It’s time for a new season and once again I am back with my Big Ten Football Power Rankings. As a reminder these rankings are mine alone. I rank the teams both 1-7 in their respective divisions, and then 1-14 overall in the Big Ten.
Like most of the rest of the prognosticators, I think the Big Ten East is very top heavy. The top three teams overall will come from the east. But over the course of the season that easily can change.
Withouth further ado, here are my preseason Big Ten Football Power Rankings;
Big Ten East:
The Buckeyes made the College Football Playoff last season before being bounced unceremoniously by eventual national champion Clemson. While Ohio State lost quite a bit to the NFL after the season, all they seem to do is reload. J.T. Barrett returns for his senior season and can win games both with his legs and in the air. Good luck to opposing offensive lines on stopping Tyquon Lewis and Nick Bosa too.
The Buckeyes get to start the Big Ten season this year with a trip to Indiana on Thursday night. It should be a quick 1-0 start to the season as well.
Its pretty insane to think that if Antoine Winfield Jr. doesn’t get hurt, or if Mitch Leidner just tucks the ball and runs that this script could be completely different. The Nittany Lions don’t win the Big Ten east, and James Franklin probably is talking about getting fired rather than a new contract making almost $6 Million a year. The Nittany Lions return a potent offense that opposint teams will need to try and stop. Quarterback Trace McSorley really broke out last season and is one the the best in the Big Ten. Running back Saquon Barkley is a early favorite to win the Heisman. Mike Gesicki might be the first tight end off the board in the NFL Draft a year from now.
The Akron Zips come to town this weekend, and it should be an easy non-conference win for the Nittany Lions.
The Wolverines were a double OT loss to the Buckeyes away from making the Big Ten Championship game a year ago, and should be a factor again this year. Michigan lost tons to graduation and the NFL after last season but should have several players step up for Jim Harbaugh’s squad. Maurice Hurst and Rashan Gary will be beasts on the defensive line.
The Wolverines get to play Florida in Jerry’s Palace in Texas to start the season. The game looked a lot tougher for the Wolverines a week ago, but with now up to 10 Florida players suspended for the game, and potentially even more coming—I think the Wolverines should not have too much trouble.
The Terps were up and down in 2016, and frankly I’m not really sure what to expect in 2017. DJ Durkin has been doing a good job of recruiting, but are those players ready to make an impact this season? Maryland has to trip down to Austin to take on the Texas Longhorns in Tom Herman’s first game as the head man in burnt orange. We might have a bit of a better feel for how Maryland might fare after this weekend.
Last year was an absolute dumpster fire for the Spartans. The off-season has not been good either to Mark Dantonio and company with several impact players getting kicked off or leaving the team. It has to be a better season this year for Sparty...right? Bowling Green comes into East Lansing this Saturday in what should be a win for MSU. Key word...should.
Indiana is what Indiana is. Fair to middling, maybe fighting for a bowl appearance. The Hoosiers have two studs on defense in Tegray Scales and Richard Fant, but still have a lot of work to do other places. It won’t help they have to start their season hosting Ohio State. Great for the ESPN attention...not so much for the record and confidence.
Oh Rutgers....Rutgers, Rutgers, Rutgers. What can we say that has not all ready been said. Now Jerry Kill will run the Scarlet Knight offense in 2017. Will he turn Giovanni Rescigno into Chandler Harnish or Mitch Leidner? Only time will tell.
The one thing we do know is that Jersey Shore night on Friday will not go well with the Washington Huskies coming in. This one will get ugly.
Big Ten West
The Badgers are on top of the west until someone takes it from them. Wisconsin will still have an impressive running game in 2017 with arguably the best offensive line in the Big Ten and a big back in Bradrick Shaw. Add in a potential All-American in tight end Troy Fumagalli, and Wisconsin may be able to score. On defense Wisconsin will be hurt by the loss of Jack Cichy to a knee injury but still has some talent left.
Wisconsin hosts Utah State on Friday night and should easily go 1-0 to start the year.
Northwestern has the potential to be sneaky good this season. They return one of the best running backs in the Big Ten in Justin Jackson, and if they can get consistent quarterback play from Clayton Thorson it could be a very good offense. Godwin Igwebuike returns to anchor the Wildcat defense as well.
Northwestern hosts Nevada to start the season on Saturday and should move to 1-0.
Iowa is in place to potentially make a run at the Big Ten West title in 2017 as well. They lose C.J. Beathard to the NFL but still have Akrum Wadley to lead the way for the Iowa ground attack. Josey Jewell is back on defense and should be one of the most disruptive players on defense in the Big Ten.
The Wyoming Cowboys come into Iowa City on Saturday in what could be a potential upset opportunity. Iowa is missing starting cornerback Manny Rugamba who was suspended for the opener—which could be big against the potential first quarterback taking in the NFL Draft next season in Josh Allen.
There are a lot of unanswered questions for the Gophers this season. How will they Gophers adjust to the new system under PJ Fleck. Who will take over the QB spot? Can the secondary keep up with high octane teams? No one is really sure. This team in a perfect world could compete for the west title, and in a disastrous world could sink towards the bottom of the Big Ten. Most likely the result will be somewhere in the soft middle.
If the Gophers lose to Buffalo Thursday night....well start the sirens early.
Many other people are much higher on the Cornhuskers than I am. Guess we see who will be right. Tanner Lee is being hyped by several NFL Draft scouts on a Leidnerian level...which we all know how well that worked. Nebraska does have a good offensive line which will help, but the defense may be a question mark. The Huskers host Arkansas State Saturday night in what should be a win.
The Boilermakers also went through tons of off-season upheaval. Welcome Jeff Brohm who should make things a lot more interesting in West Lafayette. But probably in a few years. David Blough is a decent quarterback and could put up decent numbers in the new high-powered system...but that defense. Oof. Purdue gets a quick dose of reality when they play the Louisville Cardinals and Heisman winner Lamar Jackson in Indianapolis Saturday.
Year two of the Lovie Smith experience is about to begin...and the confidence is not high. Lovie was hyped as the best thing to happen to the Illini when he was hired, but it has not been pretty in Champaign. Its early, but how long will Illinpois AD Josh Wittman wait? Ball State comes to town on Saturday, but I wouldn’t guarantee an Illini win in this one.
Big Ten Teams Ranked 1-14
- Ohio State Buckeyes
- Penn State Nittany Lions
- Michigan Wolverines
- Wisconsin Badgers
- Northwestern Wildcats
- Iowa Hawkeyes
- Minnesota Gophers
- Nebraska Cornhuskers
- Maryland Terrapins
- Michigan State Spartans
- Indiana Hoosiers
- Purdue Boilermakers
- Illinois Fighting Illini
- Rutgers Scarlet Knights
As always, if you disagree, let me know in the comments. The Big Ten West is one giant crapshoot at this moment, but hopefully will play itself out as the season goes on.