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Big Ten Football Power Rankings: Preseason

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A look at the conference landscape before the season kicks off this weekend.

Maryland v Ohio State Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

There will be Big Ten football on Saturday. The long wait is finally over and all 14 teams will be in action this weekend. There is a certain excitement for fans of all teams heading into Week 1. The thrill of the season being back is present to go along with the unknown of what your team will look like.

This is especially true for Rutgers with the return of Greg Schiano. Despite the lack of success over the past few years, it is exciting knowing that Rutgers has a coach that has built this program back up once already.

Entering the first game of the season, all teams have the same record. Let’s take a look at the power rankings for the Big Ten as we approach the opener.

14. Rutgers (2019: 2-10, 0-9 Big Ten)

It’s going to take some time and some patience. Schiano has proven that he can turn a program around, but it took him five years to get to a bowl game after taking the Scarlet Knight job in 2000. Rutgers has won just three games over the past two years. This is an situation where fans should be paying attention to how Schiano has changed the culture immediately and the decisions he makes on the field. They open on the road against Michigan State. Do not be surprised if the Scarlet Knights hang around in this one.

10/24: at Michigan State (12 PM, BTN)

13. Maryland (2019: 3-9, 1-8 Big Ten)

Maryland began the 2019 season by scoring 142 points combined in their first two games. That trend did not continue as they were only able to pick up one win over the rest of their schedule. Head coach Mike Locksley has basically punted the season by saying this season is basically “year 0.5” of the program’s rebuild. He may be right given the youth of his team and the shortened season due ot the pandemic. Locksley has not announced whether it will be Taulia Tagovailoa or Lance LeGendre under center.

10/24: at Northwestern (7:30 PM, BTN)

12. Illinois (2019: 6-7, 4-5 Big Ten)

Illinois returns an extremely senior-heavy roster from a 6-7 team that played in a bowl game in 2019. Quarterback Brandon Peters returns with a talented group of receivers and a defense that surprised some people last season. Linebacker Jake Hansen and cornerback Jake Hobbs will be the leaders on that side of the ball. Illinois comes in low in the preseason rankings because we just need to see more from them. They could make a jump if they begin winning games but that is yet to be seen.

10/23: at Wisconsin (8 PM, BTN)

11. Michigan State (2019: 7-6, 4-5 Big Ten)

Mark Dantonio surprised with his decision to retire following back-to-back 7-6 seasons with the Spartans. Mel Tucker was hired as the new coach and he is just one unknown on this team. The quarterback position is a question mark with the loss of Brian Lewerke and the offensive line seems underwhelming. Defensively, the Spartans feature Naquan Jones and Antjuan Simmons but it is hard to imagine them lighting up the scoreboard. This is another team that will have to prove themselves on a week-to-week basis.

10/24: vs. Rutgers (12 PM, BTN)

10. Nebraska (2019: 5-7, 3-6 Big Ten)

Nebraska wanted a season and they got one. Now it is up to them to go win some games. The Huskers will feature an extremely talented offensive line to go with Dedrick Mills and Ronald Thompkins. On the defensive side of the ball, Nebraska is less than impressive on paper. They lost their entire defensive line from last season and have Ohio State and Penn State as crossover games.

10/24: at Ohio State (12 PM, FOX)

9. Northwestern (2019: 3-9, 1-8 Big Ten)

It is hard to get much worse than what we saw from Northwestern’s offense in 2019. The loss of Travis Whillock will impact the defense but their issue is not on that side of the ball. With Indiana transfer Peyton Ramsey and a new offensive coordinator running the show, Northwestern’s offense should be improved. This is a team that could hang around the .500 mark.

10/24: vs. Maryland (7:30 PM, BTN)

8. Purdue (2019: 4-8, 3-6 Big Ten)

The Boilermakers are another team that will not announce their starting quarterback until game time. Whether it is Jake Plummer or Aiden O’Connell who wins the job, they will have one important piece back — Rondale Moore. He decided to opt back in for the 2020 season. Moore, along with David Bell, will lead the offense with firepower in high scoring games that they will be playing.

10/24: vs. Iowa (3:30 PM, BTN)

7. Indiana (2019: 8-5, 5-4 Big Ten)

Indiana won eight games last season. There is reason to feel good in Bloomington. Michael Penix Jr. is returning under center with Stevie Scott in the backfield. This is a team prepared to take the next step this season. If healthy, there is no reason why the Hoosiers can’t finish third in the East.

10/24: vs. Penn State (3:30 PM, FS1)

6. Michigan (2019: 9-4, 6-3 Big Ten)

Who knows with Michigan anymore. Jim Harbaugh has underachieved during his tenure. Entering 2020, the Wolverines have a new quarterback in Joe Milton but lost some key members of their offense. Donovan Peoples-Jones is gone along with four starters along the offensive line from last season. Is Michigan good enough to compete with the top teams in the conference? It doesn’t look like it yet but they will have a chance to prove everyone wrong.

10/24: at Minnesota (7:30 PM, ABC)

5. Iowa (2019: 10-3, 6-3 Big Ten)

Nate Stanley is gone. Enter Spencer Petras. Of course, He will look to continue success at a program that has won at least eight games in every year since 2015. Tyler Goodson will look to control the run game behind a strong offensive line and defense. The Hawkeyes have become extremely consistent and that will continue this season.

10/24: at Purdue (3:30 PM, BTN)

4. Minnesota (2019: 11-2, 7-2 Big Ten)

Minnesota was the surprise team in 2019, not only in the Big Ten, but in the country. Can they do it two years in a row? The Golden Gophers will not be a surprise anymore. Tanner Morgan threw 30 touchdowns this season and will have the Big Ten’s best receiver back in Rashod Bateman. The entire offensive line will be back as well. Minnesota will be tough but can depth be an issue?

10/24: vs. Michigan (7:30 PM, ABC)

3. Wisconsin (2019: 10-4, 7-2 Big Ten)

Jonathan Taylor is finally done with what felt like a 10-year career at Wisconsin. Jack Coan is out with a foot injury but coaches feel good about Graham Mertz. This is still a very good Wisconsin team that is the favorite in the West, but their ceiling does not seem to be high enough to take down the winner of the East. If the Badgers make it to the Big Ten Championship, it would be their fifth appearance in seven years.

10/23: vs. Illinois (8 PM, BTN)

2. Penn State (2019: 11-2, 7-2 Big Ten)

Penn State has one thing on their mind this season. That is taking down the top team on this list and finding a way into the CFB Playoff. Offensively, they return Sean Clifford and Pat Freiermuth along with four starters along the offensive line. Journey Brown might be forced to miss the season with a medical condition. If so, Noah Cain and Devyn Ford are the leading candidates to replace him. If there is any knock on the Nittany Lions, it would be their lack of downfield threats. And of course, Micah Parsons deciding to opt out. Regardless, Penn State is for real this season.

10/24: at Indiana (3:30 PM, FS1)

1. Ohio State (2019: 13-1, 9-0 Big Ten)

There was no team as vocal as Ohio State when campaigning for the Big Ten to have a fall season. This is because the Buckeyes have one thing on their mind — a National Championship. The head coach and quarterback duo of Ryan Day and Justin Fields is one of the top in the nation. Wyatt Davis, Shawn Wade, the list goes on and on for potential first round Buckeyes in 2021. There seems to be few teams, if more than one, who can take down Ohio State. And we will find out very soon as they take on Penn State in Week 2 in University Park.

10/24: vs. Nebraska (12 PM, FOX)