Dienhart: How many Big Ten teams should be ranked?

Phil Sears-USA TODAY Sports

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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