ten's top returning rusher. He averaged 276 yards of total offense a game, second to Martinez's 278.

The Buckeyes also had the projected defensive MVP in linebacker Ryan Shazier. He got 16 votes. Wisconsin linebacker Chris Borland was second with four.

Shazier was second in the Big Ten by averaging 9.6 tackles a game. He had 115 total tackles. Borland averaged 8.7 tackles a game.

All this will be discussed at length on Wednesday and Thursday during the Big Ten football event at downtown Chicago's Hilton.

What does all this mean in the big picture? Consider Big Ten sports writers are 1-for-4 in picking division winners and 0-for-2 in picking the conference title game winner.

Hey, walking on water is tough.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Pete DiPrimio at pdiprimio@news-sentinel.com.