Going into the summer, welcome to the post-spring football rankings for all the Big Ten teams.
Based on how good the teams appear to be after spring ball, welcome to the Big Ten post-spring football rankings. The 2015 record is next to each team.
14. Purdue (2-10)
This is a veteran team in most areas except for the offensive backfield. The Boilermakers have enough offense to get by, but the defense will have to finally start to producing on a consistent basis with eight starters back. This is Darrell Hazell’s best team yet, but that’s not saying too much.
13. Rutgers (4-8)
This could be a quirky-good team under new head man Chris Ash. There’s no firepower in the passing game, but the defense should instantly be improved with the regime change – it had better be. Now the Scarlet Knights get to see what they can do without all the drama of last year.
12. Illinois (5-7)
There might be a ton of excitement over the start of the Lovie Smith era, but there won’t be miracles right away. The Illini don’t have the players on either side of the ball, but at least the coaching will be far, far better.
11. Indiana (6-7)
Can the offense keep on rolling without the key parts of the backfield? The coaching staff has its system in place, but this year will be the test to see if there’s any staying power after getting to a bowl game. It’s going to take several shootouts to get it done.
10. Maryland (3-9)
The Terps couldn’t stop screwing up and were never consistently good in any one area. That should change with new head man D.J. Durkin instantly improving the offensive efficiency after the team committed way too many mistakes.
9. Northwestern (10-3)
The Wildcats won by playing tough defense and getting a great year out of the offensive line, but there wasn’t any offensive pop whatsoever. They found ways to get it done, but they need weapons that aren’t there.
8. Minnesota (6-7)
Can the ground game start cranking it back up? The backs are in place, but the offense will rely on veteran QB Mitch Leidner to carry the way. The loss of key parts of the secondary is a really big deal.
7. Penn State (7-6)
Remember, impatient fans, it wasn’t all that long ago that the program almost got obliterated by the NCAA. It’s still going to take a little bit, and the O line is still the massive question mark, but the defense will still be terrific.
6. Iowa (12-2)
The Hawkeyes did just about everything right on the way to its 12-0 start, but can the offense be every bit as effective and can the defense be a killer again – especially when it comes to turnover margin?
5. Nebraska (6-7)
It’s not fair or right to look back on what might have been, but Nebraska really was just a few plays away from a special year. But the team never quit, and now the payoff needs to come with a good enough team returning to be a factor in the Big Ten West. Last year was weird, but now all that matters is an improved record.
4. Wisconsin (10-3)
A heathy Corey Clement should make all the difference in the world to the running game – that and an experienced, improved line. Bart Houston and Alex Hornibrook will continue to fight it out for the starting quarterback job, and they need more receiving help. Even with the loss of defensive coordinator Dave Aranda to LSU, the Badgers should be salty with a potentially phenomenal defensive front seven.
3. Michigan State (12-2)
It’s all going to start with the running game led by L.J. Scott and a slew of tremendous backs, but the O line needs fall camp to crank it, and Tyler O’Connor needs to establish himself as a strong starting quarterback. Six starters are gone on defense, but DT Malik McDowell should be among the nation’s best interior presences to work around.
2. Michigan (10-3)
Wilton Speight. If he’s really the No. 1 quarterback option – and it seems that way going into the fall camp – then that’s a key part settled. Now it’s on to a running game that was just okay, and a defense that needs to crank up the linebacking play after losing three starters – Jabrill Peppers will help with that. Even so, this is a terrific team that should be just good enough to come close to being special.
1. Ohio State (12-1)
Don’t get too lost in all the new starters on both sides of the ball. J.T. Barrett is a veteran quarterback with Heisman-caliber skills, while all the new offensive replacements are better than almost all the returning starters on other Big Ten teams. The defense is undergoing a gut job of talent, but the new starters were flying around throughout spring ball – the defense hardly looked like it was going to miss a beat.