Aug. 1, 2006
Park Ridge, Ill. - The Big Ten Conference announced today that Ohio State has been chosen as the preseason football favorite in a vote by media members attending the conference's media day. The Big Ten announces only the top three teams in its preseason poll. Michigan placed second and Iowa was selected third. The attending media also honored Buckeyes' quarterback Troy Smith as the Preseason Offensive Player of the Year and Penn State linebacker Paul Posluszny as the Preseason Defensive Player of the Year.
The Buckeyes produced a record of 7-1 in Big Ten action last year to collect their 30th conference crown and second title under head coach Jim Tressel. Ohio State also improved to a perfect 4-0 in Bowl Championship Series (BCS) games, the most wins of any team in the country, by knocking off Notre Dame in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl to wrap up a 10-2 campaign. The Buckeyes return 11 starters this season, including eight on the offensive side of the ball.
Michigan was picked second in the preseason poll after finishing in a tie for third place in the conference last season and advancing to the Alamo Bowl. Lloyd Carr became the 12th Big Ten head coach to reach the 100-victory plateau last season and leads all current conference mentors with five crowns in his 11 years at the helm. The Wolverines welcome back 18 starters, the second-highest total among all conference schools, including eight defensive standouts.
Finishing third in the media poll was Iowa, which tied Michigan for third place last season before playing in the Outback Bowl. Head coach Kirk Ferentz has led the Hawkeyes to four straight January bowl games and enters 2006 with 49 wins in Iowa City, just one victory shy of becoming the third coach in school annals with 50 triumphs. Iowa returns 16 starters, including seven on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.
In individual honors, Smith was tabbed as the Preseason Offensive Player of the Year after being named the Offensive Most Valuable Player of the Fiesta Bowl. The senior quarterback set a career-high with 342 passing yards and became the second player in school annals to top the 400-yard mark in total offense against Notre Dame. Smith also led the Big Ten and finished sixth nationally with a 162.7 pass efficiency rating while throwing for 2,282 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Posluszny was named the Preseason Defensive Player of the Year after winning the Bednarik and Butkus Awards, emblematic of the nation's top defensive player and linebacker, respectively. The senior linebacker was also a consensus first-team All-American after boosting the Nittany Lions to a share of the Big Ten Championship and their first BCS berth, a triple-overtime victory over Florida State in the Orange Bowl. Posluszny is the conference's leading returning tackler at 9.7 per game after racking up 116 defensive stops in 2005.
The 111th season of Big Ten football kicks off with two games on Thursday, Aug. 31, with the remaining nine teams taking the field on Saturday, Sept. 2.