College football is back TODAY. Now we can stop pretending to care about baseball while waiting for the seemingly endless offseason to surrender and go away.
Here's OTB's preseason B1G Power Rankings.
1. Ohio State Buckeyes
The national champs are bringing back an unreal amount of talent from a squad that ran rough-shod through the conference before beating Alabama and Oregon - using their third string QB - to win the national title. No reason to think they won't continue rolling, starting with the only team they lost to last year, the Virginia Polytechnic Turkeys in Blacksburg on Monday. Clear number 1, in the conference and in the country, unless and until they stumble somewhere.
2. Michigan State Spartans
Our Scarlet Knight mascot's roided-up Midwestern cousin and company lost some talented players to the NFL, especially on defense, but return Connor Cook, the B1G's top QB not living in Columbus. They also lost Pat Narduzzi, architect of one of the best defenses in college football for the last several years, when he left to take the head job at Pitt. The offense should be excellent, and if the defense lives up to expectations, the Spartans may well be undefeated when they meet the Buckeyes late in November. They open with PJ Fleck's Western Michigan squad on Friday.
3. Wisconsin Badgers
The Badgers have a new coach in former Pitt coach Paul Chryst. No matter - they have had new coaches frequently in the past few seasons, and the product on the field is seemingly always consistent and high-level. We know what we're getting with Wisconsin - behemoth lines, power run game featuring New Jersey product Corey Clement taking over where All-Galaxy stud Melvin Gordon left off, and solid defense. They open with a prime-time slugfest against Alabama at Jerryworld.
4. Minnesota Golden Gophers
The Gophers lost star RB David Cobb to the Tennessee Titans, but look to be one of the conference's best teams again, especially on defense. If the offense can figure out how to replace Cobb's production and develop more of a passing attack, they should be a factor in the Western Division race until the end. Goldy opens against a very tough TCU team at home today.
5. Michigan Wolverines
Jim Harbaugh's hype train leaves the station tonight on the road against a very tough Utah squad. For all his faults, Brady Hoke was a strong recruiter, and certainly didn't leave the cupboard bare for Harbaugh. If Coach Harbaugh gets his guys motivated and disciplined, Michigan should no longer be an afterthought in the conference championship picture.
6. Nebraska Cornhuskers
The children of the corn are also debuting a new coach in former Oregon State front-man Mike Riley, after firing Bo Pellini for the sin of winning [only] 9 or 10 games every year he led the Huskers. The Huskers are big and talented, as always, so Riley may be able to get them going right out of the gate. The B1G no longer has to Fear Ameer, as the star running back is leading the Detroit Lions rushing attack now, but don't count the Huskers out. Nebraska opens with BYU.
7. Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Homer alert. I see the teams ranked 7-10 as being virtually deadlocked, so I am giving our Knights the benefit of the doubt here. I think the biggest questions come on defense: How hurt is Darius Hamilton; will a beefed up D-Line be able to close the gap with some of the conference's top teams; and will the secondary finally become a position of strength after years of green players trying desperately to get up to speed. If the QB battle was as close as it seemed, either player should be able to, at a minimum, avoid turnovers enough to let our explosive skill players shine. I see RU as 4th in the B1G East.
8. Iowa Hawkeyes
Iowa never seems to change. Sturdy defense, flashes of competence from the QB position, and a few inexplicable stumbles against seemingly inferior teams. Kirk Ferentz is still the coach, in his seventeenth season. The Hawkeyes should be a player in the West if new QB CJ Beathard can make the most of the opportunities his defense gives him. Iowa hosts Illinois State to open the season.
9. ttfp Nitty Kitties
The first wave of Franklin's recruits are starting to see the field consistently in some spots. For example receiver Saeed Blacknall and tight end Mike Gesicki are at or near the top of the depth chart at their respective positions. The blue and white return most of the key pieces of one of the league's most stout defenses, particularly along the line. Their O-line is still a work in progress, and like last year, will be the key to whether Christian Hackenberg can live up to his (ridiculously outsized) hype. The kitties open at Temple in Philadelphia.
10. Indiana Hoosiers
QB Nate Sudfeld is healthy again, and that means the Hoosiers will likely be explosive on offense, despite replacing star RB Tevin Coleman, now of the Atlanta Falcons. The Hoosiers' Achilles heel is always on defense, but this year they seem to have a lot of talent on that side of the ball. If the D puts it together, Indiana could be at least a bowl team, a major accomplishment in Bloomington recently. Indiana hosts Southern Illinois to open the 2015 slate.
11. Northwestern Wildcats
The Wildcats have been 5-7 each of the last two years, and this year might be similarly unhappy in Evanston. The misery should start right away, as the Wildcats are likely to take a home loss against their fellow nerds from Stanford to start the season.
12. Maryland Terrapins
Maryland has a lot of question marks all over the roster. They lost a staggering amount of talent at the wide receiver position to injury, transfer and the NFL. They are still searching for answers at quarterback and their defense could be a mess. There is young talent in College Park, but this could be a long year for Randy Edsall's squad. The Terps host Richmond on Saturday.
13. Purdue Boilermakers
Purdue is trending in the right direction in coach Darell Hazell's third season, but they still have a long way to go, particularly on D against the run. Purdue opens at Marshall.
14. Illinois Fighting Illini
Illinois just lost its head coach to a scandal alleging player abuse, and forcing players to play despite injuries. Yikes. Former Schiano-man Bill Cubit has been given the interim coach duties, but this looks like a mess. Illinois opens at home with Kent State.