The Big Ten West's representative in the conference championship game may come down to Black Friday.
That's a key takeaway from the Big Ten preseason football writers poll compiled for the ninth year by cleveland.com. Nebraska and Iowa were selected a virtual co-favorites in the poll. Each team had 14 first-place votes. The Huskers edged the Hawkeyes by 3.5 points - a small margin given the 34 voters - for the top overall spot in the Big Ten West.
Two writers even picked NU to beat Michigan in Indianapolis to capture the Big Ten crown.
It's heady stuff for a team that finished 4-8 last season. But Nebraska lost five games by five or fewer points, taking league champion Ohio State and West Division champion Northwestern to the wire on the road.
One big reason for the optimism: Quarterback Adrian Martinez, who received two first-place voters for preseason Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and finished fourth overall in the polling behind Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor, Purdue receiver Rondale Moore and Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson.
Michigan was selected as the overall favorite of the league, as 17 of the polls' voters selected them to win the Big Ten title. Fourteen selected Ohio State. Two selected Nebraska and one selected Northwestern.
Five different teams - NU, Iowa, Northwestern, Minnesota and Wisconsin - were selected by writers to represent the West in Indianapolis. The Badgers, often a favorite in the West, were picked third this year.
Iowa defensive end AJ Epenesa was listed among the favorites for preseason Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.
The preseason standings:
BIG TEN EAST
1. Michigan, 222 points (20 first-place votes)
2. Ohio State, 214 points (14)
3. Michigan State, 156 points
4. Penn State, 154 points
5. Indiana, 86.5 points
6. Maryland, 82.5 points
7. Rutgers, 37 points
BIG TEN WEST
1. Nebraska, 198 points (14 first-place votes)
2. Iowa, 194.5 points (14)
3. Wisconsin, 172.5 points (4)
4. Northwestern, 142.5 points (1)
5. Purdue, 110.5 points
6. Minnesota, 100 points (1)
7. Illinois, 34 points