Big Ten Power Rankings – Preseason
So, the Big Ten previews didn’t finish up due to getting slammed at work. Therefore, I bring you the preseason Big Ten Power Rankings.
1) Ohio State- Hard to put the Buckeyes anywhere else on the list. Terrelle Pryor was the most efficient passer in the conference last year and OSU is never lacking talent. For the first time in a while though, the talent is unproven. Wouldn’t be surprised to see Ohio State lose a game or three this year.
2) Penn State- Some of the same issues face the Nittany Lions that face the Buckeyes. They lose a lot of experienced players in bunches. Wide receiver and defensive back positions groups will be very green. Penn State has a quarterback better than Pryor though, in Clark and a proven NFL-bound back in Evan Royster. PSU should benefit from playing absolutely no one in their out of conference slate as they bring their young guys around.
3) Illinois- The Illini struggle with success. The last two times they went to BCS bowls, Illinois followed up with a 5-7 season. This year though, Illinois returns all of its rushing yards, a dynamic veteran quarterback, and the best receiver in the conference. The defense needs to step up, but I think the Zooker brings the Illini back this season.
4) Iowa- The Hawkeyes received some bad news in the preseason, learning that RB Jewel Hampton would be out for significant time. The good news for the Hawkeyes is that they return a bunch of players. The Hawkeyes are strong in the trenches and if Stanzi can limit the turnovers and become the ideal game manager he can be at quarterback, Iowa will be in great shape.
5) Michigan State- The Spartans were picked third in the conference by the Big Ten media this summer. I don’t see it. They lose Javon Ringer, who represented basically their entire offense. One guy to watch is linebacker Greg Jones, he’s something special. Kirk Cousins will get the start at QB for the Spartans, while Keith Nichol will also get snaps in the first game. Nichol has the higher ceiling, but Cousins is likely the smart move at the outset.
6) Michigan- The Wolverines have taken plenty of heat in the week leading up to the season and it remains to be seen whether the “scandal” will help bring them together or be too large of a distraction. If Tate Forcier can even be an average starter as freshmen go, he’ll be a significant upgrade at QB. The Wolverines have four returning starters on the O-line and a defense that couldn’t be worse than last year. If they put the distractions aside, I see a big jump for UM.
7) Northwestern- I have changed my mind on the Wildcats in the last couple of weeks. I really like what Pat Fitzgerald is doing in Evanston and Mike Kafka is a great fit for this offense. With a favorable schedule, I like the Wildcats to make some noise in the Big Ten this year.
8- Wisconsin- Bret Bielema has to be feeling the heat in Madison, and I’m not talking about the kind of heat that seems to land a running back in legal trouble once per year. Wisconsin failed miserably to meet expectations last year and the pressure is on this year. Scott Tolzien will be your yearly new starter for the Badgers, who will rely heavily on John Clay and Zach Brown to carry the load.
9) Minnesota- Tim Brewster’s squad will be led by the pass-catch combo of Adam Weber and Eric Decker. Decker is one of the best receivers in the league, but the Gophers will need to establish the run with one of their young backs to give Decker a chance to really break games open. I think Minnesota gets off to a decent start, but falters down the stretch with losses to Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan State, Illinois, and Iowa in five of the last six weeks of the season.
10) Purdue- New coach, bad players.
11) Indiana- Was there any doubt Indiana would be here? Kellen Lewis is gone, but the pistol offense is coming to town.