The Big Ten conference trophy. Credit: Reid Compton-US PRESSWIRE
For those of you who at all follow ESPN's B1G bloggers, you have probably noticed that they have been ranking each of the Big Ten's position units. Today they finally wrapped up all units with secondaries. I wanted to take a look at these rankings, assign points based on each team's rank and let us use this as a guide to determine who are the best teams in the conference.
The math was very simple. If a positional unit was ranked 1st, that school received 12 points. If they were ranked last, they received 1. So based on this highly scientific process, who are the best teams in the conference?
According to this Nebraska and Michigan will be fighting to win the Legends Division for the right to face Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game. And it should be no surprise to anyone that Minnesota will languish at the bottom of the Legends, just barely "better" than Indiana in the Leaders. No real big shockers here. You have Michigan, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Ohio State and Michigan State as the schools expected to battle it out atop the league. Then in the middle is maybe a slight surprise to see Purdue kind of alone as not quite at the top end level but certainly ahead of the rest of the middle. And of course Minnesota and Indiana way behind the rest of the league.
What about some further breaking down of the data? Here are the top expected offenses and defenses. It should be noted that the offensive numbers are higher because there were four offensive positional units and just three on the defensive side of the ball.
What jumps out to me is how Ohio State and Michigan State really are two outstanding defenses, with a decent gap between them and the next six teams that all have similarly ranked defenses. On the offense things are spread out a little more but Nebraska, Wisconsin, Michigan and Purdue appear to have the fewest question marks. One would also expect Penn State to drop a spot or two (or three) after their losses on both sides of the ball.
As far as Minnesota goes, I expected them to be ranked about where they are defensively but I'm a little surprised that they sit alone in last place among the Big Ten offenses.
My overall thoughts? I really like Michigan State this year. When you give equal weight to all positions they end up falling to third in the Legends Division. But when you have what could be an elite defense to go along with a good offensive line and a good running back, then I think you can get by without a superior passing game. Michigan has a dynamic offense and greatly improved defensively. Nebraska will be very physical and a tough out for anybody. But if I were a betting man, my money would be on Michigan State to come out on top of the stacked Legends Division.
For the Leaders? I think that the B1G title game participant will come down to Wisconsin or Purdue. Ohio State may win the division but they are not eligible for the game in Indy. Purdue benefits from having one less game against one of the elites of the conference as they miss Michigan State and Nebraska. Wisconsin misses only Michigan among the top teams. Looking at their schedules Purdue could very well win their last five games of the year but they start the Big Ten season with Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio State. If they can manage to win one of those three games (particularly the Wisconsin game at home), they may very well prevent a rematch of last year's B1G title game. Wisconsin will finish ahead of Purdue assuming their quarterback prayers are answered again this year.
Minnesota? I think we are under-ranked in a couple of areas but that is largely because we just haven't been very good. I may think that our receivers are not the worst receiving corp in the conference but they kind of have to prove it. Same can be said for the running game, the offensive line and the defensive line. I do think our linebackers are under-ranked by a couple points and the offensive line is better than it is getting credit for. When the year end rankings come out, I hope that we see Minnesota who made the biggest jump from the preseason.
Below are the individual positional group rankings.