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Big Ten Power Rankings - Final

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The 2019 season is complete, and one team reigns supreme

Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

And just like that, the 2019 season is in the books. Two teams held their positions in these rankings wire to wire. Let’s see how things shaped up.

As a reminder, this isn’t a ranking of teams based on record, or place in the polls, but rather my assessment of how the teams are playing at the time. If two teams met on a neutral field and played 100 times, a team that wins 51 times gets ranked ahead of the team that wins 49 times.

Let’s see what we got this week, shall we?

1. Ohio State

The Buckeyes took Wisconsin’s best shot in the first half of the Big Ten Championship Game, shook it off at halftime, and outscored the Badgers 27-0 in the second half. The win wasn’t quite as dominant as we all expected or hoped for, but for the first time in history a team will make the playoffs having gone 9-0 in conference play. That says all you need to know.

2. Penn State

The College Football Playoff committee opted not to penalize the Badgers for participating in - and losing - a 13th game. I am not the committee, and drop the Badgers for being given the chance to acquit themselves of their earlier blowout loss, and not delivering after one of the best first halves I’ve seen from a team this year. The Lions are rightfully headed to a New Year’s Six bowl, and are the second best team in these rankings.

3. Wisconsin

The Badger team that played in the first half was a legitimate playoff contender. But on a neutral site, against a team that they’d already lost to once, Wisconsin folded in the second half, being shut out 27-0. For their trouble, the Badgers were rewarded with the Rose Bowl, where they will get to take on a supremely talented Oregon team.

Some thoughts in general on the final rankings: Wisconsin and Penn State did not play against each other this season, and so it came down to a few things. First, record: both teams were 10-2, so hard to differentiate them on that front.

Second, common opponents: Wisconsin blew out Michigan, while Penn State squeaked by with a touchdown win; Wisconsin beat Iowa at home while Penn state beat Iowa on the road; Wisconsin blew out Minnesota on the road, while Penn State lost on the road; Ohio State routed Wisconsin 38-7 the first time on the road, while Penn State made it a game, losing by 11 points, also on the road.

Based solely on wins, you’d give the nod to Wisconsin. Against common opponents they have two blowouts and a win, against Penn State’s two win’s and a loss.

But let’s take a look at the third factor, losses: Penn State’s two losses this season were to two ranked teams that went a combined 22-2 in the regular season, by a combined 16 points. Wisconsin’s two losses include a 31-point destruction against a common opponent, and a loss to a 6-6 team against whom the Badgers were a 30-point favorite.

To sum up my thoughts best on this, both teams are clearly very good. Team A has a higher ceiling, but a lower floor, while Team B has a lower ceiling, but a higher floor. When Team A is playing to their potential, they are a playoff team, but when they don’t they lose to .500 teams. When Team B is playing to their potential, they are also a playoff team, but when they don’t, they lose by five points on the road to a 10-2 team.

Call me a homer, but I’ll take the more consistent team every time in that scenario. Give me a team that doesn’t get tripped up by lesser teams, but rather takes every team’s A game, and when they lose, they go down fighting.

4. Michigan

Yikes - finish third in the Big Ten East yet again, and get rewarded by taking on a pissed off Alabama team in the Citrus Bowl? Good luck Harbaugh!

5. Minnesota

The Gophers, after a historic season, will take on #12 Auburn in the Outback Bowl, which will be a tough out, but should be entertaining.

6. Iowa

Iowa reliably finished at 9-3, and will take on #22 USC in the Holiday Bowl.

7. Indiana

#9Windiana is still kicking, and looks to be in a pretty good spot, as the Hoosiers will take on Tennessee in the Gator Bowl. Get that ninth win boys!

8. Illinois

This one took some research - the Illini will head to the Redbox Bowl to take on Cal. If the name doesn’t ring a bell, it used to be called the Fight Hunger Bowl. Still, it’s in Cali in the winter, hard to complain too much!

9. Michigan State

The last team to make a bowl game, MSU will head to the Pinstripe Bowl to take on Wake Forest. Was really hoping Pitt would be selected so between the two head coaches we could trigger a resonance cascade effect of douchebaggery.

10. Nebraska

See you next year Nebraska, maybe Scott Frost could look into some “don’t blame everything on everyone else” classes!

11. Purdue

The Boilermakers got hit super hard by injuries, but were still a fun team to watch. Better luck next year Purdue Pete!

12. Northwestern

Can jNW improve next year? Hard to get much worse!

13. Maryland

‘Member when Mike Locksley was the second coming of Bear Bryant? I ‘member.

14. Rutgers

I almost moved Rutgers out of the basement just due to their (re-)hiring of Greg Schiano. Let’s see how the offseason goes in Piscataway before getting hasty though, shall we?


And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for, your final standings!

OSU holds onto the top spot, leading the conference wire-to-wire. Penn State rises to second after Wisconsin folds against OSU. Michigan, Minnesota, Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan State round out the top half of the conference, and will represent the conference in bowl season. Nebraska, Purdue, Northwestern, and Maryland will all try to get to bowls next season. Rutgers, like OSU, held their position at the bottom all season long, which takes dedication to failure as much as OSU’s dedication to success. A tip ‘o the hat to the Scarlet Knights!

Let’s see what bowl season brings us!