College Football 2014: Big Ten Preseason Power Rankings
Big Ten Power Rankings
2014 College Football Preview
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Here are how the Big Ten college football power rankings shape up as we get ready for the 2014 season.
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1. Ohio State Buckeyes - The Ohio State Buckeyes have the best quarterback in the conference in Braxton Miller, the best head coach in Urban Meyer and return seven starters from a defense that is only going to get better. I do worry a little bit that the Buckeyes really stunk it up towards the end of last season, but this is easily the most complete team in the Big Ten. If a Big Ten team is going to make the playoffs, it’s likely going to be the Ohio State Buckeyes.
2. Michigan State Spartans - The Michigan State Spartans defense will look a little different from last season after losing some key guys, but Marcus Rush and Shilique Calhoun do form one of the best defensive lines in the country. As we saw last season, Michigan State’s defense is good enough to make a run at a Big Ten title and possibly a playoff spot. The Spartans just need Connor Cook to improve at quarterback for them to be a more balanced team.
3. Wisconsin Badgers - The Wisconsin Badgers return only nine starters, which is the fewest in the Big Ten. However, four of those starters for Wisconsin are on the offensive line, which always seems to be the Badgers strong point. Wisconsin also has a deep backfield led by Melvin Gordon and Corey Clement. Simply put, while the Wisconsin Badgers have questions at quarterback and on defense, the bread and butter of this team is still there. Don’t write this team off just yet, as the Badgers still have enough to give everybody in the Big Ten a scare.
4. Nebraska Cornhuskers - The Nebraska Cornhuskers may have the deepest backfield of any team in the country with Ameer Abdullah, Imani Cross and Terrell Newby carrying the ball. There’s once again going to be a lot of running in Nebraska, and quarterback Tommy Armstrong won’t have to make a ton of plays for this offense to succeed. While the Cornhuskers defense needs work, they do return five of their seven starters up front and should improve with great athleticism added to the mix. The Nebraska Cornhuskers still have balance issues but are still good enough to beat any team in the Big Ten.
5. Michigan Wolverines - I’m not giving up on the Michigan Wolverines with 15 starters returning. Devin Gardner is a solid quarterback who should have a bounce back season and he has help around him with Derrick Green carrying the rock. The Wolverines also return eight starters from a defense that ranked fifth in the Big Ten last season. With the leadership and the pieces in place, it feels like the Michigan Wolverines are flying under the radar a bit. Don’t sleep.
6. Iowa Hawkeyes - The Iowa Hawkeyes remind me of a poor man’s Michigan State Spartans. Just a tough, physical team that may not be pretty but finds ways to get the job done. Iowa returns a great deal of its defensive line depth from a defense that finished ninth in the country in points allowed. Iowa also returns eight starters offensively, which should do nothing but improve a unit that struggled to put points up. If the Iowa Hawkeyes won eight games last season with little offensive production, imagine what they can do this season.
7. Penn State Nittany Lions - Two words: Christian Hackenberg. You can have many weaknesses, but a great quarterback can mask a lot of them and help lead you to success. Hackenberg has star written all over him and he should take that next step in his sophomore season. The Penn State Nittany Lions are still a work in progress with a new head coach and a team still recovering from NCAA sanctions. However, Penn State will turn some heads this season and pull off a few upsets.
8. Northwestern Wildcats - The Northwestern Wildcats took a step backwards last season with a 1-7 record in conference play but there’s still talent on this roster and time for Pat Fitzgerald to prove they can win. I’m concerned with Northwestern’s inconsistency on defense and the struggles to put the ball in the end zone but a combination of quarterback Trevor Siemian and running Venric Mark can do damage. The Northwestern Wildcats have potential.
9. Minnesota Golden Gophers - The Minnesota Golden Gophers won eight games last season and return seven starters on each side of the ball. Head coach Jerry Kill is extremely underrated and one of the best motivators in the sport. If the Golden Gophers can develop any time of passing game, they’ll prove that last year was no fluke.
10. Indiana Hoosiers - The Indiana Hoosiers were extremely close to reaching a bowl game last season with a 5-7 record. The Hoosiers return 18 starters, which is the most in the Big Ten. While Indiana’s defense has to improve, there’s reason for excitement considering eight starters return from an offense that was 17th in the country in points scored. Indiana has a chance to pull off one of its best seasons in football history if the defense can help out.
11. Maryland Terrapins - The Maryland Terrapins are in for a culture shock after leaving the watered down ACC for a physical, slow paced Big Ten. The Terrapins will have to get bigger on both sides of the ball if they’re going to last all 12 games in this conference. The good news for Maryland right now is that there are athletes on the team and C.J. Brown is a veteran quarterback. Still, it’s going to be a work in progress for this squad.
12. Illinois Fighting Illini - The Illinois Fighting Illini have a possible 1-2 punch in quarterback Wes Lunt and running back Josh Ferguson. Still, the Fighting Illini had a defense that 106th in the country in points allowed and an overall team that finished 1-7 in conference play. Illinois has a long way to go before competing in the Big Ten again.
13. Rutgers Scarlet Knights - Much like the Maryland Terrapins, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights have their work cut out for them in the first season in the Big Ten. The competition increases and Rutgers isn’t physical enough in the trenches to last. The Scarlet Knights are slightly better than advertised, but there won’t be much winning in year one.
14. Purdue Boilermakers - The Purde Boilermakers should be better than last season with another year under head coach Darrell Hazell and 15 starters returning. However, the Boilermakers won just one game last season, finished 0-8 in conference play and had an offense that finished 122nd in the country in points scored. No thank you.