Future Ranking: Predicting which Big Ten teams will be the best over next five years

By all means, the 2024 college football season is going to be historic. There’s a good chance that, way down the line, we look back at the 2024-25 season and say that it marked a new era in the sport, with the level of conference realignment that will take place, and the expansion to the 12-team College Football Playoff.

Going forward, as we shift from a Power 5 landscape to a Power 4 landscape in terms of conferences, the writing is on the wall for things to further morph into a Power 2 landscape, with the Big Ten and SEC leading the way. Some of the best teams in the nation — Georgia, Ohio State, Alabama, Oregon, Texas, Michigan, and many more — reside in either of those two conferences going into the 2024 season. We have a good idea, based on a multitude of preseason rankings, which teams in those conferences will be among the top dogs this season.

But beyond that, how will the power balance shift? Are there schools that may be waiting in the weeds right now — maybe due to a coaching change — that could take over as a power in years to come? That’s what we want to look at in our future power rankings.

Here’s our estimation on which teams in the Big Ten will be near the top of the standings over the next five years.

Ohio State Buckeyes

2024 Big Ten Power Ranking1st

2024 Recruiting Ranking5th

2024 Record Projection: 12-0 (9-0 Big Ten)

Analysis: Based on their high level of recruiting, their ability to land elite players in the transfer portal, and their consistent success over the past several decades, there’s no reason to believe that Ohio State won’t still be at the top of the Big Ten rankings five years from now. The addition of Chip Kelly as their offensive coordinator only strengthened their case at the top of this list.

Oregon Ducks

Photo Courtesy of Oregon Athletic Department

2024 Big Ten Power Ranking2nd

2024 Recruiting Ranking3rd

2024 Record Projection11-1 (8-1 Big Ten)

Analysis: We will see how Oregon adjusts to being part of the Big Ten this season, but based on their recent success, and the way that Dan Lanning has been able to build this program and set it up for future success, all indications are that the Ducks are around to stay, and they should be competing for conference championships and national championships for years to come.

Penn State Nittany Lions

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

2024 Big Ten Power Ranking4th

2024 Recruiting Ranking15th

2024 Record Projection9-3 (6-3 Big Ten)

Analysis: Penn State projects as a team that should be able to compete at the top of the sport. They recruit at a high enough level and have what seems to be a strong coach in James Franklin. Maybe Drew Allar will get them over the hump this year, but I think they should continue to be near the top of the Big Ten as long as Franklin stays in Happy Valley.

Michigan Wolverines

Michael Allio-USA TODAY Sports

2024 Big Ten Power Ranking3rd

2024 Recruiting Ranking16th

2024 Record Projection 9-3 (7-2 Big Ten)

Analysis: Michigan won the national championship this past year, so why aren’t they at the top of this list? Well, the loss of coach Jim Harbaugh is notable, and while Sherrone Moore projects to be a great coach, I want to see him work for a couple of years and work with his own recruiting classes before I project the Wolverines to be back on top in short order.

Wisconsin Badgers

Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

2024 Big Ten Power Ranking7th

2024 Recruiting Ranking23rd

2024 Record Projection9-3 (7-2 Big Ten)

Analysis: I really like the upside the head coach Luke Fickell brings to Wisconsin, and I think that as soon as this year, we could ultimately start to see his presence in Madison bear some fruit. The recruiting needs to improve a little bit to get to the top level of the sport, but I think that the arrow is certainly pointing up for Wisconsin.

USC Trojans

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

2024 Big Ten Power Ranking5th

2024 Recruiting Ranking17th

2024 Record Projection8-4 (7-2 Big Ten)

Analysis: It’s so hard to figure out Lincoln Riley sometimes. The things that he has done on the offensive side of the ball, working with some of the best quarterbacks that the sport has seen in recent decades is impressive. But his complete disregard for defense ultimately lowers the ceiling for the Trojans. I think that USC will be good in the Big Ten, and they eventually can compete for conference titles if they figure things out, but based on the coach’s track record, that seems to be a pretty big “if.”

Michigan State Spartans

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

2024 Big Ten Power Ranking9th

2024 Recruiting Ranking46th

2024 Record Projection7-5 (4-5 Big Ten)

Analysis: Is Jonathan Smith going to be the right man for the job at Michigan State? Based on what he was able to do at Oregon State, it’s not hard to believe that he can ultimately pick up the recruiting in East Lansing, and get the most out of his players there. I don’t know that Michigan State is going to be competing for national championships any time in the next five years, but they could definitely be a contender in the conference.

Nebraska Cornnuskers

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

2024 Big Ten Power Ranking10th

2024 Recruiting Ranking18th

2024 Record Projection7-5 (5-4 Big Ten)

Analysis: The ceiling for Dylan Raiola seems to be pretty high, and if Matt Rhule can push the right buttons and get him to play to the level he seems to be capable of, then I think Nebraska could become one of the top-tier teams in the Big Ten in short order.

Washington Huskies

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

2024 Big Ten Power Ranking8th

2024 Recruiting Ranking38th

2024 Record Projection6-6 (3-6 Big Ten)

Analysis: Washington fans may look at this ranking and wave it off as an Oregon beat reporter just trying to knock down a rival, but based on the recent ongoings up in Seattle, it’s hard to project that the Huskies are going to be back on top of the sport any time soon. Jedd Fisch may be the right coach for the job, but I don’t think it’s out of bounds to wonder how long he will be in Seattle, since he has notoriously favored mobility as a head coach, and could have eyes for his alma mater Florida Gators, should that job open up. At its best, Washington can be great, as shown in 2023. I just don’t know how quickly they will get back to that mountaintop.

UCLA Bruins

Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

2024 Big Ten Power Ranking11th

2024 Recruiting Ranking86th

2024 Record Projection6-6 (4-5 Big Ten)

Analysis: Chip Kelly certainly left UCLA in a tough spot, leaving for Ohio State long after the coaching carousel came to a close and forcing the Bruins to pick from a sparse coaching pool. A fresh start is what UCLA could have ultimately needed, but based on their non-existent recruiting success under Kelly, the covers are pretty bare for the new staff to do much with. I don’t see them finding a ton of success any time soon.

Iowa Hawkeyes

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

2024 Big Ten Power Ranking6th

2024 Recruiting Ranking32nd

2024 Record Projection8-4 (5-4 Big Ten)

Analysis: Can Kirk Ferentz find a way to generate some offense? So far, the answer has been no, and while the defense at Iowa has been great, there’s no way they compete at the top of the conference unless they find out how to score some points, and I don’t see a quick fix unless they change things at the top.

Maryland Terrapins

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

2024 Big Ten Power Ranking12th

2024 Recruiting Ranking39th

2024 Record Projection5-7 (3-6 Big Ten)

Analysis: Maryland has been close to competing at the top level of the Big Ten in recent years, but they haven’t been able to quite break through to relevancy. I’m not sure much will change with the influx of teams from the West Coast, either.

Minnesota Golden Gophers

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

2024 Big Ten Power Ranking15th

2024 Recruiting Ranking36th

2024 Record Projection5-7 (3-6 Big Ten)

Analysis: PJ Fleck had some good years with Minnesota, so there’s always the possibility that the Golden Gophers get back up to a higher level in the conference, but I don’t know that I would exactly count on it.

Northwestern Wildcats

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

2024 Big Ten Power Ranking13th

2024 Recruiting Ranking82nd

2024 Record Projection5-7 (4-5 Big Ten)

Analysis: Northwestern surprised a lot of people last year by going 8-5 with David Braun as the interim head coach, and they could continue to improve going forward with him now as the full-time head coach. The recruiting is among the worst in the conference, though, so I don’t know that I see a lot of high-end success in the future.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

2024 Big Ten Power Ranking14th

2024 Recruiting Ranking37th

2024 Record Projection5-7 (2-7 Big Ten)

Analysis: It’s somewhat hard to predict what Rutgers is going to do going forward, because they have found some success under Greg Schiano recently, and they did win their bowl game in 2023. The recruiting isn’t great, but it’s better than some other Big Ten schools. I don’t think Rutgers will be good by any means, but they should stay out of the bottom of the conference rankings.

Illinois Fighting Illini

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

2024 Big Ten Power Ranking16th

2024 Recruiting Ranking51st

2024 Record Projection4-7 (3-6 Big Ten)

Analysis: Illinois got bowl eligible a couple of years ago, but under Bret Bielema, they’ve struggled to find a ton of success, and if the mediocrity continues, they could end up going in a new direction, which would set them back further in our future rankings. They don’t recruit at a high enough level to get the talent necessary to compete in the Big Ten, so I don’t see a ton of success in the future unless something drastically changes.

Purdue Boilermakers

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

2024 Big Ten Power Ranking18th

2024 Recruiting Ranking29th

2024 Record Projection2-10 (1-8 Big Ten)

Analysis: Ryan Walters wasn’t able to find much success with Purdue in his first year with the team, and while the recruiting saw a small uptick this past year, I don’t know that the Boilermakers will be skyrocketing up the Big Ten ranks any time soon.

Indiana Hoosiers

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

2024 Big Ten Power Ranking17th

2024 Recruiting Ranking59th

2024 Record Projection3-9 (0-9 Big Ten)

Analysis: We’ll see what Curt Cignetti can do as the new head coach at Indiana, but he’s got his work cut out for him taking over a Hoosiers program that doesn’t recruit well, is not a transfer portal destination, and doesn’t have any recent success to build off of.

Story originally appeared on Ducks Wire