Big Ten Football: Power Ranking the New 12-Team Big Ten Conference
On June 11, 2010, Nebraska became the first team added to the Big Ten since Penn State was invited to join back in 1990.
The Cornhuskers are one of the five winningest Division I programs in history, and bring with them five National Titles and three Heisman trophies.
Nebraska has long-standing ties with many of the schools in the Big 12, having battled Kansas and Missouri in football since the 1890s, but in the course of its storied football tradition, they have played every team in the Big Ten at least once.
They look forward to getting a quick start on building new traditions, like a border rivalry with Iowa.
The addition of Nebraska allows the conference to form two divisions and create a conference title game—something many coaches in the league have longed for over the years.
Nebraska won't officially become a member of the Big Ten Conference until July 1, 2011, but I am not one to shy away from ridiculously early Power Rankings.
As such, I bring you the very first Power Ranking for the New 12-Team Big Ten Conference.
12. Illinois Fighting Illni
Illinois will have new coordinators (Paul Petrino, Vic Koenning) and a new quarterback (Nathan Scheelhaase) this fall, which might make it difficult to compete.
There might be hope, though, as the Fighting Illini do return a lot of talent in skill positions.
Still, Zook might not get a chance to face Nebraska in Big Ten play unless the team improves dramatically in 2010.
11. Purdue Boilermakers
Danny Hope might have his work cut out for him this fall.
According to ESPN's Adam Rittenberg, the Boilermakers practiced without 20 players and 10 starters during part of spring practice.
That's a setback that could hurt, especially since one of the injuries was a torn ACL to running back Ralph Bolden.
Purdue will also have new quarterback Robert Marve at the helm this fall.
Marve could end up being one of the better quarterbacks in the Big Ten, but as a newbie to the conference coming off an injury year, he is going to have to work hard to brush off the dust and make the Boilermakers competitive in the conference.
10. Indiana Hoosiers
Bill Lynch's Indiana Hoosiers will definitely have a good passing game in 2010. Their problem is a lack of running attack and a paltry defense.
I anticipate the Hoosiers moving their way up the Power Rankings this season, but they have to figure a few things out in order to make that happen.
9. Minnesota Golden Gophers
Tim Brewster will have to replace nine starters for the Golden Gophers this fall.
The good news is that quarterback Adam Weber returns for another season and will have an experienced line blocking for him.
If the Gophers can figure out how to play defense consistently, they could put together a decent record and another bowl trip.
Minnesota has a long history with new addition Nebraska. Let's hope Brewster gets to help revive that tradition.
8. Northwestern Wildcats
Pat Fitzgerald's Northwestern offense shouldn't miss a step this fall in their transition to quarterback Dan Persa, who replaces Mike Kafka as starter.
He also has a solid defense to help his cause.
Unfortunately for the Wildcats, their running back situation is a mystery they still need to figure out.
7. Michigan Wolverines
Rich Rodriguez's Michigan Wolverines shouldn't have to worry about the quarterback position anytime soon.
Unfortunately, the other side of the ball needs a lot of work if RichRod hopes to have the Wolverines in competition for a title this season.
Rodriguez also has to replace punter Zoltan Mesko, which will be harder than it sounds...bother literally and figuratively.
6. Michigan State Spartans
Mark Dantonio's Michigan State Spartans are still trying to recover from a mishap on campus, but they return talent on both sides of the ball.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins is one of the top passers in the league and linebacker Greg Jones is on almost every defensive preseason watch list.
If they can replace some holes on their offensive line, the Spartans should have no problem competing in the Big Ten this fall.
5. Penn State Nittany Lions
Quarterback might be an issue this year for Joe Paterno's Nittany Lions, but veteran running back Evan Royster should help to take some of the pressure off whomever gets the starting job.
PSU's defense should help the cause, too.
4. Nebraska Cornhuskers
Bo Pelini's Cornhuskers will have to break in a new quarterback during their last season in the Big 12, but their defense is for real.
The Huskers will rely on a powerful defense and a solid rushing attack, a combination that should help them finish the year on top of the Big 12 North.
Welcome to your first Big Ten Power Rankings, Nebraska!
3. Wisconsin Badgers
It's hard to find a flaw with Bret Bielema's Wisconsin Badgers, but they did suffer a few injuries on offense that might set them back a bit.
The Badgers could have the best quarterback-running back combination in the Big Ten this year, with Scott Tolzien and John Clay returning.
Tolzien completed a Badger-record 211 passes for 2,705 yards, 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, and he should be able to improve upon that this season.
Wisconsin will be a dominant force in the Big Ten this year.
2. Iowa Hawkeyes
Coming off a solid spring performance, Kirk Ferentz's Iowa Hawkeyes are ready compete for the Big Ten title.
The Hawkeyes return one of the best defenses in the country, have a deep stock of running backs, and return a veteran quarterback in Ricky Stanzi.
As Phil Steele points out, Stanzi has an outstanding 67 percent passing completion in the fourth quarter of play for a pass efficiency rating of 200.2.
If Stanzi can maintain that fourth-quarter consistency, Iowa will have no problem returning to a BCS bowl game.
1. Ohio State Buckeyes
Jim Tressel's Ohio State Buckeyes return a ton of talent on both sides of the ball for the 2010 season and are most people's preseason favorite to win the Big Ten.
In order to do so, they'll have to win in Iowa City, something defensive tackle Cameron Heyward and quarterback Terrelle Pryor look forward to trying.
Pryor completed 57 percent of his passes last season for 2,094 yards, 18 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He also ran for almost 800 yards.
If Pryor can figure out a bit more of his passing attack, the Buckeyes could be unstoppable this year.