Power ranking the B1G offenses in 2021
We are now just weeks away from the start of the college football season. Here’s how I would rank the Big Ten from an offensive standpoint:
The Scarlet Knights averaged a league-worst 4.59 yards per play last season. They return all 11 starters on offense, but they relied heavily on the element of surprise to make up for an inferior talent level.
This is looking like it’ll be a run-heavy offense, with Chase Brown leading the way. It doesn’t look as if QB Brandon Peters will have many options through the air other than TE Daniel Barker. The Illini do have 4 starters back up front, including one of the league’s top interior linemen in Doug Kramer.
12. Michigan State
The Spartans have some weapons with Wake Forest transfer Kenneth Walker expected to start at RB and all the starters back up front and at wideout. Will Temple transfer Anthony Russo be able to provide a spark at QB?
The Wildcats are basically starting over with only 4 returning starters. They are hoping to hit lightning in a bottle with another transfer QB, this time former South Carolina starter Ryan Hilinski. Cam Porter and Peter Skoronski are candidates for All-B1G, but everyone else is unproven. For Northwestern fans’ sake, let’s hope this offense doesn’t revert to 2019.
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Nebraska moved the ball pretty well in 2020, finishing 6th in yards per play. The problem was converting in the red zone. The Huskers were 107th nationally in touchdown rate in the red zone. Is this finally the year Adrian Martinez propels Nebraska to a bowl game? I have my doubts.
This is Year 3 in the Josh Gattis system. Last season was a disaster. The one bright spot was how Cade McNamara rallied the Wolverines against Rutgers. Yes, it’s sad that rallying against Rutgers was the best part of last season after the season opener. Most concerning is the way Michigan struggled mightily against Penn State and Wisconsin, 2 teams it has to beat in order to make something of this season.
Offense is never the issue in West Lafayette. With David Bell back for his third season, the Boilermakers should once again have one of the conference’s best passing attacks. QBs Jack Plummer and Aidan O’Connell can both lead the offense.
How much has Spencer Petras improved? And who will he throw to? Big-play threat Ihmir Smith-Marsette is gone, as is No. 2 wideout Brandon Smith. The Hawkeyes are strong in the backfield with one of the league’s best in Tyler Goodson, and the line should be very good as usual.
Michael Penix Jr. is the league’s best QB heading into 2021 and WR Ty Fryfogle is one of the conference’s best, so why are the Hoosiers only sixth on this list? The offensive line was horrendous in 2020, and it needs to show improvement for the Hoosiers to reach their potential.
It was a small sample size, but Maryland actually ranked second in the B1G in yards per play last season. Taulia Tagovailoa could wind up as one of the B1G’s best QBs, and Rakim Jarrett and Dontay Demus will be among the league’s top WR duos.
Minnesota features one of the league’s best QBs (Tanner Morgan), the best RB (Mohamed Ibrahim) and all 5 starters back on the offensive line. Sign me up for that. Depth at wide receiver is the only concern.
Wisconsin fell off big time after the first 2 games in 2020 as injuries and COVID hampered the Badgers. But the way they played against Illinois and Michigan showed the potential of this offense when at full strength. If Graham Mertz is fully healthy after a shoulder injury slowed him and RB Jalen Berger is as good as I think he’ll be, the Badgers will make last season’s dud of a finish be a distant memory.
2. Penn State
If Sean Clifford is better than he was in 2020, this has all the makings of a very good offense. Once again, the running back room is loaded with a healthy Noah Cain and Baylor transfer John Lovett. Jahan Dotson took his game to another level in 2020, and Parker Washington is poised to build on a strong freshman season. It comes down to Clifford.
1. Ohio State
Sure, we don’t technically know who will start at QB, but does it matter? The Buckeyes have led the B1G in yards per play in 4 straight years, with 3 different QBs. One of the 4 bluechip QBs on the roster will suffice. Besides that, the Buckeyes boast one of the top wide receiver units in the country, one of the top offensive lines in the country and so much depth at running back.