2017 Big Ten Football Preseason Power Rankings

The Big Ten was the top conference in college football last season with several teams competing for a playoff berth, and with that expected to be the case again in 2017, it's possible that the conference will be even better this year. Here's how every team in the Big Ten stacks up going into the new season:

14) Purdue Boilermakers
Simply put, Purdue still has a long way to go on both sides of the ball to become competitive. You could flip either them or Illinois, but I'm sticking with the Boilermakers in this spot until proven otherwise.

13) Illinois Fighting Illini
The Lovie Smith experience has not been great for Illinois, and many expect them to repeat last year's 3-9 record...or worse. 

12) Rutgers Scarlet Knights
The Scarlet Knights are making progress under head coach Chris Ash, who laid the groundwork of a solid foundation last year. That said, this group still has a long way to go talent-wise.

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11) Indiana Hoosiers
Indiana has a new head coach in Tom Allen, but the schedule doesn't do them any favors. They get Wisconsin as one of their crossover matchups and games against all three of their peers in the Big Ten East (Maryland, Michigan State, Rutgers) come on the road. They have a talent advantage over Rutgers, but this year may be a struggle for the Hoosiers.

10) Minnesota Golden Gophers
Do you believe in the P.J. Fleck effect at Minnesota? He'll have this program playing at a high level sometime soon thanks to his recruiting abilities, but the Gophers are still a below-average team across the board.

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9) Maryland Terrapins
The Terps were better than expected in the first year under D.J. Durkin, making a bowl game. They have the talent to be a good defensive team, but there is still a lot of work to be done. Expect them to barely make a bowl game.


8) Nebraska Cornhuskers
Nebraska won't be nearly as good as last year's nine-win team after several departures and turnover at pretty much every position group, including that of quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr., but there is still a good amount of talent on the roster. That said, it will take time to break all of these new players into their roles.

7) Northwestern Wildcats
The Big Ten schedule isn't too tough for the Wildcats, who have a dark horse Offensive Player of the Year candidate in running back Justin Jackson. However, they don't have too much outside of him. They could emerge as a threat in the Big Ten West, but could also fall short of expectations.

6) Michigan State Spartans
MSU was terrible last year, going just 3-9, but I expect a return to form for Mark Dantonio's squad, who missed his first bowl game with Michigan State last year. This team has talent, but will be hindered by playing in the Big Ten East. Finding consistent quarterback play will be key for the Spartans.

5) Iowa Hawkeyes
Just ask Michigan how tough this Iowa team can be. The Hawkeyes were inconsistent last year as they failed to live up to their high expectations, but they have a budding star in the backfield in running back Akrum Wadley and perhaps the best defensive player in the conference in linebacker Josey Jewell. 

However, Iowa may have the most difficult schedule in the conference. They play both Ohio State and Penn State this year, though both are at home - setting the scene for an upset. The road game schedule isn't very kind either, with trips to Michigan State, Northwestern, Wisconsin and Nebraska. 

4) Michigan Wolverines
Michigan is another team with an incredibly tough schedule and are replacing 19 starters, the most of any team in the country. However, Michigan has become one of those programs that can simply reload in these situations instead of rebuilding thanks to Jim Harbaugh's recruiting efforts. The Wolverines will take a step back, especially in the Big Ten East, but they will still be one of the best teams in the conference.

3) Wisconsin Badgers
Wisconsin is going to run away with the Big Ten West this year. They return 17 starters from last year's 11-win team, and with an easy schedule, they could be in position for a College Football Playoff berth.

2) Penn State Nittany Lions
Trace McSorley and Saquon Barkley enter the 2017 season as Heisman contenders ready to build on their hot finish last season. In total, the Nittany Lions have 16 starters back and expect to make the College Football Playoff this year. Those hopes may come down to their Oct. 28th game at Ohio State.

1) Ohio State Buckeyes
Despite what happened last year, the Big Ten still runs through Columbus. J.T. Barrett is back to lead an extremely talented team that is one of the few preseason favorites to win the national championship. Ohio State does have to replace several key players, particularly on the defensive side of the ball, but 14 total starters return - and the Buckeyes certainly have the talent to replace the guys they lost. After all, that's what Ohio State did last year.

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