Park Ridge, Ill. – The Big Ten Conference announced today that Ohio State has been selected as the preseason favorite for the 2009 football season by media members attending the conference’s football media day. Penn State was tabbed to finish second, and Michigan State was third. In addition, the media panel also named Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor the Preseason Offensive Player of the Year and Michigan State linebacker Greg Jones the Preseason Defensive Player of the Year.
Ohio State enters the 2009 season in search of its fifth straight Big Ten title. OSU finished last season with a 10-3 overall mark and tied with Penn State for the conference title with a 7-1 mark during Big Ten play. The Buckeyes are once again led by head coach Jim Tressel, who last season became just the fourth coach in Big Ten history to win five or more titles in his first eight years with a conference institution. Ohio State returns 12 starters from a year ago, including Pryor, the Big Ten’s Preseason Offensive Player of the Year.
Last year’s Big Ten Co-Champion, Penn State was selected to finish second this year after ending last season with a 7-1 mark in conference and an 11-2 overall record. Last year’s Big Ten title marked the program’s second in the last four years and the team’s third overall. At the helm once again for the Nittany Lions is Joe Paterno, the all-time winningest coach in Football Bowl Subdivision history. Penn State welcomes back nine starters from last year’s squad.
Michigan State was tabbed to finish third in 2009 following a 2008 campaign in which the Spartans finished 9-4 overall with a 6-2 mark in conference play. MSU is led by third-year head coach Mark Dantonio, who has guided his team to back-to-back bowl appearances for the first time since 1997. The Spartans return 15 starters from a year ago, including eight on defense, led by Jones, the Big Ten Preseason Defensive Player of the Year.
Pryor is set to lead the Buckeyes following a season in which he was named the conference’s Freshman of the Year. The quarterback led the Big Ten with a pass efficiency rating of 151.3 in conference games, making him the first freshman to top the conference in the category since the stat was introduced in 1980. Pryor produced an 8-1 record as a starter and became the first Ohio State true freshman since 1978 to start at quarterback.
Jones takes home preseason defensive honors after leading his team and finishing third in the Big Ten with 127 tackles in 2008. Jones was a first-team All-Big Ten selection a year ago and ranked among the conference’s top 10 with 14 tackles for loss while posting two sacks and a pass breakup. He has been named to the preseason watch lists for the Rotary Lombardi Award and the Lott Trophy.
The 114th season of Big Ten football kicks off on Thursday, Sept. 3, as Indiana hosts Eastern Kentucky. The conference’s other 10 teams open action on Saturday, Sept. 5.
I'm sure most of you remember that Greg Jones was actually a Gopher commit to Mason before changing his mind and heading to East Lansing. He'd look awfully good in maroon and gold wouldn't he?