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247 Sports predicts 4th-place finish for IU

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It’s not the top tier, and it’s not the cellar. It’s right in the middle, baby!

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 14 Ohio State at Indiana Photo by James Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Big Ten league office stopped rounding up votes and publishing a preseason football poll in 2011, leaving such all-important work to the outlets that cover conference teams. While we wait for the Cleveland.com poll — considered the league’s de facto preseason survey — to drop, the folks at 247 Sports recently canvassed their in-house writers and produced a version of their own.

There, Indiana is slotted to finish squarely in the middle of the Big Ten East standings. 247 Sports’ 11-person panel placed IU fourth in the division, behind usual suspects Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan, and ahead of Michigan State, Maryland and Rutgers, in that order. For those keeping score at home, that’s exactly how the East finished last fall.

“Indiana is a popular choice to challenge for the top half of the division,” 247 Sports’ Brandon Marcello writes, “but the drop-off after Michigan is rather large, with Michigan State in rebuilding mode, Maryland still trying to load up on recruits and Rutgers being, well, at the bottom of the pile with Greg Schiano back for his second tenure as the head coach.”

In the West, 247 also went with the same order for the top three teams: Wisconsin first, followed by Minnesota and Iowa. From there, the panel went with Nebraska, Purdue, Northwestern and Illinois, respectively. Ohio State is the pick, once again, to beat Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game.

The 247 Sports panel also predicted individual awards, going all-in on the Buckeyes. Quarterback Justin Fields is the pick to win conference player of the year, while Ryan Day was the choice as Big Ten Coach of the Year.

Sick league.

Of course, all of this comes with the usual disclaimer (the one we are all sick of thinking and writing about): it’s still anyone’s guess what the upcoming season will look like. Hopefully, we’ll have some clarity soon. On Monday, Rutgers president Jonathan Holloway said he believes the conference will determine the feasibility of the fall sports calendar within the next two weeks.

Fingers crossed, at least, that we learn something one way or the other.

“The (conference) council of presidents and chancellors are in intense conversations about this,” Holloway said, as reported by NJ.com. “We will be following the guidance of the conference, and we are certainly keeping a close eye on how things develop with (scheduled re-starts in the NBA and Major League Baseball). More information on that front will be coming out very soon. If I had to guess, within two weeks there will be a final declaration.”