We’re back with another season of Big Ten Power Rankings™! Each week we’ll rank the teams based on how they’re playing at that point in time.
To be clear: these rankings are a reflection of just how well a team is playing, not a reflection of records, polls, number of NIL agreements signed by players, etc.
Simply put - the #1 team would, on a neutral field, beat the #2 team at least 51 times out of 100. The #2 team would beat the #3 team, #3 would beat #4, etc., etc.
Get it? Good. I’m sure this issue will never come up in these rankings again.
Let’s get to it!
1. Ohio State
The Buckeyes are the class of the Big Ten, and despite a large amount of roster turnover, I’m just not convinced anyone has the horses to compete. The only real hope is that the youth and inexperience on the OSU roster bites them eventually, but when they’re pulling in top 2-3 recruiting classes annually, it’s just going to be tough for anyone to catch them on a regular basis.
Yes, Iowa. Are they flashy? Nope. Do they use cheap tactics like voodoo to help them win? Yup. But they finished 2020 on a high note, and should be one of the favorites in the West again.
I won’t deny that I think Indiana will eventually fall back to earth from their 2020 campaign. But right now, with Michael Penix healthy, I think the Hoosiers could create some serious noise in the Big Ten, including against both Ohio State and Penn State.
4. Penn State
The Nittany Lions definitely turned a corner toward the end of 2020, and seem to have addressed a somewhat lethargic offense with the hire of Mike Yurcich. However, the O will live and die with Sean Clifford, and the defensive line is a bit lacking in known quantities. The Lions have a lot of talent, but need to put it together on the field.
Some may argue the Badgers should be higher on this list, but they’re a bit of an enigma to me. I expect them to have a stout defense, but their offensive line is a bit “meh” by their standards, and quarterback Graham Mertz is just a big ol’ question mark. A week one win over Penn State moves them way up this list, but again - I need to see it on the field first.
Most of the rest of these rankings are just rehashes of where the teams ended 2020. The Wildcats had a decent season, including a Big Ten West title. Can the scrappy Pat Fitzgeralds repeat their magic from last year?
I don’t really know what to think about the Golden Gophers. After a stellar 2019, 2020 was more pedestrian, and it feels like some of the Row the Boat luster has worn off a bit. If PJ Fleck can reclaim his mojo, Minny could be a thorn for the rest of the West.
There’s no denying that Maryland has a fairly talented team. There’s also no denying that the coaching staff is so-so at best, and has yet to put together a winning season. It’s possible the Terps inherit the #chaos mantle from Indiana, if the Hoosiers become more reliably good.
What a weird team. Looking at starzzz the Wolverines should be higher on this list. But they had an even more wonky 2020 than Penn State did, and didn’t really do anything in the off-season to make me think they’ll be demonstrably better in 2021. Perhaps they can get back to simply “out-talenting” other teams.
I’ve no idea what’s been going on in West Lafayette, other than if Purdue is healthy, they’re a fun team to watch.
THE ONLY UNDEFEATED TEAM IN THE BIG TEN, YOUR FIGHTING
ILLINI BRET BIELEMAS. Was nice to see the Illini actually playing decent football, even if it came at the expense of the train wreck that is Nebraska football right now.
Greg Schiano had a solid debut in 2020, but relied extensively on transfers to do so. 2021 will be a bit less transfer-heavy, and so he’ll need to prove himself more on the actual recruits Rutgers has brought in.
Oof. For about a quarter and a half, Nebraska looked okay. Then Adrian Martinez kinda forgot how to QB, the place kicker forgot how to make extra points, and apparently the Cornhuskers were simply not ready for a 4-man defensive line? Bad news bears in Lincoln.
14. Michigan State
The Spartans were pretty terrible in 2020, and did almost nothing to improve their situation in the off-season. It could be another bad year in East Lansing.
Each week, we’ll track how the teams have performed, with our happy little lines. Right now, they’re just happy little dots, but ultimately we’ll have a full season of squiggles to entertain our Cro-Magnon brains:
OSU, Iowa and Indiana at the top, followed by Penn State and Wisconsin. Northwestern and Minnesota are next, followed by Michigan and Purdue. Illinois is the only team with a win in the Big Ten, followed by Rutgers and Nebraska. Michigan State begins the season at the bottom of the barrel.
Football is back baby!