Cimino: 2020 B1G Ten Football Power Rankings

The Big Ten is in for another great year of football, but is it just another year for Ohio State to run through and win? Here are the rankings:

1. Ohio State Buckeyes: The short answer to the question above is yes. Ohio State comes off a very impressive season ending with a heartbreaking loss to Clemson. It appears that, with star QB Justin Fields and many other elite players returning, that the Buckeyes are the top team once again.

The Prediction: 12-0 (9-0) Big Ten Champions, National Runner-Up

2. Penn State Nittany Lions: Penn State is always a team that seems to be in the conversation for the playoff each year… until they play Ohio State. The case was no different last year, and I don’t expect it will be this year. The Lions have a tough schedule, but they are a top 10 team with a lot of returning talent.

The Prediction: 10-2 (7-2)

3. Minnesota Golden Gophers: The Gophers over blue blood Michigan? Yup, that’s right. Minnesota comes off a tremendous 2019 under coach PJ Fleck. No one is really sure how long Fleck is going to be hanging around in St. Paul, but this year will be another great one for his team. The Gophers return a lot and should be a contender in the conference.

The Prediction: 10-2 (7-2) Conference Runner-Up

4. Wisconsin Badgers: Still waiting on Michigan? You won’t find them here. Wisconsin is a wildcard of a team. The Badgers had a very nice season last year, and return some offensive talent, but they do lose second round draft pick Jonathan Taylor. However, the Badgers do return 81% of production on defense, which will keep them in games. A tough schedule keeps them away from 10 wins, but this is a very good team.

The Prediction: 9-3 (6-3)

5. Michigan Wolverines: Michigan is a tough team to gauge this season. The Wolverines lose a decent amount of talent on the offensive line and on defense, but they seem to pump in NFL talent year after year. It will all depend on quarterback play, and that position is still a complete unknown. The problem once again will be poor coaching and Ohio State, but outside of that, the Wolverines have a full slate of very tough opponents coming to Ann Arbor.

The Prediction: 10-2 (7-2)

6. Iowa Hawkeyes: After the top 5, the conference takes a bit of a dip. Iowa had a great year last year, but they do lose quite a bit. For one, reliable QB Nate Stanley is gone, as is stud defensive end AJ Epenesa. That said, Kirk Ferentz will get this team to be respectable and competitive as they usually are. Expect the Hawkeyes to grind out some wins and stay relevant in 2020.

The Prediction: 8-4 (5-4)

7. Indiana Hoosiers: Tom Allen! The Hoosiers return a lot from a team that had a great year by their standards. Tom Allen’s biggest issue has been games against top teams, but there’s only so much to be done at Indiana. The Hoosiers will be going bowling again.

The Prediction: 7-5 (4-5)

8. Purdue Boilermakers: Purdue had a tough year last season, but the Boilermakers are in for a very nice bounce back campaign. Jeff Brohm has proven he can get his team ready to play when he needs to, and I expect them to be bowling this year. Rondale Moore is back, of course, and he will be tough for any defense to stop. This team has some good skill players all around.

The Prediction: 7-5 (5-4)

9. Nebraska Cornhuskers: The last of the Big Ten teams going to a bowl will be Nebraska. The Huskers had an extremely underwhelming first year under Scott Frost. Adrian Martinez battled injuries last season, and I expect him to be a little better this year. The Huskers will make a bowl, but I don’t see much more.

The Prediction: 6-6 (3-6)

10. Northwestern Wildcats: This is actually an interesting team with a lot of potential. Pat Fitzgerald has proven to be a top level coach, and he brings in Peyton Ramsey to man the quarterback position. Watch out for the Wildcats to pull a couple of upsets.

The Prediction: 5-7 (2-7)

11. Michigan State Spartans: Some may be a little surprised to see the Spartans this low, but this ranking might even be a little generous. The Spartans do not return much from a tough 2019 season, and they also lose their legendary head coach Mark Dantonio. Mel Tucker is going to need a few years to get this program up and running again. They’ll be a little worse than their record.

The Prediction: 5-7 (4-5)

12. Maryland Terrapins: Maryland is always one of those teams who makes a big splash in the offseason that doesn’t pay off. This year, the splash was landing Alabama transfer Taulia Tagovailoa. I don’t even think he will start. Josh Jackson had a great career at Virginia Tech and although he wasn’t great last year, I believe he is the best option. This is just not a team anyone can trust.

The Prediction: 4-8 (2-7)

13. Illinois Fighting Illini: Lovie Smith pretty much hit the ceiling at Illinois last year. He returns QB Brandon Peters, but not much else. The Illini get some scheduling breaks, but don’t expect much.

The Prediction: 5-7 (2-7)

14. Rutgers Scarlet Knights: Do I need to explain?

The Prediction: 1-11 (0-9)

Non-CFP End Of Season Power Rankings

The college football season just ended, and so while we will largely turn our attention to basketball and hockey, here’s our end of season Power Rankings of Non-CFP teams. We did it this way so as to avoid having a virtually unanimous top 3 teams. After combining our votes, here is our final non-CFP Top 10 football power rankings. 

Honorable Mention

  • Baylor

The Bears came up short in some of their biggest games, but never by much. They led Oklahoma 28-3 in one game before losing, and they took the Sooners to OT in the Big 12 championship. They were competitive against Georgia in their bowl game, but ultimately, their struggles to claim a signature win kept them out of the top 10. 

The Rankings

#10 – Memphis

The Tigers fell in the Cotton Bowl to Penn State, don’t let that distract you from what they did to an elite defense. Memphis slapped 39 points on the board, eleven more than any other opponent scored against the Nittany Lions. Ohio State put up 28 points. Memphis scored 39. After a season-opening 15-10 win over Ole Miss, Memphis never put up less than 28 points all year, losing one regular season game by 2 points. They finished the year with consective wins over a ranked Cincinnati team to win their conference title and secure a berth in the Cotton Bowl. What a season for the Tigers. 

#9 – Notre Dame

The Fighting Irish fell short of expectations in some regards, but also put together a strong season. Road games against Georgia and Michigan were regarded as their toughest games, and sure enough the Irish faltered in both, including a horrible blowout loss to the Wolverines. But after the Michigan game, the Irish looked like one of the best teams in the nation, winning their final five games by an average of 28 points, including a 32-point victory over a Navy team that finished in the top 20. Only two of their 11 wins were closer than 15 points, indicating that the Irish were finally beginning to dominate teams they should dominate, but their letdowns in their biggest games keep them from being higher on the list. 

#8 – Minnesota

It was a razor-thin margin between the Gophers and their Outback Bowl victims in Auburn, but the Gophers fell a point shy of making that happen in our polls. Minnesota had an extremely impressive year, and neither their bowl win or their win over Penn State should be ignored. But the Gophers were also beaten handily by Iowa and smoked by Wisconsin. These blowout losses really knocked the Gophers out of the national picture after they gained respect by beating Penn State. A really impressive season from Minnesota, and they’ll definitely look to be contending for a Big 10 title in the near future. 

Auburn and Minnesota were neck and neck in our final Power Rankings. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

#7 – Auburn

Ultimately, it seems Auburn just really doesn’t care about bowl games. They are 2-5 in postseason games under Gus Malzahn (including a BCS championship loss), a record that now includes losses to lower ranked opponents like Minnesota and UCF. However, everything else Auburn did was extremely impressive. They held Joe Burrow to 23 points, which is basically a better achievement than a shutout against any other offense. They played Georgia and Florida, and they beat Oregon and Alabama, and at College Station against Texas A&M. All in all, it was a very good season from the Tigers, but they’ll look to qualify for the Playoff next year – maybe then we’ll see the real Auburn Tigers show up in the postseason. 

#6 – Wisconsin

Two four-loss teams make our Top-7, which may be surprising, but they’re both extremely good squads. Two of Wisconsin’s losses were to Ohio State – including the Big 10 championship, when they became the only team all year to lead the Buckeyes at halftime. While one loss was an inexplicable defeat to Illinois, their fourth was a 1-point bowl game loss to Oregon. They handled Iowa, throttled Michigan, and dominated Minnesota on the road to claim a spot in the Big 10 title game. Three very impressive victories and a strong finish to the regular season outweigh three really tough losses and one weird one, giving the Badgers the #6 spot her. 

#5 – Florida 

The Gators were the only team to lead LSU in the second half at any point this season. And considering LSU also played Clemson, Oklahoma, Georgia, and Alabama, and Auburn – that is a really impressive statistic. They took down Auburn, dominated Florida State for a second straight year, and earned a few other impressive victories, including at Kentucky and at Missouri. Kyle Trask stepped up as the team’s signal caller and was very strong under center for the Gators, who polished off their season with a second straight New Years’ 6 bowl win, albeit as a heavy favorite versus Virginia. The next step is overcoming Georgia in the SEC East and making the Playoff for the Gators, they’re running out other ways to impress us. 

#4 – Penn State 

The Nittany Lions were in a dead heat with the Gators for the fourth spot, so we took out their lowest ranking for each team in the poll to decide, and Penn State edged out Florida by one point. We mentioned some of Penn State’s defensive exploits in the Memphis excerpt, as the Nittany Lions held Ohio State to 28 points, their lowest total of the year prior to the Playoff. They showed their ability to win ugly (17-12 over Iowa) and in a shootout (53-39 over Memphis), which is key for any team with championship aspirations. The Nittany Lions may very well have been a playoff team without their slip up at Minnesota, and they’ll have their eyes on taking the next step in 2020. 

The white out crowd always creates an electric home atmosphere for Penn State. Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

#3 – Georgia

It feels difficult to laud the Bulldogs, as they haven’t really done anything unusual by their standards. They had a very impressive 11-1 regular season with statement wins over Auburn, Florida, and Notre Dame, but they also had an awful home loss to South Carolina, who finished 4-8. And ultimately, the Bulldogs fell short in the SEC again, and this time they weren’t even competitive, losing 37-10 to LSU. To be fair, LSU was a buzzsaw this year, but Georgia feels like they’ve been at the same level for 3-4 years now, and it’s time to take the next step. Finishing sixth or seventh in the country is not their goal, especially a couple of years removed from being three points shy of a national title. 

#2 – Alabama (1 first place vote)

I don’t think anyone bought the fact that the Crimson Tide were only the 12th best team in the country heading into bowl season. They more or less proved that point by laying a 35-16 beatdown on Michigan in the Citrus Bowl, shutting out the Wolverines in the second half. It was hard to rank them higher than 8th in the AP Poll, as Alabama really didn’t beat any other very good teams. Their Texas A&M win was their next best victory, so it was hard to justify moving up past Georgia, Oregon, and even Oklahoma, who beat Baylor twice. However, the Crimson Tide have never gone three years without winning a championship under Nick Saban – is 2021 the year for ‘Bama?

#1 – Oregon

I think a lot of people really wanted Oregon in the Playoff simply because, outside of a befuddling loss to Arizona State, the Ducks just looked like one of the best teams in the country. After their season-opening loss to Auburn, Oregon gave up 25 points in their next five games. And when Pac-12 offenses began to challenge their defense, Justin Herbert rose to the occasion, averaging about 30 points per game in conference play. Herbert finished his year with a gutsy performance in the Rose Bowl, rushing for three touchdowns and proving his ability to win without his best game, taking down a very impressive Wisconsin team. Oregon may have been the fourth best team in the country outside the Big 3, but due to an unforgivingly rigid Playoff Structure, they had to settle for being #1 in the non-CFP teams rankings.