Big Ten expansion: How all sixteen teams stack up in five-year SP+ averages

·6 min read

The Big Ten is expanding once again and now sits well north of the ten teams that its conference branding would suggest (BIG indeed). With the additions of the L.A. teams USC and UCLA, the conference will be at sixteen members when play reportedly begins in 2024.

It’s the latest seismic shift in a college football landscape that will look far different than anything your father and grandfather are used to. Money is wagging the dog and who knows where the end of all of this will be.

But for now, the addition of two of the Pac-12’s best brands will result in a shift of power in the Big Ten, and we’re here to try and make sense of it all. To do so, we’re using ESPN resident analytics guru Bill Connelly. He’s the brain-child behind the SP+ Rankings (like them or not), and it’s telling to look back on what the average SP+ rating is over the last five years for each team in the Big ten over the last five years to get a sense of where teams have lined up from a competitive standpoint over a recent trend.

This, of course, takes nothing into account when it comes to where things are going. You’d have to expect Lincoln Riley to up the level of play at USC, but that’s still to be seen. When you simply look at the last five years and use the SP+ here’s how things have fallen among all sixteen teams.

As always, we go from worst to first. But before we do, according to ESPN, here’s what the SP+ represents:

“SP+ is presented in terms of adjusted points per play. A rating of 29.6 means that on average, Ohio State has been 29.6 points above the perfectly average FBS team over the previous five seasons.”

All of that aside, here’s how each program has fared over the last five years, ranked.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Dec 31, 2021; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Rutgers Scarlet Knights quarterback Evan Simon (3) drops back to pass in the second quarter against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at TIAA Bank Field. Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Five-year SP+ average

-8.9

Illinois Fighting Illini

Nov 27, 2021; Champaign, Illinois, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini tight end Daniel Barker (87) scores a touchdown during the first half against the Northwestern Wildcats at Memorial Stadium. Credit: Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Five-year SP+ average

-2.9

Maryland Terrapins

Dec 29, 2021; New York, NY, USA; Maryland Terrapins punt returner Tarheeb Still (right) celebrates his punt return touchdown with wide receiver Rakim Jarrett (left) in the first half during the 2021 Pinstripe Bowl against the Virginia Tech Hokies at Yankee Stadium. Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Five-year SP+ average

0.4

Northwestern Wildcats

Nov 27, 2021; Champaign, Illinois, USA; Northwestern Wildcats running back Evan Hull (26) carries the ball during the first half against the Illinois Fighting Illini at Memorial Stadium. Credit: Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Five-year SP+ average

1.3

UCLA Bruins

Sep 4, 2021; Pasadena, California, USA; UCLA Bruins wide receiver Kyle Philips (2) celebrates with offensive lineman Paul Grattan (65) offensive lineman Jon Gaines II (57) and tight end Greg Dulcich (85) his touchdown scored against the Louisiana State Tigers during the second half the at the Rose Bowl. Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Five-year SP+ average

3.1

Purdue Boilermakers

Purdue's Jeff Brohm on Ohio State: 'We were lucky to hold 'em to 59'
Purdue's Jeff Brohm on Ohio State: 'We were lucky to hold 'em to 59'

Purdue Boilermakers head coach Jeff Brohm talks to players on the sideline during the fourth quarter of the NCAA football game against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium in Columbus on Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021. Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Five-year SP+ average

5.6

Indiana Hoosiers

Indiana Hoosiers head coach Tom Allen watches from the sideline during the fourth quarter of the NCAA football game at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington, Ind. on Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021. Credit: USA TODAY Sports Network

Five-year SP+ average

5.7

Nebraska Cornhuskers

Nebraska Cornhuskers linebacker Luke Reimer (28) celebrates after causing Ohio State Buckeyes tight end Jeremy Ruckert (88) to fumble during Saturday’s NCAA Division I football game at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb., on November 6, 2021. Credit: USA TODAY Sports Network

Five-year SP+ average

6.0

Michigan State Spartans

Sep 8, 2018; Tempe, AZ, USA; Michigan State Spartans offensive tackle AJ Arcuri (76) against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Sun Devil Stadium. Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Five-year SP+ average

9.0

Minnesota Golden Gophers

Nov 13, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Golden Gophers defensive lineman Esezi Otomewo (9) celebrates with linebacker Cody Lindenberg (45) and defensive back Justus Harris (21) after making a tackle in the first half at TCF Bank Stadium. Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Five-year SP+ average

9.8

USC Trojans

USC quarterback J.T. Daniels (18) scrambles against Notre Dame last season at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Credit: USA TODAY Sports Network

Five-year SP+ average

11.4

Iowa Hawkeyes

Iowa Hawkeyes players Ryan Gersonde (2) Riley Moss (33) quarterback Spencer Petras (7) wide receiver Max Cooper (19) and defensive back Jack Koerner (28) get pumped up before an NCAA Big Ten Conference football game against Indiana, Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021, at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa. Credit: USA TODAY Sports Network

Five-year SP+ average

14.0

Michigan Wolverines

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Three Big Ten coaches that are primed for head jobs | Buckeyes Wire

Dec 4, 2021; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Michigan Wolverines offensive line coach Sherrone Moore (left), head coach Jim Harbaugh (center), and special teams coordinator Jay Harbaugh against the Iowa Hawkeyes in the Big Ten Conference championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Five-year SP+ average

18.9

Penn State Nittany Lions

Oct 23, 2021; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions offensive lineman Rasheed Walker (53) and linebacker Jesse Luketa (40) and safety Jaquan Brisker (1), and safety Jonathan Sutherland (0) walk on the field for the coin flip prior to the game Illinois Fighting Illini at Beaver Stadium. Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Five-year SP+ average

19.8

Wisconsin Badgers

Dec 19, 2020; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Wisconsin Badgers offensive lineman Jon Dietzen (67) and Wisconsin Badgers fullback Mason Stokke (34) celebrate Wisconsin’s first touchdown in the game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers during the first half at Camp Randall Stadium. Credit: Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

Five-year SP+ average

19.8

Ohio State Buckeyes

Ohio State Buckeyes defensive tackle Haskell Garrett (92) and Ohio State Buckeyes defensive end Javontae Jean-Baptiste (8) celebrate after teaming up to tackle Oregon Ducks quarterback Anthony Brown (13) during Saturday’s NCAA Division I football game at Ohio Stadium in Columbus on September 11, 2021. Credit: USA TODAY Sports Network

Five-year SP+ average

29.6

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