Dienhart: How many Big Ten teams should be ranked?

Pat Fitzgerald

Once the college football yearbooks hit the newsstand—and it has to be any day now—I expect to see six Big Ten teams in most Top 25s. And look for them to be in this order: Ohio State; Nebraska; Michigan; Wisconsin; Northwestern; Michigan State.

That may seem a bit generous, but I think all six are worthy, as the Big Ten is in pursuit of its first national championship since Ohio State stunned Miami (Fla.) for the 2002 crown. The Buckeyes should be in everyone’s top five—a legit national title contender that played for the BCS crown as recently as the 2006 and 2007 seasons.

And I think the Cornhuskers should be ranked between 10-15 as they aim for their first conference title since claiming the Big 12 in—Are you ready for this?–1999. If the Husker defense comes together, this will be an elite team.

Michigan and Wisconsin belong in the 15-20 range, while the Wildcats and Spartans should come in between 20-25.

Michigan has no glaring weaknesses or overwhelming strengths—but the Wolverines will be good and well-coached.

I may be underrating the Badgers, as Gary Andersen inherited a loaded roster from Bret Bielema that is ready to win big right now after going to three Rose Bowls in a row.

Northwestern intrigues me the most, as this is the school’s most talented team ever. And it’s coming off a 10-win season.

The Spartans scare me the most, which is why I have them on the edge. The defense figures to be the Big Ten’s best for a third season in a row, but the offense is littered with questions at the skill positions for a team that lost five games by a combined 13 points in 2012. If this Michigan State offense takes flight, the Spartans could win the Big Ten. If not …

About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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Your Opinion?
Show Comments (5 Comments)
Josh on 5/13/2013 @ 1:34pm EDT Said:

Interesting article. I think Wisconsin and Michigan State may not be ranked to start the season, but they will become ranked since they can accumulate many wins due to their lackluster schedules. Nebraska is in a similar boat, except they will be ranked to start the season. Michigan will also start off ranked (because it is Michigan) but has one of the tougher schedules in the Big Ten, so they could regress and come back as well as stay in the rankings all year long. Northwestern, like Michigan, has a tough schedule so will be in the same scenario. OSU will probably stay in the top ten all season long.

James on 5/13/2013 @ 5:55pm EDT Said:

Michigan will start off 7-0, so I look at it the opposite way. They go to MSU and NU, and face OSU in the latter half of their schedule. I think Michigan stays in the top 10 for most of the season. They may not be the favorite to ultimately win their division, even though I like to think they will, but for them to not start in the top 10 or 12 teams with 19 starters coming back and consecutive top ten recruiting classes seems awfully silly.

Dirk on 5/14/2013 @ 12:07am EDT Said:

UM’s recruiting classes are top 10 by definition, not by talent. They are sliding the wrong way–2 losses to 5 losses against the “weaker schedule” and frankly have lost most everybody. Better hope their converted wide receiver/quarterback doesn’t go down.

James on 5/14/2013 @ 9:34am EDT Said:

I think every team in the conference should hope that their starter doesn’t go down or expectations change drastically. Gardner was a 5* QB recruit converted to WR, on the contrary, and it showed in the 5 games he played. Doesn’t the supposed talent define the classes? I know we are speculating on high school kids here, but there are 4 major recruiting services and they generally agree with each other on whose classes are the best top to bottom.

Joseph on 5/16/2013 @ 12:43am EDT Said:

In that order.

Ohio State