The Big Ten ends a well-represented postseason with a total of nine teams competing in bowl games. The league collectively finished with a final bowl game record of 4-5.
Unfortunately for the conference, the most important games at the top were won by other Power 5 schools: Ohio State’s loss to Clemson, Wisconsin’s heartbreaker against Oregon, and Alabama’s handling of Michigan.
Positively, the middle of the Big Ten earned impressive wins. Penn State crushed No. 17 Memphis, Minnesota snuck by No. 12 Auburn, and Iowa never sweated against No. 22 USC. With teams like Minnesota and Indiana becoming contenders within the league, and the expected improvement of teams like Purdue and Nebraska who missed the postseason, the Big Ten is going to be very exciting to watch next season.
Big Ten Football Power Rankings
No. 14 Rutgers (2-10, 0-9 B1G)
Previous: No. 14; Last: No Bowl Game
The Scarlet Knights have as much optimism as it’s possible to have considering they went 0-9 in the Big Ten this season. With Greg Schiano back at the helm, Rutgers has already started their rebuilding process. The next couple of years may still be rough, but if the recruiting can match up with the coaching, this may be a dangerous trap team that other Big Ten schools will want to avoid.
No. 13 Maryland (3-9, 1-8 B1G)
Previous: No. 13; Last: No Bowl Game
After losing seven consecutive games to finish off the season, Maryland missed out on bowl eligibility for the third season in a row. A 2-0 record and a No. 21 AP ranking transformed into a 3-9 finish with a second to last place finish in the East Division.
No. 12 Northwestern (3-9, 1-8 B1G)
Previous: No. 12; Last: No Bowl Game
After a poor campaign, Pat Fitzgerald shook up his staff by letting go of OC Mick McCall and bringing in BC OC Mike Bajakian. WR Bennett Skowronek, who had 45 receptions in 2017 and 2018 before an injury-riddled 2019, transferred to Notre Dame, leaving a starting spot open opposite established wideout Riley Lees. DE Joe Gaziano punctuated his college career by being selected all-Big Ten first team by the coaches.
No. 11 Nebraska (5-7, 3-6 B1G)
Previous: No. 11; Last: No Bowl Game
After a disappointing season, Nebraska opted against making any changes to its staff for 2020. The Cornhuskers did land a top-20 recruiting class for next year; time will tell how quickly those incoming freshmen make an impact. CB Lamar Jackson, DE Khalil Davis, and DE Carlos Davis were selected to the 2020 Shrine Game before the NFL Draft.
No. 10 Purdue (4-8, 3-6 B1G)
Previous: No. 10; Last: No Bowl Game
Purdue ends the season missing their first bowl game in the Jeff Brohm era. The team was ruined by a number of timely injuries, namely at the quarterback position. One of the biggest questions for the Boilermakers this off-season will be determining who is going to lead the team next year.
No. 9 Illinois (6-7, 4-5 B1G)
Previous: No. 9; Last: Loss vs. California 20-35 (Redbox Bowl)
Illinois went 9-27 in Lovie Smith’s first three seasons with the team. This season, the Fighting Illini won six games to go bowling. The Illini did lose to California by 15 points in Redbox Bowl, but the team is progressing since the beginning of the Smith era.
No. 8 Michigan State (7-6, 4-5 B1G)
Previous: No. 8; Last: Win vs. Wake Forest 27-21 (Pinstripe Bowl)
Michigan State came to NYC looking to salvage the season and stay over .500 and they succeeded. Wake looked like they were going to blow the game open, but MSU’s defense had an impressive second half keeping the Deacons in check and off the scoreboard. It’ll be a while before Dantonio brings the Spartans back to the CFP, but this is a step in the right direction for the historic program.
No. 7 Indiana (8-5, 5-4 B1G)
Previous: No. 7; Last: Loss vs. Tennessee 22-23 (Gator Bowl)
A season that exceeded expectations until the end. Indiana had the game against Tennessee all wrapped up apart into the fourth quarter and after several major missed opportunities, they left Jacksonville empty handed. The game could have ended anywhere along the spectrum from a blow out for Indiana to a blow out for Tennessee if they were able to capitalize on some of their early red zone chances. What you can say is that the Hoosiers are able to compete against strong, but not elite teams and have come an unbelievably long way from a year ago. The Hoosiers have many questions to answer this off-season from coaching vacancies to a repeat of the QB decision between Ramsey and Penix assuming they both remain on the team which at this point, it appears to be that way. Indiana will look to capitalize on this progression and push to the next level next year, and they have the framework to do so under Tom Allen.
No. 6 Michigan (9-4, 6-3 B1G)
Previous: No. 4; Last: Loss vs. No. 13 Alabama 35-16 (Citrus Bowl)
Michigan had their hands full playing Alabama even without Tua. Jerry Jeudy had a statement receiving day over the Wolverine secondary and Shea Patterson was held to a sub .500 completion day. The Wolverines continue their bowl struggles under Harbaugh and seem to be running in circles when it comes to developing a stronger team that can make a CFP push. This marks 10 straight games of losing on the road to a top 15 team under Harbaugh.
No. 5 Iowa (10-3, 6-3 B1G)
Previous: No. 6; Last: Win vs. No. 22 USC 49-24 (Holiday Bowl)
With their victory against USC, Iowa has won three consecutive bowl games for the first time since the 2008 to 2010 seasons. The Hawkeyes continue to display consistency in their performance each year, as they have finished with a winning record in each of the last seven seasons.
No. 4 Minnesota (11-2, 7-2 B1G)
Previous: No. 5; Last: Win vs. No. 12 Auburn 31-24 (Outback Bowl)
Minnesota, a heavy underdog, capped the season off with a victory over a solid Auburn team. Even though there was only 7 points in difference in score, the Gophers had over double the total yards (nearly four times as many rushing yards too). PJ Fleck and the Golden Gopher team will be near the top of the Big Ten next year after this turning point in the program.
No. 3 Penn State (11-2, 7-2 B1G)
Previous: No. 3; Last: Win vs No. 17 Memphis 53-39 (Cotton Bowl)
While fans will always want a CFP appearance and a conference title, PSU still ended the 2019 season with 11 wins, a NY6 bowl win, and almost definitely a national top-10 ranking. The running game totaled nearly 400 yards in PSU’s 14-point win over Memphis in Arlington. New OC Kirk Ciarrocca (former Minnesota OC) will have plenty of talent to work with next year, even with WR KJ Hamler off to the NFL.
No. 2 Wisconsin (10-4, 7-3 B1G)
Previous: No. 2; Last: Loss vs. No. 6 Oregon 28-27 (Rose Bowl)
The Badgers lose a heart breaker in the 2020 Rose Bowl, where they come up short by just a single point against the PAC-12’s Oregon Ducks. Wisconsin pulled off what they needed to do to close out the regular season, but did not have enough juice in either postseason opportunity. With Jonathan Taylor likely gone next season, how will the Badgers rebound next season?
No. 1 Ohio State (13-1, 10-0 B1G)
Previous: No. 1; Last: Loss vs. No. 3 Clemson 23-29 (Fiesta Bowl)
Although they remain atop the conference rankings, the Buckeyes’ season ended on a sour note following a CFP semifinal defeat to Clemson. The Buckeyes blew a 16-0 lead and mustered just 7 points after halftime. After the game, RB JK Dobbins and CB Jeff Okudah declared for the draft. Assuming DE Chase Young also departs for the NFL, OSU will have to work to replace some very talented players. Still, the Buckeyes should be the 2020 Big Ten favorite and contend for next year’s playoff.
Featured Photo: IndianaHQ