Final Big Ten Football Power Rankings: Week 14
The Final Big Ten Football Power Rankings
It's a sad time for all of you out there who enjoy my weekly power rankings. Yes, I know the regular season is over and this will be my final Big Ten power ranking article for the season.
Although the regular season is over, the football action is still in full swing with championship week coming up and conference title games across the country are set. The Big Ten Championship with pin the defending champion Wisconsin Badgers against the newest school in the conference, the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
Some may argue, including myself, that the Badgers don't deserve a spot in the conference title game because of their average performance this year coupled with the fact that the two teams above them(Ohio State and Penn State) are in the midst of postseason bans while the three teams below them are just awful.
Yes, it's that kind of year for the conference-- there is a 7-5 team in the most coveted game for any Big Ten team. While there are five teams with a better record in the Big Ten than the Wisconsin Badgers, they find themselves in the same position as they were in last year with an 11-win season. Crazy, huh?
Well, aside from the two teams in the title game competing for a Rose Bowl, five additional teams will be bowling come late December, early January.
Northwestern will make yet another bowl under Pat Fitzgerald as they finish the regular season in the top 25-- a rare feat for the Wildcats.
Michigan was just one game away from the Big Ten title, but will most likely be playing in a New Year's Day bowl.
Purdue is the only other team besides Wisconsin from the Leaders Division to make it to a bowl by winning their final three games to reach eligibility-- something no one thought was possible three weeks ago.
Now, let's take a look at the final weekly Big Ten power rankings of 2012.
12. Illinois(2-10, 0-8)
If this surprises anyone, they may have just been spending the 2012 season watching 2008 Illinois football highlights in the prime of Ron Zook's coaching career. However, the 2012 version of the Illini is awful, ranking in the 100s range for almost every offensive category. Nathan Scheelhaase has gone from solid starting quarterback just a couple years ago to non-existent this season. How bad were the Illini? They lost nine consecutive games after a 2-1 start to the season and failed to win a conference game. Well, at least all of their losses were close, right? Wrong-- they lost their 10 games by an average of 24.6 points per game. Well, at least their head coach, Tim Beckman, is back for another season. Sorry, Illinois fans, there's always basketball season.
11. Indiana(4-8, 2-6)
The season for Indiana went from promising to disappointing following their loss to Wisconsin which would have decided who would be the front-runner for the Leaders Division title. It was a tough year for this young, gritty team as they lost their starting quarterback, Tre Roberson, in week three, yet managed to rank among the top teams in the country in passing yards. This speaks volumes to the coaching job that Kevin Wilson has done with a depleted team, turning them into a potent offensive threat. While a bowl game isn't in the cards for the Hoosiers, they have been hot on the recruiting trail for 2013 and will likely improve on their 4-8 record in 2013.
10. Iowa(4-8, 2-6)
The Iowa Hawkeyes were the team to watch out for after a week seven win in East Lansing against Michigan State. They were sitting pretty at 2-0 and atop the Legends Division, but six consecutive losses later, the Hawkeyes find themselves sitting at home as their offseason began Friday night after a loss to Nebraska, sending the Cornhuskers to the Big Ten title game. Sure, three of their conference losses were by six points or less, but nothing can be excused in a season where James Vandenberg was expected to be one of the top quarterbacks in the conference and drove this offense into the ground. Oh, and Mark Wiesman's Heisman hopes died with his teams chances to make a bowl game. Kirk Ferentz will be looking for an answer in the offseason as his seat became a little bit warm.
9. Minnesota(6-6, 2-6)
I understand that Minnesota has been bowl eligible for three weeks, but they are the poorest of the eligible teams. They had a rough conference season, losing six games after starting the year 4-0. Jerry Kill has been the main catalyst for the turnaround that Minnesota has experienced from 2011 to 2012, but his health remains an issue. Although the Gophers tried to finish the season strong against the Spartans to get to seven wins, they just didn't have enough offense and ended the conference season with a record of 2-6. They will be bowling however, for the first time under Kill.
8. Purdue(6-6, 3-5)
Purdue has had an up-and-down season to say the least. They kicked off the season with a 3-1 record and that loss came at the hands of national title contender, Notre Dame, by three points. They were the darkhorse pick to win the Big Ten's Leaders Division with Penn State and Ohio State both ineligible for postseason play in 2012. However, the Boilers went on to begin the conference season 0-5 and, sitting at 3-6, looked like they were done for the season. Three straight wins later, the Boilermakers are in a bowl game, while head coach Danny Hope got fired following the final regular season game. The search for a new coach could get interesting as Butch Jones seems to be a person of interest for the Boilers.
7. Michigan State(6-6, 3-5)
Michigan State is having an rough season for the second time in Mark Dantonio's six-year tenure. The Spartans finished the 2012 regular season with a mediocre 6-6 record and a 3-5 record in conference play. They faced immense amounts of adversity this season, but that didn't stop them from making their sixth straight bowl game. The season wasn't all bad for the Spartans as they had multiple defensive players named to the All-Big Ten first and second teams. The most notable player on the All-Big Ten first team was Le'Veon Bell as he ran for over 1,600 yards and implanted himself in Spartan history with the second-best single season rushing mark.
6. Wisconsin(7-5, 4-4)
Although Wisconsin is in the Big Ten's title game for the second straight year, they are still not one of the top five teams in the conference. Montee Ball had another solid season, setting the all-time touchdown record for college football players, with 79, and was the only Big Ten player named an All-American. The Badgers will face a potent Nebraska offense and that will be helped out by the return of their best defensive player, Chris Borland, for the title game. The Badgers could experience what the Spartans experienced in 2011-- getting punished for playing in the title game and losing.
5. Northwestern(9-3, 5-3)
Northwestern finished third in the Big Ten's Legends Division this season while having the third best overall record of any team in the conference. They are coming off a blowout victory against Illinois in the battle for the Land of Lincoln Trophy and finish the regular season 9-3 and ranked in the top 25. They finished the season with nine wins for the first time since 2008 and Pat Fitzgerald looks to have this team on the right track for future success. You may be wondering why they are fifth in the conference power ranking with the third best overall record? Well, they lost every team they faced that are in the top four.
4. Penn State(8-4, 6-2)
Yes, I understand the Nittany Lions can't play in a bowl game this season, but they are still a top team in this conference. Bill O'Brien has been a savior for this program following the nightmare in Happy Valley last season when legendary coach Joe Paterno was fired and then later passed away. O'Brien has been a hot commodity because of his success at Penn State and has reportedly received offers from other teams for coaching possibilities. However, the coach said he will be returning to the sidelines of Penn State next season and will lose 15 scholarships per year for the next three seasons. It will be a tough task, but if anyone can do it, O'Brien can.
3. Michigan(8-4, 6-2)
The Wolverines are one of just three ranked Big Ten teams to finish the regular season, but came just one win shy of making the conference title game. The Wolverines suffered a crushing blow in a loss to Nebraska five weeks ago as they lost Denard Robinson for a couple of weeks due to injury. That turned out to be a blessing in disguise as Devin Gardner has proved to be the better passer and Robinson has moved to running back. Gardner led the Wolverines to three straight wins as a starter before losing to Ohio State in the final game of the season. Gardner and the Wolverines will most likely be playing in a New Years Day bowl as they finished the season 8-4 and the conference's second best eligible team.
2. Nebraska(10-2, 7-1)
Nebraska has become, without a doubt, the best team outside of Ohio State in the Big Ten. They are the only bowl eligible team to finish the regular season with 10 or more wins. They will be playing in their first Big Ten title game in their second year as part of the conference. Taylor Martinez has been one of the most improved quarterbacks in the conference as he has made the All-Big Ten first team for the first time. Bo Pelini should be proud of how his team played this season where they were projected by many to finish third in the Legends Division.
1. Ohio State(12-0, 8-0)
Ohio State is undefeated for the first time since they went 14-0 in 2002 and won the National Championship. They have been atop the Big Ten power rankings for the majority of the season and finish the season as the conference's best team and one of just two unbeaten teams in all of college football. The Badgers have a new coach that has been everything they could have asked for and more in Urban Meyer as he led them to an unbeaten season in his first season as head coach. Ohio State fans are seeing flashbacks of Troy Smith's Heisman year with Braxton Miller involved in the latest Heisman talks, improving on all of his numbers from last season.