A 14 team Big Ten football conference leads to disparities in talent and quality of play. The B1G has some of the best programs in the nation, and definitely one of the worst.
It’s a new year, with new starting quarterbacks, new offensive coordinators, and new head coaches, and new hopes. Here are my Big Ten power rankings heading into the season.
The Rutgers football program has been nothing but a punch-line for a good chunk of years now, but they’re hoping that they can turn things around with head coach Greg Schiano returning to the program. It’s going to take some time for Schiano to turn Rutgers into a team that competes at an adequate level each and every week. Rutgers is still the bottom of the barrel in the Big Ten until proven otherwise.
13. Michigan State
MSU has a new head coach and staff during an unprecedented off-season with not nearly enough practice time for a new regime to implement their installs. Head coach Mel Tucker has his work cut out for him and then some, especially without knowing who their starting quarterback is heading into the year. Michigan State’s record could be as ugly has it has been in well over a decade, but maybe Tucker can prove me wrong.
Any other year Maryland would certainly be ranked below MSU, but a modest jump is not saying much about the Terps. While head coach Mike Locksley has shown to be a good offensive play-caller, it doesn’t really matter much when your defense gives up 37.8 points per game (No. 123 in the nation in 2019). Alabama transfer QB Taulia Tagovailoa could bolster Maryland’s offense, but there’s still no word on if he’s won his appeal to gain immediate eligibility.
The Scott Frost era has been a major disappoint for Nebraska fans to this point. There was a ton of hype when Frost arrived at Nebraska and many predicted he’d turn the program around quickly. That hasn’t been the case. Nebraska is a shell of their former self and don’t expect that to change anytime soon. Quarterback Adrian Martinez has talent but hasn’t lived up to his potential yet and it won’t be easy for him to get acclimated with new offensive coordinator Matt Lubick’s scheme. It also doesn’t help that one of their most electric players, J.D. Spielman, to TCU.
Gotta give Lovie Smith some credit, Illinois competed in 2019 week in and week out. Former Michigan quarterback Brandon Peters helped the Illini stun Wisconsin and Michigan State, and there’s no reason to think Peters won’t be even better this season.
Purdue has one of the best receiving duos in the Big Ten in Rondale Moore and David Bell and defensive end George Karlaftis can really get after the QB, but overall the roster is so-so/has question marks. It might boil down to the QB play of Jack Plummer as to whether the Boilermakers have a record north of .500.
Last season was absolutely ugly for Northwestern, who finished the season 3-9. I expect the team to be much more competitive this season, especially with former Indiana QB Peyton Ramsey transferring to the program. Ramsey won’t have the amount of weapons he had at IU, but we’ll see if he can make things happen nonetheless and bolster that offense single-handedly. As long as defensive minded head coach Pat Fitzgerald has the defense executing at a respectable level, Northwestern will have a better 2020 than ‘19.
Any Big Ten knows that Iowa can be a major pain in the rear end and is always ready to pull of an upset. They’ll have a new quarterback in Spencer Petras, but there’s a good chance he could be an upgrade over the inaccurate and immobile Nate Stanley. Well coached and always packed with a solid rushing attack and defense, Iowa is pretty much the same team each and every year from a talent perspective.
Indiana finally found themselves a head coach that the players believe in and will fight for. IU was No. 3 in the Big Ten last season in total offense, they have a good young quarterback in Michael Penix Jr. who has weapons to help him out (WR Whop Philyor and RB Stevie Scott). Indiana could very well have one of the best offenses yet again in the Big Ten, but a lot of that will hinge on if Penix can stay healthy for an entire season.
Wisconsin is basically a better version of Iowa. Always well coached, always a good offensive line, always a solid defense, and always around the 8-10 win mark. The thing Wisconsin has going against them is the loss of phenom running back Jonathan Taylor, that type of production is hard to replace. Quartberback Jack Coan was merely a game manager last season and it’s reasonable to think Coan’s going to struggle without Taylor and opposing defenses stacking the box less this year. Coan’s production or lacketherof aside, Wisconsin’s defense is going to keep them in a lot of games to where there will be weeks where if the Badgers score 17 points they’ll win.
Row. The. Boat. The P.J. Fleck era of Minnesota football has been an energetic one and productive as well. Their upset of Penn State last season was one of their biggest wins in program history. Tanner Morgan is arguably the best QB in the Big Ten and wideouts like Rashod Batemen and Chris Autman-Bell will make the offense a fun one to watch yet again in 2020.
Michigan has a very talented receiving corp in Nico Collins, Ronnie Bell, Giles Jackson, Cornelius Johnson, and beyond along with a diverse group of RB’s in Zach Charbonnet, Hassan Haskins, and Chris Evans. The UM defense should be just fine and among the best in the conference despite losing key contributors to the NFL. The biggest question marks for Michigan are at quarterback and offensive line. UM will have four new starters along the o-line, not an ideal situation, and they haven’t named a starting quarterback between Dylan McCaffrey, Joe Milton, and dark horse Cade McNamara. If Michigan receives production from the o-line and QB position, their ranking will move higher up the board.
2. Penn State
The Nittany Lions may have lost WR KJ Hamler, but they return 8 starters on offense and QB Sean Clifford is a top-tier college quarterback and their RB trio of Journey Brown, Noah Cain and Devyn Ford is a formidable one. And the PSU defense, despite some losses will still be one of the best in the B1G with LB Micah Parson’s leading the D.
1. Ohio State
Justin Fields had an incredible 2019 and still has guys like Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson to throw to. The RB position is a question mark with J.K. Dobbins, as is how they’ll replace the production of top NFL draft picks DE Chase Young and CB Jeffrey Okudah. The thing about OSU is it doesn’t seem to matter what players they lose because they recruit so well and are incredibly well coached. Until someone can start consistently toppling the Buckeyes for the Big Ten Championship, Ohio State is No. 1.