The First Big Ten Football Power Rankings For 2018

The Big Ten was the top conference in college football last season with several teams competing for a playoff berth and a 7-1 bowl record, and with that expected to be the case again in 2018, it's possible that the conference will be even better next season. Here's how every team in the Big Ten stacks up going into the new year:

14) Illinois Fighting Illini
The Lovie Smith experience has not been great for Illinois, and while many expect them to be better than last year's 2-10 record, it won't be by much - they still have plenty of rebuilding to do.

13) Rutgers Scarlet Knights
The Scarlet Knights are making progress under head coach Chris Ash, who laid the groundwork for a solid foundation last year and will have 18 returning starters. That said, this group still has a long way to go talent-wise.

12) Indiana Hoosiers
Indiana went 5-7 last year due to a tough schedule and their two best players - wide receiver Simmie Cobbs and linebacker Tegray Scales - will be in the NFL next season. Expect them to take a step back.

11) Minnesota Golden Gophers
Running back Rodney Smith will be one of the best backs in the conference and be counted on to carry this offseason. However, he's the only notable player returning for the Gophers. This will be a rebuilding year for P.J. Fleck's squad.

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10) Nebraska Cornhuskers
Nebraska will be improved, especially offensively, under new head coach Scott Frost, but their defense still needs help and it will take a few recruiting classes to get them competitive in the Big Ten.

9) Purdue Boilermakers
Head coach Jeff Brohm led Purdue to a surprising 7-6 record in his first season, giving the Boilermakers plenty of hope for the future. While they have to replace a lot of their defense, quarterback Elijah Sindelar is back after throwing four touchdown passes in their bowl game.

8) Iowa Hawkeyes
The Hawkeyes are hoping to repeat 2017's 7-6 record, but it will be tough without running back Akrum Wadley or defensive standouts Josey Jewell and Joshua Jackson. The development and progression of quarterback Nate Stanley will largely determine how successful this group is.

7) Maryland Terrapins
The Terps have recruited incredibly well in the D.J. Durkin era and will have more talent on the field in 2018 than we've seen in quite some time. Quarterback Tyrell Pigrome will be back from a torn ACL and ready to lead the team, but the biggest question will be if they can stay healthy.

6) Northwestern Wildcats
Assuming he fully recovers from the torn ACL he suffered in Northwestern's bowl win, quarterback Clayton Thorson will be one of the better quarterbacks in the country - and the Wildcats will need him to be with running back Justin Jackson graduating. This group may very well be headed towards another 10-win season.

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5) Michigan Wolverines
Michigan's defense was one of the best in the country in 2017 and should be even better in 2018 thanks to them returning a large majority of the unit. The question with the Wolverines is the offense, specifically the play of their quarterback. Either Brandon Peters needs to improve drastically or Ole Miss transfer Shea Patterson (who needs to be ruled immediately eligible) needs to meet expectations for them to compete for a playoff spot.

4) Penn State Nittany Lions
The Nittany Lions were just four points away from being undefeated in 2017, and while Saquon Barkley will be gone, Penn State has plenty of talented returners that figure to keep them near the top of the Big Ten, headlined by quarterback Trace McSorley.

3) Michigan State Spartans
Michigan State is coming off a 10-win season and will return all of their major offensive players. We know head coach Mark Dantonio's squad will always play good defense, and if the offense can play at an elite level (quarterback Brian Lewerke and running back L.J. Scott both return), the Spartans could be making a return to the College Football Playoff.

2) Wisconsin Badgers
Wisconsin is coming off their first 13-win season in school history and returns 2018 Heisman favorite Jonathan Taylor and quarterback Alex Hornibrook, who will be in his third year as the Badgers' starting quarterback. As long as they play their patented brand of tough defense, the Badgers could be headed towards another 13-win season.

1) Ohio State Buckeyes
Ohio State has proven that they have the talent and depth to re-tool all of their losses and have two talented quarterbacks in Dwayne Haskins and Tate Martell who will be battling to replace J.T. Barrett. However, whoever wins will spend most of his time handing off to J.K. Dobbins, who may rush for over 2,000 yards in 2018. The Big Ten will run through Columbus until proven otherwise.

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Related Topics: NCAA Football, Big Ten Football Power Rankings, Big Ten Football