Buckeyes Debut at 16 in Coaches Poll
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State fans found themselves in unfamiliar territory Thursday as their team debuted at No. 16 in the first USA Today Coaches Poll of the 2011 football season.
The Buckeyes have been to six-straight BCS bowl games, but a tumultuous off-season that led to the resignation of former head coach Jim Tressel also produced a ranking much lower than what folks in Columbus are used to.
“OSU #16 in coaches poll,” freshman safety Jeremy Cash Tweeted after seeing the new poll.
“Guess we gotta wake everybody up that's sleeping on us.”
Ohio State finished last season ranked No. 5 in the Coaches Poll following their 31-26 win over Arkansas in the Fiesta Bowl, but this is not the same team that took the field in New Orleans.
The 2011 Buckeyes must replace key players on both sides of the ball, including team MVP Dane Sanzenbacher, defensive MVP Cam Heyward and star quarterback Terrelle Pryor.
They will also have a first-year head coach on the sidelines in former co-defensive coordinator Luke Fickell, which might explain why the Buckeyes are being slotted third in the Big Ten.
At No. 10, co-champion Wisconsin was the conference’s highest-rated team in the Coaches Poll. The Badgers are coming off a Rose Bowl loss to TCU, but they did add former N.C. State quarterback Russell Wilson in the off-season.
Right behind Wisconsin is the Big Ten’s newcomer, Nebraska. The Cornhuskers are ranked No. 11 in the Coaches Poll after receiving 814 points compared to 826 for Wisconsin.
Ohio State was the conference’s third-highest rated team with 631 points Michigan State is right behind them at No. 17 in the poll with 536 points and Penn State rounds out the Top 25 at No. 25 with 161 points.
The Big Ten also had three schools receive votes that did not make the top 25. Iowa received 41 votes, Northwestern had 30 and Michigan got 19 votes in their first year under new Head Coach Brady Hoke.
Four different teams received first-place votes in the inaugural Coaches Poll, with Oklahoma taking the top spot in the preseason. One year removed from their national championship, Alabama moved all the way up to No. 2 in the preseason, followed by Oregon, LSU and Florida State.
The Seminoles finished last season ranked No. 16 in the Coaches Poll.
Rounding out the top 10 are Stanford, Boise State, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and Wisconsin. Arkansas is ranked No. 16 following their loss to the Buckeyes and Notre Dame is back in the top 25 at No. 18.
Defending national champion Auburn dropped to No. 19 after losing Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton.
The Buckeyes will not face any top 25 teams in their non-conference schedule, but Miami (Fla.) did receive 49 points after going 7-6 a year ago.
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