Well, the 2020 off-season hasn’t gone quite as we all expected has it? Still, things are looking like there will be SOME sort of football in 2020, so let’s revisit the Big Ten power rankings, now that recruits have signed and coaches have shuffled.
1. Ohio State
One of these years the Buckeyes have to have a drop off, don’t they? OSU signed the #5 class in the country, meaning more talent is on the way. Co-OC Mike Yurcich is off to Texas, while DC Jeff Hafley is now up in Boston College. The Buckeyes promoted Corey Dennis from within to replace Yurcich, meaning the offense might not be as fierce as it was in 2019. But OSU brought back Kerry Coombs from the Tennessee Titans as their DC, meaning the defense will still be STOUT.
2. Penn State
PSU did well in the off-season, securing their spot at #2. They signed the #15 class in the country, but lost OC Ricky Rahne to Old Dominion. Lucky for the Lions, they snatched Kirk Ciarrocca from Minnesota, who torched PSU earlier in 2019. Oh and head coach James Franklin also got a much-needed contract extension, securing his place in Happy Valley.
For a team that is as good as Wisconsin, you’d expect more from them on the recruiting trail. The Badgers inked the #26 class in the country, which might have been cause to drop them down the list, but they also avoided any major coaching changes, keeping them at #3.
A fairly calm off-season in Harbaugh land, as the Wolverines signed the #14 class in the country, one spot ahead of PSU. They did lose their co-defensive coordinator/special teams coordinator to Ole Miss, but luckily one Jay Harbaugh was promoted to take over special teams. Yeah, having sons named Jay take over key roles on offensive coaching staffs always goes well.
The first shakeup from the end of the season, and this has more to do with the stability of the Hawkeyes than anything else. Iowa signed the #35 overall class, but didn’t have any notable coaching changes this off-season. Steady Eddie is sometimes a good thing, and it bumps Iowa up the list a spot.
Dropping by one spot, the Gophers have had some upheaval since the end of the season. Minnesota signed the #38 class, which surprised me given how well their season went. The big news was the loss of offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca to Penn State. His replacement will be a tag team of Matt Simon, the Gophers’ former wide receivers coach, and Mike Sanford, Jr. from Utah State. Also notably, head coach PJ Fleck received an extension this past season, meaning Minnesota will be rowing the boat for some time.
I’m sure this will have some people shaking their heads, but here we have our first big riser in these rankings. First, Nebraska managed to sign the #20 class in the nation, six spots better than defending B1G West champion Wisconsin. They also had minimal coaching turnover this season, with special teams coordinator Jovan Dewitt heading to UNC. Jonathan Rutledge left Auburn to take over special teams. A team that has been so-so the last few years with some incoming talent and stability in coaching is going to see a jump in these rankings.
8. Michigan State
How is it possible to lose your entire coaching staff and rise in these rankings? When that coaching staff was led by Mark Dantonio, who overstayed his welcome by at least 3 seasons, and who decided to just shuffle some staffing around after the 2018 season, rather than enact actual change. When your coach is essentially a lame duck for 2+ years, and only strives to keep “his” people on staff, yeah, it’s not great. A fresh start should help Sparty a bit, though only signing the #43 class will sting.
Purdue is a team that was going to rise almost by default. They played most of last season without their top QB and top WR, and still were competitive as hell. They went out and signed the #33 class, and did something to address their biggest weakness - defense. DC Nick Holt is out, and Bob Diaco is incoming from Louisiana Tech. The Boilermakers will be a team to watch in 2020.
Ah, Maryland. Maryland, Maryland, Maryland. What do you do with the Terps? They had no significant coaching changes, and inked the #31 class. That’s good! Easily could be in the top half of the conference. Then you remember it’s Maryland, and they’re still coached by Mike Locksley. A rise from #13 to #10 seems reasonable all things considered.
Apparently #9WINDIANA was for naught. Despite having one of the best seasons in recent history, Indiana has had a not great off season. They only signed the #57 class in the country, third worst in the B1G. They lost both offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer and special teams coordinator William Inge to Fresno State, where DeBoer will be the new head coach. Rather than reach out and try to broaden their horizons, they promoted both Nick Sheridan and Kasey Teegardin from within. Very meh.
Despite an entertaining, upset-driven season, the Illini signed the worst class in the B1G at #88. No coaching turnover, but unarguable the biggest loss of the off season in Lovie Smith shaving his beard. These are the darkest times.
The #47 overall class won’t move the needle, and firing offensive coordinator Mick McCall, only to replace him with Mike Bajakian from Boston College moves the needle the wrong way.
You almost have to feel bad for the Scarlet Knights. You don’t actually have to feel bad for them, just almost. The #65 class in the country. Head coach Chris Ash fired, along with pretty much his entire coaching staff. But good news! Greg Schiano is back as head coach, he who went 68-67 in the Big East in the 00s. The most interesting piece of the coaching staff has to be offensive coordinator Sean Gleeson, who Rutgers managed to pry away from Oklahoma State. Maybe we can have Texas Tech of the east take up residence in Piscataway?
I carried the final 2019 standings over to the 2020 off season, and may have one more update the closer to the start of the season, weighing in player departures, early enrollees, etc. But for now, here’s how the rankings shifted from the end of last season to now.
The top four remain steady, while Iowa and Minnesota switch places. The entire bottom half of the conference shakes up, with Nebraska, MSU, Purdue and Maryland rising. Indiana and Illinois have had less than stellar off seasons and plummet. Northwestern drops a spot as well, but avoid the basement due to Rutgers.
Let’s see what the summer brings us!