Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, December 10, 2015
As we approach the end of the season, it?s fun to reflect back on predictions. It can be revealing, insightful ? and painful. Here is a glance back at my first Big Ten power ranking for 2015 written shortly after I complete our annual tour of all 14 Big Ten football summer training camps.
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Now let's get to my self critique.
Biggest hit: I had Ohio State picked No. 1 and Michigan State No. 2. No big deal, really. My dog Gizmo could have predicted that. The Spartans won the Big Ten title. The Buckeyes came oh-so-close. Michigan at No. 5? Pretty much spot on, as I typed: ?The defense looks good. And, you just know Harbaugh will sprinkle magic dust on the troublesome quarterback spot.? Yep.
Biggest miss: Nebraska. Some felt the Cornhuskers may be able to win the West. Not even close. Mike Riley?s debut turned out to be a torturous trail of near-misses and heartache that resulted in a 5-7 record and lots of face palms. Rock bottom was a 55-45 loss to the worst team in the Big Ten: Purdue. The offense had issues along the line, the quarterback play was inconsistent and the defense couldn?t stop the pass.
Overrated: Minnesota. My, oh my. Pour me another glass of maroon Kool-Aid-and I?ll dump it over my head. I tabbed the Gophers No. 3 in the league behind Ohio State and Michigan State. Hey, Minnesota bubbled with big potential back in August coming off consecutive 8-5 seasons. Year Five of the Jerry Kill era looked to be the best yet for this surging program. Alas, injuries wreaked havoc on the defense. And they also hit the offensive line. The result? A highly disappointing 5-7 season that saw Kill abruptly step down to deal with his health issues, casting some doubt about the future of the program.
Underrated: Iowa. To quote the great Keith Jackson: ?Whoa, Nellie!? I missed this one badly, like a lot of folks. I had the Hawkeyes pegged No. 8 coming off a 7-6 season that had many wondering if Kirk Ferentz had overstayed his usefulness. But, I did type this about Iowa back in August: ?Could this team be a sleeper in the West? Just throwing it out there.? Bingo. The Hawkeyes not only were a sleeper, but they were the Big Ten?s biggest surprise and a national power, going 12-0 before falling in the Big Ten title game. Regardless, Iowa is headed to its first Rose Bowl since the 1990 season. Bravo!
Underrated, Part II: Northwestern. The Wildcats were slotted No. 11 in my first Power Rankings. Hey, NU was coming off consecutive 5-7 seasons. And questions loomed at quarterback and along the offensive line, among other areas. Who saw Northwestern winning 10 games? Credit a defense that has underrated athletic ability to go along with being tough and physical. And QB Clayton Thorson did ? OK.
Look back at my season's worth of Power rankings via the links below:
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