Ok, so it didn’t turn out to be the best B1G bowl season in a decade. And while the three blowout losses certainly didn’t help the B1G’s reputation, the conference actually won one more game than it was expected to.
These final power rankings are not based strictly on bowl performance. By now, you should know that I’m not a fan of basing everything on one game.
Above all else, these are rankings based on who I would have the most confidence in winning any individual game in 2015.
So without further ado, let the debate begin:
Biggest risers: Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio State +2
Biggest faller: Iowa -3
14. Rutgers (prev. 14)
The Scarlet Knights are still in the basement because of the mess that was 2015. Arrests, suspensions and firings aren’t usually the ingredients needed to build a Power Five winner. But Rutgers does appear to have the right guy in place to turn it around.
13. Purdue (prev. 13)
Usually a team that wins one conference game is a lock to earn that bottom spot. But at the very least, the Boilermakers played competitively against the likes of Iowa, Michigan State and Wisconsin. But no seat will be hotter in the B1G than Darrell Hazell’s heading into 2016.
12. Maryland (prev. 12)
It seems like a lifetime ago that the Terps rallied past Rutgers in the final regular season game. If not for that comeback victory, Maryland would’ve had a comfortable spot at No. 14.
11. Illinois (prev. 11)
Illinois was one of four B1G teams that missed out on a bowl, but to group Bill Cubit’s team with Maryland, Rutgers and Purdue would be unfair. The five-win Illini were a few brainiacs away from playing in a bowl game and stealing Minnesota’s bid.
10. Minnesota (prev. 10)
We really saw a much different offense out of the Gophers under Tracy Claeys down the stretch. Mitch Leidner and KJ Maye thrived in the Quick Lane Bowl, which was indicative of the connection they developed in the season’s second half. It’s only a six-win season, but when that defense was healthy, Minnesota showed it could play with anyone.
9. Indiana (prev. 8)
Whether or not Griffin Oakes’ kick was good or not, it didn’t change what we knew to be true about Indiana. The Hoosiers had a balanced, high-powered offensive attack that didn’t get rewarded as often as it should’ve. For IU to ever get past the five- or six-win mark, it has to be able to limit the big plays on defense. Ultimately, that’s what prevented the Hoosiers from having a historic season.
8. Penn State (prev. 7)
The Lions’ lone win against a bowl team came against Indiana when they played without Jordan Howard and the Hoosiers were down to their third-string quarterback. Trace McSorley led a nice comeback effort against Georgia in the TaxSlayer Bowl, but this team looked overmatched against quality opponents far too often in 2015.
7. Nebraska (prev. 9)
I love that Mike Riley was willing to completely rip up his 2015 pro-passing game plan and get back to the power football that made Nebraska what it was in the 20th century. The Huskers ended on a high note against a solid UCLA team because of what it did offensively, but we also saw the Blackshirts’ improvement come to fruition. Important strides were made heading into 2016.
6. Northwestern (prev. 5)
Man, I was playing the Northwestern disrespect card hard. I couldn’t fathom why the Wildcats were 8.5-point dogs against Tennessee. But then we all flashed back to the Iowa and Michigan games and remembered that Northwestern can get embarrassed when it can’t establish the run. Still, the Wildcats will be one of the favorites in the B1G West next year.
5. Wisconsin (prev. 6)
Like Nebraska, Wisconsin contained a high-flying Pac-12 offense and picked up a quality victory to close the season. The nation’s top scoring defense played inspired football once again. Given the defensive efforts the Badgers put together in two of their three losses, it’s interesting to think about what could’ve been if they could’ve been healthier and better on offense.
4. Iowa (prev. 1)
This is not an overreaction. I repeat, this is not an overreaction. The drop looks more severe than it actually is because the previous power rankings were done before the B1G Championship. But Iowa didn’t do itself any favors with its Rose Bowl showing. Against the most elusive tailback in the country, sure-handed tacklers struggled mightily. Friday didn’t take away from the fact that the Hawkeyes earned their first 12-win season in program history. It was just an awful, awful matchup in Pasadena.
3. Michigan (prev. 5)
Any time you light up an SEC defense, the world takes notice. That, above all else, was what impressed me about the Wolverines. They improved a ton offensively, and even though they were crushed by Ohio State, you couldn’t help but be impressed with what Jim Harbaugh did to turn that unit around. The Wolverines, despite the three losses to top-15 foe, showed as many flashes of being an elite team as anyone in the B1G. Entering 2016, that’s what the Wolverines will be treated as.
2. Michigan State (prev. 2)
MSU built its 2015 season on its ability to always find a way. Half of their 12 wins came in one-possession games. That’s extremely rare for a consensus top-five team. Against Alabama, MSU couldn’t hang around long enough to get into its comfort zone. But don’t let one blowout loss deter you from what you saw throughout 2015. The Cotton Bowl didn’t change the fact that MSU had wins against Iowa, Michigan, Ohio State and Oregon. The number if quality wins is ultimately what kept the Spartans ahead of the Wolverines at season’s end.
1. Ohio State (prev. 3)
After all the Buckeyes went through, they still found their way atop the B1G. I’m not saying OSU would’ve definitely beat Alabama. MSU earned the right to play against the Tide by taking down OSU. But if I’m picking one team to represent the B1G to play against anyone in the country, it’s Ohio State. In their final two games of the season, the Buckeyes looked every bit like a team that could beat anyone in the country. For all the talk they generated about their offensive struggles, they finished the season by averaging 43 points against two of the best defenses in America. Nobody had more upside than this team. Unfortunately for OSU, it took way too long to show that to the College Football Playoff Selection Committee.