Big Ten reporters predict the Minnesota Golden Gophers football team will finish in the middle of the pack in 2021.

Minnesota was picked to finish fourth in the seven-team Big Ten West division this fall, according to the annual poll released Wednesday.

The poll of 34 reporters named Ohio State, the Gophers' opponent to open the 2021 season, as the unanimous pick to win the East division.

Voters selected Wisconsin to win the West with 29 first-place votes; Iowa took the other five top votes. The Buckeyes, who will start a new quarterback who has yet to throw a collegiate pass, were picked to beat the Badgers or Hawkeyes on all but one ballots. A single voter picked Wisconsin to top Ohio State.

Coming off an 11-2 season in 2019, the U was picked to finish second going into 2020, receiving 14 votes to win the division, but they went 3-4 in the pandemic-altered season. Minnesota now returns 20 starters for 2021, including former all-Big Ten quarterback Tanner Morgan and 2020 Big Ten running back of the year Mo Ibrahim.

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In 2019, the Gophers were picked to finish sixth in the poll, and head coach P.J. Fleck often brought up that slot as they started 9-0 and contended for a spot in the Big Ten title game in the regular-season finale against Wisconsin. The U ended up losing to the Badgers, and with the tiebreaker, finished second in the West.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer’s poll also picked offensive and defensive players of the year. Buckeyes receiver Chris Olave was the top pick on offense with 11 first place votes and 58 points.

Ibrahim finished third, with four first-place votes and 36 points; Morgan was 12th with one first-place vote and 3.5 points. Voters split first-place votes between 12 different players.

On defense, Northwestern safety Brandon Joseph took top honors with 11 first-place votes and 49 points. Minnesota rush end Boye Mafe tied for 12th with two points.

Here’s the projected 2021 standings, with first-place votes in parentheses:


1. Wisconsin (29) 233

2. Iowa (5) 202

3. Northwestern 160

4. Minnesota 146

5. Nebraska 91.5

6. Purdue 72.5

7. Illinois 47


1. Ohio State (34) 238

2. Penn State 192

3. Indiana 169

4. Michigan 144

5. Maryland 144

6. Rutgers 77.5

7. Michigan State 52.5