Powerhouse programs expected to lead league into fall after turmoil in State College over the offseason.


The landscape has changed in the Big Ten Conference.

Whether there's a statue of Joe Paterno outside Beaver Stadium or not, the Big Ten will never be the same after the Grand Experiment by Paterno turned into the greatest scandal in college sports history.

But other things remain the same.

Powerhouse football programs Michigan and Wisconsin are expected to win big again. In a poll of writers who cover the Big Ten, Michigan and Wisconsin were picked to win their respective divisions. Michigan received 11 votes to win the Big Ten championship game to earn the unofficial title as Big Ten favorite.

The Big Ten will hold its preseason media days Thursday and Friday in Chicago.

Wisconsin needed to find another quarterback and lost six assistant coaches in the offseason. Just like last season, Wisconsin went the "free agent'' route. The Badgers expect to start Danny O'Brien, the former Maryland quarterback who transfered with two years of eligibility remaining. He can play immediately after earning an undergraduate degree in May.

Last fall, Wisconsin won the Big Ten championship game and played in the Rose Bowl behind quarterback Russell Wilson, a transfer from North Carolina State.

Meanwhile, O'Brien's workload will be eased by Montee Ball, who was named the preseason offensive MVP by the pollsters. Ball scored 39 touchdowns last season and the top returnee from Heisman Trophy balloting from a year ago.

Linebackers Chris Borland and Mike Taylor lead the Wisconsin defense, but coach Bret Bielema must overcome changes in his coaching staff.

Michigan coach Brady Hoke is only in his second year in charge in Ann Arbor, but the Wolverines are back in business following the losing skid under former boss Rich Rodriguez.

Quarterback Denard Robinson will challenge Ball for top honors in the Big Ten and the Heisman race. He scored 36 touchdowns last year to lead the league's No. 2 offense. The Wolverines lost three starters on the defensive line and must make a quick transition. Michigan opens the season against Alabama. The Wolverines likely must end a four-game losing skid to Michigan State to earn the division title.

Michigan State defensive end William Gholston is the league's preseason defensive MVP, according to the poll. Gholston had five sacks last season.

  John Supinie can be reached at Johnsupinie@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @JohnSupinie.     Big Ten Conference preseason writers poll   LEADERS Team (First-place votes)        Points 1. Wisconsin (19)        139 2. Ohio State (5)        125 3. Purdue        79 4. Illinois        72 5. Penn State        65 6. Indiana        24 LEGENDS Team (First-place votes)        Points 1. Michigan (16)        134 2. Michigan State (7)                120 3. Nebraska (1)                104 4. Iowa        72 5. Northwestern        51 6. Minnesota        24   Title-game winner: Michigan over Wisconsin (11 votes). Others: Michigan State over Wisconsin (7), Wisconsin over Michigan (5),  Wisconsin over Nebraska (1). Offensive MVP: Montee Ball, Wisconsin (14 votes). Others: Denard Robinson, Michigan (9), Braxton Miller, Ohio State (1). Defensive MVP: William Gholston, Michigan State (11 votes). Others: Kawaan Short, Purdue (5), Johnathan Hankins, Ohio State (3), John Simon, Ohio State (2), Denicos Allen,    Michigan State (1), Chris Borland, Wisconsin (1), Gerald Hodges, Penn State (1).     John Supinie's ballot Legends Division 1. Wisconsin 2. Ohio State 3. Illinois 4. Purdue 5. Penn State 6. Indiana   Leaders 1. Michigan 2. Michigan State 3. Iowa 4. Nebraska 5. Northwestern 6. Minnesota   Title game Wisconsin 21, Michigan 17   Offensive MVP: Montee Ball, Wisconsin Defensive MVP: Kawaan Short, Purdue     Voting panel Bob Asmussen, Champaign News-Gazette Steve Batterson, Quad City Times David Briggs, Toledo Blade Mike Carmin, Lafayette Journal & Courier Matt Charboneau, Detroit News Brian Christopherson, Lincoln Journal Star Pete DiPrimio, Fort Wayne News-Sentinel Dustin Dopirak, Bloomington Herald-Times Chris Emma, Northwestern scout.com Bob Flounders, Harrisburg Patriot-News Marcus Fuller, St. Paul Pioneer Press Teddy Greenstein, Chicago Tribune Terry Hutchens, Indianapolis Star Sam McKewon, Omaha World-Herald Kyle Meinke, Annarbor.com Phil Miller, Minneapolis Star-Tribune Marc Morehouse, Cedar Rapids Gazette Tom Mulhern, Wisconsin State Journal Jeff Potyrkus, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Joe Rexrode, Lansing State Journal Jeff Rice, Lions 24/7 Mark Snyder, Detroit Free Press John Supinie, GateHouse News Service