Ranking Big Ten teams by 2023 college football preseason SP+ ranking

For some, such as Michigan football, spring ball is officially underway already, with eyes on the 2023 season. But in order to three-peat as Big Ten Champions, the Wolverines will face an ever-loaded conference with some of the top teams in college football on the schedule this year.

Last week, ESPN released its first preseason SP+ rankings, the advanced analytics which weighs recent production, recruiting, and returning personnel in its predictive formula. With that in mind, the bulk of the Big Ten comes in ranked in the top-third of college football, but how do they rank against each other? Here is where each comes in.

Ohio State Buckeyes

Photo: Isaiah Hole

Despite having a lot of personnel turnover and losing two-straight years to Michigan, Ohio State continues to be the top dog in the conference in the eyes of the advanced analytics. Even though there will be a new QB under center, the projection gives OSU the No. 1 offense in the country, and the defense comes in at No. 10. Overall, the Buckeyes are ranked No. 2 in SP+, ahead of the Wolverines.

Michigan Wolverines

Photo: Isaiah Hole

Michigan football has won the conference for two-straight years, but has struggled in the College Football Playoff semifinal. SP+ has the Wolverines ranked No. 3 with the No. 8 offense and No. 4 defense — all metrics — overall, offense, and defense — being two spots behind Georgia’s respective rankings.

Penn State Nittany Lions

Photo: Isaiah Hole

Penn State isn’t too far behind the other top dogs in the conference, checking in at No. 5. Though the offense is lagging a bit at No. 21 — it will be somewhat unknown given that we’ve yet to see former five-star QB Drew Allar in a starring role, though Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen’s production should make his job easier — the defense checks in at No. 5 overall, just one spot behind Michigan and five spots ahead of Ohio State.

Wisconsin Badgers

Photo: Isaiah Hole

There’s a pretty wide gulf between the top three in the conference and Wisconsin, which checks in at No. 25. Even so, that feels a little generous given that it has a new coaching staff, will have a new QB, and it wasn’t the same defensive unit last year as we’ve seen on a consistent basis. Still, the Badgers come in at No. 25 with the 46th offense and 11th-ranked defense.

Iowa Hawkeyes

Photo: Isaiah Hole

Iowa‘s defense was tremendous for the bulk of 2022, but the offense was nothing doing all year. But now it has Cade McNamara and Erick All, which could provide a boost. Still, the Hawkeyes lost All-American Jack Campbell, which could hamper the defense in 2023. Still, SP+ has Iowa at No. 27 overall, with the No. 81 offense and No. 1 defense. Should the offense rise, so, too, will the Hawkeyes.

Minnesota Golden Gophers

David Berding/Getty Images

SP+ has Minnesota at No. 30 overall, despite many personnel departures, including Tanner Morgan and Mo Ibrahim on the offensive side of the ball. Thus, the offense checks in at No. 61 while the defense comes in at No. 7.

Maryland Terrapins

Photo: Isaiah Hole

Maryland’s upward trajectory has been nothing short of impressive, and the Terps rank No. 41 in the preseason SP+. Surprisingly, however, they’re being carried by their defense, despite Taulia Tagovailoa returning, which comes in at No. 30, while the offense is predicted to be the No. 41 unit in the country.

Illinois Fighting Illini

Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois rebounded spectacularly in 2022 after a moribund 2021 campaign, and despite losing RB Chase Brown to the NFL, the Illini are getting some credence here, coming at No. 44 overall, with the No. 82 offense and No. 13 defense.

Michigan State Spartans

Photo: Isaiah Hole

MSU wasn’t a good team last year, but still showed fight in most of its games. It’s an above average team in the eyes of the analytics, while having similar numbers across the board according to SP+. It checks in at No. 47 overall, with the 48th-best offense and 47th-ranked defense.

Nebraska Cornhuskers

Photo: Isaiah Hole

Perhaps something of an unknown commodity, Nebraska checks in at No. 48 overall. With Matt Rhule taking over the program, it’s unclear how quickly the culture in Lincoln will change for the better, though he has a stellar track record on that front. The Huskers have the No. 58 offense and No. 37 defense.

Purdue Boilermakers

Photo: Isaiah Hole

A team that will be the great unknown in 2023 is Purdue, as it’s following up its Big Ten West title with a new, defensive-minded coach in Ryan Walters, as well as a new quarterback. Still, the Boilermakers come in ranked No. 49 overall, with the No. 45 offense and No. 56 defense.

Indiana Hoosiers

Photo: Isaiah Hole

IU started strong last year but fell apart in the back end of the season. Tom Allen has a lot of work to do, but Indiana still comes in the middle of the pack at No. 64 overall, with the No. 56 offense and 70th-ranked defense.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Photo: Isaiah Hole

Poor Rutgers can’t seem to get much of anything going, which is hampered that much more by being stationed in the powerhouse Big Ten East. The Scarlet Knights are ranked 83rd, with the 100th-ranked offense and No. 65 defense.

Northwestern Wildcats

Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

At the bottom of it all is Northwestern, a team that went to the Big Ten Championship game twice, but has fallen on hard times since its 2020 inclusion. Given the personnel losses, it won’t be smooth sailing in 2023 either, according to SP+, with the Wildcats coming in ranked No. 89 overall with the 124th-ranked offense (out of 133 teams) and 49th-ranked defense.

Story originally appeared on Wolverines Wire