Rejoice, college football fans. The season is here. Yes, the action started last weekend with a handful of games, but for most of us, the upcoming holiday weekend is the true start to the year. Big Ten fans will not have to wait long for their first taste of league action either, with Ohio State visiting Bloomington on Thursday night to open the conference slate.
The RLR staff has submitted their picks for division winners, and players of the year heading into the season.
EAst Division Champion: Ohio State
85-percent of the vote went to Urban Meyer's squad. The Buckeyes return 15 starters from a year ago, and feature what might be the best defensive front seven in the nation. J.T. Barrett gets one final run at glory, this time under the tutelage of new offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson. If Ohio State is to return to Indianapolis this season, they will once again need to reload in the secondary after losing three players in the first round of the NFL Draft, and find some consistent production in the passing game.
Last year's conference champion, Penn State, was the only other team to receive any votes.
West Division Champion: Wisconsin
This one is hardly a surprise, as the Badgers have been the favorite to claim yet another division crown all summer. Despite losing the latest in a line of great running backs in Corey Clement, sophomore Bradrick Shaw will get to tote the rock behind four returning starters on the offensive line. Wisconsin also gets the benefit of a favorable schedule in their quest to return to Indy for the second straight year. Second favorite Northwestern and Michigan visit Madison, and the only chance of seeing the Buckeyes or Nittany Lions is in December's title game.
Big Ten Champion: Ohio State
While it was not quite unanimous, the RLR staff has the Buckeyes clinching their first conference title since 2014. And while we did not ask the question, it would be safe to assume this would have Ohio State back in the playoff for the third time in four seasons.
One staffer did have Penn State pegged to repeat.
OFfensive Player of the Year: Saquon Barkley
Barkley will have to settle for falling one vote shy of a unanimous selection, with his teammate Trace McSorley garnering one vote in our poll.
We have written at length about the Nittany Lions' electric sophomore since the end of last season, and the national pundits have joined in too. Barring injury, Barkley will rewrite chapters in the Penn State history books this fall, en route to a possible Heisman Trophy nomination, and top-10 NFL Draft pick.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: SAM HUBBARD
Much to exactly no one's surprise, this one was full of differing opinions. Yes, Hubbard did take home the most votes to win the honor, but came just shy of a consensus selection. Tegray Scales, Rashan Gary, Tyquan Lewis, and Maurice Hurst all had at least one vote. Suffice to say, the Big Ten is loaded with difference makes on the defensive side of the ball.