UPDATE #1 FROM HERE IN CHICAGO AT THE BIG TEN MEDIA DAYS:
MICHIGAN NAMED BIG TEN
FOOTBALL PRESEASON FAVORITE
Wolverinesâ€™ Mike Hart and Ohio Stateâ€™s James Laurinaitis Receive Preseason Honors
PARK RIDGE, Ill. â€“ The Big Ten Conference announced today that Michigan has been selected as the preseason favorite among members of the media attending the conferenceâ€™s football media day. Wisconsinwas chosen to place second, while defending Big Ten Champion Ohio State was selected third. The Big Ten announces only the top three teams in its preseason poll.Â The voting members of the media also honored Michigan running back Mike Hart as the Preseason Offensive Player of the Year while Preseason Defensive Player of the Year honors went to Ohio State linebacker James Laurinaitis.
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The Wolverines put together a successful 7-1 Big Ten record under head coach Lloyd Carr last year and tied for second overall in the conference standings.Â Michigan represented the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl and ended last season with a record of 11-2.Â With 11 starters returning for the Maize and Blue this year, including six on the offensive side of the ball, Michigan will look to capture its record 43rd conference title.
Wisconsin was selected second in the preseason poll after tying Michigan as Big Ten runner-up last year.Â The Badgers went 7-1 in conference play under 2006 Dave McClain Big Ten Coach of the Year Bret Bielema, who became just the third first-year head coach in NCAA Division I history to pilot his team to 12 victories.Â Wisconsin concluded last year with a win over Arkansas in the Capital One Bowl, marking its sixth bowl victory in its last eight appearances.Â The Badgers return 18 starters this season, including 2006 Big Ten Freshman of the Year P.J. Hill.
Ohio State enters the 2007 campaign on the heels of a berth in the BCS National Championship game.Â The Buckeyes were 12-1 overall and a perfect 8-0 in conference play last season under head coach Jim Tressel, who became the second OSU coach in school history to win three Big Ten titles in his first six years on campus.Â OSU returns 11 starters for the 2007 campaign.
Michiganâ€™s Hart headlines the conferenceâ€™s offensive players this season after an impressive 2006 campaign that saw him rush for 1,562 yards â€“ a total that is fifth-best in Wolverine history.Â The Michigan senior also scampered for 14 touchdowns last season and was tabbed a first-team All-Big Ten selection.
Laurinaitis received the Big Tenâ€™s top preseason defensive honor after concluding his sophomore season as an All-American and Nagurski Trophy recipient.Â The OSU linebacker was a defensive force for the Buckeyes in 2006, leading the team with 115 tackles and adding five interceptions and four sacks.