College Football Rankings: Ranking the Big Ten from Worst to First

Orrie SielaffCorrespondent IAugust 16, 2011

College Football Rankings: Ranking the Big Ten from Worst to First

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    The Big Ten has made headlines in all sorts of ways this season.  They expanded to twelve teams with the addition of the Nebraska Cornhuskers.  They also split the conference into two divisions, the Legends Division and the Leaders Division.  

    On a negative note, the Ohio State Buckeyes were punished by the NCAA for a bevy of infractions. 

    Let's take a look at how the Big Ten looks after a busy offseason.  

12. Purdue Boilermakers

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    The Good:  Not much, unfortunately.  Purdue does boast the best kicker in the conference, however.  K Carson Wiggs can hit field goals from beyond 60 yards.  If Purdue can keep games close, they have the advantage in the kicking department.  

    The Bad:  The defense was pretty bad last year.  Also, the quarterback battle between transfer Robert Marve and Rob Henry will only result in an average starter.  

    Conclusion:  There is hope in South Bend, but much rapid improvement must be made for Purdue to crack .500. 

11. Minnesota Golden Gophers

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    The Good:  They have a few playmakers on the offensive side, with a solid running back duo in the forms of Duane Bennett and DeLeon Eskridge.  

    The Bad:  Their defense is plain awful and may not be much better this season.  Also, if QB MarQueis Gray cannot take pressure off the run game, the offense is in trouble.  

    Conclusion:  The Gophers should finish near the bottom in the Big Ten.  

10. Indiana Hoosiers

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    The Good:  A first-year coach comes to Bloomington with Kevin Wilson taking the reins.  He is an offensive specialist who should breathe some life and excitement into the Indiana offense.  

    The Bad:  The defense is simply average.  The Hoosiers have plenty of holes to fill across the starting lineup.  Replacing WR Tandon Doss with another playmaker may be difficult.  

    Conclusion:  This is not Indiana's year.  They are on the up and up, however.  

9. Illinois Fighting Illini

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    The Good:  QB Nathan Scheelhaase is a solid quarterback and can lead the offense.  The Illini will also benefit from playing eight home games this season.  RB Jason Ford can be electric running the football.  

    The Bad:  The defense could be shaky.  There are many shoes to fill on this side of the ball and the unit may struggle throughout the season.  

    Conclusion:  Illinois' offense should be fun to watch, but the defense may not give them much help.  A bowl game is within reach.   

8. Northwestern Wildcats

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    The Good:  QB John Persa is thought by some to be a dark horse Heisman candidate.  Although that may be a reach, Persa was one of the most accurate and efficient QBs in the nation last year.  He will lead a potent Wildcats offense that should produce plenty of points.  

    The Bad:  The defense needs real work.  The unit gave up a staggering 163 points in the last three games of 2010.  If the defense can improve, Northwestern's hopes are greatly lifted.  

    Conclusion:  There is hope in Evanston for this squad.  If the defense holds up, they could win a bowl berth and finish in the top half of the Big Ten.  

6. Penn State Nittany Lions

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    The Good:  The offense has two dynamic playmakers in RB Silas Redd and WR Derek Moye.  S Drew Astorino can be an impact player on the defensive side as well.  

    The Bad:  The defensive line needs some work and may drag the entire defense down.  On offense, there will likely be instability at QB, with Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin possibly alternating as starters.  

    Conclusion:  The Nittany Lions have playmakers on offense, but Joe Pa's squad will likely finish in the middle of the pack.  A bowl game is highly likely.  

6. Iowa Hawkeyes

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    The Good: The offense boasts two dynamic weapons in RB Marcus Coker and WR Marvin McNutt.  LB James Morris leads the defense and is an animal at linebacker.  

    The Bad:  The Hawkeyes' secondary will be tested and is average at best.  New QB James Vandenberg is a downgrade from Ricky Stanzi.  But he will have weapons at his disposal.  

    Conclusion:  The Hawkeyes will be solid once again under Kirk Ferentz.  Their defense will need to rise to the occasion if the Hawkeyes want to contend for the Big Ten title.  

5. Michigan State

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    The Good: QB Kirk Cousins returns for a fifth season, as well as RB Edwin Baker.  State has a potent offense and should have no trouble putting points on the board.  The Spartans also boast an outstanding defensive line, led by DT Jerel Worthy.  

    The Bad: Aside from the defensive line, the defense could be shaky.  Additionally, the Spartans play a much tougher schedule this year compared to last season.  The Spartans must play both Ohio State and Nebraska on the road.  

    Conclusion:  Coach Mark Dantonio clearly has MSU headed in the right direction.  They should once again find success in the Big Ten and a bowl berth.  

4. Ohio State Buckeyes

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    The Good:  Despite the offseason turmoil, the Buckeyes are still a talented team.  Unfortunately, several key players will be suspended for nearly half the season.  Once suspensions are served, this team should be good.  

    The Bad: QB Terrelle Pryor left the team instead of facing suspension.  Whether his replacement is Frosh Braxton Miller or Senior Joe Bauserman, the starting QB's performance will dictate how this team fairs.  

    Conclusion:  The Buckeyes may struggle at first without playmakers like Dan Herron and DeVier Posey.  How the team plays in the early going will make or break their season.  

3. Michigan Wolverines

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    The Good:  QB Denard Robinson returns to run the high-octane offensive attack.  In total, Michigan returns 20 starters from last year's squad.  WR Roy Roundtree could emerge as a dynamic weapon in the passing game.  

    The Bad:  The defense was horrendous last season, allowing over 450 YPG last season.  If the Wolverines are going to take another step forward, this unit must step up.  

    Conclusion:  Coach Brady Hoke hopes to reinstall Michigan at the top of the Big Ten.  They will take a solid step toward that goal this season and also reach a bowl game.  

2. Nebraska Cornhuskers

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    The Good: QB Taylor Martinez should be better in his sophomore season.  The Huskers' defense may be its greatest strength, boasting three preseason All-America candidates in DE Jared Crick, LB Lavonte David, and CB Alfonzo Dennard.  

    The Bad:  The offensive line could use improvement from last season.  Also, replacing K Alex Henery will be next to impossible, as he was the most accurate kicker in NCAA history.  

    Conclusion:  The Cornhuskers will likely win the Legends Division.  They are also favorites to play in the Big Ten Championship game.  

1. Wisconsin Badgers

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    The Good:  The backfield is loaded with talent at running back.  RBs James White and Montee Ball form a formidable duo and give the Badgers a premiere rushing attack.  Transfer QB Russell Wilson gives the Badgers a strong passer and eases the loss of Scott Tolzien.  

    The Bad:  Not much.  The defense loses J.J. Watt to the NFL, but should be solid once again.  Replacing Return man David Gilreath could be a challenge.

    Conclusion:  The Badgers will likely win the Leaders Division and vie for the Big Ten title.  Don't be surprised to see them playing in the Big Ten Championship game.