The heat of July is rising and that can only mean that college football is right around the corner. With Fall camps beginning in August, the quest for a Big Ten championship begins and it is shaping up to be a battle.
Five years ago the Big Ten expanded to 14 teams with the addition of the University of Maryland and Rutgers University in 2014. The conference dissolved the Leaders and Legends divisions into the East (Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, and Rutgers) and West (Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Purdue, and Wisconsin) divisions.
The two sides are set up geographically across the Midwest and Eastern Regions. On a map, Purdue and Indiana are the edge of the boundaries with U.S. Route 231 playing as the imaginary division line for the divisions.
Teams are guaranteed their six division games and three additional games to fill out the rest of the conference schedule. For some of those teams those division games can be a major uphill climb while others have faired well against the onslaught of the conference.
As the 2019 Big Ten football season is vastly approaching it is time to take a dive into the last five years and rank each team in the conference since the expansion.
#1 Ohio State Buckeyes
There is no team in the Big Ten having more success since the expansion than the Buckeyes. Winning almost 90 percent of their games, the Urban Meyer led squad has won the East division three times and are 3-0 in the Big Title game since 2014. They have went on to win five of their last six bowl games with a College Football Playoff appearance in 2015 beating Alabama in the Sugar Bowl that led to a victory against the Marcus Mariota led Oregon Ducks to win the National Championship. The Buckeyes last playoff appearance was a loss to Clemson in the 2016 Fiesta Bowl.
Ryan Day will officially have the reigns in 2019 as he is taking over for Meyer and will have talent to lean on as Georgia Quarterback transfer Justin Fields will most likely be leading the Buckeye offense heading into the fall.
- Record Last 5 Years: (62-7)
- Best Season: 2014 (14-1)
- Worst Season: 2016 (11-2)
- Coaches During Period: Urban Meyer – 2012 to 2018 (83-9), Ryan Day – 2018 to Present (3-0)
- Postseason Appearances: 2014 – CFP Semi Sugar Bowl vs. Alabama (W), 2014 – National Championship vs. Oregon (W), 2015 – Fiesta Bowl vs. Notre Dame (W), 2016 – CFP Semi Fiesta Bowl vs. Clemson (L), 2017 – Cotton Bowl vs. USC (W), 2018 – Rose Bowl vs. Washington (W)
#2 Wisconsin Badgers
Wisconsin has been among one of the best teams in the Big Ten for quite some time now. Since 2014, the Badgers have posted over 50 wins and have won the West division three times but are 0-3 in the title game since the expansion. Those three losses have been against Ohio State twice and Penn State once. They are on a five game bowl winning streak with recent back-to-back wins against Miami (FL) in the Orange and Pinstripe Bowls.
Paul Chryst took over the team in 2015 and has won 77 percent of the games he coached in that tenure. The next step for Wisconsin is to take over the number one spot in the conference and appear in the College Football Playoff.
- Record Last 5 Years: (53-15)
- Best Season: 2017 (13-1)
- Worst Season: 2018 (8-5)
- Coaches During Period: Barry Alvarez – 2014 (1-0), Gary Andersen – 2014 (10-3), Paul Chryst – 2015 to Present (42-12)
- Postseason Appearances: 2014 – Outback Bowl vs. Auburn (W), 2015 – Holiday Bowl vs. USC (W), 2016 – Cotton Bowl vs. Western Michigan (W), 2017 – Orange Bowl vs. Miami (FL) (W), 2018 – Pinstripe Bowl vs. Miami (FL) (W)
#3 Penn State Nittany Lions
The James Franklin era in Happy Valley started off slow but has transitioned into the Nittany Lions once again being a perennial Big Ten powerhouse. The 2014 and 2015 records were just a game above .500 but since then the Penn State has won over 77 percent of their games. Franklin’s team won the East Division title for the first time in 2016 and went on to defeat Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game that year. They are 2-3 in their bowl appearances with the most recent being a 27-24 loss against Kentucky this past Citrus Bowl. Franklin has shown his team can beat the best and will remain contenders in the conference for years to come.
- Record Last 5 Years: (45-21)
- Best Season: 2016 (11-3)
- Worst Season: 2014 (7-6)
- Coaches During Period: James Franklin – 2014 to Present (45-21)
- Postseason Appearances: 2014 – Pinstripe Bowl vs. Boston College (W), 2015 – TaxSlayer Bowl vs. Georgia (L), 2016 – Rose Bowl vs. USC (L), 2017 – Fiesta Bowl vs. Washington (W), 2018 – Citrus Bowl vs. Kentucky (L)
#4 Michigan State Spartans
The Michigan St. Spartans remain among the best in the Big Ten. Mark Dantonio has been at the helm since 2007 and his team has won over 66 percent of its games and are 2-2 in bowl games since the expansion. They have had a a winning season four out of the last five years with one disaster of a 3-9 season in 2016. Since then, the Green and White have been able to bounce back with a 17-9 record over the past two seasons.
The Spartans have won the East Division once (2015) and then defeated Iowa to win the overall title that year. Michigan State is looking to get back in the College Football Playoff with only one appearance during the 2015 season when they lost to Alabama.
- Record Last 5 Years: (43-22)
- Best Season: 2015 (12-2)
- Worst Season: 2016 (3-9)
- Coaches During Period: Mark Dantonio – 2007 to Present (107-51)
- Postseason Appearances: 2014 – Cotton Bowl vs. Baylor (W), 2015 – CFP Semi Cotton Bowl vs. Alabama (L), 2017 – Holiday Bowl vs. Washington State (W), 2018 – Redbox Bowl vs. Oregon (L)
#5 Michigan Wolverines
Seeing the Wolverines ranked lower than their closest neighbor may not make fans happy. However, it came down to bowl game performances and the Wolverines are 1-3 in the postseason since 2014. Michigan has posted a 43-21 record since the expansion with three 10-win seasons but has not been able to jump into the top of the conference. Jim Harbaugh will be in his fifth season in Ann Arbor and is 0-4 against Ohio State during that time. The talent has been there for Michigan to take over the Big Ten but something has to give from the one of the top four teams. Will 2019 be the year Harbaugh beats the Buckeyes and puts the Wolverines in the top tier of the league?
- Record Last 5 Years: (43-21)
- Best Season: 2015 (10-3)
- Worst Season: 2014 (5-7)
- Coaches During Period: Brady Hoke – 2011 to 2014 (31-20), Jim Harbaugh – 2015 to Present (38-14)
- Postseason Appearances: 2015 – Citrus Bowl vs. Florida (W), 2016 – Orange Bowl vs. Florida State (L), 2017: Outback Bowl vs. South Carolina (L), 2018 – Peach Bowl vs. Florida (L)
#6 Iowa Hawkeyes
If there is any team that can shake up the top contenders in the league it is Iowa. Every year the Hawkeyes are a team that are always coached well by Kirk Ferentz and play at a high and consistent level that gives all Big Ten opponents trouble. Ferentz’s team has one Big Ten title game appearance when they won the West Division but lost to the Spartans in 2015. In bowl games, they are 2-3 since 2014 but have won back-to- back games the past two years. They may not be finishing at the very top of the standings but they can be a team that you can rely on to have a fighting chance in the conference.
- Record Last 5 Years: (44-22)
- Best Season: 2015 (12-2)
- Worst Season: 2014 (7-6)
- Coaches During Period: Kirk Ferentz – 1999 to Present (152-101)
- Postseason Appearances: 2014 – TaxSlayer Bowl vs. Tennessee (L), 2015 – Rose Bowl vs. Stanford (L), 2016 – Outback Bowl vs. Florida (L), 2017 – Pinstripe Bowl vs. Boston College (W), 2018 – Outback Bowl vs. Mississippi St. (W)
#7 Northwestern Wildcats
Finishing off the first half of the list is the Northwestern Wildcats. Since 2014, the team has posted a bowl game record of 3-1 and have won their last three. They have won over forty games and have had two 10-win seasons during that time. 2018 was a solid year for the program under Pat Fitzgerald who has been in charge since 2006. The record was not where it could have been at 9-5 but the Wildcats won the West Division for the first time and played in their first Big Ten title game. The game did not go as planned as they were defeated by Ohio State but the overall season showed that teams in the league need to keep the Wildcats on their radar for seasons to come.
- Record Last 5 Years: (41-24)
- Best Season: 2017 (10-3)
- Worst Season: 2014 (5-7)
- Coaches During Period: Pat Fitzgerald – 2006 to Present (96-70)
- Postseason Appearances: 2015 – Outback Bowl vs. Tennessee (L), 2016 – Pinstripe Bowl vs. Pittsburgh (W), 2017 – Music City Bowl vs. Kentucky (W), 2018 – Holiday Bowl vs. Utah (W)
#8 Minnesota Golden Gophers
The Golden Gophers have been in the middle of the West Division for quite some time now. Over the past five years they have won 35 games, have appeared in four bowl games, and are on a current three game bowl winning streak. P.J. Fleck took over the head coaching job in 2017 and the program had an immediate increase of energy and excitement. In his two years with the team Fleck is 12-13 and defeated Georgia Tech in Quick Lane Bowl this past year. Time will tell to see if Minnesota can “Row The Boat” into the the top of the conference but the nonetheless a new light has been shined on the program.
- Record Last 5 Years: (35-29)
- Best Season: 2016 (9-4)
- Worst Season: 2017 (5-7)
- Coaches During Period: Jerry Kill – 2011 to 2015 (29-29), Tracy Claeys – 2015 to 2016 (11-8), P.J. Fleck – 2017 to Present (12-13)
- Postseason Appearances: 2014 – Citrus Bowl vs. Missouri (L), 2015 – Quick Lane Bowl vs. Central Michigan (W), 2016 – Holiday Bowl vs. Washington State (W), 2018 – Quick Lane Bowl vs. Georgia Tech (W)
#9 Nebraska Cornhuskers
With two 9-win seasons in 2014 and 2016, things were looking up for the Cornhuskers as they were gaining ground in the conference and playing in the postseason. However, with a 4-8 season in 2017 something needed to change in Lincoln. In comes former Nebraska quarterback Scott Frost to take over the team in 2018. This hire was a nostalgic one as Frost went 24-2 as a former player and won the 1997 National Championship with the Cornhuskers. Scott led the 2018 Huskers to a 4-8 record and missed out on bowl eligibility for a second straight year. Can 2019 be an improvement for Scott’s team or is the homecoming going to be cut short?
- Record Last 5 Years: 32-31
- Best Season: 2014/2016 (9-4)
- Worst Season: 2017/2018 (4-8)
- Coaches During Period: Bo Pelini – 2003 (1-0), 2008 to 2014 (66-27), Barney Cotton – 2014 (0-1), Mike Riley – 2015 to 2017 (19-19), Scott Frost – 2018 to Present (4-8)
- Postseason Appearances: 2014 – Holiday Bowl vs. USC (L), 2015: Foster Farms Bowl vs. UCLA (W), 2016 – Music City Bowl vs. Tennessee (L)
#10 Indiana Hoosiers
The chance for the Hoosiers to become a legitimate team in the Big Ten is within inches from Tom Allen’s grasp. Since the expansion, Indiana has been a difficult team to compete against in the conference. Under Kevin Wilson, the offense was one of the best in the league and they were able to put up points against anyone. However, with back-to-back bowl losses in 2015 and 2016 out goes Wilson and in comes Defensive Coordinator to Head Coach Tom Allen. Allen coached the bowl game loss in 2016 and has now had two full seasons with the Hoosiers.
With two straight 5-7 seasons and no bowl games to show, Allen still believes in his team and what they can do. Indiana continues to compete with the top teams but come up just short in each of those contests. 2019 could be a special year for the Cream and Crimson if they can get at least one or two upset victories against the elite teams in the conference, handle their business against non-conference foes, and take care of their in-state rivals up north in the Boilermakers.
- Record Last 5 Years: (26-36)
- Best Season: 2015/2016 (6-7)
- Worst Season: 2014 (4-8)
- Coaches During Period: Kevin Wilson – 2011 to 2016 (26-47), Tom Allen – 2016 to Present (10-15)
- Postseason Appearances: 2015 – Pinstripe Bowl vs. Duke (L), 2016 – Foster Farms Bowl vs. Utah (L)
#11 Maryland Terrapins
Maryland came over from then ACC to join the Big Ten in 2014 and so far it has been a difficult few years. They won 40 percent of their games and are trying to get back to prominence. The Terrapins had two bowl eligibility seasons in 2014 and 2016 with a 7-6 and 6-7 record respectively. However, they were not able to finish those seasons with a victory as they lost to Stanford (2014) and Boston College (2016) during postseason play.
In 2018, controversy struck the program as Redshirt Freshman Jordan McNair passed away due to symptoms relative to heatstroke during a summer session of practice. D.J. Durkin was relieved of his head coaching duties and interim coach Matt Canada led the team to a 3-1 start but it faltered into a 5-7 season following the tragedy. The 2019 season can be a fresh start for Maryland as it can lead to a bowl appearance if they are able to get off to a hot start and not have any let downs.
- Record Last 5 Years: (25-37)
- Best Season: 2014 (7-6)
- Worst Season: 2015 (3-9)
- Coaches During Period: Randy Edsall – 2011 to 2015 (22-34), Mike Locksley – 2015 (1-5), D.J. Durkin – 2016 to 2017 (10-15), Matt Canada 2018 (5-7)
- Postseason Appearances: 2014 – Foster Farms Bowl vs. Stanford (L), 2016 – Quick Lane Bowl vs. Boston College (L)
#12 Purdue Boilermakers
The Boilermakers may be low on this list because of their first three seasons with in the expanded Big Ten but the past two seasons has seen a large turn around in the direction of the program. Before 2017, Purdue was 9-39 in games with no bowl appearances and had not beaten their in-state rival Indiana in four years. Jeff Brohm takes over in 2017 and it is an instant improvement with a 7-6 record as the Boilers won their first bowl game since 2011 with a victory over Arizona and ended the losing streak against the Hoosiers.
This past season brought in All-American freshman Rondale Moore who had over 2200 all purpose yards. The star receiver helped his team pull off one of the biggest upsets in College Football history with a 49-20 thrashing of then #2 ranked Buckeyes on the night that former Purdue student and cancer fighter Tyler Trent was in attendance to see his team win as he predicted. With both Brohm and Moore back next season, the Boilermakers look like a team that can contend in the West Division.
- Record Last 5 Years: (21-41)
- Best Season: 2017 (7-6)
- Worst Season: 2015 (2-10)
- Coaches During Period: Darrell Hazell – 2013 to 2016 (9-33), Gerad Parker – 2016 (0-6), Jeff Brohm 2017 to Present (13-13)
- Postseason Appearances: 2017 – Foster Farms Bowl vs. Arizona (W), 2018 – Music City Bowl vs. Auburn (L)
#13 Illinois Fighting Illini
For the past five years the Fighting Illini have been struggling to get out of the bottom tier of the conference. The team reached only 20 wins and loss their only bowl game (2014) during that time. Former Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith was hired in 2016 to take the program the next step but he has just a 9-27 record with the team since his hiring. The Illini fans need something to believe in the program as their team as had four straight seasons with five wins or less and many of those losses have been lopsided against the more complete teams in the conference. Smith has proven he can win at the highest level, but for his team in Champaign it is going to take more time.
- Record Last 5 Years: (20-41)
- Best Season: 2014 (6-7)
- Worst Season: 2017 (2-10)
- Coaches During Period: Tim Beckman – 2012 to 2014 (12-25), Bill Cubit – 2015 (5-7), Lovie Smith – 2016 to Present (9-27)
- Postseason Appearances: 2014 – Heart of Dallas Bowl vs. Louisiana Tech (L)
#14 Rutgers Scarlet Knights
As the last team on this list, the Scarlet Knights have a tremendous amount of work to do if they want to get out of the bottom of the barrel. Rutgers has posted a 19-42 record since they joined the conference from the Big East. The team from New Jersey posted many bowl eligible seasons but the transition to the Big Ten has not gone well. In their first year they were 8-5 and defeated North Carolina in the Quick Lane Bowl. Ever since then the results have not been pleasant as the Scarlett Knights only posted 11 more wins the next four years. Chris Ash is in his fourth year with the program and is fighting to bring Rutgers back from the abyss. The road is long and troublesome but as the past has shown anything can happen in the Big Ten.
- Record Last 5 Years: (19-42)
- Best Season: 2014 (8-5)
- Worst Season: 2018 (1-11)
- Coaches During Period: Kyle Flood – 2012 to 2015 (27-24), Chris Ash – 2016 to Present (7-29)
- Postseason Appearances: 2014 – Quick Lane Bowl vs. North Carolina (W)
(Featured Photo: Big Ten Conference)