Final regular season B1G power rankings: Finally, the B1G title game will see some fresh faces
For just the second time in the 11-year history of the B1G Championship Game, neither Ohio State nor Wisconsin will be featured. It’s the first time since Iowa and Michigan State hit the field at Lucas Oil Stadium in 2015.
The 2021 season has been chaotic and Rivalry Week in the B1G did not disappoint.
Jim Harbaugh finally took down Ohio State and has Michigan playing for a conference title. Iowa overcame a 15-point deficit to Nebraska and Minnesota upset Wisconsin, sending the Hawkeyes to Indianapolis.
Michigan State won 10 games. Purdue had its best year since 2006. It was really punctuated the right way.
The results from the final weekend in the regular season result in some changes in the final power rankings. Let’s dive in:
14. Indiana Hoosiers (2-10, 0-9)
Last week: at Purdue, 44-7 L
The same story played out in West Lafayette. Outside of its first possession, Indiana couldn’t move the football. Now, the search (probably) begins for a new offensive coordinator as Tom Allen tries to steer this program back on track.
13. Northwestern Wildcats (3-9, 1-8)
Last week: at Illinois, 47-14 L
All good things must come to an end. For Northwestern, that was a lengthy 6-game winning streak against Illinois. The Wildcats had no answers on either side of the ball for most of the season. Saturday’s game in Champaign was no exception. There aren’t many positives Northwestern can point to from this season.
12. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (5-7, 2-7)
Last week: vs. Maryland, 40-16 L
With bowl eligibility at stake, you would’ve liked to see a better effort from Rutgers. The offense couldn’t move the ball, especially in the first half. The defense failed to get stops. Instead of getting a 13th game, the Scarlet Knights are heading into the offseason with hopes of adding more depth and talent to the roster. Greg Schiano gets plenty of fight from his team, the skill just isn’t quite there yet.
11. Nebraska Cornhuskers (3-9, 1-8)
Last week: vs. #16 Iowa, 28-21 L
All 9 losses by single digits, 8 in 1-possession games. What more can be said? Hiring a special teams coordinator is pivotal this offseason. If the Huskers had won, there’s a good chance they be playing in a bowl game. Nebraska did enough on both sides of the ball to win plenty of games. Once again, this season was plagued by little mistakes.
10. Illinois Fighting Illini (5-7, 4-5)
Last week: vs. Northwestern, 47-14 W
No better way to go out than playing your best game of the year. That’s what Illinois did on Saturday. The result was a blowout victory over Northwestern to take back the Land of Lincoln Trophy for the first time since 2014. Not a bad way for Bret Bielema’s first season to conclude. It’ll be interesting to see how this team develops in the offseason as it will lose several super-seniors from the 2021 roster.
9. Maryland Terrapins (6-6, 3-6)
Last week: at Rutgers, 40-16 W
Mike Locksley is bowl eligible for the first time as a head coach. Taulia Tagovailoa, Tayon Fleet-Davis and Rakim Jarrett all made big plays in the win-or-go-home scenario on Saturday and the defense shut down Rutgers’ offense. The Terrapins closed the season like they started it — playing a complete game. Getting to a bowl game is a huge step in the right direction for this program.
8. Penn State Nittany Lions (7-5, 4-5)
Last week: at #12 Michigan State, 30-27 L
A second-straight losing season in B1G play for the Nittany Lions. Penn State had opportunities to win every game it played in this season but just didn’t make plays in critical situations. This team was superior on the defensive side of the football most of the year but the inability to establish any sort of rushing attack proved to be costly. That’s something that has to be addressed moving forward.
7. Purdue Boilermakers (8-4, 6-3)
Last week: vs. Indiana, 44-7 W
What a bounce-back year for the Boilermakers. After posting losing records in consecutive seasons, Purdue rode an efficient passing attack and much-improved defense to an 8-win regular season, the program’s best mark since 2006. Even though the Boilers failed to establish a ground attack, Brohm’s offensive ingenuity offset that weakness. In every other facet, this was a Purdue team that took major strides in the right direction, culminating in a blowout win over Indiana to close the year.
6. Wisconsin Badgers (8-4, 6-3)
Last week: at Minnesota, 23-13 L
Wisconsin did a phenomenal job to recover from a 1-3 start and put itself in position to win a division title. It just ran out of juice in the season finale against Minnesota. Jim Leonhard was excellent running the defense once again, allowing the Badgers a chance to be competitive in nearly every game. When the offense turned to Braelon Allen out of the backfield, it provided a major spark. Wisconsin is still a dangerous football team, it just ran into a really good Minnesota defense on Saturday.
5. Minnesota Golden Gophers (8-4, 6-3)
Last week: vs. #14 Wisconsin, 23-13 W
This was easily one of PJ Fleck’s best coaching jobs since taking over at Minnesota. No, the Gophers aren’t heading to Indianapolis, but they had every reason to shut it down after dealing with so many injuries, especially out of the backfield. Instead, they continued to scratch, claw and fight. Tanner Morgan ends season as Minnesota’s all-time winningest quarterback and the Gophers took down Wisconsin for a second time in four seasons. Not a bad way to close out the season in Minneapolis.
4. Michigan State Spartans (10-2, 7-2)
Last week: vs. Penn State, 30-27 W
Ten wins. Nobody saw that coming from Michigan State back in July. But Mel Tucker was able to create a culture in which players on the 2020 squad, new recruits and a plethora of incoming transfers meshed really well. The result was one of the most explosive offenses in the B1G, a Heisman-caliber year from Kenneth Walker III and a chance to potentially land in a New Year’s Six bowl game. Plus, the Spartans took care of business in rivalry games against Michigan, Indiana and Penn State. It doesn’t get much better.
3. Iowa Hawkeyes (10-2, 7-2)
Last week: at Nebraska, 28-21 W
Iowa is headed to Indianapolis for the first time since 2015. The Hawkeyes have used an opportunistic defense and special teams to secure a double-digit win season and a chance to compete for a B1G championship. The offense could still use some work, but it’s played well enough to win 10 games. That’s also the benefit of having a defense that consistently gives you a short field to work with and a special teams unit that can turn the field position battle into a major advantage.
2. Ohio State Buckeyes (10-2, 8-1)
Last week: at #5 Michigan, 42-27 L
For the first time since 2011, Ohio State lost its regular season finale. The Buckeyes are still incredibly explosive and a team that not many defenses can stop. Michigan just had the right formula and was able to take advantage of a leaky Buckeyes defense. If Ryan Day wants this team to be back in the national championship conversation next year, he’s probably going to make some tough decisions with the defensive staff.
1. Michigan Wolverines (11-1, 8-1)
Last week: vs. #2 Ohio State, 42-27 W
It all came together. The monkey is finally off Jim Harbaugh’s back, taking down Ohio State in convincing fashion. Now, the Wolverines are in position to win a B1G title and potentially earn a trip to the College Football Playoff by beating Iowa in the conference championship game. This is easily Harbaugh’s best team and it’s one that looks capable of competing for a national title on both sides of the football.