Wisconsin

2016 Final Big Ten Rankings: Who Had The Best Season?

2016 Big Ten Rankings: CFN Season Formula


The Big Ten had a big season – even with the struggles in the bowls – with several breakthrough seasons and several teams in the mix for the College Football Playoff. Here are the final 2016 Big Ten rankings based on the CFN Season Formula.


The CFN Season Formula is based on straight numbers, wins, losses, and strengths of schedules to measure just how good a season really was, and NOT necessarily how good the teams were. This is about the season from start to finish, putting an emphasis on the big wins against the top teams, and punishing the losses.

Scroll to the bottom for the breakdown of how the CFN Season Formula is calculated.

2016 Big Ten Rankings – Final, By CFN Season Formula

14. Rutgers (2-10)

CFN Final Season Score: -1.70
The Scarlet Knights only won one game against an FBS team – New Mexico – and forgot to score for long stretches, putting up just 188 points on the year, getting shut out four times, and scoring just a touchdown in two other games. Losing at home to Illinois, and 49-0 to Michigan State, killed the Season Score.

13. Illinois (3-9)

CFN Final Season Score: -0.22
Well that didn’t work out so hot in Lovie Smith’s first season. One of the wins was over Murray State, and the other two wins over Rutgers and Michigan State are put in the Bad Win category. Losing to Purdue at home was an unforgivable disaster.

12. Purdue (3-9)

CFN Final Season Score: 1.11
The Boilermakers started out well with a 3-2 start and what seemed to be a nice win over Nevada and a road win over Illinois. And that was it. They didn’t lose to anyone else they shouldn’t have lost to – the seven-game losing streak to close things out all came against bowl-bound teams.

11. Michigan State (3-9)

CFN Final Season Score: 1.56
Easily the biggest disappointment of the 2016 season, the Spartans started out 2-0 with what seemed like a huge win over Notre Dame on the road, and that was it. They lost nine of their last ten games, only beating a miserable Rutgers the rest of the way. The Bad Loss at Illinois took the season to another level of awful.

10. Maryland (6-7)

CFN Final Season Score: 5.22
The Terps didn’t have a Quality Win – a win over a team that finished with a winning record – and they beat a whole slew of awful teams, but they beat UCF on the road, and no matter that it wasn’t that big a deal, getting a 28-17 win over Michigan State mattered. Getting obliterated over a three-game stretch against Michigan, Ohio State and Nebraska didn’t help.

9. Indiana (6-7)

CFN Final Season Score: 5.77
Even with the coaching change late, it was another bowl season with Indiana beating all the teams it was supposed to, and outside of the loss to Wake Forest at home, losses to all the teams it was supposed to. There weren’t any Quality Wins, but a six-win season was good enough.

8. Northwestern (7-6)

CFN Final Season Score: 8.28
After starting out 1-3 with no apparent hope at having an interesting season – with the Season Score crushed by a home loss to Illinois State – the Cats shocked the Big Ten season with wins over Iowa and Michigan State on the road. It might not have been a special year, but beating Pitt in the Pinstripe made it solid.

7. Iowa (8-5)

CFN Final Season Score: 9.91
The Hawkeyes managed to shock Michigan, beat Minnesota, and rocked Nebraska. So why aren’t they higher? The Bad Loss at home to North Dakota State – as good as the Bison are, they’re still in the FCS – is a crusher to the Season Score. Win that, and things are different.

6. Nebraska (9-4)

CFN Final Season Score: 13.53
The Huskers had an easy first half of the season, winning the first seven games and building up the base, but then the problems kicked in. They lost four of their last six games, with the 102-13 combined score against Ohio State and Iowa a big problem on the Point Differential.

5. Minnesota (9-4)

CFN Final Season Score: 13.63
Everything might have closed out with a thud, but the Gophers managed to come up with four Quality Wins and cranked out a good score despite scoring just 381 points on the year. Three of the four losses were by a touchdown or less.

4. Michigan (10-3)

CFN Final Season Score: 16.68
The Season Score apparently didn’t like the Wolverines losing three of their final four games. As it turned out, even with the win over Wisconsin and the close calls against Iowa, Ohio State and Florida State, Michigan couldn’t come up with the wins. It only came up with three Quality Wins on the year – Colorado, Penn State and Wisconsin.

3. Penn State (11-3)

CFN Final Season Score: 18.49
Shouldn’t the Big Ten champion be higher? Probably, but the Season Score takes into account the entire year, and losing three games was the issue, and there was one less Quality Win than Wisconsin. Had the Nittany Lions beaten USC in the Rose Bowl, they’d have been No. 2 by a ton.

2. Wisconsin (11-3)

CFN Final Season Score: 19.83
How could Wisconsin be No. 2 if it lost to Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State? The win over a 13-0 Western Michigan team gets a ton of credit in the Season Score, and the six Quality Wins over WMU, LSU, Iowa, Nebraska, Northwestern and Minnesota were the second-most in the Big Ten.

1. Ohio State (11-2)

CFN Final Season Score: 24.21
Yeah, the season ended with a massive, painful thud, but the overall resume was the best in the Big Ten by a ten-mile wide margin. And why? The seven Quality Wins were fantastic, and the 2.5 point Elite Win Score made the biggest difference beating Oklahoma on the road and Michigan in the regular season finale. A point-differential of 311 points didn’t hurt.

CFN Historical Formula

1. Wins. Obviously, winning matters. Just win lots of games, and all is fine. 1 point per win.

2. Losses. Don’t lose. -1 point per loss.

3. Ties. Yeah, there used to be those. 0.5 points per tie.

4. Quality Wins. The wins over the good teams. 1 point per win over a team that finished with a winning record.

5. Elite Wins. The wins over the great teams. 1 point per home win over a team that finished with two losses or a road win over a team that finished with three losses. An extra 0.5 added to a road win over a team that finished with two losses.

6. Bad Losses. The soul-crushers. -1 point per loss to a non-FBS/D-I team, or a team that finished with three wins or fewer. An extra 0.5 is added to a home loss to a “bad” team.

7. Bad Wins. The layups. -0.25 for a win over a team that finished with three losses or fewer.

8. Elite Losses. The forgivable defeats. 0.25 added for a loss to a team that finished with two losses of fewer.

9. Point Differential. They keep score for a reason. Points scored minus points against divided by 100.

10. Winning Percentage. A sort of tie-breaker, taking into account how good the season was beyond the raw wins and loss.