By: Bo Bowen
Ohio State: Urban Meyer continued his run of dominance over Michigan this past weekend. The Buckeyes will face off with Wisconsin this weekend for the Big Ten title and College Football Playoff hopes on the line. We kept Ohio State ranked higher than Wisconsin for one simple reason: the Buckeyes are favored over the Badgers on Saturday by 5. With quarterback J.T. Barrett injured, however, it’s anyone’s ball game.
Wisconsin: The Badgers remain second in our rankings this week despite continuing their dominance over rival Minnesota. Wisconsin boasts one of the best run defenses in the country, allowing only 80.5 yards per game on the ground. The real question with this team going into the postseason remains whether they have the strength of schedule to compare with other programs. A win versus the Buckeyes would silence those doubts.
Penn State: After falling two straight weeks to Ohio State and Michigan State, the Nittany Lions have rattled off three straight wins. However, it appears to be too little too late for James Franklin’s team which resides in the loaded Big Ten East. Another tough note for those in Happy Valley: Saquon Barkley is no longer the Heisman favorite. Penn State will look to reload for next season after a New Year’s 6 Bowl trip.
Northwestern: The Wildcats are currently the hottest team in the Big Ten. Pat Fitzgerald’s team has won 7 straight games, their longest streak since 1996. Justin Jackson capped off an illustrious career with a school record 39th touchdown. The ‘Cats are searching for their first 10-win season since 2015 with a bowl matchup against a likely SEC opponent. With Clayton Thorson returning next year for his senior year, the good times may keep rolling in Evanston.
Michigan State: The 16th-ranked Spartans again find themselves as victims of conference alignment. Despite quality wins over Penn State and Michigan and a 7-2 conference record, Michigan State will finish third in their division. This season proved to be an important rebound year for Mark D’Antonio’s team. All three of their losses could be considered quality losses.
Michigan: Jim Harbaugh is now 0-3 against Ohio State; the only true measure by which Michigan coaches are evaluated. Rumors of a lifetime contract for Harbaugh were swirling before the game. However, they were no help as the Buckeyes pulled out a victory in Ann Arbor. Michigan finishes the season at 8-4 overall (5-4 in conference) and 4th in the Big Ten East. It was an underperforming year for the Wolverines. Don’t be surprised if Jim Harbaugh’s seat begins to feel warm.
Purdue: The Boilermakers finished the year with two straight victories to clinch bowl eligibility. Purdue will be playing in a bowl for the first time since 2012 – a notable accomplishment for a much improved program. With David Blough returning next year to likely start at quarterback, there is a lot to be hopeful for in West Lafayette.
Iowa: If there’s anything certain in the world of college football, it’s that the Hawkeyes are an enigma. Just weeks after scoring 55 on Ohio State, the Hawkeyes lost to Purdue, then put up 56 on Nebraska. With bowl season upcoming, the Hawkeyes could be a middle of the road team that decides how the Big Ten’s bowl season goes.
Indiana: The Hoosiers just missed the mark for clinching bowl eligibility with 6 wins. Many of their losses have come in close games, a positive to take away for head coach Tom Allen. The Hoosiers were solid on special teams this year, and will look to build next year despite the departure of quarterback Richard Lagow.
Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights went 3-6 in conference this season, defying most (if not all) expectations. Chris Ash has the program trending in a better direction than where it was heading. Rutgers has been rolling as of late and will look to continue that momentum into next season.
Minnesota: The Gophers are coming off back-to-back blowout losses versus Northwestern and Wisconsin. It was a down year for the program but P.J. Fleck will get his own recruits coming into next season. The Gophers will have questions to answer at quarterback going into next season.
Nebraska: Mike Riley’s final year in Lincoln wasn’t one to write home about. The Huskers posted a brutal 3-6 record in conference one year after being ranked in the top 10. Ending the season with 4 straight losses, 3 in which Nebraska allowed more than 50 points, it never how a team wants to end a season.
Maryland: The Terps have had some of the worst quarterback issues in the country. D.J. Durkin has done a good job with this team, despite a multitude of injuries at quarterback. Look for Maryland to improve heading into next season.
Illinois: The Illini capped off the season by losing the Land of Lincoln trophy to rival Northwestern in blowout fashion. Lovie Smith’s first season was a tough one, dropping 10 straight and going winless in Big Ten play. The good news for Illini fans: there’s nowhere to go but up.