As the 2016 college football season inches closer and closer, our preseason coverage rolls along.
Today, we'll take a look at my 2016 Preseason Big Ten Power Rankings for each and every team in the conference.
No. 1 - Ohio State
The Ohio State Buckeyes will rely on J.T. Barrett to lead the offense under center with losses of running back Ezekiel Elliott, wide receiver Braxton Miller, tight end Nick Vannett, quarterback Cardale Jones and wide receiver Michael Thomas. On the defensive end, the Buckeyes lost defensive end Joey Bosa, cornerback Eli Apple, and linebacker Darron Lee, just to name a few. Do not forget, offensive tackle Taylor Decker is also out of the picture. Believe it or not, Ohio State is returning just six starters from the 12-1 team last season, just three on offense and three on defense. If the new starters play as expected, the Buckeyes should be as good as advertised in the 2016 season.
No. 2 - Michigan
The Michigan Wolverines went 10-3 during head coach Jim Harbaugh’s season tenure with the program. The year includes a huge win over the Florida Gators in the Citrus Bowl. The Maize and Blue will look to take the next step in their progress. Michigan will return tight end Jake Butt, safety Jabrill Peppers, cornerback Jourdan Lewis, running back De’Veon Smith and wide receivers Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh. Do not forget, Michigan picked up Rashan Gary, No. 1 overall recruit in the 2016 class. The defensive tackle could find himself starting for the Wolverines as a true freshman on Week 1 against Hawaii. The only question left is with the quarterback battle between Wilton Speight and Houston transfer John O’Korn. The 2016 Wolverines could be a very special squad.
No. 3 - Iowa
The Iowa Hawkeyes finished one victory away from making the College Football Playoff after finishing the reglar season with a 12-0 record. Second-team All-Big Ten quarterback C.J. Beathard will return with defensive back Desmond King. Iowa will have to battle Wisconsin, Michigan and Nebraska at home, which will not be easy. The questions remains: Will Iowa be as effective and dominant on both defense and offense?
No. 4 - Michigan State
The Michigan State Spartans will be without quarterback Connor Cook, wide receiver Aaron Burbridge, left tackle Jack Conklin, center Jack Allen and defensive end Shilique Calhoun. Tyler O’Connor, Damion Terry and Messiah deWeaver are currently in a heated quarterback battle to take the offensive reigns. The Spartans own a 36-5 record across the last three seasons along with winning two of the past three Big Ten championships.
No. 5 - Wisconsin
The Wisconsin Badgers have to make a quarterback decision between Bart Houston and Alex Hornibrook, but will need a few receivers to step up big time. The backfield will get a huge boost with running back Corey Clement healthy. Wisconsin takes on LSU in the early stages of their schedule before opening up Big Ten Conference play against Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State and Iowa. With all those games in a row, the Badgers could run into some issues.
No. 6 - Nebraska
The Nebraska Cornhuskers lost multiple games at the last second and finished 5-7 last year. However, it was a year that could have seen Nebraska at the top of the Big Ten Conference. Almost all of the offense will return, including quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. Nebraska made a bowl game and scored 37 points on UCLA for the win in the Foster Farms Bowl.
No. 7 - Penn State
The Penn State Nittany Lions had their second straight 7-6 season under head coach James Franklin. This season, the Nittany Lions will be without quarterback Christian Hackenberg. On defense, Penn State will bring Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Carl Nassib and top lineman Austin Johnson. The 2016 season in Happy Valley could be a very good one, but there are question marks looming regarding the offense.
No. 8 - Northwestern
The Northwestern Wildcats put together a 10-2 record during the 2015 season, for a second place finish in the Big Ten West. However, Northwestern lost 45-6 against Tennessee in the Outback Bowl. Justin Jackson, one of the best running backs in the Big Ten Conference, will be returning to the program with quarterback Clayton Thorson. Many have speculated that head coach Pat Fitzgerald’s team was pure luck last season, but the Wildcats will attempt to prove that they are no fluke.
No. 9 - Minnesota
The Minnesota Golden Gophers fought for a Big Ten West title in 2014, but struggled during the 2015 season. The team finished 5-7 and made the Quick Lane Bowl. In the game, the Golden Gophers defeated the Central Michigan Chippewas. Minnesota will lead on starting quarterback Mitch Leidner, who could end up being one of the top offensive threats in the Big Ten Conference.
No. 10 - Indiana
The Indiana Hoosiers made their first bowl game since 2007 after a 6-7 season, but are only hoping to build on last years performance under head coach Kevin Wilson. The Hoosiers could end up having one of the best offensive teams in the nation, but the defense is quite lacking. Running back Devine Redding, wide receiver Simmie Cobbs Jr. and offensive lineman Dan Feeney will be returning to the team. Redding carried the ball for 1,012 yards and nine touchdowns last year, Cobbs Jr. caught 60 passes for 1,035 yards and four touchdowns, and Feeney was named an All-American.
No. 11 - Maryland
The Maryland Terrapins, like the Illini and Scarlet Knights, will welcome new head coach D.J. Durkin to the program. The coach will first have to name the starting quarterback between Caleb Rowe and Perry Hills, but will return a good amount of offensive talent. Maryland fans must realize that Durkin should be able to turn the program into something special, but the 2016 season will be a building block to a great future.
No. 12 - Illinois
The Illinois Fighting Illini will begin the Lovie Smith era in Champaign after a rough 5-7 season last year. The new head coach will likely get a lot more out of his players than past coaches, but it will not make that much of a difference in just one season. It will be tough to get in the top half of the Big Ten Conference without Mike Dudek and Dre Brown. Dudek re-tore his ACL and will miss this season, while Brown suffered the same type of injury will miss the 2016 campaign.
No. 13 - Rutgers
The Rutgers Scarlet Knights have a new addition in head coach Chris Ash for the 2016 season. He will look to turn around the program that struggled last season with a 4-8 record. The defense will be solid, but there is question regarding the offensive attack. The Scarlet Knights lost their top player in receiver Leonte Caroo, but will return quarterback Chris Laviano, running back Robert Martin and defensive back Isaiah Warton.
No. 14 - Purdue
The Purdue Boilermakers have the most offense that they have had in a few years, but the defense is not consistent. In the last three seasons, the Boilermakers have earned a weak 6-30 overall record. Purdue will have to get major noise from sophomore quarterback David Blough, who tossed for 1,574 yards and 10 touchdowns last season, and running back Markell Jones.