With the regular season in the books, let's look at how these teams stack up
1. Ohio State 12-0 (8-0) - The Buckeyes are obviously the class of the Big Ten this year. Unbeaten for an entire season, winning both blowouts and close games. Nobody could come up with the play necessary to take down the Buckeyes, while Ohio State always found a way to make just enough plays to win. I don't like it, but Ohio State is first in this by a long ways.
2. Nebraska 10-2 (7-1) - The Huskers may not have been the best team in the conference, but that will matter little if they can make the Rose Bowl. The Huskers played arguably the toughest Big Ten slate of any team -- three division crossover games vs. Ohio State, Penn State, and Wisconsin will do that -- and still came out with just one Big Ten loss courtesy of the undefeated Buckeyes. The only thing missing is a Big Ten championship and a Rose Bowl trip.
3. Michigan 8-4 (6-2) - The Wolverines stumbled to four losses, but faced three of the top four teams in the country as well as the 12th ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers, with all four of those games coming on the road. That Michigan played both Ohio State and Notre Dame down to the wire despite putrid offensive efforts is a huge credit to the resurgent defense. However, the Wolverines are clearly a step down from the top two here.
4. Penn State 8-4 (6-2) - The Nittany Lions began the season with two straight disappointing losses, but turned the season around en route to a 8-2 finish with losses to the unquestioned top two in the Big Ten. Although the schedule wasn't quite as rough as Michigan faced, Penn State had plenty of adversity to face down, and year one of the Bill O'Brien era has to be considered a rousing success.
5. Northwestern 9-3 (5-3) - The Wildcats were three fourth quarter collapses from going undefeated. Unfortunately, the Cats barely ever seemed to have luck on their side. Still, Northwestern once again fielded an impressive offense and finally put together a solid run defense.
6. Wisconsin 7-5 (4-4) - The Badgers fell off dramatically after two straight strong seasons. The offense struggled at times, and WIsconsin failed to compete against the best teams in the league. Still, the Badgers get a shot at the Big Ten title thanks to one-third of the Leaders division sitting home with postseason bans. De-fault, the two sweetest words in the English language. De-fault! De-fault!
7. Michigan State 6-6 (3-5) - When it comes to disappointment in the Big Ten, no team can claim more than Michigan State. Starting the season as the top Big Ten title contender, the Spartan offense regressed badly right before everyone's eyes. Despite lining up LeVeon Bell in the backfield, Michigan State couldn't sustain drives and couldn't take pressure off the pass offense which struggled all year. The defense was only able to hold up for so long, giving up late game deciding drives to Iowa, Michigan, and Nebraska.
8. Minnesota 6-6 (2-6) - The Gophers took another small step forward under Jerry Kill by getting bowl eligible. The Gophers still have to improve athleticism on both sides of the ball to hang with the conference's better teams, but the Gophers look more like a football team and less like a calamity.
9. Purdue 6-6 (3-5) - The Boilermakers looked to be a darkhorse title contender early in the year after playing Notre Dame close and winning comfortably in the other three non-conference games. Five straight lopsided Big Ten losses later, Danny Hope's fate was sealed. Even three wins against the conference's doormats wasn't enough to save Hope. Hope is gone; sounds like Purdue football to me.
10. Iowa 4-8 (2-6) - The opposite of Purdue, Iowa started the season with a couple weird losses (ISU beat Iowa 9-6, and the Hawkeyes got beat by Central Michigan), but two wins to start the Big Ten season -- including an overtime win over still relevant Michigan State -- seemed to signal a sea change. Iowa would then lose its next six games in increasingly comical fashion.
11. Indiana 4-8 (2-6) - There was a time this season when people were actually talking about Indiana as a possible Leaders division representative in the Big Ten title game. Yeah, it was a weird year. Still, Indiana showed some signs of life. Still, the program is a ways away from being really relevant.
12. Illinois 2-10 (0-8) - Who would have thought Illinois could actually downgrade from Ron Zook. Beckman might keep his job and get a year two, but just the fact that I have to phrase it that way shows how disappointing year one was.