The spring schedule in the Big Ten Conference has concluded, meaning it will be another four months until we see these teams hit the field again in a competitive fashion. Though we don’t have much football in our lives for the next several weeks, the countdown is on for the opening kickoff.
At the end of the day, the spring schedule is virtually meaningless as a tool to forecast what to expect from teams in the upcoming season. Sure, we get an idea of players to watch, areas of improvement and position battles, but ultimately, the summer camps will heavily determine what these teams will look like in the fall.
Having said that, it’s always fun to judge where each team stands heading into the summer after a month of practice. Here are the post-spring power rankings for the Big Ten.
14 – Northwestern – Northwestern’s final spring practice didn’t really provide much insight. Clayton Thorson appears to be the favorite at quarterback, but watching mostly drills and not much of an organized contest didn’t answer many questions.
13 – Indiana – Nate Sudfeld is back and receivers Simmie Cobbs and J-Shun Harris should provide a spark for the Hoosiers’ offense. The defense is still an area of concern for Kevin Wilson, and regardless of how efficient Indiana’s offense is, a bad defense won’t help it reach a bowl.
12 – Purdue – Much like Indiana, the Boilermakers appear to be progressing offensively but haven’t been clicking defensively. Ja’Whaun Bentley may be the best defensive player for Purdue at linebacker, but it’ll take contributions from more guys to get more tallies in the win column.
11 – Maryland – The shift from a 3-4 to a 4-3 defense is a change that should help Maryland stop the run as we witnessed this spring. The youth and inexperience offensively, however, may hurt the Terrapins in their second year in the Big Ten.
10 – Illinois – The passing game will be the focal point of the offense next season, and even without leading receiver Mike Dudek, the Illini still have a major threat in Geronimo Allison. Illinois should be able to put up a lot of points but improvement is still needed on the defensive line to stop the run.
9 – Iowa – A typical storyline comes out of Iowa City. The defense looks polished and the offense needs to continue to grow. C.J. Beathard taking control at quarterback is a step in the right direction, but he needs to continue to improve throwing the deep ball to give the Hawkeyes more opportunities offensively.
8 – Michigan – Jim Harbaugh has Michigan’s defense flying all over the field and making plays. The offense still needs some work. We didn’t get a fair chance to judge this offense as Harbaugh’s system is still fresh, and Iowa transfer and potential starting quarterback Jake Rudock isn’t on campus. This will be an interesting team to keep an eye on this September.
7 – Rutgers – Chris Laviano was impressive in the spring game and the offense has several weapons, including leading receiver Leonte Carroo. The defense wasn’t great, but it appeared much better than it was in 2014. The Scarlet Knights might have another surprisingly successful season.
6 – Penn State – Based on the spring game, the Nittany Lions may be the best defensive team in the Big Ten again. The offensive line still has issues, though. The weapons are available for Penn State to be a competitor for a conference title but not if a bad offensive line struggles to protect its quarterback again.
5 – Minnesota – Jerry Kill isn’t going to be afraid to run the football even without David Cobb. Rodrick Williams appears to be the early favorite as the lead running back with a ton of depth at the position, we may see several different ball carriers throughout the season. This will be another solid Gopher team on both sides of the football.
4 – Wisconsin – Corey Clement is an early Heisman Trophy candidate. Joel Stave has shown progress. Paul Chryst is familiar with Wisconsin-style football. Even though the spring game wasn’t spectacular, this is a good football team that will be punishing in the run game and physical defensively.
3 – Nebraska – Speed and athleticism are great assets for any coach and any team. As Mike Riley introduces his new philosophy and players become more comfortable in his system, it’s nice to rely on talent to keep things lively in practice. This will be a quick Nebraska team that has the capability to score a lot of points in 2015.
2 – Michigan State – The Spartans don’t have the offensive weaponry they had a season ago, but it may be the most disciplined team on both sides of the field. Even without Pat Narduzzi, Michigan State’s defense shined in the spring game. Connor Cook is poised for his best season yet, which makes this a very dangerous team heading into the fall.
1 – Ohio State – Not much was on display at Ohio State’s spring game, but the luxury of winning a national championship and returning most of the talent from the team puts it atop the power rankings. The Buckeyes will have one of the best offensive teams in the country, regardless of quarterback. The defense has some holes, but those should be cleared up before the opening weekend.