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Big Ten media pegs Michigan as preseason favorite

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The Big Ten did away with its preseason media poll ahead of the 2011 season, so the Cleveland Plain-Dealer has picked up the mantle and carried it for the rest of the conference. The paper polls 34 writers from around the conference, and for the second time in the poll’s nine-year history the consensus found the eventual champion in Ann Arbor.

Following the departures of Urban Meyer and Dwayne Haskins and the arrival of Josh Gattis, the Plain-Dealer‘s poll has anointed 2019 as the year Jim Harbaugh finally gets over the scarlet-and-gray hump standing between him and Indianapolis. In four years under Harbaugh, Michigan has not won the conference or division. In fact, the Wolverines last won the Big Ten in 2004 and are still looking for their first trip to the Big Ten Championship heading into Year 9 of the conference’s title game era.

Which, of course, will make it all the more painful for everyone in maize and blue if it doesn’t happen.

Possibly concerning for the Wolverines: the Big Ten media is no better at prognosticating their conference than any other league. The Plain-Dealer poll has accurately predicted the eventual champion only twice — when Ohio State won the league in 2017 and ’18.

But Michigan is a clear, but not heavy, favorite to dethrone the Buckeyes this year, landing 20 votes to win the East to Ohio State’s 14, with 17 picks to win the conference to Ohio State’s 14. Astute observers will note Michigan and Ohio State gobbled up all 34 available votes to win the East, but the West picture is quite muddied. Nebraska and Iowa each garnered 14 votes to win the division, while Wisconsin, Northwestern and Minnesota drew support as well. One thing everyone can agree on out West? Everyone sees Illinois bringing up the rear.

The full poll:

EAST DIVISION
1. Michigan — 222 total points (20 first-place votes)
2. Ohio State — 214 (14)
3. Michigan State — 156
4. Penn State — 154
5. Indiana — 86.5
6. Maryland — 82.5
7. Rutgers — 37

WEST DIVISION
1. Nebraska — 198 (14)
2. Iowa — 194.5 (14)
3. Wisconsin — 172.5 (4)
4. Northwestern — 142.5 (1)
5. Purdue — 110.5
6. Minnesota — 100 (1)
7. Illinois — 34

The Plain-Dealer also asks its respondents to pick players of the year on each side of the ball, and the poll found Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor as the league’s top offensive player and Ohio State defensive end Chase Young as the top defender. Five players drew at least one first-place vote on offense and six on defense; Taylor was the clear choice on his side of the ball, but Young actually came in third when just examining first-place votes.

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
1. Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor — 78 (21)
2. Purdue WR Rondale Moore — 36 (3)
3. Michigan QB Shea Patterson — 31 (4)
4. Nebraska QB Adrian Martinez — 24 (2)
5. Ohio State RB JK Dobbins — 13 (3)
5. Ohio State QB Justin Fields — 13 (1)
7. Iowa QB Nate Stanley — 4
8. Michigan State QB Brian Lewerke — 2
9. Penn State WR KJ Hamler — 1
9. Wisconsin OL Tyler Biadasz — 1
9. Iowa OL Tristan Wirfs — 1

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
1. Ohio State DE Chase Young — 57 (8)
2. Iowa DE AJ Epenesa — 52 (9)
3. Michigan State DE Kenny Willekes — 41 (10)
4. Northwestern LB Paddy Fisher — 19 (2)
5. Penn State DE Yetur Gross-Matos — 16 (4)
6. Michigan State LB Joe Bachie — 6 (1)
7. Michigan CB Lavert Hill — 5
8. Minnesota DE Carter Coughlin — 4
9. Michigan S Josh Metellus — 2
10. Penn State LB Micah Parsons — 1
10. Northwestern DE Joe Gaziano — 1

Big Ten media days run Thursday and Friday in Chicago.

Two workers injured by falling beams at Bryant-Denny Stadium renovation

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Two workers were injured Saturday by falling beams at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

The workers were laboring on a manlift when a pair of beams fell and struck the lift, trapping the workers, who were not named.

Firefighters responded around 5 p.m. Saturday to extract the workers, who were “seriously injured,” according to AL.com. After they were extracted, the workers were transported to DCH Regional Medical Center. Their condition was not known as of press time.

The workers were working on a $92.5 million phase of renovation to Bryant-Denny Stadium, announced in last fall. Crimson Tide AD Greg Byrne said in September that construction would be expedited to meet an aggressive schedule.

“We realized this is an aggressive construction schedule we are going to be talking about. However, our contractors are confident. They have expressed they will deliver this on time,” he said at the time.

Mizzou adds Va Tech’s second-leading receiver

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Missouri’s passing game received a boost this weekend in the form of a new receiver. Damon Hazelton, Jr., has joined the team as a graduate transfer.

Hazelton arrives via Virginia Tech, but announced over earlier this month he would leave Blacksburg. This is the second transfer of his career; the Towson, Md., native signed with Ball State out of high school.

Hazelton made the announcement Saturday through a social media post.

After sitting out 2017 as an undergraduate transfer, Hazelton led the 2018 Hokies with 51 grabs for 802 yards and eight touchdowns. His production dipped a bit in 2019, registering 31 catches for 527 yards but still collecting eight touchdowns.

He joins a Mizzou receiving corps where no player caught more than 31 passes in a Kelly Bryant-led offense. With Bryant out of eligibility and Eli Drinkwitz now running the show, expect Hazelton to be the focus of the Tigers’ re-tooled passing game.

2020 Notre Dame signee arrested on burglary charges, no longer welcome as part of Fighting Irish football team

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The Notre Dame football team has seen its most recent recruiting class thinned thanks to an off-field incident.

During the Early Signing Period last month, Landen Bartleson signed on as a member of the Notre Dame football team’s 2020 recruiting class.  Bartleson had been expected to enroll at the university this coming summer.

Instead, Bartleson is one of three individuals arrested and charged with burglary, criminal mischief and receiving stolen property.  Bartleson, 18, and two 16-year-old juveniles were taken into custody Friday by Danville, Kentucky, law enforcement officials.

The particulars, from WKYT-TV:

Danville police say officers were called to check out a burglary that happened overnight at a store on Westridge Drive.

Police say the suspects smashed a window and stole multiple weapons.

As a result of the off-field incident, the Notre Dame football program has cut ties with Bartleson.  A statement from head coach Brian Kelly confirmed the development.

After reviewing all of the facts available to us and speaking with the Bartleson family, we informed them that Landen will no longer be welcomed as a member of our football program.

“This incident is very much out of character for the man we have come to know and we wish Landen and his family well.

Bartleson is a three-star 2020 prospect, rated as the No. 6 player regardless of position in the state of Kentucky.

Iowa State QB Re-al Mitchell latest to enter name into transfer portal

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The portal has claimed another name and Iowa State’s quarterback depth will suffer as a result.

Cyclones signal-caller Re-al Mitchell became the latest enter the NCAA Transfer Database this week and confirmed on social media that he was leaving Ames for another opportunity elsewhere.

The move is fairly unsurprising given that Mitchell arrived on campus in the same recruiting class as current starter Brock Purdy. With a pathway to significant playing time blocked by one of the best young QB’s in the sport, a ticket out of town seemed like it was coming sooner or later for the team’s No. 2 on the depth chart.

A dual-threat known for his speed, Mitchell was originally ranked as a three-star prospect coming out of high school who picked ISU over Arizona, Illinois, Kansas State, South Carolina and others. He wound up playing in six games under Matt Campbell over two seasons and threw for an even 100 yards and one touchdown.

A Southern California native, it’s possible a move back West could be in the cards for Mitchell. He appears to be insistent on playing under center but did see spot duty as a wide receiver during his stint in Ames.

Following the departure of Mitchell, Campbell will quite a bit of youth behind Purdy on the team’s depth chart. Freshman Aidan Bouman enrolled early for spring practice while fellow Class of 2020 QB and four-star recruit Hunter Dekkers will arrive later as they battle it out for backup reps. Iowa State opens the season at home against FCS South Dakota before heading to Kinnick Stadium to take on rival Iowa in Week 2.