Now that spring practice is over around the Big Ten, people are starting to come out with their conference power rankings. Here's a few to read through: ESPN Big Ten Blog (has Iowa #2), Hawkeye Nation (also has Iowa #2), and The Daily Gopher (has Iowa #3). The general consensus is that Ohio State is the team to beat this year and that Iowa and Wisconsin will also be in the mix. After that, though, there is a lot of disagreement. Here's how I see things shaking out though.

  1. Ohio State - No deviation from me here. The Buckeyes are loaded with talent and experience on offense and are always a good defensive team. Ever since Tressel figured out what to do with Pryor, Ohio State hasn't been beaten.
  2. Iowa - Iowa and Ohio State's November match up in Kinnick could very well be the de facto conference championship game for the second year in a row. And I think I'm not alone in saying, we want revenge. Iowa should be well prepared for the Buckeyes and the rest of the Big Ten with the best defense in the conference.
  3. Wisconsin - It's hard to imagine Wisconsin not being good this year with 10 starters returning from the conference's best offense. If the defense turns out to be halfway decent, the Badgers may make a run at the Rose Bowl.
  4. Michigan State - My high ranking of MSU is largely due to Kirk Cousins. Many of the teams below the Spartans do not have a tried and tested QB. It doesn't hurt either that they feature Greg Jones leading the defense.
  5. Michigan - I'm not sure if I'm feeling crazy today or what, but I have Michigan in the top half of the conference. I fully expect the Wolverine's defense to be terrible, but I think they have the ability to win some shootouts with the returning 10 starters on offense. We've already seen Denard Robinson run, and if he learned to pass out.
  6. Penn State - The Nittany Lions lost some key pieces on offense, including QB Daryll Clark, and though Royster came back, they will have to throw the ball some time. They also lost a ton on defense, including all 3 starting linebackers and Jarred Odrick, the Big Ten Defense Player of the Year.
  7. Northwestern - The Wildcats lost their starting QB in Kafka, but we saw what Dan Persa could do last year. He should be good enough with basically the rest of the offense returning. Northwestern does have to figure out running back though, but has a few options. They'll probably drop a few they shouldn't, but pull off an upset or two like always.
  8. Indiana - Ben Chappell is back at quarterback and this will be his second year running the pistol. The offense should be better if they can figure out how to run the ball. The defense is the big question mark though returning just 4 starters.
  9. Purdue - I would have put Purdue a few spots higher, but with Ralph Bolden out indefinitely it's hard to see where the Boilermakers will generate any offense. There is some hope with Miami transfer Robert Marve taking over at quarterback though.
  10. Illinois - Ron Zook has Illinois a complete mess right now. They basically have a whole new coaching staff and are installing a new pro-style offense, instead of the spread option Juice Williams ran.
  11. Minnesota - The Gophers do have quite a bit coming back on offense, but lost their best player, Eric Decker. The defense, however, only has 2 starters returning...the 2 safeties. The defense was already pretty mediocre last year and will likely be terrible this year. I know I have Michigan at 5 with a questionable defense, but I don't think Minnesota's offense makes up for the defense's problems.