The Big Ten regular season came to an end this past weekend and as we sort through all of the scenarios that could give the conference multiple teams in the College Football Playoff, we can say it was definitely a strong year. The championship game will feature two teams that many don't even consider to be the best two teams in the Big Ten which speaks volumes about the depth in 2016. Wisconsin took a few shots but remained standing. Penn State has absolutely caught fire the past two months. Ohio State and Michigan are making a solid case as two teams that could challenge anyone for a national title. The idea that conversations are taking place of a CFB Playoff with 3 Big Ten teams possibly happening if chaos breaks out this weekend is another example of how well the conference faired this season. Let's roll through the rankings as we head to Championship Saturday.
1- Ohio State (11-1, 8-1)
Last week: Defeated Michigan 30-27 (2 OT)
- Ohio State is currently ranked #2 in the latest CFB Playoff rankings and appear to have a great shot as the last 4 standing come Sunday.
2- Michigan (10-2, 7-2)
Last week: Lost to Michigan 30-27 (2 OT)
- Michigan fell out of the top 4 but remain very close according to the committee. The Wolverines were literally inches away from being in Indianapolis and essentially assuring themselves a spot in the playoff. Now they will wait and pray for chaos this weekend.
T3- Wisconsin (10-2, 7-2) West Division Champs
Last week: Defeated Minnesota 31-17
This week: B1G Championship Game vs. Penn State
- Paul Chryst did an incredible job of keeping this team moving through that brutal early schedule. The Badgers even withstood a few defensive injuries and now one at quarterback but it's so hard not be impressed with this team's overall toughness.
T3- Penn State (10-2, 8-1) East Division Champs
Last week: Defeated Michigan State 45-12
This week: B1G Championship Game vs. Wisconsin
- Just like Wisconsin, Penn State had a great coaching effort from James Franklin to do the unthinkable and emerge out of the East. Saquon Barkley is simply awesome but Trace McSorley has been the difference during this run.
5- Iowa (8-4, 6-3)
Last week: Defeated Nebraska 40-10
- Iowa was considered the favorite in the West but after a horrific start to 2016 the expectations dropped considerably. Hawkeye fans had plenty to be excited about down the stretch with a top 5 win over Michigan and a blowout win over new rival Nebraska. A solid finish for the Hawkeyes.
6- Nebraska (9-3, 6-3)
Last week: Lost to Iowa 40-10
- Nebraska went from 5 wins in 2015 to 9 wins in 2016 but the finish to the regular season has many Husker fans disappointed. Offensive injuries seem to have been too much for NU to overcome but still plenty of positives in the second year under Mike Riley.
7- Minnesota (8-4, 5-4)
Last week: Lost to Wisconsin 31-17
- The first year under Tracy Claeys will have mixed reviews but the Gophers still have a strong identity. They played meaningful games in November and remained alive in the division for the majority of the season.
8- Northwestern (6-6, 5-4)
Last week: Defeated Illinois 42-21
- The Cats will be kicking themselves about the start of the season. Northwestern found their offense and a weapon in Austin Carr but this should have been at least an 8 win team.
9- Indiana ( 6-6, 4-5)
Last week: Defeated Purdue 26-24
- Not since the early 90's has Indiana experienced back-to-back bowl appearances but that is what this team accomplished. The defense showed improvement but a mid season slump resulted in an overall average season.
10- Maryland (6-6, 3-6)
Last week: Defeated Rutgers 31-13
- Maryland can go to a bowl game and be very happy about that but there is still plenty of growth ahead for the Terps under D.J. Durkin. They are making significant progress in recruiting and have a chance to build a strong future.
11- Illinois (3-9, 2-7)
Last week: Lost to Northwestern 42-21
- Illinois showed very few signs of encouragement but nobody is jumping off the Lovie Smith bandwagon. The next two years is where we will see his impact in both recruiting and performance. Now is the time for the Illini to trend up.
12- Michigan State (3-9, 1-8)
Last week: Lost to Penn State 45-12
- Played some better football over the last 3 weeks but this team still remains the biggest disappointment not only in the conference but possibly in all of college football. Will this be just a one year slump or a sign of future challenges?
13- Purdue (3-9, 1-8)
Last week: Lost to Indiana 26-24
- Purdue competed to the best of their ability after Darrell Hazell was fired mid-season. Now the focus will be on who will lead the Boilermakers in the future. Whoever it is, they will have an uphill battle.
14- Rutgers (2-10, 0-9)
Last week: Lost to Maryland 31-13
- It's hard to point out any real positives in 2016 for Chris Ash. The division is getting deeper which will only become a bigger avalanche of challenges facing Rutgers.