B1G Power Rankings entering Week 1
The Big Ten season finally gets underway this weekend and the 2020 season promises to be unlike any other in anyone’s memory. Unless you’re at least 80 years old, because 1941 was the last time that an 8-game regular season was a normal thing.
But fast forwarding to 2020, teams in the B1G will be looking to change history or make history, with one exception. Ohio State has won the league championship game three straight years, and the Buckeyes have lost just 10 games in the past 8 years.
So it’s only fitting to have OSU at the top of our final preseason B1G Power Rankings. Ryan Day’s bunch returns quarterback Justin Fields but needs to replace stars such as Chase Young, J.K. Dobbins and Jeff Okudah.
How will the competition line up from there? OSU’s biggest hurdle, Penn State, will be without running back Journey Brown because of an undisclosed medical issue and will miss Micah Parsons, who opted out before the season. Issues surrounding COVID-19 will only make this season more unpredictable.
So how do the 14 teams in the B1G stack up days before the season?
14. Rutgers (This week: at Michigan State, noon ET Saturday)
The Scarlet Knights let go of one former Ohio State assistant, Chris Ash, and hired another ex-Buckeye assistant in Greg Schiano for his second run as Rutgers head coach. His task is much more difficult than it was the first time, when the school was in the Big East.
13. Maryland (at Northwestern, 7:30 p.m. Saturday)
The Terrapins will turn to either Lance LeGendre or Alabama transfer Taulia Tagovailoa as the starting quarterback. But the real rebuilding project for coach Mike Locksley is on defense; Maryland was last in the B1G and 109th nationally in total D last season
12. Northwestern (vs. Maryland, 7:30 Saturday)
The Wildcats went from first to worst in the West Division in 2019, one year after reaching the B1G title game. New offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian will look to inject life back into the Purple Gang with Indiana transfer Peyton Ramsey as the starting quarterback.
11. Purdue (vs. Iowa, 3:30 Saturday)
The Boilermakers enter coach Jeff Brohm’s 7th year in charge looking to repeat a few positives from 2019 (the league’s top passing offense) and eliminate the negatives (13th in the league in total defense). Brohm already faced one battle, testing positive for coronavirus.
10. Illinois (at Wisconsin, 8 Friday)
The Fighting Illini went to a bowl in 2019, their first postseason appearance since 2014, and look to continue the momentum under coach Lovie Smith. Illinois starts on Friday by looking to repeat its stunning upset of Wisconsin from last season.
9. Michigan State (vs. Rutgers, noon Saturday)
The Spartans are starting a new era under Mel Tucker, who arrives from Colorado to replace Mark Dantonio. Tucker inherits a team coming off of a 7-6 season. MSU’s last B1G title was in 2015 but it probably feels longer than that in East Lansing.
8. Indiana (vs. Penn State, 3:30 Saturday)
The Hoosiers are trending in the right direction under Tom Allen and were even fringe East Division title contenders until mid November last year. Indiana also returns a ton of starters, including stud running back Stevie Scott, and could stun some folks.
7. Nebraska (at Ohio State, noon Saturday)
Is this the year the Cornhuskers start coming good on their preseason hopes in Year 3 under Scott Frost? Adrian Martinez is also back for his third year as starting quarterback but the defense, 10th in the league last season, is where the improvement needs to come.
6. Iowa (vs. Purdue, 3:30 Saturday)
The Hawkeyes lost 3 games by a total of 14 points in 2019, finishing with 10 wins for the sixth time in 21 seasons under Kirk Ferentz. But they have not won a share of a conference title since 2004 and Iowa has to replace a lot from last season’s Holiday Bowl winners.
5. Minnesota (vs. Michigan, 7:30 Saturday)
The Golden Gophers were perhaps the most fun B1G story of 2019, winning 11 games and coming oh so close to making the league title game. Coach P.J. Fleck has built up the expectations pretty high in Minnesota and he’ll learn a lot about his team quickly vs. Michigan.
4. Michigan (at Minnesota, 7:30 Saturday)
The Wolverines are piling up the wins under Jim Harbaugh, just not the ones their fans want most. Michigan has still never appeared in the B1G title game and has beaten Ohio State once in the past 16 seasons. A tough test looms early, at Minnesota this weekend.
3. Wisconsin (vs. Illinois, 8 Friday)
The Badgers are a good news/bad news proposition for their fans: They have appeared in the B1G title game six times in the event’s nine-year history, but Wisconsin has not won it since 2012. Paul Chryst has a shot as getting the Badgers over the hump in 2020.
2. Penn State (at Indiana, 3:30 Saturday)
The Nittany Lions need to be awake right away and coach James Franklin is already talking up his team’s opener against Indiana. That might be partly to avoid having his team look ahead to the next game: Oct. 31 at home against Ohio State. Speaking of the Buckeyes…
1. Ohio State (vs. Nebraska, noon Saturday)
Which type of OSU team will show up in the opener against Nebraska: The one that blew out the Cornhuskers 48-7 last season, or the one that nearly lost to Nebraska in 2018? Either way, Ryan Day, Justin Fields and company have to avoid looking ahead to that Penn State tilt.