Written By Sammy Jacobs (@Hoosier_Huddle)
It is finally August and we are gearing up for fall camps for college football. That means it is time to put out our first 2014 Big Ten Power Rankings. Let me explain one thing first. This is not a prediction of where the teams will finish at the end of the year. It is a ranking based on how strong or weak I think a team is going into fall camp. With that being said, let’s jump right in. (Post was originally for Saturdayedge.com)
1. Ohio State- The Buckeyes are the class of the Big Ten going into 2014 after going 24-2 over the last two seasons. Ohio State returns Braxton Miller and could have the best defensive line in the country.
2. Michigan State- The defending champs return Conner Cook and Jeremy Langford on an offense that finally found their footing midway through last season. However, the Spartans have some holes to fill on the defense.
3. Penn State- The Nittany Lions are not at the same level as the Spartans or Buckeyes, but they are the best of the rest in the East division. Christian Hackenberg is poised to take the next step in his development.
4. Michigan- This is not your father’s Wolverine’s team. Michigan enters the year with a QB “controversy” as Devin Gardner will try and hang on to his starting job. Will Michigan’s offense have the firepower to keep up with the rest of the East?
5. Maryland- The Terrapins may be the most underrated team in the East. QB CJ Brown finished 3rd in the ACC in total offense in 2013, despite losing his top two receivers in the 7th week. Both Stephon Diggs and Deon Long are expected to be healthy in 2014 and give the Terps a shot at having one of the most explosive offenses in the Big Ten.
6. Indiana- The Hoosiers will have one of the conferences best offenses in 2014 led by Nate Sudfeld, Shane Wynn, and Tevin Coleman. The bigger question is can their defense be serviceable enough for their offense to matter. If the Hoosier defense can improve this team is dangerous.
7. Rutgers- The Scarlett Knights return nine players from their starting offense including quarterback Gary Nova, but is this really a good thing? Nova has battled consistency issues throughout his career. Rutgers also is replacing two thirds of its defense.
1. Wisconsin- The Badgers will do what the Badgers do best, run the ball and play defense. Gary Anderson’s squad will hope that Melvin Gordon and Corey Clement will cover up the issues they have at QB and the loss of receiver Jared Abbrederis.
2. Nebraska- The Huskers lose plenty of talent on offense, but they do return Tommy Armstrong, who went 7-1 at quarterback when Taylor Martinez got hurt, along with All-Big Ten receiver Kenny Bell and running back Ameer Abdullah. Randy Gregory will anchor the defense.
3. Iowa- The Hawkeyes enter the season with high expectations for quarterback Jake Ruddock. The run game should be strong, however Iowa does have to replace their entire linebacking corps.
4. Northwestern- The Wildcats had every break go against them in 2013. They do return a lot of talent on offense, and finally got a break when running back Venrick Mark received a medical hardship waiver. The defense is lead by safety Ibraheim Campbell.
5. Minnesota- In Jerry Kill’s fourth year expectations are high, but the Gophers still have questions to answer about the offense. The defense will also miss the presence of defensive linemen Ra’Shede Hageman in the middle.
6. Illinois- The Fighting Illini doubled their win total from 2012 in 2013. This year will depend on how well Oklahoma State transfer Wes Lunt plays at quarterback. If he lives up to the hype Illinois could shoot up this list.
7. Purdue- The Boilermakers are coming off a historically bad year in 2013 and there seems to be little to point toward massive improvement in 2014. However there is talent on offense as quarterback Danny Etling, receiver DeAngelo Yancey, and running back Raheem Mostert form a very explosive three-headed monster. The Boilers lose their best two defenders in Ricardo Allen and Bruce Gaston.