The Just In Time 2017 Big Ten Power Ranking
You’ve likely seen way too early power rankings, rankings after NFL defections and rankings post-spring and pre-fall camp. I choose to give you one last Big Ten power ranking for all the teams before we kick this whole thing off next week.
It’s almost go time. We’ve got less than a week before the Big Ten season kicks off, and you want to know where the pecking order is before all the fun begins. Here’s a power ranking of all the Big Ten teams just in time:
14. Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Chris Ash is trying to build things at Rutgers, but there’s still a long Piscata-way to go. This will likely be another year of taking lumps, and another year of asking questions. Give it time though, Ash can flat out coach.
13. Illinois Fighting Illini
In our continued look at teams that would be relegated to a lower division if this were the English Premier Soccer League, Lovie Smith has an uphill battle as well. The recruiting is starting to turn the corner, but there are big challenges on defense. That’s just for starters.
12. Purdue Boilermakers
You have to feel good about Jeff Brohm getting things turned around eventually in West Lafayette, but you can’t rebuild a house overnight from ashes. Look for Purdue to be more competitive though in 2017 if quarterback David Blough can keep the ball out of opposing defenders’ hands.
11. Indiana Hoosiers
You probably know the Hoosiers play basketball, but you likely didn’t know the football team now plays defense too. Yes, that’s right. New head coach Tom Allen was the architect of the defensive turn-around last year. Indiana just simply doesn’t have the horses on both sides of the ball yet to have a break-out year.
10. Maryland Terrapins
Look, I really do believe that D.J. Durkin is making progress in College Park. You’ll see a team make some more strides this year, but the record may not indicate that. The gap needs to close against the more elite teams and things will be on there way — albeit a slow burn.
9. Minnesota Golden Gophers
The human energy drink is now the head man in the Twin Cities, and it’s going to be a hoot. P.J. Fleck will bring energy and confidence to a Minnesota program that has some nice pieces still in the cupboard.
Let’s not row the boat to0 far this year though. We’re still a couple of years away from the identity Fleck wants to instill in this team. I’d look out for Minnesota in future years however.
8. Iowa Hawkeyes
I would be lying if I told you I knew what to expect from Iowa. It seems like I feel that way every stinkin’ year. Breaking in a new starting quarterback doesn’t usually end well for a Kirk Ferentz led team, but there are some things to like.
Running back Akrum Wadley should have a whale of a year behind a solid offensive-line, and the Hawkeyes seem to play their best when expectations are low. This year, they are just meh.
7. Michigan State Spartans
Don’t be surprised if the Spartans surprise some folks this year and maybe even put a rip in some khakis. They’re being written off because of a 3-9 campaign last year, but there is still plenty of talent to do more than provide a stiff wind against some of the powers of the conference.
This is my dark-horse of the league in 2017. I just can’t put MSU much higher with the off-the-field issues and fallout from last year.
6. Nebraska Cornhuskers
The ‘Huskers are high on quarterback Tanner Lee, but this ship is still trying to turn around towards open water. Nebraska — as usual — will play with, and have a shot at beating, about anyone (especially in Lincoln).
But the talent level across the board still needs an upgrade to be back among the contenders in the league. Go out and recruit your tail off Mike Riley and then we’ll see greater strides on the field.
5. Northwestern Wildcats
Very, very quietly the Wildcats have been practicing in Evanston over the off-season without much fanfare or recognition. Lost in all the silence is the fact that Northwestern returns sixteen starters from a 7-6 team that beat Pittsburgh in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl.
The combination of Clayton Thorson at quarterback and Justin Jackson at running back is one of the best in the league. BUT … it’s frickin’ Northwestern so it could lay an egg a few times this season and get it all over my face.
4. Michigan Wolverines
You may be surprised to see the Maize and Blue so low in our first edition of the power rankings in 2017, but that’s for good reason. Many are bullish on the talent coming in to replace the departed starters.
But the schedule is more rigid than last year, and it’s awfully tough to replace 17 guys who are no longer first on the depth chart. The call here is for Michigan to feel some growing in what is potentially the best division in all of college football.
3. Penn State Nittany Lions
The East is as tough as nails, and the scheduling suits did the Nittany Lions no favors this year. There’s no doubt the Penn State program is clearly head-and-shoulders above what we all thought at the beginning of 2016.
However, it’s only one year and we should all pull back on the lever just a bit. Trace McSorley and Saquon Barkley should be fun to watch, but PSU is just a step below the top two in the conference. Unless they prove me wrong — just like last year.
2. Wisconsin Badgers
Wisconsin returns 16 starters overall, has a quarterback in Alex Hornibrook that will be much more dangerous in year two, and an offensive line that’s healthy and will return to Badger levels in 2017.
Don’t expect much of a drop off on the defensive side — the culture’s been set — and don’t discount the fact that Wisconsin has as a schedule that’s very, very nice on the eyes.
1. Ohio State Buckeyes
Seems like we continue to pencil Ohio State in this spot year after year, and year after year it loses the most important game of the year and is left out of the Big Ten Championship game. Quarterback J.T. Barrett is back for for what seems like his second decade in Columbus, and running back Mike Weber should be more dominant in his sophomore year.
And then there’s the new coaches on staff. The pace of both the offense and defense will keep opponents on their toes and operate with purpoase.
OSU is the most athletically gifted team in the league, and it’s time to put it all together with Penn State at home and a Michigan team in a bit of a rebuild mode.