Greetings Gopher faithful. I am taking up the mantle from gopherguy05 and will be with you to power rank the Big Ten teams every week from now until the end of November. These will reflect games played and not a projection of what is to come. That I leave to prognosticators and fortune-tellers. Because I hail from the state of Missouri, much like gophernation’s attitude, teams will have to “show me” in order to move up the standings. In the beginning of the season, there may be some pre-2019 bias baked into the rankings because the sample size is so small to compare teams so if a team was garbage in 2018, it is likely to reflect on them until they can clean the stench off of a poor year (I’m looking at YOU Rutgers...).
Without further ado, I present to you the inaugural Big Ten Power Rankings for the 2019 NCAA College Football season (with fun-named/themed tiers!!!). Do with them what you will. FEI (Fremeau Efficiency Index) rank is provided next to each team. For more information on FEI see this web page.
The Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss Tier
#1 - Ohio State Buckeyes (5th)
Until proven otherwise, it would be foolish to think that any team other than the Buckeyes are the best team in the conference. Their final score against the Owls of Florida Atlantic may not be as eye popping as some other Week 1 results but transfer quarterback Justin Field’s performance makes it appear that the Buckeyes won’t miss a beat on offense in the post-Urban Meyer era. The score was 35-6 at the end of the 3rd quarter. Buckeyes roll on to bigger and better things against a tricky Cincinnati Bearcats team next week. Their position is solid for now.
#2 - Wisconsin Badgers (10th)
As much as it pains me to do, I will not let personal feelings get in the way of ranking the teams as I see fit. Despite thoughts of a down year for the hated Badgers, they had what I believe to be the most impressive result of the first week of any Big Ten team. A 49-0 victory over the South Florida Bulls launches Wisconsin into second place in the power rankings for several reason. Shutting out any team in college football is an impressive task. The Badger defense doesn’t appear to have taken a step back in 2019. Playing this well on the road is another indicator of a quality team. And the fact that they have Johnathan Taylor on their roster is another positive that no other Big Ten team can claim. I would be happy for them to be lower on the list but for the time being, the results dictate otherwise. They are the boss of the West again.
The Substitute Tier
#3 - Michigan Wolverines (9th)
The Wolverines were the trendy pick to win the Big Ten Conference according to a lot of press and contrarians across the country before the season started. They believed they could substitute Jim Harbaugh’s team for the Urban-less Buckeyes in the standings. Based on the Week 1 results, I see no reason why this year will be any different from the last seven years that Ohio State has defeated their hated rivals. Michigan defeated Middle Tennessee State 40-21 last Saturday but the performance was described by many as being “sluggish.” While the Week 1 caveats do exist, I need to see something slightly more impressive from the Wolverines before ranking them any higher.
#4 - Penn State Nittany Lions (17th)
The Nittany Lions thumped FCS foe Idaho 79-7 in Week 1. While this bodes well for an offense adjusting to life after Trace McSorley, Idaho is one of the programs where you expect obscene numbers to be posted. Penn State is expected to be a very good team this year but I currently have more confidence in the three teams that are ahead of them in the rankings for now. It could be a while before we really know anything about Coach Franklin’s squad. Their first true challenge might be in Iowa City on October 12th which is sure to prove to be an important cross-divisional game .
The Long Live Rock Tier
#5 - Michigan State Spartans (23rd)
The fact that the Spartans allowed 80 total yards to Tulsa in their first game gives me comfort in placing them here despite only averaging 2.7 yards per carry themselves. While the offense is sure to be questionable at times, I placed Michigan State here because I believe them to be the superior “rock fight” team over the Hawkeyes, at least for the time being.
#6 - Iowa Hawkeyes (13th)
Iowa eventually took care of business against Miami (OH) despite only leading 10-7 at the half. While their final numbers were respectable, they still look like a team that is going to rely on sound defense and a lot of grit and grind. Nate Stanley had an impressive passing line but they belong in the rock fight tier until further notice, if only because things were touch-and-go for a bit in the first half.
The Real Me Tier
#7 - Maryland Terrapins (78th)
I know that they played Howard, an FCS after thought, but beating any team 79-0 is going to get you over ranked. That’s just the way it is. Is this high-powered offense the real version of the Terrapins? Only time will tell. They may reveal their real selves later on the in the season but for now let them savor the very successful beginning of the Locksley Era which included five rushing touchdowns from four different players and four passing touchdowns from junior quarterback Josh Jackson.
#8 - Nebraska Cornhuskers (63rd)
The real Cornhuskers appeared to have shown up at Memorial Stadium last Saturday. The real Cornhuskers, not the ones the media and polls have been hyping up all off-season. Nebraska required three non-offensive touchdowns to put away the South Alabama Jaguars 35-21 in a game where they were out gained on offense. While they forced five turnovers, the three they had themselves isn’t all that encouraging. Additionally, Adrian Martinez threw an interception and had nary a touchdown to his name. While its possible they will improve compared to last year’s performance, perhaps the kid people of Lincoln might want to hold off on the National Championship parade they have planned for January.
#9 - Illinois Fighting Illini (100th)
The Fighting Illini were nearly flawless in their 42-3 dismantling of Akron. While the Zips aren’t the strongest opponent in the world, Lovie Smith’s team will take margins of victory of this magnitude against any and all opponents. While the debut of Brandon Peters was very promising, it does make one wonder if this is the real Illinois or if the Illinois from the last several seasons will reappear when the opponents get tougher.
#10 - Northwestern Wildcats (37th)
Pat Fitzgerald’s squad had arguably the toughest challege of any conference team this past week, traveling two time zones to face a ranked Stanford Cardinal squad and falling 17-7. The offense looked lackluster, even before they lost quarterback T.J. Green to a foot injury. This is the real Northwestern we’ve come to recognize in the last few season. One that depends heavily on a stout defense to bail out a relatively inept offense. They were unable to against the Cardinal
The Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere Tier
#11 - Minnesota Golden Gophers (35th)
The Gophers barely squeaked by the South Dakota State Jackrabbits last Thursday in their opener 28-21. They were out-rushed, out-gained, and generally outplayed. But wins are wins. You’ll take them anyway you can get them.
#12 - Indiana Hoosiers (38th)
Speaking of taking wins anyway you can get them, the Hoosiers beat in-state foe Ball State by a score of 34-24. While the score may not suggest any kind of great positive energy for Indiana, new quarterback Michael Penix Jr certainly gave the Hoosier faithful some positive vibes with 326 yards through the air and 67 yards on the ground. After going 5-7 last season, the crimson and cream probably shouldn’t worry about optics. They take the wins anyhow they can get them.
#13 - Purdue Boilermakers (82nd)
Much like the beginning of last year, the Boilermakers have started the season losing a game in an astounding fashion. While Jeff Brohm now makes a heck of a lot more money than he used to, he is still find anyway to lose games just about anywhere. This time the place was Reno, Nevada. The way was choking away a 31-14 lead in the 3rd quarter and a 95.5% win probability with 3:32 left in the game.
#14 - Rutgers Scarlet Knights (111th)
The Scarlet Knights beat UMass 48-21 this past weekend. It’s nice to be undefeated, isn’t it Rugters? Unfortunately, the stench of 2018 (and ‘17, ‘16, and ‘15) will take a while to wash away. While your pluck is admirable for the time being, it’s going to take a lot of work to get up these power rankings.