Big Ten Football: Power Ranking Which Teams Have Fallen the Farthest
The Big Ten has been forced to endure relentless mocking from the folks in the SEC, Pac-12, Big 12—basically the entire nation.
And the derision isn't necessarily unmerited; the Big Ten is pretty bad.
The downfall of the Big Ten over the past half-decade or so necessarily means that individual teams have suffered through their own collapses. From once-great conference powers to the new kids on the block, no one has been immune to taking a back seat to Alabama, Florida, Oregon, Oklahoma, Notre Dame and the like.
Since there's so much misery to spread around in the Midwest, we wondered which team is suffering the most these day.
Here's our power ranking of the Big Ten teams that have fallen the farthest.
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We're going to start with The Ohio State University.
But isn't Ohio State 10-0, and ranked No. 6 in the most recent Bleacher Report College Football Top 25 Poll? That's all true, but we're going to break the “collapse” mold right off of the bat in this power rankings list.
Ohio State starts us off because of its moral collapse, or perhaps more accurately the collapse of the house of cards that camouflaged an utter disregard for the rules of the Big Ten Conference and the NCAA.
The result? Ohio State's amazing accomplishments in 2012 will go mostly unheralded by history. There will be no Big Ten Championship Game berth. There will be no BCS berth. There will be no postseason berths of any kind for the Buckeyes this season—a fitting punishment.
After all, banning a team from bowl games that won't make a bowl anyway doesn't seem like much of a punishment. Banning a team from a bowl that could have been up for national championship consideration is a powerful punishment.
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Since we put Ohio State on this list, we can't ignore Penn State.
And we have to put the Nittany Lions higher on the list than Ohio State because, let's face it, the violations at Penn State far exceed those at Ohio State. After all, we're talking about ruined lives of children, criminal behavior and negligence on the part of a few powerful men in Happy Valley.
It won't do anyone any good to rehash all that has transpired at Penn State over the past 12 months, but with the team facing a four-year postseason ban and monetary fines of epic proportions, it's safe to say that mighty Penn State has certainly fallen on hard times—regardless of its win-loss record.
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Next on our Big Ten fall list is Michigan.
The Wolverines had what was easily their most successful year of the past half decade last season, winning 10 regular season games, earning a trip to the Sugar Bowl and knocking off Virginia Tech.
Michigan started 2012 as a top ten team, and was the odds-on favorite to win the Big Ten title this season.
A lopsided loss to Alabama and coming up short against Notre Dame was all that pollsters needed to erase Michigan's tenure in the Top 25, and a loss to Nebraska a few weeks back quite possibly could have ended the Wolverines' hopes for a Big Ten Championship Game trip in December.
Unless Nebraska loses to either Minnesota or Iowa down the stretch, it's clear Michigan's season will end with a decidedly BCS-less feel.
So what happened?
There are a number of reasons being laid out as excuses from Denard Robinson's nagging injuries to questionable defensive play. But it might be something more fundamental.
When Brady Hoke took over last season, he inherited a team that was recovering from three years under Rich Rodriguez—someone who was attempting a wholesale change in football culture in Ann Arbor.
The underclassmen were all Rodriguez recruits and fit Rich Rod's model of a college football player. But Hoke still had the last gasp of the Lloyd Carr years at his disposal.
And Hoke, a Carr protégé, knew exactly how to exploit every ounce of talent from those traditional “Michigan Men.”
Now five seasons removed from Carr's last recruit, Hoke is left with what Rodriguez left him: the non-typical Michigan football player.
Hoke's recruiting has been second to none in the Big Ten, and the turnaround may have a more permanent feel to it within a few short seasons.
But there were bound to be bumps along the way.
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If there's one team in the Legends Division that's next to impossible to predict year in and year out, it has to be Iowa. The Hawkeyes always seem to be in a rebuilding year and there's no real sense of stability from one season to the next.
Head coach Kirk Ferentz has had his share of ups and downs at Iowa, but the Hawkeyes still can't turn those big wins into lasting success in Iowa City.
The Hawkeyes currently sit at the bottom of the Legends Division with a 2-4 conference mark and, absent winning out down the stretch, the 4-6 Hawkeyes won't be heading to a bowl game this season—something that hasn't happened since 2007, and just three times in Ferentz's 13 seasons at Iowa.
So how did we get from the 2010 Orange Bowl to 4-6 in 2012?
Attention to detail.
Ferentz is notorious in media circles for constantly repeating himself. And while that understandably drives media-types up the wall, it can kill a program when it translates into recruiting and program management.
Even diehard Iowa fans have to admit that their program isn't up to par in the Big Ten these days. The same old Hawkeyes keep losing the same games in the same manner and yet Ferentz and company keep bringing in the same mediocre recruiting classes that are carbon copies of the previous season.
Sure, there may be a big name or two each season, but Iowa only seems to improve when that recruit pans out—and then, only for a season or two.
Then it's back to losing to Penn State, Purdue or worse, Indiana and Central Michgian.
Peaks and valleys might be okay for some, but when you never peak very high, the valleys tend to turn into quagmires.
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Ron Zook never really lived up to the lofty expectations at Illinois. After taking over a team that had won just four games over the previous two seasons, Zook's Illini proceeded to earn a trip to the Rose Bowl Game in their third season.
But that was the high point, as the Illini failed to reach a bowl game in the next two seasons. Excluding that 2007 Rose Bowl season, Illinois never won more than seven games in a season under Zook. The only surprise about his firing was that it took this long.
Tim Beckman was hired away from Toledo, where he was 21-16 to take over for Zook. And Illinois has become the posterchild for tough transitions.
It's hard to imagine how much worse things could have been this season. Zook clearly didn't leave a wealth of talent behind, but we expected more than two wins out of Champaign this season.
And those two wins have come against a team from the MAC and an FCS program.
Illinois remains the last team in the conference without a win this season. Although Illinois didn't have that far to fall after last season, we can't ignore the fact that this bad team has gotten even worse this season, earning the No. 2 spot on our power ranking of Big Ten farthest falls.
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The farthest fall in the Big Ten this season is easy to spot.
The Michigan State Spartans can into the 2012 season with justifiably high hopes. MSU had won the 2011 Legends Division title and fell just short against Wisconsin in a thrilling Big Ten Championship Game last season.
With most of the Spartans' defensive stars returning and a lengthy home game winning streak (dating back to 2009) in their pocket, many expected MSU to be right there at the top of the standings again in late November.
Despite a strong start and resulting tenure in the top ten, the Spartans have suffered through a precipitous fall since September.
While the aforementioned defense has played admirably this season (the Spartans still have the No. 7 defense in the FBS), the Spartans have been nothing short of terrible on offense (ranked just 95th).
While much of that fall has to do with youth and inexperience on that side of the ball, we just can't ignore a team that posted a program record 22 wins over the past two seasons falling to 5-5 and in last place in the Legends Division this year.
Division Champions to 2-4 easily earns Michigan State the top spot on our power ranking of Big Ten teams that have fallen the farthest in 2012.