The preseason USA Today coaches' poll is out, and five Big Ten teams are ranked. One of them is very close to the top.
Ohio State, which was ineligible for the coaches' poll last year because of probation, debuts at No. 2 in 2013, behind defending two-time national champion Alabama. The Buckeyes received three first-place votes. The only other school to get a first place vote besides Alabama was Texas A&M, which received one.
Here's how the entire Big Ten contingent fared in the poll:
No. 2: Ohio State
No. 17: Michigan
No. 18: Nebraska
No. 22: Northwestern
No. 23: Wisconsin
Receiving votes: Michigan State (28th overall)
I thought Michigan would be ranked a bit higher, but the No. 17 ranking is understandable after an 8-5 season. The Wolverines will have a chance to move up quickly if they can beat Notre Dame (No. 11) in Week 2.
The rest of the rankings seem about right. Nebraska has too many questions on the defensive side to be much higher; the Cornhuskers could answer some of those when they face No. 21 UCLA in September (The Irish and the Bruins are the only two ranked teams to appear on Big Ten nonconference schedules).
Northwestern gets a much deserved preseason ranking after last year's 10-win season. The Wildcats have said they still view themselves as an underdog this season, but that will be harder to do when they're a Top 25 club to start the year. Wisconsin is probably one of the toughest teams in the country to rank. The Badgers are coming off three straight Rose Bowls, but went just 8-6 last season and have a new coaching staff. Their schedule looks advantageous, though.
Michigan State finished just outside the Top 25, which seems fair because of the Spartans' question marks on offense. Penn State remains ineligible for the coaches' poll because of probation.
Preseason polls shouldn't be worth a whole lot, but this one does hold some currency in the BCS system because the coaches' poll is part of the formula for determining the national championship and major bowl matchups. We all know it's easier to stay high in the polls when you start there. On the other hand, Notre Dame started 24th in last year's preseason coaches poll and was No. 1 at the end of the regular season.
In case you're wondering, six Big Ten coaches (or at least their graduate assistants/sports information directors) are voting in this year's coaches' poll. They are: Illinois' Tim Beckman, Michigan State's Mark Dantonio, Michigan's Brady Hoke, Minnesota's Jerry Kill, Ohio State's Urban Meyer, and Nebraska' Bo Pelini.
Your thoughts on the first official poll of 2013?