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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.

Lott IMPACT Trophy announces semifinalists

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You know we are getting close to award season in college football because it seems this week has been filled with announcements about semifinalists for every award possible. Welcome to the party, Lott IMPACT Trophy. A total of nine semifinalists were announced by the Lott IMPACT Trophy, which is awarded to the best defensive player with a focus on success on and off the field, integrity, maturity, performance, academics, community and tenacity.

The nine semifinalists for this year’s Lott IMPACT Trophy are:

  • Derrick Brown, DL, Auburn
  • Cole Christiansen, LB, Army
  • Jordan Fuller, DB, Ohio State
  • Brandon Jones, DB, Texas
  • Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma
  • Chris Orr, LB, Wisconsin
  • Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson
  • Curtis Weaver, DL, Boise State
  • Evan Weaver, LB, Cal

Linebacker remains a strong position for the Lott IMPACT Trophy this season, with five of the nine semifinalists playing a linebacker position.

This year’s recipient of the Lott IMPACT Trophy will be announced on Dec. 15 at the Pacific Club in Newport Beach. This list of nine semifinalists will be trimmed down to four finalists prior to the announcement.

Kentucky’s Josh Allen took home the award last season.

Class of 2019 four-star Baylor commit says he’s heading to Utah

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Former Baylor quarterback Peyton Powell has a new football home in the Pac-12. Powell announced on Thursday he is heading to Utah to join the Utes program.

“It’s time for me to clear the air and I WILL be doing that at THE University of Utah,” Powell said in a statement share don his Twitter account on Thursday afternoon.

Powell came to Baylor with the hopes of being able to compete and play quarterback for the Bears. That opportunity was one of the reasons Baylor ended up winning his commitment out of high school, while many schools hoping to sign the four-star athlete could find ways to use his athleticism at different positions. Powell, a member of the Baylor Class of 2019, has not played this season and will have four years of eligibility remaining. NCAA rules would force Powell to sit out the 2010 season before being ruled eligible to play, but he may be given a chance to play right away considering he did not play during his freshman year at Baylor.

Arizona continues shaking up coaching staff with reported firing of defensive line coach

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As a year of disappointing results comes down the final stretch for the Arizona Wildcats, changes are already in the air for Kevin Sumlin and the program. On Thursday, Arizona continued to go through the process of overhauling its defensive coaching staff with the firing of defensive line coach Iona Uiagalelei.

News of the coaching change was first reported by Jason Scheer of Wildcat Authority. According to that same report, defensive analyst Greg Patrick will be moved into the position of defensive line coach, at least for the remainder of the current season.

Arizona ranks 73rd nationally in rushing defense, 113th in sacks, and 119th in tackles for a loss. These are all stats most commonly used to evaluate the performance of the defensive line, and the results this late in the season just simply aren’t good any way you look at it.

A month ago, Arizona parted ways with defensive coordinator Marcel Yates and linebackers coach John Rushing. Uiagalelei is the third defensive coach to be removed from the staff during the 2019 season.

Jonathan Taylor, Chuba Hubbard among semifinalists for Doak Walker Award

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Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor is attempting to do something that has only been done twice before by winning the Doak Walker Award in back-to-back seasons. Taylor was one of the 10 semifinalists revealed by the Doak Walker Award on Thursday, putting last year’s top running back one step closer to pulling off the rare feat on the college football award circuit.

Taylor will have some stiff competition for the award this season. Among the other semifinalists for the award include Oklahoma State’s Chuba Hubbard, the nation’s rushing leader with 1,726 yards and 20 rushing touchdowns (Taylor has 1,463 yards and 17 rushing touchdowns in the same number of games as Hubbard).

Darren McFadden of Arkansas is the most recent player to win the Doak  Walker Award in back-to-back seasons, doing so in 2006 and 2007. The only other player to win the award in consecutive seasons, and the only other two-time winner of the Doak Walker Award, is Ricky Williams of Texas. Williams won the award in 1997 and 1998. Taylor joined former Wisconsin running backs Melvin Gordon (2014), Montee Ball (2012) and Ron Dayne (1999) to move Wisconsin into first place for most all-time Doak Walker Award winners. Texas also has four awards won, but by three players (Ricky Williams twice, Cedric Benson in 2004 and D’Onta Foreman in 2016).

The other semi-finalists for the Doak Walker Award this year include LeVante Bellamy of Western Michigan (21 touchdowns leads the nation), AJ Dillon of Boston College, JK Dobbins of Ohio State, Clyde Edwards-Helaire of LSU, Travis Etienne of Clemson, Kenneth Gainwell of Memphis, Xavier Jones of SMU, Zack Moss of Utah.