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Big Ten Power Rankings - Preseason

Another year, another batch of power rankings

Michigan Spring Football Game Photo by Jaime Crawford/Getty Images

Hello there and welcome to the Big Ten Power Rankings! Each week we’ll rank how the teams across the conference are playing, in the hopes of seeing just who is a contender, and who is a pretender over the course of the season.

The rules are few, but resolute:

  • Teams are ranked by how they’re playing at that time. Not body of work, not rankings in the polls, but simply how each team is playing at that point in the season.
  • The approach to the rankings is not necessarily on the field results (though those do count, as an obvious, tangible data point), but more generally if the two teams played at a neutral site 100 times, which team would win 51 times (or more).
  • These rankings are subjective. As the author I get to follow the rules as closely or loosely as I want to, and if you don’t like the rankings, you’re wrong.

The 2023 season is here, so let’s take a look at how the teams are poised as we begin another quest for that mythical national championship!

1. Michigan

While Michigan did suffer one of the biggest upsets in 2022 to end their season, it’s apparent that Jim Harbaugh’s squad is the team to beat in the Big Ten. Reliant on a solid defense, excellent offensive line, and competent quarterback and running back play, the Wolverines have perfected Bully Ball™, first introduced by the Wisconsin Badgers of yore. Can OSU or PSU catch the Wolverines this year? Time will tell.

2. Ohio State

The Buckeyes came thisclose to playing for a national championship, and likely winning one. But they didn’t, and now they’re looking at questions at quarterback and along the defensive line. Still, OSU has recruited exceptionally well, and will be a tough challenge for anyone to get past.

3. Penn State

Coming off a huge Rose Bowl win, PSU is right in the thick of it to contend for the Big Ten East, and thus the conference as a whole. But the top 2 teams in these rankings are still ahead of the Lions, so they have their work cut out for them. Can Drew Allar lead Penn State to the promised land?

4. Wisconsin

With the addition of Luke Fickell at head coach, and what should be a revamped offense, the Badgers are likely the team to beat in the West. That still means the East should be the favorite to win the conference before it expands in 2024, but it will make the Badgers a more difficult foe.

5. Iowa

Cade McNamara transferred in, and the idea is that he’ll give a plodding Iowa offense a shot in the arm. As usual, the Hawkeyes expect to have a solid defense, so if they can get anything going on offense, they should be a competitive team. Should.

6. Maryland

From here until about #13 I think you could shake these teams up and pour them out in any order and I’d be fine with it. As it is, I’m mostly leaving the pecking order intact from the end of 2022. Maryland is fine, and will likely play to a 8-4 or 7-5 record. They are who they are.

7. Minnesota

PJ Fleck came under some duress this off-season, so it will remain to be seen how the Gophers do. But I expect them to be a nuisance in the West, like they usually are.

8. Purdue

The Boilermakers seem to revel in the Spoilermakers moniker, but that means they don’t often take that next step to get to the top of the West. Still, they have some capable pieces, and I expect them to trip up a couple teams this year like usual.

9. Illinois

It’s possible the Illini should be higher on this list, but they stumbled down the stretch last year when Indianapolis was just sitting there and waiting for them. We’ll see if Bret Bielema’s team can recapture the lightning in a bottle from the early part of last season.

10. Michigan State

Nothing major at MSU for me to think they should rise in these rankings, I expect 2023 to be a bit of a slog for the Spartans.

11. Nebraska

I almost moved Nebraska up just because of Matt Rhule, but I need to see some on-field results before I do that. Still, don’t be surprised if the Cornhuskers finish the season higher in these rankings than they started.

12. Indiana

From here to the bottom were in the dregs, and realistically any of these teams could finish at the bottom. The Hoosiers did nothing in the off-season to make me think different.

13. Rutgers

Same here, the Scarlet Knights just don’t look like they have a Power 5 roster at this point. A couple nice pieces, but nowhere near enough depth to compete week in and week out.

14. Northwestern

Somehow, Northwestern got worse after the season ended, with the termination of Pat Fitzgerald. Though maybe that could end up being addition by subtraction?

The squiggles are back! Or, at least, the dots are back. Where dots go, squiggles are sure to follow!

Michigan is at the top, followed by OSU and PSU (the East gon’ be good again). Wisconsin and Iowa will battle for the West, and then a miasma of teams follows. Maryland, Minnesota, Purdue, Illinois, Michigan State, and Nebraska could all make waves in these rankings, and will surely shuffle around throughout the season. Indiana, Rutgers, and Northwestern will likely contend for the bottom spot all season.

The 2023 season is here! Rejoice, rejoice!