The Big Ten football season officially begins on Thursday night with games spreading across the weekend all the way to Sunday with Rutgers and Northwestern.
The conference has gone the way of Michigan in each of the last two years. Will that be the case once again? Below, we breakdown the first power rankings of the 2023 college football season in the Big Ten.
Week 1: 9/3 at Rutgers
It seems as though Northwestern’s time has come and gone. Pat Fitzgerald is gone after being thought of as the savior. This latest scandal put an end to that. Now, players like Peter Skoronski and Evan Hull are gone and the Wildcats could use a complete overhaul. Right now, the team is just not as talented in a loaded Big Ten. After a 1-11 year in 2022, it could be another long campaign for Northwestern.
Last season: 1-11, 1-8 Big Ten
Week 1: 9/2 vs. Ohio State
Tom Allen might be the lone coach on the hot seat in the Big Ten entering the season. Like Northwestern, the time has come and gone for Indiana. A pandemic-shortened season feels like two decades ago for the Hoosiers. Since then, it has been all downhill for Allen and Indiana. This year, it should not be much different.
Last season: 4-8, 2-7 Big Ten
Week 1: 9/3 vs. Northwestern
Greg Schiano has hope. Fans have hope. Rutgers has hope. For now, they just aren't there yet. The Scarlet Knights should have a very strong defense in the conference this year and are hoping to get a boost with Gavin Wimsatt under center. Kirk Ciarrocca was brought in to be the offensive coordinator and this was one of many ways the coaching staff was improved. After a 4-8 year in 2022, Rutgers needs to take a step forward here.
Last season: 4-8, 1-8 Big Ten
Week 1: 9/2 vs. Fresno State
Enter Ryan Walters. Jeff Brohm bolted for Louisville after winning the West last season with the Boilermakers. This will not be a repeat season for Purdue. With the head coach and quarterback, it will be a transition year for Purdue.
Last season: 8-6, 6-3 Big Ten - Big Ten Championship Game, Loss in Cheez-It Citrus Bowl
10. Michigan State
Week 1: 9/1 vs. Central Michigan
Michigan State remains in the mediocre column this season but a bowl game is not out of the question. In fact, Michigan State better find a way to get to six wins. Mel Tucker cashed in on an excellent roster in 2021 as the Spartans handed him a massive contract. MSU Athletics, that was misguided. Regardless, the head coach is locked in and is not going anywhere. If there is another bad year coming, there has to be some questions asked.
Last season: 5-7, 3-6 Big Ten
Week 1: 8/31 at Minnesota
No. 9 on the list is not anything to write home about and it still might be a little high for the Cornhuskers to begin the season. The reason is simple — Matt Rhule. The Big Ten has plenty of changes at head coach and Rhule was a great hire for Nebraska. This is a program hungry for success and Scott Frost set them back so far. There are changes coming for the program but brighter days will not be here this year. Any semblance of improvement will show fans that Rhule has the team going in the right direction. Once he gets his guys in there, that will be it.
Last season: 4-8, 3-6 Big Ten
Week 1: 9/2 vs. Toledo
Bret Bielema turned a lot of heads last season. Now, Illinois must answer the question on whether last year was a fluke or not. The one thing that we can count on is Bielema’s message getting through once again. The culture has changed for the Illini and now it has to translate on the field. This is what we saw in 2022 and it will be interesting to see if it happens again.
Last season: 8-5, 5-4 Big Ten - Loss in ReliaQuest Bowl
Week 1: 8/31 vs. Nebraska
This is probably the area you will see Minnesota this season — just average and mediocre at times. The defense for the Gophers should be decent but the offense might be inconsistent. The culture is set in Minnesota but P.J. Fleck has not taken this program to the level that it wants to be. If they are going to take steps forward, this is not the year.
Last season: 9-4, 5-4 Big Ten - Win in Pinstripe Bowl
Week 1: 9/2 vs. Towson
Maryland is getting some preseason/early-season love heading into the fall. Taulia Tagovailos is back, giving an experienced player under center. Mike Locksley has built a decent program in Maryland. They are an athletic and aggressive bunch. This year, a bowl game is expected and it would be surprising if they do not make one. Instead, Maryland has its sights set on theta of the division. Now, let’s not get crazy. The Terps aren't there yet but the gap is not as wide as it used to be (but it is still wide). With that being said, Maryland will not be a pushover this year and might pick up a win or two that is not expected.
Last season: 8-5, 4-5 Big Ten - Win in Duke’s Mayo Bowl
Week 1: 9/2 vs. Utah State
Brian Ferentz, please do something this year. Cade McNamara was brought in, along with three new pass catchers, to help this offense succeed. Despite the loss of Jack Campbell and Riley Moss defensively, that side of the ball will be elite once again. If the offense can even do anything right this year, Iowa is in for a successful season. That is yet to be seen.
Last season: 8-5, 5-4 Big Ten - Win in Music City Bowl
Week 1: 9/2 vs. Buffalo
Wisconsin made the home run hire in the offseason by bringing in Luke Fickell to be its head coach. Tanner Mordecai is the new quarterback while Braelon Allen still patrols the backfield. It’s not crazy to say that Wisconsin could win every game they play this year. Of course, there is always a game or two that goes the way it was not expected. Regardless, Wisconsin is in a good spot to represent the Big Ten West in the conference championship game, especially if a new offensive scheme is put into place.
Last season: 7-6, 4-5 Big Ten - Win in Guaranteed Rate Bowl
3. Penn State
Week 1: 9/2 vs. West Virginia
Is Drew Allar a Heisman candidate? Who knows. He very well might be but Penn State doesn't necessarily need him to be the best player in the country. All Allar has to do is be better than Sean Clifford. The Nittany Lions come into the season with what might be the best defense in the nation. Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen were the first pair of freshmen to rush for 700 yards each in Big Ten history. Penn State has CFB Playoff hopes. Could this be the year that James Franklin and the Nittany Lions get over the hump?
Last season: 11-2, 7-2 Big Ten - Win in Rose Bowl
2. Ohio State
Week 1: 9/2 vs. Indiana
Kyle McCord has been handed the keys to the Ohio State offense. Is this an issue? Not when you are throwing to the best wide receiver in the country and best pro prospect at the position in quite some time. Marvin Harrison Jr. could be a Heisman candidate when it is all said and done. McCord will step into an offense with Harrison, Emeka Egbuka, Julian Fleming, TreVeyon Henderson and Miyan Williams. Is there a better situation for a first-year starter? McCord has gotten the chance to sit behind CJ Stroud for two years. Ohio State should not miss a beat offensively and will be national title contenders once again.
Last season: 11-2, 8-1 Big Ten - Loss In CFB Playoff Semifinal
Week 1: 9/2 vs. East Carolina
The rushing attack for Michigan might be the best in the nation. That was confirmed once Blake Corum decided to return. Corum and Donovan Edwards make up an elite duo in the backfield, along with a rushing threat at quarterback with J.J. McCarthy. After two-consecutive Big Ten titles and appearances in the CFB Playoff, Michigan is now the team to beat in the Big Ten.
Last season: 13-1, 9-0 Big Ten - Big Ten Champion, Loss in CFB Playoff Semifinal