Written by Evan McShane (@veryreasonable)
This year’s bowl season yielded mixed results from the Big Ten. There were some blowout wins, some blowout losses, and a few close games. Nine teams in the conference made bowl games and their record was 5-4 overall. With some coaching changes, several new quarterbacks, and inevitable roster turnover, the Big Ten in 2019 should have some surprises in store. For now, here are the final 2018 Big Ten power rankings.
1. Ohio State (13-1, 8-1, defeated Washington 28-23 in the Rose Bowl)
The Buckeyes typically represent the Big Ten well during bowl season and this year was no different. Ohio State pounced all over Washington, leading 28-3 before halting a comeback attempt by the Huskies. In what proved to be Urban Meyer’s final season, the Buckeyes cemented themselves as the best team in the conference – and there was never much doubt. Can new head coach Ryan Day find similar success without star QB Dwayne Haskins?
2. Michigan (10-3, 8-1, lost to Florida 41-15 in the Peach Bowl)
A promising season crumbled into dust in Columbus, Ohio. In late November, Michigan’s vaunted defense and 10-game win streak was enough to garner playoff hype. Then they gave up 62 points to Ohio State, failing to beat their biggest rival for the seventh straight year. Coach Jim Harbaugh could’ve righted some wrongs in their bowl game, but Michigan laid another egg. Despite being favorites, Michigan got obliterated by Florida in the Peach Bowl. Quarterback Shea Patterson will return to Ann Arbor next season, but they lose a lot of talent on defense. 2019 could be boom or bust for Michigan.
3. Iowa (9-4, 5-4, defeated Mississippi State 27-22 in the Outback Bowl)
In typical Iowa fashion, Iowa put together a nice nine-win season capped off with a victory over Mississippi State in the Outback Bowl. This year saw the Hawkeyes have three three-game winning streaks and one three-game losing streak. Iowa will have some key departures with some players graduating and leaving for the NFL, most notably TE Noah Fant. However, quarterback Nate Stanley will return, and an always reliable offensive line will make Iowa formidable next season.
4. Northwestern (9-5, 8-1, defeated Utah 31-20 in the Holiday Bowl)
Northwestern finished of their season as Big Ten West Champions and Holiday Bowl victors. Not bad considering they lost five games, including home losses to Duke and Akron. Northwestern fell behind to Utah 20-3 before a 28-point third quarter sealed them the win. The Wildcats will need to replace quarterback Clayton Thorson. The answer might be Hunter Johnson, a highly touted QB from Brownsburg, IN who transferred from Clemson to Northwestern.
5. Wisconsin (8-5, 5-4, defeated Miami 35-3 in the Pinstripe Bowl)
Wisconsin looked impressive against a Miami team that fell apart. With perhaps the best offensive line in the country, some pundits pegged the Badgers as having playoff potential. An early upset loss at home to BYU stifled those plans. It’s safe to say Wisconsin severely underachieved this season. Their offense never quite got rolling and the defense surrendered 30+ points four times. Next year will likely be much of the same. Wisconsin will run the ball well and stay competitive in the conference throughout the season.
6. Penn State (9-4, 6-3, lost to Kentucky 27-24 in the Citrus Bowl)
If a nine-win season can be tumultuous, Penn State may have done it. Back-to-back home losses derailed the Nittany Lions’ playoff hopes early in the season. A questionable playcall by James Franklin led to a one-point loss against Ohio State in what felt like a turning point in the Nittany Lions season. Penn State later lost to Michigan 42-7 in an embarrassing blowout. They finished the year losing the Citrus Bowl to Kentucky. Other than that, Penn State took care of business. Can quarterback Tommy Stevens step in for the graduating Trace McSorley? Will James Franklin be on the hot seat if Penn State doesn’t impress?
7. Minnesota (7-6, 3-6, defeated Georgia Tech 34-10 in the Quick Lane Bowl)
Minnesota’s season was filled with ups and downs during head coach PJ Fleck’s second year. The Gophers got blown out at home against Maryland as part of a four-game losing streak. However, they handily beat Purdue and Wisconsin in two big upsets. Minnesota finished the season with a blowout win over Georgia Tech in the Quick Lane Bowl. Will PJ Fleck and the Gophers make another leap next season or will they remain average?
8. Michigan State (7-6, 5-4, lost to Oregon 7-6 in the Red Box Bowl)
Michigan State produced one of the most boring bowl games in the history of bowl games, losing 7-6 to Oregon. Returning 17 starters from a 10-win team, the Spartans massively underperformed this season. Michigan State was upset by Arizona State early in the season and they failed to beat their two biggest rivals at home: Michigan and Ohio State. Despite having one of the best defenses in the country, the Spartans’ offense was so poor, Michigan State was only able to notch seven wins. Will next year be any different?
9. Purdue (6-7, 5-4, lost to Auburn 63-14 in the Music City Bowl)
A Bucket win got Purdue to the Music City Bowl, but they decided not to show up. Auburn set the record for most points in a half in bowl history and they nearly broke the record for most points scored. A season full of ups and downs could have been much worse. Purdue recovered after an 0-3 start to upset Ohio State and later defeat their in-state rival. Despite getting embarrassed by Auburn, Purdue still won this offseason: head coach Jeff Brohm declined the Louisville job and elected to stay in West Lafayette. Now the question will be, is he worth the big bucks?
10. Nebraska (4-8, 3-6)
Despite their 4-8 record, Nebraska finished the year hot. The won four of their final six games. During that same stretch, their only two losses were by a combined eight points on the road against Ohio State and Iowa. With head coach Scott Frost building the program and young QB Adrian Martinez manning the ship, Nebraska is poised for a breakout in 2019.
11. Maryland (5-7, 3-6)
Maryland was a two-point conversion away from defeating Ohio State and going bowling. They suffered a two-point loss against Indiana that would have made them bowl eligible. Maryland finished the season losing four straight games. The Terps hired Alabama offensive coordinator Mike Locksley as their head coach. With talent already on the roster, Maryland could have a successful season next year.
12. Indiana (5-7, 2-7)
Despite not going to a bowl game the Hoosiers had a busy December and will have a busy January. While it is not reflected in this power rankings (it will in 2019), Tom Allen brought in a very strong recruiting class and a former four-star quarterback in Utah transfer Jack Tuttle. The Hoosiers promoted linebackers coach Kane Wommack to defensive coordinator and as of publishing are still looking for an offensive coordinator after Mike DeBord retired after a 37-year career.
13. Illinois (4-8, 2-7)
Illinois finished the season winning just two of their final 10 games. They picked up a road win at Rutgers and an impressive 24-point beatdown against Minnesota. Aside from those two conference wins, the Illini struggled all season – plain and simple. Lovie Smith has seen some impressive early returns on the recruiting trail and transfer market. Illinois will look to take a leap in Lovie’s fourth season after going just 9-27 in his first three.
14. Rutgers (1-11, 0-8)
All Rutgers fans can do is hope for something better next year. There’s not much to be said from a 1-11 season. Indiana fans know from experience when Kevin Wilson went 1-11 and 0-8 in B1G play during his first season as head coach. Rutgers decided to retain head coach Chris Ash, and next year he again faces a tall task in the brutal Big Ten East.