7. Northwestern Wildcats
Football: It was a fun year. It started out with a few struggles, but the Wildcats came through time and again in close games, won a thriller of a bowl game, and finished with a terrific 10-3 season.
Basketball: Really, Northwestern? You followed up your amazing 2016-2017 with this? One of the nation’s bigger disappointments, the Wildcats closed out with seven straight losses to finish with a losing season.
The Deal: Pat Fitzgerald continues to do one of the most under-appreciated jobs in college football, turning out winners every year without the talent of the rest of the Big Ten. On the basketball side, it’s a good thing now that the program is supposed to go to the NCAA Tournament.
6. Wisconsin Badgers
Football: Continually among the best programs in college football, the Badgers were one late scoring drive away from going to the College Football Playoff. As is, an unbeaten regular season and an Orange Bowl win over Miami was terrific.
Basketball: Injuries. The Badgers were supposed to be rebuilding a little bit, but they weren’t right from start to finish with a losing season and an uncharacteristic 7-11 Big Ten record.
The Deal: The football program is a superpower now, and it should be just as strong in 2018. The formula that was supposed to overcome okay recruiting classes didn’t work for the hoops side, but this was an aberration.
5. Penn State Nittany Lions
Football: It wasn’t another Big Ten Championship season, and it might have been disappointing to lose two tough games to miss out on the shot to show what it could’ve done in the College Football Playoff. 11-2 with a Fiesta Bowl win, though, is nothing to complain about.
Basketball: It would’ve been nice to have beaten Purdue to get to the Big Ten Championship, but as is it was a solid season finishing sixth in the conference and pulling off 21 wins.
The Deal: James Franklin has taken to the job and made Penn State football a powerhouse again. Getting more than 20 wins is always going to be a major plus on the hoops side no matter what, even if it’s not enough to go to the tournament.
4. Purdue Boilermakers
Football: And hello Jeff Brohm. After years of pain and mediocrity, Purdue football became solid going 4-5 in the conference and closing out with a bang, beating rival Indiana to go bowling, and then taking down Arizona in the Foster Farms.
Basketball: So the Boilermakers game in second in the regular season and lost the conference tournament championship to Michigan. This was still one of the nation’s best teams that hovered around the top ten late in the year.
The Deal: It was a fantastic season for Purdue fans waiting a long, long time for the football program to be okay again, and the basketball team was terrific throughout. Both teams have two of the better coaches in their respective sports.
3. Michigan Wolverines
Football: It was a rebuilding year. It was disappointing, but the Wolverines were supposed to be better than 8-5, and they certainly weren’t supposed to collapse to South Carolina in the bowl game. Losing to Michigan State and Ohio State – again – didn’t help.
Basketball: Hot at the right time, the Wolverines might have finished fourth in the regular season, but rolled through the conference tournament with wins over Michigan State and Purdue to take the title.
The Deal: A basketball tournament championship is nice, but the other side has to hold up its part of the bargain. It’s never a good season in Michigan sports world when the football team loses to MSU and OSU.
2. Michigan State Spartans
Football: After a horrible 2016 season, the Spartans bounced back in a big way to win ten games, take down a bowl game, and best of all, beat Michigan and Penn State. There might have been a few clunkers, but the program is back.
Basketball: Not winning the conference tournament might have stung, but winning the regular season title is more impressive, anyway. The Spartans closed out the Big Ten season going 16-2 in the regular season and 29-4 overall.
The Deal: The reputation of Michigan State athletics had a disastrous year – and it’s still going. For just these rankings, it’s based on what happened on the field/hardwood.
1. Ohio State Buckeyes
Football: If ONLY the Buckeyes weren’t blasted by Iowa. They rolled through the late part of the season, they won the Big Ten Championship, and they deserved to be in the College Football Playoff. But they’ll have to settle for a 12-win season with a blowout Cotton Bowl win over USC.
Basketball: Second in the Big Ten regular season, 24-8 after the conference tournament, and with a top 20 ranking throughout the year, it was a terrific year for Buckeye basketball.
The Deal: It would’ve been nice if the basketball team showed up stronger in the Big Ten Tournament, but whatever – the regular season was great. The football team beat Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State, took down the only Power Five unbeaten team – Wisconsin – for the Big Ten championship, and destroyed USC. That’s not bad.