Ohio State football voted unanimous 2021 Big Ten favorite in cleveland.com preseason poll

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cleveland.com 21 July, 2021 - 04:06am 7 views

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State football begins the season with a first-time quarterback, an unsettled running back situation, and new starters at over half of its defensive positions.

Those unknowns do not lower the Buckeyes’ expectations within the Big Ten Conference.

Ohio State is the unanimous preseason favorite in the 2021 cleveland.com Preseason Big Ten Poll. All 34 members of our voting panel picked the Buckeyes — the four-time defending champions — to win the Big Ten East and the championship game.

The voters picked Wisconsin as the West favorite with 29 first-place votes. Second-place Iowa received the other five first-place votes.

Cleveland.com picked up the responsibility for organizing the poll for posterity when the Big Ten dropped it 11 years ago. The panel included at least one beat writer from all 14 Big Ten teams and a few who cover the entire league or have a national perspective.

• Ohio State football’s Chris Olave voted Preseason Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year in cleveland.com poll

• Northwestern safety Brandon Joseph voted Preseason Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in cleveland.com poll

Ohio State was voted the preseason favorite for the seventh time in the past nine years. However, it had not been the unanimous choice for champion since 2015. Michigan State won the Big Ten that season, as voters failed to predict the champion in each of the first six polls.

Each writer was asked to vote 1-7 in both divisions, with first-place votes worth seven points, second-place votes worth six and so on.

1. Wisconsin (29 first-place votes) 233 points

1. Ohio State (34 first-place votes) 238

• Iowa received votes to finish anywhere from first to fifth in the West. Rutgers was the most polarizing team in the East, picked to finish anywhere from third to last.

• Many voters presumably had to make a choice between Penn State and Indiana for second place in the East. They chose the Nittany Lions by a 23-11 margin on second-place votes.

• Only one voter (cleveland.com’s Doug Lesmerises) correctly picked Northwestern to win the West in the 2020 poll. Wisconsin and Minnesota were considered the division’s top two contenders, and the consensus vote picked the Wildcats to finish fifth. Instead, they reached the Big Ten championship game for the second time in three years.

Looking back at the poll’s history, here are the favorites and the eventual league champions since the divisional split, the introduction of the title game and the Big Ten shirking a full preseason ranking.

2020: Pick: Ohio State. Actual: Ohio State

2019: Pick: Michigan. Actual: Ohio State

2018: Pick: Ohio State. Actual: Ohio State.

2017: Pick: Ohio State. Actual: Ohio State.

2016: Pick: Ohio State. Actual: Penn State.

2015: Pick: Ohio State. Actual: Michigan State.

2014: Pick: Michigan State. Actual: Ohio State.

2013: Pick: Ohio State. Actual: Michigan State.

2012: Pick: Michigan. Actual: Wisconsin.

2011: Pick: Nebraska. Actual: Wisconsin.

Fields’ Bears jersey: Ohio State football fans can purchase Justin Fields’ new Chicago Bears jersey here. It’s available in white, blue and orange – and in men’s, women’s and youth sizes. There’s also a cheaper T-shirt option.

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Read full article at cleveland.com

Ten B1G Questions: Thoughts On Ohio State’s Conference This Season And Beyond From Our Writers

Eleven Warriors 21 July, 2021 - 10:11am

Ryan Day versus the Big Ten has been a clean sweep through two years.

The third-year Ohio State head coach is unbeaten within conference play, and given the way he has recruited, the talent gap between the powerhouse in Columbus and the other 13 teams only continues to grow.

So, with Big Ten Media Days upon us, we gathered 11 Eleven Warriors writers together to answer 10 questions about Ohio State and the conference as a whole.

Kyle Jones: Ohio State wins the Big Ten East and Iowa wins the West with its two toughest cross-division games (Indiana and Penn State) taking place in Iowa City.

Jason Priestas: Absolutely. And it feels like a Wisconsin kind of year, so the Bucks will meet the Badgers in Indy.

Dan Hope: Yes. Northwestern – Wildcats benefit from a regular season schedule that doesn’t include Ohio State, Indiana or Penn State.

Andrew Ellis: Yes. Wisconsin will be the opponent.

George Eisner: The power dynamics may be shifting a bit around the division, but there remains no question that Ohio State is the team to beat in the East. The Big Ten West remains a dumpster fire, so don't count Northwestern out, but I would be shocked if Wisconsin doesn't make it to Indy for the seventh time in the last decade.

Garrick Hodge: Yes, Wisconsin.

Colin Hass-Hill: Yes. Graham Mertz and Wisconsin take the division title for the second time in three years.

Matt Gutridge: Since the conference split into the current East and West divisions, only Iowa (1), Northwestern (2) and Wisconsin (4) have represented the West. If history is an indicator, the Badgers will face the Buckeyes in December.

Ramzy Nasrallah: Yes and Iowa. Which, as long as they’re not playing in Iowa City should be fine.

Kevin Harrish: Yes, and they'll face Iowa and get their revenge against Kirk Ferentz, who is somehow still the coach.

Johnny Ginter: Ohio State has only one real competitor for the Big Ten East, and they looked like boiled ass for most of 2020. Wisconsin should be who they meet in the Big Ten title game, but they might underwhelm in 2021 the same way Minnesota and Penn State did last season.

Kyle: Northwestern’s Brandon Joseph earned all-conference honors and was PFF’s top-graded strong safety in the nation - Ohio State could absolutely use a player like that.

Jason: Give me Indiana’s Micah McFadden. Good size for a linebacker and he loves to blitz.

Dan: Indiana cornerback Tiawan Mullen – Mullen is the Big Ten’s best cornerback, and Ohio State’s secondary remains an area of concern.

Andrew: Northwestern safety Brandon Joseph would be my pick for this season. Five-star Wisconsin freshman offensive tackle Nolan Rucci would be my pick for down the road, however.

George: Brandon Joseph seems like the easy answer here. I'm sure the Buckeyes would welcome an All-American defensive back into a secondary craving some consistency and experience coming off a disappointing 2020 campaign.

Garrick: Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum. Defensive coordinators would have to engage eight every play to penetrate that line.

Colin: Brandon Joseph. This defense could use a reliable, playmaking defensive back like him.

Matt: JoJo Domann of Nebraska would be a nice addition for an inexperienced linebacker unit.

Ramzy: Give me Tiawan Mullen from Indiana, the Antoine Winfieldiest player in this year’s Big Ten.

Kevin: Brandon Joseph. Ohio State's secondary was decidedly ass last season and he's the best defensive back in the conference.

Johnny: Brandon Joseph was the Big Ten Freshman of the Year and had six interceptions in 2020. Which is one fewer than the entire Ohio State team. So, him.

Kyle: I don’t think it happens this year, but Maryland’s RPO-heavy attack is a very bad matchup for the Buckeye defense if it isn’t careful.

Jason: You trying to get everyone’s PTSD to kick in?

Dan: Indiana – Hoosiers haven’t beaten Ohio State since 1988, but I think Tom Allen changes that.

Andrew: Maryland. Mike Locksley is really known for one thing, and I think his recruiting could eventually pay off with an upset victory even though he’s not a good football coach.

George: This is a purely narrative-driven answer, but I can absolutely see Greg Schiano ruining yet another Ohio State football season at some point. I am going with Rutgers as a total wild card.

Garrick: Indiana.

Colin: Nebraska.

Matt: The game at Northwestern in November of 2022 might be the hiccup.

Ramzy: I refuse the answer this question. “Describe your mediocre murderer, and how hard people around the world will laugh at your grisly demise and shattered legacy.” No.

Kevin: Rutgers. Why not? I'm going all in.

Johnny: Don't put that evil on me.

Kyle: If Michael Penix Jr. stays healthy, I’ll go with him. If not, CJ Stroud.

Jason: Going out on a limb here and picking Wisconsin’s Graham Mertz.

Dan: Chris Olave. 

Andrew: C.J. Stroud.

George: Chris Olave should be in the NFL right now. I would not be surprised to see him become the first wide receiver to win this award since Braylon Edwards in 2004.

Garrick: Chris Olave.

Colin: C.J. Stroud.

Matt: Mohamed Ibrahim, the running back from Minnesota.

Ramzy: Chris Olave, Ohio State

Kevin: C.J. Stroud.

Johnny: Michael Penix would be the easy choice, which is why I think he's going to bork it and C.J. Stroud will end up with the trophy by virtue of throwing passes to the guy who actually deserves it but plays the wrong position, Chris Olave.

Kyle: Penn State has long been the closest in terms of talent and James Franklin always makes the Buckeyes work for a win.

Jason: Penn State. Ohio State plays them every season and the Bucks have to travel to the toughest road venue in the league five times every decade.

Dan: Penn State – Nittany Lions are back to recruiting at the level necessary to compete with Ohio State.

Andrew: Penn State.

George: Penn State is the sensible answer here, but Indiana is clearly on the rise and not to be taken lightly. I'll hedge and say those two schools will beat OSU an equal amount of times over the next decade.

Garrick: Hard to say anybody but Penn State. Maybe Michigan if it gets the next hire right after it inevitably fires Jim Harbaugh?

Colin: Penn State is the only answer.

Matt: At this moment, Penn State appears to be the team in the best position to beat the Buckeyes more than once.

Ramzy: This is easy, the answer is Ohio State.

Kevin: Penn State is the easy answer here, but it could really be anyone considering all it's going to take to claim this crown is like, two wins.

Johnny: Probably some infuriatingly mediocre program that ends up sticking their finger in Ohio State's eye for no good reason. Let's spin the roulette wheel and land it on Indiana.

Kyle: Seven.

Jason: Six.

Dan: Seven.

Andrew: Eight.

George: Not five, not six, not seven... I think eight is probably a fair number if Ryan Day sticks around for the long-haul.

Garrick: Eight? Not even Alabama wins the SEC every year.

Colin: Seven. More if Ohio State keeps recruiting at the absurd level it’s at right now.

Matt: The Buckeyes have won four consecutive league titles. I’ll double it and go with eight.

Ramzy: The Buckeyes actually had more during the Tressel decade (6) than the Meyer/Day one (5) on account of shared titles/no title game. Ohio State will win six B1G championships in the 2020s and squander the other four in hideous fashion.

Kevin: I'll say 8. But if that was the betting total, I'd take the over.

Johnny: I'd put the over/under at 5.5, but the Big Ten needs to get its act together to make even that look reasonable.

Kyle: Wisconsin.

Jason: Penn State

Dan: Penn State. 

Andrew: Penn State. 

George: My bold prediction is that the Big Ten West – which has not won this conference since 2012 – will go another decade without a champion of their own. I can see Indiana and Penn State each catching Ohio State with their pants down in an off year, and that will probably be enough to get both of them to the podium in separate seasons.

Garrick: Tie between Penn State and some random other team that has a fluke year.

Colin: Wisconsin. The best, most consistent team that doesn’t have to face the Buckeyes every year in the regular season.

Matt: Wisconsin

Ramzy: Texas. I mean, what’s the penalty for being wrong here.

Kevin: Wisconsin, simply because that's the best team that doesn't play Ohio State every year.

Johnny: Wisconsin, possibly in a three-way tie with two other teams with a grand total of one (1).

Kyle: If I’m not allowed to say Luke Fickell, I guess I’ll say Paul Chryst since he gets the most out of the talent at hand and would do some great things with the talent on the Ohio State roster.

Jason: I’m a huge Tom Allen fan. He’s done wonders in Bloomington, so you have to believe he could do even better with elite talent.

Dan: Pat Fitzgerald – I don’t think he’d leave Northwestern for another college job (if any job at all), but I think he’d be the best fit for Ohio State out of any other Big Ten coach.

Andrew: Pat Fitzgerald.

George: Tom Allen, because Pat Fitzgerald is the best version of himself at his alma mater, and everyone else is borderline radioactive. I would not touch James Franklin with a fifty foot pole.

Garrick: Give me James Franklin.

Colin: Can I take a risk and say Brian Hartline? I’ll go with Pat Fitzgerald.

Matt: Jim Harbaugh. Why Harbaugh? Think about it, Ohio State has never lost with him on the sideline. Serious answer is P.J. Fleck bringing his boat to the banks of the Olentangy.

Ramzy: Pat Fitzgerald, who would say no. Then Greg Schiano, who would also say no. Then PJ Fleck, who would say yes and a significant percentage of the fan base would burn down their houses.

Kevin: Jim Harbaugh because it would be incomprehensibly hilarious to see him maintain Ohio State's dominance after driving Michigan off a cliff as the Chosen One in Ann Arbor. If there are still Wolverine fans at that point, that would send them over the edge.

Johnny: James Franklin would do the best job, but the only real answer is Bret Bielema, a man far more attuned to the psyche of Ohio State fans than we'd like to admit.

Kyle: Nov. 19, 2022 at Maryland. Sandwiched between Wisconsin and Michigan on the weekend before Thanksgiving.

Jason: Oct. 1, 2022 at Penn State.

Dan: Oct. 23, 2021 at Indiana. Three years without a Big Ten loss is a long time, and this might be the Hoosiers’ best shot at the Buckeyes.

Andrew: October 28, 2023 at Wisconsin.

George: Nov. 27, 2021 at Michigan. Michigan's back is against the wall, they’re at a low point in terms of recent on-field product and program pride and the walls are closing in on Harbaugh as he drags his weathered cleats across yet another future NFL prospect's hardwood floor. Ryan Day allegedly threatened to hang 100 on them a year ago. If the history of this rivalry tells you anything, it's that there are few things more dangerous than a cornered Wolverine. Yes, I think Michigan does the impossible and ruins Ohio State's season in 2021.

Garrick: Oct. 1, 2022 at Penn State.

Colin: Oct. 28, 2023 at Wisconsin. Four-plus years unbeaten in the Big Ten is an absurd prediction, yes, but that’s the gap I see between Ohio State and the others.

Matt: Nov. 5, 2022 at Northwestern. If there’s a cold November rain, the Wildcats could pull off the upset.

Ramzy: Oct. 14, 2023 in West Lafayette. None of these questions were all that hard.

Kevin: Sept. 27, 2025 in Iowa City. I have no idea who's going to be playing in that game on either side, but I don't need to.

Johnny: Sept. 2, 2021 at Minnesota. I mean, probably not, but I'd be more okay with that than like, Purdue in late November. On the plus side Michigan is never beating Ohio State again, so that's nice.

Kyle: Ohio State 35, Iowa 21.

Jason: Ohio State 38, Wisconsin 24.

Dan: Ohio State 45, Northwestern 21.

Andrew: Ohio State 37, Wisconsin 20.

George: Ohio State wins regardless of opponent. Things can get funky over the course of a season, but as of right now I would be shocked if they fail to beat even Wisconsin by at least two touchdowns. Northwestern might drag them to overtime if only because they play beautifully cursed football.

Garrick: Ohio State 31, Wisconsin 17

Colin: Ohio State 35, Wisconsin 28.

Matt: Ohio State 38, Wisconsin 21.

Ramzy: Ohio State 24, Iowa 20

Kevin: Ohio State 48, Iowa 14

Johnny: Ohio State 38, Wisconsin, 21.

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IU football 2021 opponent profile: Rutgers

The Daily Hoosier 21 July, 2021 - 10:11am

Opponent: Rutgers

Date/Time/TV: Nov. 13, time and television TBA.

Location: Memorial Stadium, Bloomington. 

2020 record/bowl result: 3-6 overall, 3-6 in the Big Ten. No bowl game. 

Returning Starters, Offense (11): QB Noah Vedral, RB Isaih, Pacheco, WR Aron Cruickshank, WR Bo Melton, WR Shameen Jones, TE Jovani Haskins, LT Raiquon O’Neal, LG Cedrice Paillant, C Nick Krimin, RG Bryan Felter, RT Reggie Sutton.

Offensive Outlook: Rutgers returns all of its starters, but that doesn’t mean all of the Scarlet Knights returners are guaranteed to start in 2021. They finished 13th in the Big Ten in total offense with 339.1 yards per game, so after that performance, not too many players are safe. Quarterback Noah Vedral’s backup Artur Sitkowski transferred to Illinois, but he could be pushed by Evan Simon and Cole Snyder. The wide receivers will certainly be pushed by Josh Youngblood, a Kansas State transfer who was All-Big 12 as a kick returner. Temple transfer David Nwaogwugwu could make a push at each of the offensive tackle spots. Wide receivers Bo Melton (47 receptions, 638 yards, six touchdowns in 2020) and Aron Cruickshank seem to be in solid shape, however, and Isaih Pacheco is coming off a season in which he rushed for 515 yards and three touchdowns, so they have some good skill options.

Returning Starters, Defense (9): DE Mike Tverdov, DT Julius Turner, DE CJ Onyechi, LB Tyshon Fogg, LB Olakunle Fatukasi, CB Trey Avery, CB Avery Young, NB Max Melton, S Christian Izien

Starters Lost, Defense (2): DT Michael Dwumfour, S Brandon White.

Defensive Outlook: Rutgers’ defense in 2020 found itself in a similar position to its offense. The Scarlet Knights finished 11th in the league in scoring defense (32.1 points per game) and 13th in total defense (449.1 yards per game) so the fact that they return most of last year’s starters only means so much. Olakunle Fatukasi was one of the most productive linebackers in the Big Ten last season with 101 tackles, including 11 for loss and three sacks to earn first-team All-Big Ten honors from the media. Cornerback Trey Avery was a third-team All-Big Ten pick and defensive end Mike Tverdov recorded four sacks and 10.5 for loss, but as a collective unit they weren’t exactly fearsome. In fact, no team gave up more passing touchdowns than Rutgers’ 21 and only Illinois gave up more yards per passing attempt than the Scarlet Knights 7.9 per throw.

Special Teams Returners (3): K Valentino Ambrosio, P Adam Korsak, LS Billy Taylor

Special Teams Outlook: Valentino Ambrosio made nine of his 11 field goal attempts, which put him third in the Big Ten in percentage among kickers who attempted at least 10 field goals. Korsak averaged 43.0 yards per punt which put him seventh in the conference, and he was named second-team All-Big Ten by the media and third by the coaches. Aron Cruickshank took back two kickoff returns for touchdowns and was named first-team All-Big Ten by both the media and coaches as a returner.

Overall outlook: There could come a time in the not too distant future when Greg Schiano turns Rutgers into a contender, at least if the recruiting rankings for the 2022 class are any indication. The Scarlet Knights have six four-star recruits already in this year’s class and fourth in the Big Ten and 12th nationally according to the 247Sports composite rankings. But the Hoosiers don’t have to worry about any of those players in 2021. There’s certainly a chance that Rutgers could surprise someone in 2021, as it grabbed victories over Michigan State, Purdue and Maryland in 2020. But Indiana should have enough talent to not be one of those teams. The Scarlet Knights simply don’t have the sort of firepower on either side of the ball that should allow for an upset of a legitimate Top 25 team.

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Big Ten Media Days: What to expect, storylines to watch and preseason picks for players of the year

The Athletic 21 July, 2021 - 10:04am

Big Ten Media Days: What to expect, storylines to watch and preseason picks for players of the year

The Ohio State football schedule 2021: Meet the Rutgers Scarlet Knights

The Columbus Dispatch 21 July, 2021 - 09:15am

There is no kickoff time yet for the game. 

It is the second time the Buckeyes will face former defensive coordinator Greg Schiano during the coach's second stint at Rutgers. Schiano oversaw an improved Rutgers team last season, which is quite the statement consideringf the Scarlet Knights went 3-6 in the shortened Big Ten schedule. 

Rutgers went 2-10 in 2019 and 1-11 in 2018 under former Ohio State defensive coordinator Chris Ash. Schiano was the head coach of Rutgers from 2001-2011 before leaving for the NFL. He was with Ohio State from from 2017-2018. 

Last season Ohio State jumped to 35-3 halftime lead, but was outscored in the second half 24-14 in a 49-27 win. 

The Scarlet Knights turned heads when they defeated Michigan State in East Lansing 38-27 in the first game, but upstart Indiana, followed by Ohio State, quickly brought Rutgers back to Earth. 

A near win at home in triple overtime against Michigan followed by a 2-1 stretch against Purdue, Penn State and Maryland gave some life to the season, but Rutgers finished the year with a 28-21 loss to Nebraska. 

Rutgers is widely believed, if there's stock in preseason picks, to finish near the bottom of the Big Ten East this season . Athlon Sports has them finishing sixth, while Lindy's and Phil Steele projects a fifth-place finish in the division. 

They received a boost when one of the team's top defenders, Tyshon Fogg, announced his return earlier this year. 

The Fogg won’t clear, see you again in 2021 Rutgers Nation #TheReturn #Chop 🪓🌫 pic.twitter.com/QVKm3ODDH4

The linebacker recorded 65 tackles in 2020 and had 96 tackles in 2019. The defense as a whole should be the signature unit for Rutgers with Fogg and an experienced secondary returning. 

Former Nebraska transfer Noah Vedral is expected to once again be the starting quarterback as he recovers from a brutal ankle injury he sustained against Maryland in 2020. 

He went 68-67 in 11 seasons and was 28-48 in the old Big East. He was 5-1 in bowl games, winning five from 2006-2011.

Schiano, who made a name for himself as an assistant coach to disgraced former Penn State coach Joe Paterno, left Rutgers for the NFL. In two seasons as head coach for the Tampa Bay Bu he was 11-21. 

Returning to college football in 2016, Schiano joined Urban Meyer's staff at Ohio State. He was reported to have an offer to be the next head coach at Tennessee in November 2017, but backlash for his connection to Paterno and Penn State squashed the deal. He remained at Ohio State where he was named "Recruiter of the Year in the Big Ten" by 247 Sports in 2018. 

He resigned in March and in December of that year took the Rutgers job. 

The 2021 Ohio State football schedule: Times, dates and results for the Buckeyes

The Columbus Dispatch 21 July, 2021 - 09:04am

Ohio State finished the season 7-1. 

The Buckeyes lost standout quarterback Justin Fields to the NFL Draft following the season but had several players decide to return for 2021 as eligibility was frozen by the NCAA last season. 

Ohio State's 2021 slate includes three non-conference football games, one Thursday night matchup and a Week 1 Big Ten road game. 

Sept. 11: Oregon, 12 p.m. on FOX

Sept. 18: Tulsa, 3:30 p.m. on FS1

Sept. 25: Akron, TBA

Oct. 2: at Rutgers, TBA

Oct. 9: Maryland, 12 p.m., TBA

Oct. 23: at Indiana, TBA

Oct. 30: Penn State, TBA

Nov. 6: at Nebraska, TBA

Nov. 13: Purdue, TBA

Nov. 20: Michigan State, TBA

Nov. 27: at Michigan, 12 p.m., FOX

Big Ten 2021 preseason poll: Rutgers has best finish ever; Ohio State unanimous pick to win conference

NJ.com 21 July, 2021 - 05:49am

The Scarlet Knights were picked to finish sixth in the East Division in Cleveland.com’s 2021 preseason poll, marking the first time Rutgers has not been slotted for a last-place finish by the reporters who cover the conference (including NJ Advance Media) since it joined the league prior to the 2014 season.

The Scarlet Knights have beaten their poll position three times in their six Big Ten seasons. Rutgers finished fourth in the East in 2014 and fifth in 2017 and 2020. The Scarlet Knights did beat fourth-place Maryland last season, but were edged on winning percentage after playing four more games than the Terrapins amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Rutgers received votes for as high as third place, according to the poll results, and as low as last place.

Ohio State was the unanimous pick to win the East and the Big Ten title in the poll, which Cleveland.com has organized since the conference did away with its preseason poll in 2011.

Wisconsin received 29 of 34 first-place votes in the West Division; Iowa received the other five.

Rutgers linebacker Olakunle Fatukasi finished fifth in preseason defensive player of the year voting and linebacker Tyshon Fogg was tied for 16th. Northwestern safety Brandon Joseph was the top vote-getter while Ohio State’s Chris Olave was named the preseason offensive player of the year. No Rutgers offensive players received votes.

East Division:

West Division:

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Here is NJ Advance Media reporter James Kratch’s ballot:

East Division:

West Division:

Big Ten Championship Game: Ohio State over Wisconsin.

And here is NJ Advance Media reporter Keith Sargeant’s ballot:

East Division:

West Division:

Big Ten Championship Game: Ohio State over Wisconsin.

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Ohio State football’s Chris Olave voted Preseason Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year in cleveland.com poll

cleveland.com 21 July, 2021 - 04:30am

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Chris Olave has already defied expectations during his Ohio State football career.

If he fulfills his status as Big Ten Preseason Offensive Player of the Year — determined by the media vote of the 2021 cleveland.com preseason poll — the Buckeyes’ star receiver will thwart another convention.

Only two receivers have ever won the official postseason version of this award — Michigan’s Desmond Howard in 1991 and Braylon Edwards in 2004. Perhaps it would mean a bit more to Olave to take that distinction away from the Wolverines.

Olave won by a comfortable margin. He appeared on the most ballots (26) and received the most first-place votes (11). Indiana quarterback Michael Penix finished second, and Minnesota running back Mohamed Ibrahim finished third.

However, the voting from the 34-member media panel suggested a wide-open race for this award. Twelve players received first-place votes, including Olave’s fellow OSU receiver, Garrett Wilson.

• Ohio State football voted unanimous 2021 Big Ten favorite in cleveland.com preseason poll

• Northwestern safety Brandon Joseph voted Preseason Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in cleveland.com poll

Olave totaled 729 yards and seven touchdowns on 50 receptions in seven games last season, helping the Buckeyes reach the national championship game. He topped 100 yards in five of those games, including 132 yards and two touchdowns in a playoff semifinal victory over Clemson.

He was a first-team All-Big Ten selection by the coaches and second team by the media.

Penix was the second-team All-Big ten quarterback on both lists behind Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields. Limited to six games by injury, he completed 56 percent of his passes for 1,654 yards and 14 touchdowns against four interceptions. He helped IU finish as the Big Ten East runner-up and move into the top 10 of the Associated Press poll.

Ibrahim is the defending Big Ten Running Back of the Year after rushing for 1,076 yards and 15 touchdowns in seven games.

Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud received two first-place votes despite continuing to compete for the starting job with fellow freshmen Kyle McCord and Jack Miller.

1. Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State (11 first-place votes) 58 points

2. Michael Penix Jr., QB, Indiana (8) 44.5

3. Mohamed Ibrahim, RB, Minnesota (4) 36

4. Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa (1) 13

5. Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State (1) 12

6. David Bell, WR, Purdue (1) 10

7 (tie). C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State (2) 6

7 (tie). Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State (1) 6

7 (tie). Graham Mertz, QB, Wisconsin (1) 6

10. Tyler Goodson, RB, Iowa (1) 5

11. Ty Fryfogle, WR, Indiana (1) 4

12. Tanner Morgan, QB, Minnesota (1) 3.5

Fields’ Bears jersey: Ohio State football fans can purchase Justin Fields’ new Chicago Bears jersey here. It’s available in white, blue and orange – and in men’s, women’s and youth sizes. There’s also a cheaper T-shirt option.

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Big Ten media reveals preseason poll, order of finish

247Sports 21 July, 2021 - 02:24am

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Every summer, Cleveland.com polls 34 Big Ten writers for their projected order of finish ahead of media days in Chicago. The outlet tallies the votes on a 1 to 7 scale with first-place votes worth seven points, second-place votes worth six and so on, and the results are in ahead of the 2021 Big Ten football season.

Could the Big Ten Conference have one of the more intriguing league title races across the Power 5 ranks this fall? The season ramp-up continues this week ahead of fall camp and Big Ten media members have spoken on who they feel is the conference's best shot at representation in the College Football Playoff.

With as many as six programs expected to be ranked inside the preseason top 25 including several from the perceived tougher side of the conference, the Big Ten should flex top to bottom strength this season in its quest to capture its first national championship since the 2014-15 campaign. 

For the first time since 2015, Big Ten media members have selected a unanimous choice as champion. Any guesses as to which program that might be?

The word: The outlook for Bret Bielema's first season at Illinois is grim, according to the general consensus among Big Ten media types. The new Illini coach is already fighting a roster rated near the bottom of the league in terms overall talent level. Bielema knows the turnaround at Illinois will not happen overnight however and incremental steps in the right direction is the go this fall for a team not yet ready to compete for a divisional crown.

The word: What are the odds Mel Tucker and the Spartans beat an opponent they shouldn't this season? Michigan State was 2-5 last season, the sample size not big enough to pull any real conclusions according to one opposing coach.

The word: Jeff Brohm and the Boilermakers are "hungry" to get back on the field and try to turn this ship in the right direction, but Big Ten media members are not buying it. Remember the momentum this program had under Brohm's direction a couple of years ago when Rondale Moore went wild during the home win over Ohio State? That shining light feels like it happened a decade ago and Purdue has unraveled since with eight wins over its past 24 games.

The word: A recent wave of momentum on the recruiting trail has Greg Schiano and the Scarlet Knights excited about the future at Rutgers. That's not going to help on the field this season, but there is positivity surrounding the program and that's more than the previous regime could say. Schiano has changed the mindset in short order and his team is looking to play spoiler this season against one of the conference's toughest schedules. Several nationally-ranked opponents litter the slate and getting to a bowl game this fall will be an arduous task.

The word: The first three years of Scott Frost's tenure at Nebraska has left a lot to be desired. That's why veteran quarterback Adrian Martinez has called the 2021 season Nebraska's "prove it" year under his regime. Media members are not as confident as Martinez.

"It was tough for sure, we didn't get the exact results we wanted, but personally there was a lot of ups and downs as far as on the football field," Martinez said in a video series this spring. "Next year is definitely a make or break it year. I can't complain. The good, the bad ... I'm thankful to be here. I've gotten to the point in my career where I'm going to leave it all out there and let the rest take care of itself."

The word: InsideMDSports publisher Jeff Ermann said this summer on 247Sports' College Football Daily podcast that Maryland could have a special season offensively if Taulia Tagovailoa is a more consistent player following offseason revisions. Tagovailoa accounted for eight total touchdowns and 748 yards of total offense in wins over Minnesota and Penn State last season, eye-opening performances at a position that hasn't produced impressive production in recent years. Tagovailoa is feeling much more confident heading into 2021 after a full offseason to work with Maryland. 

"He's not his brother, necessarily, but he's the most dynamic quarterback Maryland's had in quite some time now," Ermann said. "If he can play a little bit closer on average to those big games that he had, then (Maryland) is really onto something."

The word: Minnesota won 11 games during the 2019 campaign with quarterback Tanner Morgan and he is back this fall. Gophers coach P.J. Fleck attributed last season's offense-wide strides to a simple breakdown in execution and expects those faults to be corrected in 2021. Minnesota has a major opportunity early against Ohio State to bring the spotlight back to the Gophers and make everyone remember the hype surrounding Fleck and his program two years ago.

The word: Jim Harbaugh has appeared on several hot-seat lists this summer, and he knows the 2021 season is vital toward the trajectory of his program. The Wolverines will take the field with a new starting quarterback, likely Cade McNamara, and hope he lights a spark offensively. With changes across his coaching staff, Harbaugh will know early if new philosophies pay off for the Wolverines. A litany of quality teams fill the schedule during what could be a mediocre year for one of the nation's blue blood programs. And there's always the Ohio State question that continues to linger.

The word: Only one Big Ten media member correctly picked Northwestern to win its side of the conference two years ago, according to Cleveland.com. Can Pat Fitzgerald and the Wildcats do it again? South Carolina transfer quarterback Ryan Hilinski is expected to get the starting nod and is surrounded by returning players who have the "why not us" mentality as one of the league's more underrated — and under-respected — programs. There's a chance Northwestern could be 4-0 and ranked going to Nebraska in October. That would be a huge game for both teams.

The wordWith 20 starters back off a team that could have represented its side of the Big Ten in the league championship game, the Hoosiers have some unfinished business to attend to this season. Getting Michael Penix Jr. to return to form at quarterback after seeing his campaign cut short due to injury is the most talked-about storyline surrounding Indiana's program entering the season. The Hoosiers are one of a handful of Big Ten programs we expect to see inside the Top 20, as does College Football News and several other outlets.

The wordRunning back Tyler Goodson is one of college football's top players who was rarely mentioned this spring and has the talent to lead the conference in rushing this season if the Hawkeyes take the stubborn approach and feed him the football. The biggest question is signal caller Spencer Petra and if he can become the difference-maker this offseason needs this fall. Kirk Ferentz's team is usually undervalued this time of year, but creeping up near the preseason top 15 in most polls means there's reason to believe the Hawkeyes will be a factor in the conference title hunt.

The word Is Penn State flying under the radar a bit in the Big Ten? By program standards, last season's disappointing campaign was a fluke and the Nittany Lions ended on a strong note by winning out following a disastrous start. That will not happen again given James Franklin's track record for success in Happy Valley. The backfield is loaded and quarterback Sean Clifford returns for his third year as the starter. Mike Yurcich takes over as offensive coordinator to lead what should be a well-balanced unit. How Penn State fares in September against Wisconsin and Auburn early is key. 

The wordWill the Badgers be a more efficient football team offensively this fall? For the first time in Paul Chryst's tenure in 2020, they were nearly non-existent on that side of the football. You can blame some of that on the situation that every team in the Big Ten had to deal with last season, but Wisconsin isn't into excuses. Defensively, Wisconsin is set. Jack Sanborn and Leo Chenal are back to anchor the linebackers and there's veteran leadership in the secondary. Wisconsin has a few show-me games early that could push the Badgers into the top 10 with victories. 

The wordAny takers on choosing a team not named Ohio State to win the Big Ten this season? Didn't think so. The Buckeyes were a unanimous chose to take the Eastern Division over Penn State. Ohio State over Wisconsin was picked 29 times as the projected Big Ten title matchup and Ohio State over Iowa was the selection from the other five voters.

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Ranking Ohio State football's 2021 opponents by difficulty

247Sports 21 July, 2021 - 02:02am

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In 2020, the Scarlet and Gray once again navigated the team's regular season -- as shortened as it was -- to go undefeated. Ohio State then won a fourth straight Big Ten title before getting revenge against Clemson in the College Football Playoff semifinal but then fell to Alabama in the national championship game. This meant the Buckeyes finished the year with a 7-1 record.

Offensively, the Scarlet and Gray return a number of key pieces, specifically at wide receiver and on the offensive line, but will need to find a new starting quarterback after the departure of Justin Fields to the NFL Draft. The Ohio State defense will feature a number of new faces, but after finishing ranked 59th in the country in total defense, a make-over of sorts may not be the worst thing.

The Buckeyes are widely predicted to be the best team in the Big Ten yet again and contend for a spot in the Playoff in 2021. But first the Scarlet and Gray must navigate a full 12-game regular season schedule. Bucknuts took a look at the opponents Ohio State will face to rank those on this year's schedule, going from the perceived easiest opposition to the most difficult.

Matchup Date: Sept. 25

Over the last two seasons, Akron is a combined 1-17 and has only put together a record better than .500 once (2015) in the last 10 years. Unfortunately for the Zips, there isn't a sign of a drastic jump in 2021 and third-year head coach Tom Arth has his work cut out for him.

Akron has two quarterbacks returning with starting experience in senior Kato Nelson and redshirt freshman Zach Gibson. Whoever wins the job will be joined by last year's leading rusher Teon Dollard in the backfield and will have a number of returning receiver targets to throw the ball to. Defensively, Akron ranked outside the top 100 in total defense a year ago but is expected to be better in 2021 after gaining experience last season.

The Zips have one win all time against Ohio State and that came in 1884. There is little reason to expect that to change this year.

It wasn't all that long ago that Michigan State was the Buckeyes' top challenger in the Big Ten East and winning games against the Scarlet and Gray. But the last four matchups in this series have all gone the way of Ohio State and the Buckeyes have won those contests by an average of 32.25 points.

Mel Tucker had it rough in his first year as the Spartans head coach, not only dealing with a tricky season due to COVID-19 but also having to try and win games with a talent-depleted roster. MSU finished 2-5 but did defeat rival Michigan and began recruiting better than the final few years under Mark Dantonio.

Matchup Date: Oct. 9

The 2020 season marked an up-and-down year for Maryland. The Terrapins finished 2-3 in the shortened, Big Ten-only season with an overtime win against Minnesota at home and a victory at Penn State. But a number of canceled games and an overtime loss to Rutgers really derailed Mike Locksley's second season in College Park.

A positive for the Terps in 2021 is the return of quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa who threw for 1,011 yards in his first season as a starter, but also had as many interceptions (7) as he did touchdowns. Tagovailoa will have a new offensive coordinator in Dan Enos and he will look to get creative in getting the ball to targets Dontay Demus and Rakim Jarrett. The offensive line is a work in progress but has the chance to be talented.

Following the 2018 season, which featured a win against Ohio State and a trip to the Music City Bowl, it looked like head coach Jeff Brohm had the Purdue program going in the right direction. Two years later and the Boilermakers have had six total wins, the same as they did in 2018, and questions are being asked in West Lafayette.

Matchup Date: Oct. 2

In his first year as Rutgers' head coach, Greg Schiano did something the Scarlet Knights hadn't done in two-plus seasons and that was win a Big Ten game. Things then got real crazy in Piscataway when Rutgers won two more in the conference. This was certainly a sign of improvement for the Scarlet Knights, but now it's about building on that small level of success.

The Rutgers offense that was able to come into Columbus last year put up 27 points and 373 yards returns most of its pieces in 2021. Starting quarterback Noah Vedral has his top six receiving weapons back from last season, including senior wide receivers Bo Melton and Aron Cruickshank. Running back Isaih Pacheco rushed for 552 yards and three touchdowns a year ago and will have an offensive line opening holes that has all five starters back, including three-year starters in center Nick Krimin and left tackle Raiqwon O'Neal.

Before you ask, "Is Tulsa really better than four Big Ten teams?" let me remind you that the Golden Hurricane played in the American Athletic Conference title game a year ago and is poised for another run in the conference with the vast majority of the players that helped the team go 6-3 in 2020 back. It's also worth pointing out that this game is early in the season, coming off the back of two tough games against Minnesota and Oregon.

The Tulsa offense will be led this year by and talented corps of wide receivers and a strong offensive line. Fifth-year senior Keylon Stokes leads a group of wideouts that saw four players catch 28 or more passes in 2020. Sophomore quarterback Davis Brin is young but will have talented weapons and good protection, as well as being able to hand the ball off to running back Shamari Brooks who, despite missing last year with an ACL tear, is 300 yards shy of 3,000 rushing yards for his career.

Matchup Date: Nov. 6

It's Year 4 for Scott Frost at Nebraska and the head coach who was thought to be the savior of the program has averaged just four wins per season. If he weren't a former national championship-winning quarterback for the Cornhuskers, Frost may not still have a job in Lincoln.

In 2021, Nebraska hopes to start to build back to the glory years. With Luke McCaffrey gone, the quarterback job now fully belongs to Adrian Martinez once again. His inconsistent play opened the door for McCaffrey and Martinez, now in his fourth year in the program, needs to become the quarterback fans expect him to be. The Huskers lost leading receiver Wan'Dale Robinson but added Montana transfer Samori Toure, who adds size to the room at 6-foot-3. There is no clear starter at running back but Nebraska has a number of possible players, along with Martinez, to rush behind a big and powerful offensive line.

Opening a game on the road is never easy. Opening a game on the road against a conference opponent is even more difficult. Opening a game on the road against a conference opponent who has the most experienced returning talent is a tall task. That will be the case with Minnesota when the Buckeyes make the trip to Huntington Bank Stadium to begin the year.

After flying high offensively two seasons ago, the Golden Gophers fell a bit flat based on expectations last year. Quarterback Tanner Morgan is set to start for the third straight season, looking to find his 2019 form. Next to him in the backfield is the conference's best running back in Mohamed Ibrahim, who hopes to build on his 1,076-yard, 15-touchdown season from a year ago behind a quality offensive line. With Rashod Bateman gone to the NFL, names like Chris Autman-Bell and Daniel Jackson must step up as receiving threats for Morgan.

Matchup Date: Nov. 27

There is a chance that by the time Ohio State and Michigan play in 2021, the Wolverines are a two- or three-win team on the verge of firing head coach Jim Harbaugh. But as they say in rivalry games, you often throw out the records, and that means this contest still needs to be considered on the trickier side for the Buckeyes.

Despite Harbaugh coming to Ann Arbor in 2015 with a reputation of a quarterback whisper, the position has never been settled during his tenure. This is the case once again heading into the 2021 season. Will it be Cade McNamara, who played four times in 2020, making one start, Texas Tech transfer Alan Bowman or true freshman J.J. McCarthy under center? That's a question new quarterbacks coach Matt Weiss will have to answer. At running back Zach Charbonnet elected to transfer but sophomores Hassan Haskins and Blake Corum are back and freshman Donovan Edwards has been on campus since January. Senior Ronnie Bell is back to lead what will be a young group of wide receivers.

It will be interesting to follow the Wolverines throughout the year, but ins these games historically, it has not mattered what the teams did during the rest of the season. It won't be the most difficult game on the Scarlet and Gray's schedule, especially based on the recent outcomes, but the Maize and Blue may be playing for their season in this one.

Matchup Date: Oct. 30

After four straight nine-plus win seasons, Penn State put together a disappointing 4-5 campaign in 2020. However, the Nittany Lions started the season 0-5 and then rolled off four consecutive wins to close out the year. James Franklin's team is hopeful that the end of season momentum will carry over to 2021.

One of the strange things about Penn State last year is that the offense scored plenty, actually outscoring the opponent by quite a bit by the end of the season, but the total offense was not up to par in State College. Because of this, Franklin brought in former Buckeye quarterback coach Mike Yurcich to run the offense. Sean Clifford returns as the team's starting quarterback but must cut down on the turnovers. His top targets, receivers Jahan Dotson and Parker Washington, combined for 88 catches for 1,373 yards and 14 touchdowns last year and will be expected to be playmakers again. There should be more depth at running back in 2021 with Noah Cain healthy and names like Keyvone Lee and Devyn Ford also available.

Ohio State and Oregon were supposed to meet in Eugene a year ago, but that game didn't happen due to the COVID-shortened season for both the Big Ten and Pac-12. Instead, these two teams will just meet in Columbus this year, setting up one of the marquee non-conference games of the 2021 season.

The Ducks have to replace quarterback Tyler Shough who transferred to Texas Tech, but former Boston College quarterback Anthony Brown got experience last year. He has not won the starting job for certain and will have to compete with five-star freshman Ty Thompson who enrolled in January. Running backs CJ Verdell and Travis Dye makes a talented backfield for Oregon and Sean Dollars gives the Ducks some versatility. Devon Williams, Jaylon Redd and Johnny Johnson III give Oregon their top three receivers back from a year ago.

Head coach Mario Cristobal made defense a focus early in his tenure and that should pay off in 2021. Defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux is the headliner after being named the Pac-12's best defensive lineman last season. Linebacker Noah Sewell was named the conference's freshman of the year in 2020, giving the Ducks quite the defensive tandem, and that's without mentioning cornerback Mykael Wright, another of the Pac-12's best defensive players.

Matchup Date: Oct. 23

A year ago, Ohio State seemed in control at Ohio Stadium against Indiana until the Hoosiers came storming back to make it the closest game of the Ryan Day era. While the Buckeyes held on to win, it showed the improvement IU demonstrated during the season was not an aberration. This season, it will be up to Indiana to build on a successful 2020.

Quarterback Michael Penix was one of the best in the Big Ten last year before suffering a knee injury. If he can remain healthy this season, something he has not done throughout his career, he could be in the Heisman Trophy conversation. One of the reasons Penix has been so good is having one of the top wide receivers in the country in Ty Fryfogle who torched the Scarlet and Gray a year ago with 218 yards and three touchdowns. Sampson James is expected to take on a bigger role at running back, but USC transfer Stephen Carr will be in the mix as well. If there was a weakness for the Hoosiers last year, it was the offensive line, something that will need to get better if IU is to contend in the Big Ten East.

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