Big Ten Football Post-Spring Power Rankings
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Summer is almost here, and the anticipation for the 2013 football season is starting to build.
Ohio State looms over the Big Ten conference like a tyrant after a daunting 12-0 season in 2012, and Michigan is a revamped powerhouse that has progressed each and every season under Brady Hoke, but the conference's two most historic programs seem to be the only teams getting any attention this early in the spring.
Now that all 12 of the Big Ten spring games have been completed, where does your team rank in the Big Ten Football Post-Spring Power Rankings?
Fighting Illini quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase had a disappointing junior campaign, throwing for less than 1,500 yards with a 1:2 touchdown to interception ratio while being sacked twenty two times.
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Illinois certainly has some bright spots. Talented quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase, who has been the starter for Illinois ever since the departure of the Illini's second all-time leading touchdown thrower Juice Williams, returns for his senior season and fourth consecutive year as starting quarterback.
Scheelhaase has thrown for over 5,000 yards and 34 touchdowns as well as rushing for almost 2,000 yards in his career and can be considered one of Illinois' all-time greats.
Illinois also returns its top two running-backs in Donovonn Young and Josh Ferguson, both underclassmen, who combined for nearly 900 yards rushing as a thunder-and-lightning duo that shows a lot of promise for the Illini running game.
Unfortunately for the Illini, they lose eight starters on defense. They have brought in a handful of junior college players who made an impact in the spring game—notably Eric Finney, a linebacker/safety hybrid player—but second-year coach Tim Beckman has a whole lot of holes to fill.
Illinois also brings in an entirely new offensive system to go along with new offensive coordinator Bill Cubit. And while Illinois does return almost the entire offense, it's yet to be seen whether or not the players can improve on last year's performances.
Illinois finished 11th in the Big Ten in both passing yards per game (107th in the nation) and rushing yards per game (97th in the nation), as well as last in the conference in total yards per game (119th in the nation) and last in the conference in points per game (119th in the nation).
With one of the nation's worst returning offenses, a brand new offensive coordinator and so many holes to fill defensively, it's hard to imagine Illinois improving on last year's 0-8 conference mark. That's why I fully expect Illinois to finish dead last in the conference in 2013.
Mark Weisman gives fans hope that Iowa can improve their running-game in 2013.
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With high expectations for 2012, Iowa fans were severely disappointed with a 4-8 finish. Senior QB James Vandenberg was coming off a 3,000-yard passing season in which he posted 25 touchdowns and a 138.5 passer rating en route to becoming one of the Big Ten's hottest NFL prospects.
Unfortunately, things took a turn for the worse as Iowa's offensive line was uncharacteristically bad and marred with injuries, and wide receivers did very little to help Vandenberg out. Vandenberg threw more interceptions than touchdowns in 2012, and his passer rating dropped to a dismal 107.7.
Now that Vandenberg has graduated, Iowa has a real problem behind center. As of the spring game, freshman quarterback Jake Rudock, a 3-star recruit out of Fort Lauderdale, seems to be leading the pack despite poor public performances.
He is competing with Cody Sokol, a junior who is yet to see the field in his career, and C.J. Beathard, a three-star quarterback out of Tennessee who had very few scholarship offers at the Division I level.
With the graduation of the team's best wideout, Keenan Davis, the winner of the quarterback competition will be looking to throw to a pair of players who had inconsistent hands in 2012: wideout Kevonte Martin-Manley and tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz.
Jordan Cotton, a rising senior who has recorded just thirteen receptions in his career, is expected to take the weak-side wideout position. It seems that Iowa's struggles in the passing game will continue into 2013.
On the bright side, Iowa returns breakout running back Mark Weisman. Weisman was originally a fullback and had received just two hand-offs in his career before rushing for over 100 yards in four consecutive games, including a 27-carry, 217-yard, three-touchdown performance against Central Michigan that put him in the national eye.
Iowa finished dead last in the Big Ten in rushing in 2012, but expect that to change when it fields a healthy offensive line and a three-headed ground attack with Weisman, Damon Bullock and Greg Garmon, three unique players who offer extremely different skill-sets.
Unfortunately, issues on the defensive side of the ball will keep this Iowa team from becoming the typical ground-and-pound team that the rest of the Big Ten has come to know and hate.
Unless the wideouts can become drastically more consistent and Iowa can find a quarterback capable of leading the offense, the Hawkeyes are going to find it hard to improve on last year's 2-6 conference mark. Their issues will be exacerbated by an extremely tough conference slate with games against Ohio State, Michigan, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Northwestern and Michigan State.
Tre Roberson was the star of the Indiana offense, but his injury allowed Nate Sudfield and Cameron Coffman to creep into the conversation.
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Indiana's final record (4-8) was not indicative of how much it improved from 2011-2012. Indiana lost three games by four points or fewer and had the lead late in each game.
After losing Tre Roberson for the season early on, most Indiana fans thought the offense was doomed. However, Cameron Coffman became a pleasant surprise by stepping in and throwing for 2,734 yards and 15 touchdowns while leading Indiana's passing offense to a No. 1 ranking in the Big Ten.
He wasn't the only Hoosier quarterback to shock pundits, though. Freshman quarterback Nate Sudfield got a chance to shine when Coffman went down briefly, and shine he did. Sudfield threw for over 600 yards and seven touchdowns while only throwing one interception for an impressive passer rating of 152.7.
The Hoosiers also return will-be senior running back Stephen Houston, who is one of the more underrated players in the league. Houston has rushed for 750 yards or more in each of the past two seasons while averaging five yards per carry and proving to be a threat to catch the ball out of the backfield.
Houston is a powerful runner, and if Indiana can continue to open the offense with the wide sets while tiring the defense with its up-tempo offense, Houston could become the first 1,000-plus yard rusher for the Hoosiers since Antwan Randle El in 2000.
The depth on offense continues at the wideout position, where Indiana returns six players (including Houston) who caught more than 20 passes, had more than 200 yards receiving and caught at least one touchdown. Rising junior playmaker Cody Wilson highlights the crew after nabbing over 50 catches for over 800 yards and six touchdowns.
Unfortunately for Indiana, offense is where the depth ends. Indiana had one of the worst defenses in the nation, and the worst in the Big Ten, allowing over 35 points per game in 2012. Not much else needs to be said about the defense: They need to improve drastically and hastily in order for Indiana to make a jump in the Big Ten power ratings.
The offense has all the tools necessary to be one of the more prolific offenses in the nation, but their 2-6 finish in 2012 will be hard to beat if the defense can't make some stops. With Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, Wisconsin and Michigan State on the schedule, an improvement on last year's record seems unlikely.
Darrell Hazell has climbed up the coaching ladder from the very bottom.
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Purdue is transitioning out of he Danny Hope era and into the Darrell Hazell era. That is, as far as we know, a great thing.
Hazell is extremely accomplished, featuring primarily as a running back and receivers coach since beginning his coaching career in the late '80s. After stints as Ohio State's offensive wideouts coach and assistant head coach, Hazell was finally given his shot as a head coach at Kent State University, where he gave a notoriously bad Kent State program a major makeover in just two years.
After going more than a decade without winning more than six games in a season, Hazell's 2012 Kent State squad went 11-2 in the regular season, losing the final game by a touchdown in double overtime to a Northern Illinois squad that would go on to play Florida State in the BCS Orange Bowl.
Purdue loses starting quarterback Robert Marve as well as second-string quarterback Caleb TerBush. The two combined to throw for almost 8,000 yards and 60 touchdowns over the past four seasons.
There are certainly questions at quarterback, but the public has not had the opportunity to see fifth-year senior Rob Henry—who has been a third stringer most of his career—compete because of the extremely talented players in front of him on the depth chart.
Although he has seen very limited time, his ability to make plays is unquestioned. In fact, Henry earned the starting spot over Marve and TerBush in 2011, but his season was cut short just before the first game by an ACL tear.
If the spring game is any indicator, Hazell plans on bringing his punishing ground game to the historically pass-happy Purdue program. In the spring game, the Black and Gold teams combined for 44 rushing attempts and 45 passing attempts.
Akeem Shavers, a shifty back who ran for 871 yards last year, will be complimented by playmaker Ralph Bolden.
Senior tight end Gabe Holmes is a player to watch this year. At 6'7:, Holmes is tall and athletic and has repeatedly shown that he has the potential to change games. He has failed to live up to his hype until now, but he was a major target in the spring game and had 74 receiving yards.
The defense is a big hole for this Purdue crew, however, and the linebacker corps is yet to find a single player who can make an impact. The departures of Josh Johnson, Kawann Short and Robert Maci leave gaping holes in the Boilermaker secondary and defensive line.
This team is still a couple of years away from moving up in the Big Ten, and a conference schedule featuring Ohio State, Wisconsin, Penn State and Michigan State doesn't help things.
Will-be sophomore Quarterback Philip Nelson won the quarterback battle this spring against will-be junior Max Shortell.
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After much indecisiveness last season, third-year coach Jerry Kill and the Minnesota coaching staff have given will-be sophomore quarterback Philip Nelson the reins to the offense over will-be junior Max Shortell.
Both players had similar numbers last year, with around 860 yards passing and a 1-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Nelson, however, showed the ability to evade defenders in the pocket as well as move the ball on his feet if necessary. He needs to improve his ability to throw deep down the field if he wants to keep his starting job.
While the Gophers offense lacks big-time playmakers, they do have a strong stable of guys who can be consistent and productive. No single player will pop out at you, but the offense will almost certainly improve from last season.
Donnell Kirkwood has a lot of people talking. As a sophomore last season, Kirkwood bullied his way to 926 yards rushing.
Rodrick Williams Jr. is a bulldozer that weighed in at 228 pounds last year and has reportedly put on muscle, and he'll certainly see some action, as will James Gillum, a will-be senior who impressed in last year's season opener against UNLV.
While the receiving corps looked weak in the spring game and has very few playmakers, the tight ends appear to be playing a big role in this year's offense for Minnesota.
However, the kicking game appears to have huge issues. Jordan Wettstein has graduated, and considering he was the best kicker that Minnesota had despite being just 13-of-22 on field-goal attempts, that is a big problem.
Some of Minnesota's units look very good thus far, while others look very bad (notably, the linebackers). The good news is that Minnesota's young talent is receiving a lot of praise from coaches, and many of the redshirted players are standing out as some of the better players on the team.
Just like Purdue, Minnesota is a couple years out of the picture. The Gophers avoid Ohio State this year, but they'll have to play Michigan, Penn State, Wisconsin, Michigan State and Northwestern. I think three3 Big Ten wins and an eighth-place finish is the ceiling for this Minnesota team.
7. Penn State
Head Coach Bill O'Brien shocked the nation when he led a decimated and sanctioned Penn State program to an eight-win season in 2012.
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With senior starter Matt McGloin graduating, the starting quarterback spot was Steven Bench's for the taking. Bench, however, mysteriously decided to pack up shop and transfer out of State College this spring.
Junior college transfer Tyler Ferguson looks to be the likely starter, and he's received some high praise from coaches, but it's yet to be seen if either him or Christian Hackenberg will be able to compete at the Big Ten level. Neither player has thrown a single pass in an FBS game in their career.
Thousand-yard rusher Zach Zwinak returns; however, he sustained a wrist injury that kept him out of the spring game. Alongside Zwinak will be receiving leader Allen Robinson, as well as an impressive group of tight ends—notably, returning starter Kyle Carter, and 6'7" target Jesse James who was the star of the spring practice with five catches for 77 yards.
The kicking game is also a question for O'Brien's squad. Sam Ficken was just 14-of-21 on field-goal attempts last season, and O'Brien became famous around the nation for consistently leaving Ficken on the sideline and attempting to convert fourth downs. Without a consistent kicker, the young quarterbacks will certainly have a lot of pressure to get the ball into the end zone.
Like many other Big Ten teams, Bill O'Brien will have to find a way to replace a handful of linebackers in 2013. Penn State returns a very talented backer in Glenn Carson but loses their leading tackler in Gerald Hodges and their second leading tackler in Michael Mauti.
Losing their top two linebackers, their top two defensive linemen and their top defensive back, the Nittany Lions are going to have to find some talent hidden within their depth chart in order to compete as well as they did last year.
Unfortunately, I think the combination of defensive attrition and an unproven, young quarterback spells death for Penn State this year, which is why I have them at seventh in the Big Ten.
Joel Stave showed promise in 2012 when transfer Danny O'Brien fell short of expectations.
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It's hard to justify putting the defending conference champs at sixth in the Big Ten despite the fact that they only lose seven starters combined on both sides of the ball.
Despite losing Montee Ball, the Badgers could very well have the best running back duo in the conference. James White has only started two games in his three-year career; yet, he will have the second most yards of any active running back in the entire nation going into next season.
He'll be accompanied by speedy youngster Melvin Gordon, who averaged over 10 yards per carry last year. The two combined for 1,421 yards and 15 touchdowns last year... as second and third stringers!
Paving the way for White and Gordon will be Ryan Groy (LG, Sr), Dallas Lewallen (LT, Jr), Kyle Costigan (RG, Jr), Rob Havenstein (RT Jr), and redshirt freshman Dan Voltz (C), who has impressed throughout the spring.
This is an offensive line that should be exactly what we expect from Wisconsin offensive lines, despite the losses of starters Travis Frederick and Ricky Wagner.
Uncharacteristic, however, will be Wisconsin's lack of depth at offensive line. Wisconsin needs to avoid injuries at all costs, or the team could end up looking like Michigan State's offense from a year ago (Michigan State dealt with seven injuries to linemen and became one of the league's worst offensive teams).
Wisconsin will also return Jared Abbrederis, who had twice as many catches and receiving yards as any other player on the team last year. Tight end Jacob Pedersen was a bright spot last year and looks to be a favorite target for Joel Stave.
At the center of the defense will be senior Chris Borland. Borland was the heart and soul of the Badgers' defense in 2012, and he'll look to lead a ferocious front-seven that features six seniors and a junior. The defense's lone weakness, however, will be in the secondary where the Badgers lose three of their starting defensive backs.
I could very well see Wisconsin finishing in the top three in the Big Ten this year, but I'm going with gut feeling here. I don't think first-year coach Gary Anderson will make as many improvements as he needs to this offseason, and while Wisconsin did win the Big Ten last year, remember: It was on a technicality. They still went 4-4 in the conference and 8-6 overall.
Their schedule is on the easy side (no Michigan, Nebraska, or Michigan State), and Wisconsin very well may win the Leaders title because of that, but from a pure talent standpoint, I think Wisconsin is the sixth best team in the Big Ten.
Venric Mark leads one of the nation's most prolific rushing attacks.
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Pat Fitzgerald's Wildcats surprised everyone in the nation with a 10-win season in 2012. The most surprising thing about the Wildcats, however, might have been junior running back Venric Mark's offensive explosion. A wide receiver his first two seasons on campus, Mark had only taken 23 handoffs in two years for 167 yards.
However, since he had proved to be too electrifying to keep off the field, Fitzgerald and Co. decided to give Mark a shot at running back in 2012. To everyone's surprise, Mark shot off like a cannon, piling up 1,366 yards in just 226 carries
Mark is not the only Wildcat who knows how to run the ball, however. Duel-threat quarterback Kain Colter will be a senior who actually led the team in rushing in 2011.
Powerful running back Mike Trumpy has also taken dozens of handoffs, and the Wildcats will undoubtedly possess one of the most dangerous backfields of any team in the Big Ten, and possibly the entire nation.
The Northwestern defense loses one key player from each unit: linebacker David Nwabuisi, defensive tackle Brian Arnfelt, defensive back Jared Carpenter and defensive end Quentin Williams. The balance of attrition should make it easier to replace each player.
The offensive line, however, is again a serious question for Northwestern. Jack Konopka (LT) and Brandon Vitabile (C) have positions locked down, but injuries and a lack of talent have made coaches uncertain of the future of the offensive line.
Just like last year, Northwestern had an identity crisis when teams stacked the box to slow down the run-game. Fitzgerald found that his best option was to put quarterback Trevor Sieman in the game to open up the defense and pass.
In my opinion, the dual quarterback system does not work. I think Northwestern is on the verge of something great, but a bad offensive line and the resulting lack of offensive identity, as well as the loss of a few key defenders, will keep Northwestern in fifth place, one step behind the big dogs in the Big Ten.
Devin Gardner looks to take control of the Michigan offense in 2013.
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Brady Hoke has done an absolutely amazing job at Michigan. He stepped in and won with Rich Rodriguez's players, and in 2013 we will finally start seeing the talent that Hoke has stockpiled with consecutive top-10 recruiting classes.
The potential that Michigan's offense has is undeniable. When Denard Robinson went down last season with nerve damage, Devin Gardner showed that he could not only take control of the offense, but arguably showed that he could do it better than Robinson.
Gardner is a step in the right direction for Hoke and offensive coordinator Al Borges. While he has the speed to scramble from the pocket and pick up yards on the ground, he also has the arm to run the pro-style offense that Hoke and Borges have found to be successful in previous coaching jobs.
In the backfield, Michigan will have a stable of running-backs with loads of potential. Fitzgerald Toussaint was a 1,000-plus yard rusher in 2011 before sustaining an injury that he never fully recovered from in 2012, while powerful sophomore running back Thomas Rawls showed that he can compete at the Big Ten level.
A pair of rising sophomores—the electrifying kick-returner Dennis Northfleet, and scat-back Justice Hayes—could start at most schools in the nation, but they'll find it hard to make third-string with incoming 5-star freshman Derrick Green standing in the way. According to Rivals Recruiting Services, Derrick Green is the eighth best incoming freshman in the nation.
The Wolverines are equally as threatening when throwing the ball as they return leading receiver Jeremy Gallon, slot receiver Drew Dileo and freshman phenom Devin Funchess, who had over 200 yards receiving as a tight end.
Defense, however, is a bit of a different story. Michigan loses six starters from a defense that was middle-of-the-road in the Big Ten in 2012, and one of the best returning players, Jake Ryan, will likely miss most of the season with an ACL injury.
The Wolverines looked to fill the defensive line gaps left by Craig Roh and William Campbell without a problem, but the fact that the defensive line looked fine is just as telling of the losses at offensive line as it is of the talent on the defensive side of the ball.
On the offensive line, Michigan returns would-be first overall NFL draft pick Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield but loses Elliot Mealer, Patrick Omameh and Ricky Barnum.
So why fourth place for the Wolverines, you ask? Well, if you make things really simple and look at what Michigan lost, it's hard to justify higher expectations. Michigan loses three starting offensive linemen, their leading rusher, their leading passer and their second best wide-receiver, as well as over half of its defense.
For a team that finished 8-5 last season, that is a lot to overcome. If you factor in Michigan's schedule—at Penn State, at Michigan State, at Northwestern, vs. Nebraska, and vs. Ohio State—it's hard to imagine them finishing with more than six wins in the Big Ten. That's why Michigan is my fourth best Big Ten team.
3. Michigan State
Max Bullough captains one of the nation's top defenses heading into 2013.
Michigan State was the surprise of the Big Ten last season, as it went from Legends Division champion in 2011 to 3-5 in the Big Ten in 2012 despite returning nearly all of its defensive starters and a handful of offensive starters.
Nonetheless, the losses of Kirk Cousins, Keith Nichol, BJ Cunningham, Keshawn Martin and Brian Linthicum proved to be too much as Michigan State went on to field one of the worst Spartan offenses in recent memory.
As such, most of you are probably wondering why Michigan State ranks so highly after this spring's events. To put it simply: I think Michigan State will again be the surprise of the Big Ten and completely turn things around offensively.
Most people know that Michigan State's offense was flat-out horrible last year. Quarterback Andrew Maxwell was one of the least productive quarterbacks in the Big Ten, and Michigan State's offense often moved backwards more than it moved forwards before punting the ball away.
So, after the departure of the nation's third best rusher, Le'Veon Bell, why would Michigan State's offense get any better?
Well, what most people don't know is that Michigan State endured seven injuries to their top eight offensive linemen in 2012. One injury to the starters on offensive line can be dealt with. For the upper-tier teams with loads of depth, even two injuries can be overcome. Three is where it starts to get really shaky, and four is pretty much unbearable.
Michigan State dealt with seven. It's actually quite amazing that the offense came in the top 100 in any statistical category.
Unlike 2012, Michigan State looks to field an offense led by Fou Fonoti (senior), Blake Treadwell (senior), Skyler Burkland (junior), Travis Jackson (junior) and freshman first-team All-American [FWAA] Jack Allen (sophomore). All of them were slated to start last season, but four of them sat out much or all of the season with injuries.
Now that Michigan State has the offensive line to give the skill-position players a shot, we might finally get to see what former Elite 11, fifth-year senior quarterback Andrew Maxwell can do.
Four-star recruit Aaron Burbridge was the 16th best wideout in the country in his class, but he showed some serious potential last season as he appeared to be the only bright spot in the passing game. His talent became evident when he caught eight passes for 134 yards against Indiana in 2012.
The backfield, however, will be a big question. As of the spring game, junior Nick Hill and defensive captain Max Bullough's younger brother, Riley, are competing for the top running back spot. The ground game will likely be an issue for the Spartans.
On the other side of the ball, Michigan State returns nine starters from a defense that finished in the top 10 in every statistical category imaginable.
Remember, Michigan State was one unlucky bounce or bad call away from potentially going 11-1 last season.
With a much, much improved offensive line and a highly intimidating defense, Michigan State will be a serious threat to every single team on their schedule—a schedule that avoids Ohio State and Penn State, nonetheless, which is why Michigan State gets my third spot in the spring power rankings.
Taylor Martinez will be a Heisman contender during his senior campaign in 2013.
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In 2012, Taylor Martinez led a high-powered Nebraska offense that averaged over 26 points per game against eight of the nation's top-25 defenses, and 35 points per game overall. Despite the loss of first team all-Big Ten running-back Rex Burkhead early in the season, Martinez and the diverse Nebraska rushing attack finished the season as the eighth best rushing team in the nation.
Much to the dismay of their Big Ten counterparts, Nebraska returns Martinez—who ran for over 1,000 and passed for nearly 3,000 yards last year—thousand-yard rusher Ameer Abdullah, a crushing youngster in 230-pound Imani Cross, and a speedster in Braylon Heard.
A rushing attack that led the Big Ten last year returns nearly all of their key players and features a variety of different weapons coming out of the backfield.
The running game isn't the only dangerous part of Nebraska's offense, however. Taylor Martinez has spent countless hours in the offseason improving his form and accuracy. He improved his accuracy by six percent and his passer rating by almost twenty points between 2011 and 2012, and coaches expect his hard work this offseason to deliver similar results in 2013.
And nothing helps more than having one of the greatest Husker wideouts of all-time stepping on the field. Despite having just two years under his belt, will-be junior Kenny Bell already has more than 80 receptions, 1,300 yards and 11 touchdowns and led Nebraska in every statistical category related to receiving in both his freshman and sophomore seasons.
Alongside Bell will be senior Quincy Enunwa, who, although not as electrifying, has been second in each statistical category each of the past two seasons, and Jamal Turner, a young playmaker who has turned heads many times this spring.
The defense, however, takes a pretty big hit. Only returning five starters, the vaunted Blackshirt defense loses a pair of extremely talented defensive ends in Cameron Meredith and Eric Martin.
The Huskers lose their top five tacklers, including hard-to-replace linebackers Lavonte David and Will Compton, as well as the top two defensive backs in safety Daimion Stafford and Austin Cassidy.
With one of the deepest and most diverse backfields, talented and experienced wideout crew and Heisman contender Taylor Martinez, Nebraska will likely field one of the top-10 offenses in the entire nation next season.
The question marks on the defensive side, however, keep them from taking the No. 1 spot in the Big Ten, so as of right now, they are second.
1. Ohio State
Braxton Miller leads a Buckeye squad with National Championship appearance expectations.
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A quote from Ohio State cornerback Bradley Roby sums up the expectations for Ohio State football in 2013: "Last year was the commercial. This year is the movie" (via ESPN).
An undefeated season marred by a postseason ban, the Buckeyes look to take on 2013 with a vengeance. Led by Heisman contender Braxton Miller, who passed for over 2,000 yards and rushed for over 1,000 in 2012, the Buckeye offense will certainly be one of the most feared in the nation in 2013.
Behind Miller in the backfield will be yet another fearsome Big Ten running back crew featuring Carlos Hyde, who was just thirty yards short of a 1,000-yard season last year and piled up an impressive 16 touchdowns; an explosive Rod Smith, who averaged over 6.5 yards per carry in 2012; and a pair of will-be sophomores Bri'onte Dunn and Warren Ball who impressed this spring.
The aforementioned running backs were all so impressive, in fact, that head coach Urban Meyer had to implement a diamond formation in the offensive playbook just to get three tailbacks on the field at the same time.
Eyes will be on quarterback Braxton Miller most of the summer as he continues to improve on his decision-making and ability to air it out. Miller finished fifth in Heisman voting in 2012, and he'll likely crack the top three this season if he can prove to be as much of a threat with his arm as he is with his legs.
The big question for Ohio State will be the defense. After having one of the nation's top defensive fronts in 2012, the Buckeyes lose their entire defensive line. However, depth is one thing that Urban Meyer has not failed to deliver in his short time at Ohio State.
Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington, the key pieces in Meyer's first recruiting class which ranked in the top five in the nation, have absolutely exploded this spring. Spence, the No. 1 defensive end in the country in 2012, and Washington, the No. 2 defensive end in the country in 2012, combined for seven sacks in the spring game.
On the bright side, Ohio State returns leading tackler and one of the top linebackers in the Big Ten, Ryan Shazier. And although there are many question marks within the front seven, the Buckeyes will likely have one of the top secondaries in the country in 2013 as they return starters Bradley Roby, Christian Bryant and C.J. Barnett, which will undoubtedly lead to many coverage sacks.
Overall, Urban Meyer has put together a squad that could rival some of the top SEC teams in depth and talent. After an undefeated campaign in 2012, there's no reason to believe that Ohio State will regress in 2013.
Also, the Buckeyes avoid Michigan State and Nebraska, which means they could very well be undefeated once again heading into their November 30th meeting with their hated rivals, the Michigan Wolverines. That's why Ohio State is currently the top dog in the Big Ten.
Agree with the power ratings? Disagree? Let your opinion be heard in the comment section!