Final B1G power rankings: Buckeyes wire to wire at top
The Big Ten season ended on Saturday with the conference championship game (normal), a few other games (not normal) and a few extra games to make up for lost games, only for those games to wind up getting called off anyway (truly not normal).
Welcome to 2020, the king of not-normal seasons. And good riddance.
It all worked out okay for Ohio State, which spent the season wire-to-wire atop our power rankings. No reason to change that after Saturday’s B1G Championship Game in Indianapolis, though Northwestern gave the Buckeyes a heck of a game and led for a good chunk.
At the end, OSU got its just reward with a College Football Playoff semifinal berth. A few other conference teams chose not to participate in the postseason, meaning that Saturday was it.
Here are our final rankings from this wild ride of a 2020 B1G season.
14. Illinois (2-6, lost to Penn State 56-21)
Playing a game after coach Lovie Smith got fired was an extremely difficult task to end an extremely difficult season. It showed on Saturday as the Nittany Lions blew out the Fighting Illini. Bret Bielema will have quite a rebuilding job to do as Illinois coach.
13. Purdue (2-4, idle)
The Boilermakers didn’t get to play for the Old Oaken Bucket when the rivalry game against Indiana was called off for a second time last week. So the bad taste in their mouths from a season-ending 4-game losing streak will linger throughout the entire offseason.
12. Michigan State (2-5, idle)
The Spartans will probably be happy to put 2020 in the rearview mirror and Mel Tucker will probably be happy to (we hope) get a full season going into Year 2 as the coach in East Lansing. Having this week’s game postponed was one more example. But, hey, they’ll always have that win over Michigan.
11. Michigan (2-4, idle)
The Wolverines not only had their rivalry game against Ohio State called off, but also lost another shot at a Top-25 game when the meeting with Iowa was canceled. Michigan has a lot of work to do in the offseason, especially in fixing a defense that ranked 89th in the nation in total defense.
10. Rutgers (3-6, lost to Nebraska 28-21)
The Scarlet Knights lost a tough one to the Cornhuskers. Aron Cruickshank’s kickoff return for a touchdown gave Rutgers a lead in the third quarter but, after Nebraska tied it, a critical interception ended hopes of another Big Ten win for Greg Schiano’s bunch. Still big strides in 2020, though.
9. Nebraska (3-5, beat Rutgers 28-21)
The Cornhuskers have an interesting offseason ahead. It doesn’t have a lot to do with the win over Rutgers, though the comeback win was satisfying. Which direction will this team take to fix a mediocre defense? And will Adrian Martinez or Luke McCaffrey start at quarterback?
8. Maryland (2-3, idle)
The Terrapins played the fewest games in the B1G, having lost 4 games in the span of about 2 months, including Saturday’s scheduled tilt against Michigan State. Maryland had it pretty rough in terms of COVID-19 but there were some encouraging signs on the field.
7. Minnesota (3-4, lost to Wisconsin 20-17, OT)
Losing the Paul Bunyan’s Axe game to Wisconsin is going to be a painful way to end the season, especially after the program opted out of bowl season. Missing a field goal then losing to Wisconsin in overtime is going to linger.
6. Wisconsin (3-3, beat Minnesota 20-17, OT)
The Badgers overcame a season full of disappointment to knock off the Golden Gophers in overtime and grab Paul Bunyan’s Axe. This is certainly not the season Wisconsin imagined but at least the Badgers scored in double digits this time.
5. Penn State (4-5, beat Illinois 56-21)
The Nittany Lions are on a hot streak, ending the season on a 4-game winning run. The program decided not to play in a bowl game so that momentum, after a shocking 0-5 start, will continue for Penn State into the offseason.
4. Iowa (6-2, idle)
The Hawkeyes lost an opportunity to play Michigan last week and chose not to schedule a makeup game on short notice. So that 6-game winning streak remains intact and Iowa will carry forward a fair amount of confidence.
3. Northwestern (6-2, lost to Ohio State 22-10)
The Wildcats don’t drop a spot after losing the B1G Championship Game. Nor should they. Northwestern proved that it could compete with the league’s best, leading Ohio State for a good part of Saturday’s game before a lack of punch on offense caught up with Pat Fitzgerald’s team.
2. Indiana (6-1, idle)
This Hoosiers team will go down in history and deserves to. Losing the chance to play the Old Oaken Bucket game against Purdue will be a bummer but the fact that this team competed against the B1G’s elite (and won all but once) proves what an excellent job coach Tom Allen has done.
1. Ohio State (6-0, beat Northwestern 22-10)
There will be controversy about the Buckeyes playing just 6 games and still making the CFP semifinals. What’s not controversial is that Ohio State is the best team in the Big Ten and shows no signs of being knocked off the top of the mountain any time soon.