Big Ten Power Rankings: Michigan State tops our expert's first poll


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It’s all about the power, right? Whoever has it has the control. And in the Big Ten, the most powerful of the powerful are in the East. But don’t sleep on the West. More shall be revealed as the 2014 season is on our doorstep.

Here is my preseason Big Ten Power Rankings. Feel free to clip and save this.

[ MORE: Who wins Week 1 games? Vote here! ]


1. Michigan State. Even before the season-ending injury to Ohio State’s Braxton Miller, I felt the Spartans were the Big Ten’s best team. The offense has morphed from a question to a strength in one year. The defense? It’s as devastatingly good as ever.

2. Ohio State. From 1-85, there isn’t a more talented team. But the defense enters 2014 with questions in the back end. And now, the offense will be directed by a redshirt freshman quarterback. This still can be a very good season. But special?

3. Iowa. It all begins up front for the blue-collar Hawkeyes, who will have great line play on both sides of the ball. If the offense can pass downfield to open room for the run game and the new linebackers excel, this could be a special season.

4. Nebraska. A gentler, softer Bo Pelini has one of his most talented teams. The defense? If could be the Huskers’ best since joining the Big Ten – I think I’ve said this the last few seasons, though. The offense? If it can pass, it should be very good. Go ahead and get excited, Herbie.

5. Wisconsin. Two things remain constant in Madison: 1. Great running backs 2. Strong, powerful offensive line. But after that, issues loom. How will the quarterbacks play? Any No. 1 wideouts? Can the overhauled defensive front seven emerge? Am I the only one worried?

6. Michigan. Brady Hoke is looking to reverse a trend that has seen his win total dip each of the last two seasons. Love the defense. But it’s the offense that will hold the key. No o-line will be under more scrutiny.

[ MORE: Get Tom Dienhart’s 2014 season predictions ]

7. Maryland. I think the Terps can be a sleeper in their debut season in the Big Ten. The defense has nine starters back. And the offense has some of the league’s best skill. Plus, Randy Edsall can coach.

8. Minnesota. Jerry Kill is building something strong in the Twin Cities. This will be one of the most underrated defenses in the Big Ten—just like last year. The concern: Big-play ability on offense, especially in the passing game.

9. Penn State. Depth issues finally may prove to be ruinous for the Nittany Lions. Will Christian Hackenberg be OK behind that shaky o-line? And Linebacker U is starved. But James Franklin always will win the press conference. And the future? It’s as bright as any team’s in the America.

[ MORE: Relive’s annual Big Ten fantasy football draft ]

10. Indiana. The first word that comes to mind when I think of the Hoosiers’ offense: explosive. The first word that comes to mind when I think of the Hoosiers’ defense: anemic. If that woebegone defense can improve, IU could push to the postseason.

11. Northwestern. This offense has lost its two most dynamic players: QB Kain Colter (graduation) and RB Venric Mark (transfer), to go along with leading returning receiver Christian Jones (season-ending injury). The defense has talent in the back seven, but the line must get tougher/more physical to avoid missing a bowl for the second season in a row.

12. Illinois. The Illini will have one of the top quarterbacks in the Big Ten in Wes Lunt, who will direct one of the league’s better offenses. The defense? The talent has improved, but has the production? The key will be d-line.

[ MORE: View your team’s full 2014 schedule ]

13. Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights have some talent; and new OC Ralph Friedgen is a magician. But Rutgers lacks depth. And a very challenging schedule waits, too. It all may be too much to overcome in the program’s debut.

14. Purdue. The to-do list is long in West Lafayette. At the top: improved play in the trenches. The defense also must tackle better. The offensive skill talent is underrated. If the Boilermakers win four games, they should throw a parade and make Darrell Hazell mayor.

About Tom Dienhart senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at, 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.


Your Opinion?
Show Comments (14 Comments)
Chuck Frees on 8/25/2014 @ 12:49pm EDT Said:

Let me be the first to predict that you have under rated the Badgers. They will win the West.

Mike on 8/25/2014 @ 12:49pm EDT Said:

I like this for the most part except I think you have Nebraska way overrated. I think the Badgers will thump them pretty bad and I don’t even like them. Also think Minn. could surprise some people. Just my opinion. Go HAWKS!

Big Ten Fan on 8/25/2014 @ 4:50pm EDT Said:

The fools BTN employees really should move on to something they are more qualified to cover, like Cricket because their biases are showing, and then some.

MSU#1-Rose Bowl Win, B1G Champs! 13-1! 42 wins in 4 years! on 8/25/2014 @ 7:22pm EDT Said:

Go Green!

Dave on 8/25/2014 @ 7:36pm EDT Said:

Iowa is obviously over ranked. They’ll finish below Michigan, Nebraska and Wisconsin.

Chaz on 8/25/2014 @ 8:34pm EDT Said:

Hey Big Ten Fan, still ready to “bank” OSU’s loss to Navy? LOL

Mike Smith on 8/25/2014 @ 10:17pm EDT Said:

I think it will be difficult for MSU to duplicate last season’s record. They can talk about handling success all they want, but even at the professional level it’s been proven easier said than done. I’m also not entirely convinced that Cook is as good as advertised. He got hot towards the end of the season which made everyone forget that this is a guy who couldn’t win the starting job in the spring and on many sequences played downright awful even as late as the end of October.

Mike Smith on 8/25/2014 @ 10:21pm EDT Said:

Many like ‘em ‘cuz of the schedule, but I like Iowa regardless of the schedule. Ruddock could be very good.

jkaramo on 8/26/2014 @ 1:01am EDT Said:

Why is BTN sponsored by a steel company based in Luxembourg? ArcelorMittal??? How about some US Steel???

Big Ten Fan on 8/26/2014 @ 8:54am EDT Said:

Here is a more accurate power ranking from someone that knows the Big Ten far better than any so-called expert BTN employs.

1. Michigan State
2. Iowa (might as well be #5 though because Sparty he well ahead of the rest)
3. Penn State
4. Ohio State
5. Nebraska
6. Maryland
7. Wisconsin
8. Minnesota
9. Northwestern
10. Indiana
11. Michigan
12. Illinois
13. Rutgers
14. Purdue

Greg Zyntek on 8/26/2014 @ 2:15pm EDT Said:

Big Ten Fan – – – What?

1—Ohio State
3—Michigan State
8—Penn State

Mark it down.

Anthony Brown (@SkinsHogHeaven) on 8/27/2014 @ 12:33am EDT Said:

I love all the accolades for Michigan State, said the Spartans grad, but these reviews make it sound like they are going to blow through the schedule. Hope you are right. Urban Meyer won titles with quarterbacks like Alex Smith and Tim Tebow (Yeah, I went there.) OSU will find somebody.

Josh on 8/28/2014 @ 7:38pm EDT Said:

@Big Ten Fan

You are high on PSU (and MSU from a perception standpoint) and must hate Michigan to the core. You also hate OSU and Wisconsin. Other than that, not bad. Control your hate when you make predictions next time.

Tim on 8/29/2014 @ 1:28pm EDT Said:

Big Ten Fan on 8/25/2014 @ 4:50pm EDT Said:
The fools BTN employees really should move on to something they are more qualified to cover, like Cricket because their biases are showing, and then some.

Translation: “I don’t agree with someone so my first instinct is to lash out. This is why the anonymity of the internet is so helpful to me”