2017 Big Ten Prespring Rankings & 3 Key Storylines

2017 Big Ten Prespring Rankings & 3 Key Storylines

Wisconsin

2017 Big Ten Prespring Rankings & 3 Key Storylines

Big Ten Prespring Preview, Rankings, Key Storylines


Ranking and breaking down the Big Ten teams as the spring football season starts to kick in.


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What does each Big Ten team have to work on this spring? What are the main storylines? How good are the teams going into the key part of the offseason? Ranking all the Big Ten teams based on how they look now, and what each team needs to do.

– CFN Prespring Rankings & Lookaheads No. 1 to 130
Big Ten Schedule Analysis & Top Games

2017 Big Ten Prespring Rankings & 3 Key Storylines

14. Illinois Fighting Illini

– Can the defense start to do what Lovie Smith needs it to, but without last year’s stars? LB Hardy Nickerson and DEs Dawuane Smoot and Carroll Phillips were difference-makers for a D that didn’t make enough of a difference.

– There has to be a passing game. The O was never great, and it didn’t get better as the season went on. The Illini can’t have one of the nation’s least-efficient passing games again. This goes hand-in-hand with being able to convert on …

– Third downs. It’s not that hard – the Illinois offense couldn’t move the ball, and it showed in loss after loss. The Illini had the nation’s second-worst offense in first downs and third down conversions, leading to game after game losing the time of possession battle.
Full Prespring Analysis

13. Rutgers Scarlet Knights

– The quarterback play and passing game have to be far, far better. The Scarlet Knights had the second-least efficient passing attack in the nation and the worst offense in college football. Head coach Chris Ash needs to find playmakers.

– The punting needs to be far better. The team isn’t good enough to not own the field position – Rutgers was dead last in the nation in punting averaging just 32 yards per try.

– The defense wasn’t a rock before, and now it has to replace Darius Hamilton and Julian Pinnix-Odrick up front. The Scarlet Knights need to be far stronger up front no matter what.
Full Prespring Analysis

12. Purdue Boilermakers

– Does Jeff Brohm have enough talent to work with to do what he’d like with the offense? It might not always explode quite like the Western Kentucky O did last year, but this should be fun.

– Where are the receivers? David Blough is the quarterback to make it all fly, but he needs targets to help him out, especially without DeAngelo Yancey.

– The defense needs to come up a decent rotation so it doesn’t breakdown as games go on. Finding new defensive tackles is a must – Jake Replogle might be irreplaceable.
Full Prespring Analysis

11. Maryland Terrapins

– It’s all about the quarterback situation. The Terps need to find their guy to rely on for the next few years, getting more out of a passing game that averaged just 178 yards per game.

– Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers. The biggest problem of 2015 turned into the biggest positive in the early part of last year – and then it all stopped. Head coach D.J. Durkin made the turnover margin a priority last offseason, and now he’ll have to do it again.

– How quickly can any of the new guys shine? The team will have to wait until fall practice to play with all the new toys, but after an epic recruiting class, the talent level has been raised.
Full Prespring Analysis

10. Indiana Hoosiers

– How’s life now without Kevin Wilson? There might have been major problems with the former head coach’s style, but the production was there. Can IU be good without all the drama?

– The linebacking corps needs a bit of an overhaul. There’s talent and experience back on D, but a few new options have to come through in some key spots up the middle.

– How does the offense convert on every opportunity? The Hoosiers were painful in the red zone, scoring just 71% of the time.
Full Prespring Analysis

9. Minnesota Golden Gophers

– After all the problems and ugliness of the 2016 finish – even with the bowl win – that all changes with P.J. Fleck taking over. Get ready for a major chug of energy and fire about to hit the program.

– Can Conor Rhoda take over for Mitch Leidner? The passing attack wasn’t anything to worry about, but Leidner occasionally took over games. Now the Gophers need to find a better passer.

– The defense loses plenty of key parts on the line and in the linebacking corps, but shoring up the secondary might be the biggest priority losing S Damarius Travis and CB Jalen Myrick.
Full Prespring Analysis

8. Northwestern Wildcats

– Is Clayton Thorson ready to be the real deal, big thing, main man? The Wildcat quarterback showed glimpses of greatness last year, and now there’s a chance he could be the best passer in the Big Ten.

– More receiving weapons have to emerge. You don’t get better by losing Austin Carr. Thorson will make everyone better, but he needs a go-to guy this spring.

– You don’t get better by losing Anthony Walker, either. Arguably the second-best linebacker in school history behind the current head coach, Walker was a killer of an all-around playmaker in the middle of the linebacking corps.
Full Prespring Analysis

7. Iowa Hawkeyes

– The spring is all about adapting to all the new assistant coaches. It’s going to take a while for everyone to get on the same page, but there’s plenty of work to do for a team about to deal with a brutal slate.

– The quarterback play and passing game have to be better. C.J. Beathard and the offense couldn’t seem to get enough going against the better teams, and now the Hawkeyes have to find a new guy under center who can do even more.

– The defensive tackle situation might be the biggest concern. Someone has to fill the shoes of Jaleel Johnson on the defensive interior. Get ready for a big position battle.
Full Prespring Analysis

6. Michigan State Spartans

– Turn the machines back on. Can the Spartan coaching staff fix this in 15 spring practices? The defense needs an attitude again, and the offense has to be more reliable.

– The offensive line has to be far more physical, and it’s going to have to do it with a bunch of new guys. Three starters are gone along with fullback Prescott Line.

– The secondary has been getting by on reputation for the last few seasons, and now it’ll have to get better without Demetrious Cox at one safety spot and Darian Hicks at corner.
Full Prespring Analysis

5. Nebraska Cornhuskers

– Quarterback derby – game on. The team didn’t go into the tank when Tommy Armstrong got hurt, but it certainly didn’t show enough late in the season without him. Now the Huskers need to come up with a new dynamic option.

– Is the talent level there? There’s experience across the board, and there are plenty of options, but do the Huskers have the playmakers to be more than just a gutty, try-hard team?

– Can the Huskers get more out of the punting game? After the heartbreaking tragedy of the death of Sam Foltz, Nebraska didn’t get anything out of fill-in option Caleb Lightbourn – the team finished 123rd in the nation in punting average.
Full Prespring Analysis

4. Michigan Wolverines

– Okay, Michigan. After years of great recruiting, it’s time to the new guys to get involved. Just about everyone is gone on both sides of the ball, and now spring ball will turn into an open casting call for spots.

– Can Wilton Speight make everyone around him better? He’s the veteran quarterback leader now, and he’ll need to be magnificent considering all the youth and inexperience.

– Will there be a greater sense of urgency? After all, it’s Year Three under Jim Harbaugh and the program hasn’t won anything that really matters. It’s a rebuilding season, but don’t tell that to the head man.
Full Prespring Analysis

3. Penn State Nittany Lions

– Now that the program proved it can win a Big Ten title and compete among the elite, it’s time to show staying power. Penn State has just become the hunted in a division full of big game players.

– A pass rush has to emerge early on in spring ball. The defensive front seven will be more than find, but it’ll take the offseason to come up with the right end combination.

– Trace McSorley, take the offense to another level for a full 60 minutes. It’s impossible to work on being good for the first half, too, and not just the second, but the team has to learn to be sharper from the start.
Full Prespring Analysis

2. Wisconsin Badgers

– Will there ever be a downfield passing attack? The Badgers need to find wide receivers who can scare a defense once in a while.

– The defense should be an absolute killer, but this spring it has to find more killers on the outside to replace T.J. Watt and Vince Biegel. How will the D adapt to new coordinator Jim Leonhard?

– Can Alex Hornibrook become even more of a playmaking passer? Again, the receivers aren’t going to be there, but he has to emerge as the type of quarterback who makes everyone around him better.
Full Prespring Analysis

1. Ohio State Buckeyes

– More downfield passing. J.T. Barrett is better than you think, but the Buckeye offense has to be more explosive vertically. Barrett has to be able to open it up.

– Can the Buckeyes reload again after losing even more top NFL stars? There’s losing players, and there’s losing future Pro Bowl talents like OSU does in the secondary.

– Can the defensive line really take its game to a whole other level? This might be the best in the country, and now this spring it has to get all the young guys involved to form a solid rotation.
Full Prespring Analysis

CFN Prespring Rankings & Lookaheads No. 1 to 130
– Big Ten Schedule Analysis & Top Games

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