We’re still three weeks away from the start of the college football season but it’s never too early to give you Big Ten power rankings.
As fall camps get underway and we prepare for the start of another great year, let’s get a look at where Big Ten teams stack up before the opening kickoff.
1) Ohio State – There’s been no change in status since the end of last season’s run. The Buckeyes have the weaponry to repeat as Big Ten and national champions. The biggest question surrounding Columbus is still who will start under center when the season kicks off on September 7.
Regardless of who wins the job, Urban Meyer will likely have his team back in Indianapolis at the end of the season.
2) Michigan State – Connor Cook enters the year as the conference’s most experienced and arguably most talented quarterback. Michigan State’s offense shouldn’t have much trouble scoring this year and will be more efficient than it has been recently.
Games against Oregon and Ohio State will determine whether the Spartans can compete for one of the four spots in the College Football Playoff.
3) Wisconsin – New coach, same Badgers. With Corey Clement in the backfield, this is a team that’s built to cause some damage on the ground offensively. Defensively, Wisconsin will still be the consistent force it has been for years.
Outside of an opening week meeting with Alabama, Wisconsin’s schedule is less the daunting. That means Paul Chryst should enjoy double-digit wins in his first year at his alma mater.
4) Penn State – James Franklin has addressed Penn State’s offensive line woes, which should only mean things will get better in Happy Valley.
With an offensive trifecta of Christian Hackenberg, Akeel Lynch and DaeSean Hamilton, Penn State has the weapons for an effective offense. Since Penn State will have one of the top defenses in the country for the second-straight season, a complementary offense would mean giving OSU and MSU a run for the East crown.
5) Nebraska – Speed and athleticism highlights Nebraska’s 2015 season. The Huskers have skill at nearly every position but haven’t been able to compete for the Big Ten crown on a regular basis.
Mike Riley’s job is to get the Huskers back into national prominence. If he can utilize his talent properly this could be a very dangerous team.
6) Minnesota – The Gophers have are loaded at the running back position and will have one of the conference’s top secondary units. That’s a recipe for another solid season for Jerry Kill.
Getting over the hump has always been a difficult task in Minnesota. There’s a real opportunity for the Gophers to finally overcome that obstacle this season. A week one match-up with TCU will show us if Minnesota is worth considering as a Big Ten threat.
7) Rutgers – Quietly, the Scarlet Knights are putting together a pretty competitive program in their new conference.
There are playmakers on both sides of the football and several rising stars that could be important players in Rutgers’s success this fall. This isn’t a team that will compete for a conference title, but offensive weapons and an improving defensive line should equate to another bowl berth.
8) Michigan – Jim Harbaugh’s arrival in Ann Arbor instantly improved the state of the program. The Wolverines still have to suffer through some growing pains, though.
Defense won’t be much of an issue for Michigan this fall but the offense still has many question marks. A tough non-conference schedule will give us some insight on just how much Harbaugh has been able to improve his team after only a few short months.
9) Iowa – With his job on the line, will Kirk Ferentz finally show some flavor with his offense? Anointing C.J. Beathard as the starting quarterback is a good start but this is a team that still has some things to prove.
This is certainly a team that has the ability to be bowl eligible but a meaningless bowl game won’t mean much for Hawkeye faithful. It all starts with a more active offense if Ferentz wants to stay at Iowa.
10) Illinois – The Illini had one of the top passing attacks in the Big Ten last season, a trait that should carry over to the 2015 season.
The loss of leading wide receiver Mike Dudek is a blow to the Illinois offense but there’s enough experience there for Tim Beckman’s crew to be effective. The issues on defense will be the main concern again this season.
11) Northwestern – Back-to-back seasons without a bowl appearance is a troubling sign in Evanston. Northwestern has a lot of young talent but no quarterback and inexperience is going to be tough to overcome.
The Wildcats will be competitive again under Pat Fitzgerald but it likely won’t be this season.
12) Indiana – Nate Sudfeld’s return has people in Bloomington dreaming of a bowl berth for the first time in nearly a decade.
The return of the quarterback is a good sign for Kevin Wilson but competing in the Big Ten East is no easy task especially without a defense. The Hoosiers will be better than they were last year but unless the defense steps up it’ll be another season of disappointment for IU.
13) Purdue – It’s hard to tell, but Darrell Hazell’s bunch is improving. The Boilers still don’t have a lot of size and lack playmakers, which are two tough obstacles to overcome in college football.
This will be a team that’s much more competitive than it has been over the past two seasons but is still a year or two away from competing in the conference. It’ll be interesting to see if it’s Austin Appleby or David Blough who opens up at quarterback for Purdue.
14) Maryland – Nearly all of Maryland’s offensive production from last season is gone. The Terrapins’ defense has a lot of holes to fill.
Randy Edsall has done a solid job in College Park but he’s heading into rebuilding mode. That’s not a bad sign for the future but it likely means Maryland won’t enjoy much success this year.