Howe: Big Ten Football Power Rankings – Final
IOWA CITY, Iowa – No matter how much things change they remain the same. That’s the story in the Big Ten.
Saturday’s conference championship game pits Ohio State against Wisconsin. The Badgers will be making their sixth appearance in nine years of its existence. The Buckeyes are involved for a fifth time.
Illinois, Minnesota and Indiana improved. Iowa, Penn State and Michigan remained steady. In the end, Ohio State and Wisconsin continued doing that they do.
With that in mind, here’s how the Big Ten teams stack up for me at the end of the regular season:
1. Ohio State – The Buckeyes fell behind early at Michigan and didn’t flinch. They stomped the Wolverines, 56-27, in a game that was never close in the second half. It represented Ohio State’s eighth win in a row against its arch rival, a record in the historic series. A victory against Wisconsin will end the conference’s College Football Playoff drought at two years.
2. Wisconsin – The Badgers bounced back from being stunned at Illinois one week and stomped at Ohio State the next for another West division title, their third in four years. They finished the season on a four-game winning streak, including Saturday’s 38-17 thumping of Minnesota in a winner-take-all contest. The Badgers reached double figures in wins for the eighth time since ’09 and they’ve achieved eight victories in each of those 11 campaigns.
3. Penn State – A week after seeing their championship dreams end in Columbus, the Nittany Lions sleep-walked through a 27-6 victory against lowly Rutgers Saturday to finish at 10-2. It was their third time reaching double figures in four years. They stand a decent chance at heading to the Rose Bowl and likely will be in a New Year’s Six contest if they fall short of the Granddaddy. That would be their third trip to the New Year’s Six in four seasons.
4. Michigan – Michigan drove the field in its first possession against the Buckeyes for a 6-0 lead. The situation deteriorated from there. The Wolverines finished at 9-3 after losing to the three teams ahead of them in these rankings, two of which were played on the road. They can reach double figures in victories for the fourth time in Jim Harbaugh’s five seasons as head coach. They did that once in the eight years before he arrived.
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5. Iowa – With Friday’s 27-24 victory against Nebraska, the Hawkeyes reached nine wins for the second season in a row. It’s the first time they achieved that since ’08 and ’09. They now have 46 victories since the start of the ’15 campaign, and as HN poster deanvogs researched for our message boards, that places them in pretty select company.
6. Minnesota – The Golden Gophers were riding high at 9-0 until they hit a wall in Iowa City earlier this month. After a win at Northwestern, Wisconsin knocked them down another rung on Saturday. They started the month by picking up a signature win against Penn State, but they lost to two of the five teams ahead of them in these rankings and didn’t play two of the others.
7. Indiana – The Hoosiers pulled out an overtime victory against rival Purdue Saturday to reach eight wins for the first time since ’93. Their four losses came against Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan and Michigan State. They clinched their first winning season since ’07.
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8. Illinois – Illinois became bowl eligible for the first time since ’14, but the bloom came off the rose a bit with Saturday’s 29-10 home loss to reeling Northwestern on Senior Day.
9. Michigan State – The Spartans topped doormats Rutgers and Maryland in the final two games to become bowl eligible. It didn’t keep them from one of the more disappointing seasons in the Big Ten.
10. Purdue – The Boilermakers fought until the end this season but their rash of injuries were too much to overcome. They could be a sneaky sleeper next season with a manageable schedule.
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11. Nebraska – Give the Huskers credit for not packing it in when they found themselves in a hole against Iowa. In the end, they improved by one win from the previous season.
12. Northwestern – The Wildcats could have folded for Saturday’s rivalry game in Champaign. Instead, they ended on a high note.
13. Maryland – The Terrapins once again underachieved relative to their talent. That’s a bad trend that needs fixing.
14. Rutgers – Greg Schiano returns and will be attempting to put out the dumpster fire. Good luck.