Big Ten post-spring college football power rankings

·5 min read

2020 might not be the best year when it comes to judging what Big Ten teams will be in 2021.

Though Ohio State stayed true by being an elite team and making it to the national championship game, we saw Penn State falter early and often while Michigan didn’t look competitive outside of its season opener. Wisconsin started strong but fell off as games went on while Indiana beat every Big Ten team it faced other than the Buckeyes.

So, who is trending up and trending down? We tried our hand at an offseason power ranking of all 14 teams in the conference, but it should be noted that it’s just where teams stand in our eyes right now — there’s a lot of room for movement either way even once fall camp arrives.

That said, in order from the bottom to the top, here’s where the Big Ten stands as of now.

List

Everyone Michigan football added/subtracted via transfer this offseason

Purdue

Photo: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Jeff Brohm has to wish at this juncture that he would have taken the job at his alma mater, Louisville. Purdue had a solid year a few years ago, but has been on the decline since. Though it does have a playmaker in future first-round pick George Karlaftis, there's very little else to like about the Boilermakers.

Illinois

Photo: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

A wholesale coaching change usually takes a little while to really showcase results, and Illinois is losing talent in players like Josh Imatorbhebhe and Milo Eifler. We'll see how quickly Bret Bielema can get the gears turning, but for now, the Illini are near the bottom of the conference.

Minnesota

Photo: Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports

What a difference a year makes. Tanner Morgan and Mohamed Ibrahim return, but gone are Rashod Bateman and Benjamin St-Juste. Pretty much the whole line on both sides return which could mean a big jump, especially if Morgan returns to his 2019 form.

Nebraska

nebraska scott frost
nebraska scott frost

Photo: Isaiah Hole

The Scott Frost experiment enters year four, and it hasn't looked good. Yes, the Huskers looked more competitive in 2020, but it still couldn't manage to do much in terms of wins. It feels like time could be running out to turn this thing around.

Rutgers

(AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Rutgers had a similar problem to Nebraska, but the difference is that it went from being wholly uncompetitive to being pretty close to winning some big games in Greg Schiano's first year back in the head coaching saddle. The Scarlet Knights have a lot more talent than the previous and are a team on the rise.

Michigan State

Photo: Detroit Free Press

The Spartans got a big win over Michigan last year, but that was about it. Mel Tucker lost a ton of players to transfer but brought in a ton, as well. We'll see how much of a difference it makes in his second year, but there's still a talent problem in East Lansing compared to Mark Dantonio's heyday.

Northwestern

Photo: Isaiah Hole

Northwestern goes from one of the most experienced teams in the country to one of the least, and it lost its longtime defensive coordinator in former Wolverine Mike Hankwitz. This feels like it will be a rebuilding year, but the Wildcats should still be able to maintain bowl eligibility -- barely.

Maryland

Photo: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Terrapins feel like a team on the rise, but we've seen and heard that story before. There's a lot of talent brought in by Mike Locksley and we saw some glimpses from QB Taulia Tagovailoa. Could this be the year the Terps cement themselves as at least a better-than-average Big Ten team? Not quite yet, but they're close.

Michigan

Photo: Isaiah Hole

Michigan is still one of the most talented teams in the conference, but even after a moribund 2020 which featured a lot of young players, the Wolverines are still plenty inexperienced. A new defensive coaching staff couples with some shifting with offensive coaches and another new starting QB. The maize and blue should be able to get back to beating most of the teams they should but still aren't back to where games against lesser talent are a given.

Wisconsin

Photo: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

It's hard to keep a good team down. It feels like 2020 was an aberration for the Badgers given that they played one game and then had to take several weeks off due to COVID-19 positives on the team. Running back hasn't been answered yet, but former five-star Graham Mertz got his first taste of college football -- invaluable experience as Wisconsin looks to rebound.

Indiana

Photo: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Indiana returns much of its team in 2021, including budding star QB Michael Penix Jr. The Hoosiers lost just two games last year -- against Ohio State and Auburn -- and appear to be a legitimate threat in the Big Ten East. The big question is: is it sustainable?

Penn State

Photo: Isaiah Hole

Penn State has a daunting schedule as it opens at Wisconsin before hosting Auburn. If it can get past those two, then games at Ohio State and hosting Michigan could matter less in the grand scheme. It feels like the Nittany Lions have the talent, but we've also seen PSU underachieve greatly at times -- like it did for the first half of 2020.

Iowa

Photo: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

While the Hawkeyes do lose some talent, they seem to have found a quarterback in Spencer Petras. Iowa rolled through much of the schedule after starting with two losses last year and look like it could be the biggest threat in the Big Ten West.

Ohio State

Photo: Isaiah Hole

Ohio State is the only truly elite team in the Big Ten, but it will have to retool after losing generational QB talent Justin Fields. However, we've seen that story before in Columbus. It'll be incumbent upon Ryan Day to find the next man up at several key positions, but the Buckeyes never seem to have issue plugging in new players and maintaining its College Football Playoff contender status.

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