The DI’s Big Ten rankings: Week 1

Which teams are the best in the Big Ten?


Nick Rohlman

Wisconsin Head Coach Paul Chryst addresses the media during Big Ten Football Media Days in Chicago on Tuesday, July 24, 2018.

Adam Hensley and Pete Ruden

The Big Ten is a competitive conference from top to bottom. Pregame Editor Adam Hensley and Sports Editor Pete Ruden unveil their power rankings heading into Week 1 of the college-football season.

1.) Wisconsin (13-1)

2018 is the Year of the Dog, according to the Chinese New Year. But in Big Ten football, it’s the year of the Badger. Revenge will be on their minds, as the trek to the College Football Playoffs begins.

2.) Ohio State (12-2)

Dwayne Haskins is a Heisman sleeper. The man could easily tear up the Big Ten and make Buckeye fans quickly forget J.T. Barrett. Ohio State could vy for a national title this season. Anything short of a Big Ten Championship appearance is a disappointment for Ohio State.

3.) Penn State (11-2)

Approximately zero Big Ten games have been played, and I already miss watching Saquon Barkley highlights. Still, Trace McSorley will keep the strong Nittany Lion offense alive with a solid receiving corps, and Miles Sanders should be a serviceable replacement for Barkley when called upon.

4.) Michigan State (10-3)

If Brian Lewerke puts together more consistent performances, Michigan State will be in good hands. Lewerke threw for 400 yards in back-to-back games last season, but he also threw for fewer than 200 yards in six games. If the Spartan defense steps up, look out, Big Ten.

5.) Iowa (8-5)

With a more experienced quarterback in Nate Stanley — who Colin Cowherd said could be one of the best in the country — the Hawkeyes should be set on at least one side of the ball. The inexperienced linebacker corps, however, is another story. But at the end of the day, Kirk Ferentz should get his record-setting win this week.

6.) Michigan (8-5)

Good ol’ Jim Harbaugh needs to beat the Buckeyes if he wants to keep coaching the Wolverines. He’s 0-3, and if you’re not beating Ohio State as the Michigan coach, what are you there for, anyway? Shea Patterson is Harbaugh’s best quarterback since Jake Rudock, so there’s a chance Michigan goes to the conference championship.

7.) Northwestern (10-3)

I wish I had the view that Wildcat players get when looking out of their practice facility every day. However, the beautiful beach doesn’t help a team win football games. With a tough battle against Purdue early, we should see how real this Northwestern team is.

8.) Purdue (7-6)

Boilermaker bandwagon now leaving the station. Purdue is one of those teams that could beat nearly every opponent on its schedule, but it’s a matter of making it happen. And figuring out the quarterback rotation.

9.) Minnesota (5-7)

If the Gophers could score touchdowns at the rate that head coach P.J. Fleck talks, they would probably end up being national champions. However, that’s not the case. Once a team that posed a threat in every game, Minnesota has fallen off the Big Ten map a little bit.

10.) Nebraska (4-8)

Scott Frost might as well start planning for a statue after how hyped the Husker fans are for his first year as head coach. If he has anything remotely close to what he ran at Central Florida, Nebraska will be in great shape. Until then, he’s working with a team that won only four games in 2017.

11.) Indiana (5-7)

Last season, Indiana fans didn’t have a good professional or college team. But this season, at least they will have an improved professional team. The days of having such playmakers as Tevin Coleman and Jordan Howard are no more for the Hoosiers.

12.) Maryland (4-8)

The Terrapins need a lot of help, so maybe having a healthy quarterback is a step in the right direction. However, Maryland needs more help than that. Given how tough the East Division is, don’t expect the Terrapins to go bowling any time soon.

13.) Rutgers (4-8)

Sound the alarms. Rutgers is no longer the team in the Big Ten cellar. After winning three conference games last year, Chris Ash and the Scarlet Knights have made moves. Don’t get too carried away, though. Rutgers is still Rutgers, so saying the Knights are on the rise might be a little premature.

14.) Illinois

Lovie Smith is on the hot seat, but really, any Illinois coach in the past 10 years has been, too. The Illini have won 5 games in two season under Smith, and if that trend continues, don’t be surprised if Illinois starts making coaching calls sooner rather than later.

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