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Here's a look at where the strength in the conference lies heading into week one. New power rankings will be released each Monday during the college football season.
14. Rutgers Scarlet Knights
2016 Record: 2-10 (0-9 Big Ten)
This headline and subhead from SB Nation should tell you all you need to know: "Rutgers might look like a Big Ten football team by 2018: The Scarlet Knights should be far less embarrassing in 2017, at least."
Far less embarrassing or not, Rutgers isn't going to move up on this list until it shows competency on the football field. A win in Big Ten play would be a good start after Rutgers failed to do so last season.
Week 1: vs. Washington; Friday, Sept. 1, 8 p.m. ET
13. Illinois Fighting Illini
2016 Record: 3-9 (2-7 Big Ten)
Illinois was bad last year. Three wins came against FCS Murray State, Rutgers and a downtrodden Michigan State squad. They lost starting quarterback Wes Lunt, and have an uphill battle to become bowl eligible this year.
The Illini will have two QBs — the dual threat Chayce Crouch and Jeff George Jr. (yes, son of that Jeff George) — looking to replace Lunt. Crouch will get the first shot as the starter, but won't have a long leash.
Week 1: vs. Ball State; Saturday, Sept. 2, noon ET
12. Purdue Boilermakers
2016 Record: 3-9 (1-8 Big Ten)
The Boilermakers come in at No. 12, but Purdue is much closer to Rutgers at No. 14 than Maryland at No. 11. Purdue only managed one Big Ten win last year — an overtime contest against Illinois.
The good news for first-year head coach Jeff Brohm is that David Blough is back at quarterback. He has the raw skills to be successful, but was terrible last year, throwing an FBS-high 21 interceptions. Brohm is known for being a strong offensive mind; he'll try to fix Blough's mistakes this fall.
Week 1: vs. Louisville; Saturday, Sept. 2, 7:30 p.m. ET
11. Maryland Terrapins
2016 Record: 6-7 (3-7 Big Ten)
The Terrapins were mediocre last fall, going largely unnoticed because of the excitement atop the Big Ten East. Ty Johnson and Lorenzo Harrison form a talented pair of running backs for a team looking to rise up the rankings.
It's still anyone's guess who will emerge as the starting quarterback between a number of candidates — sophomores Max Bortenschlager and Tyrell Pigrome, true freshman Kasim Hill, North Carolina transfer Caleb Henderson, and JUCO transfer Ryan Brand are all options. Local reports suggest Pigrome had the best showing at the team's scrimmage.
Week 1: at Texas; Saturday, Sept. 2, noon ET
10. Michigan State Spartans
2016 Record: 3-9 (1-8 Big Ten)
Michigan State was surprisingly bad last fall — just one Big Ten victory over Rutgers — and as such they'll need to prove themselves to progress in the power rankings. Head coach Mark Dantonio just had the worst season of his career — expect the Spartans to quickly turn things around.
To do so, the offense will need to lean heavily on running back LJ Scott, who is one of just two returning starters on offense. On defense, Michigan State will be young. Expect to see many true and redshirt freshmen play this fall.
Week 1: vs. Bowling Green, Saturday, Sept. 2, noon ET
9. Indiana Hoosiers
2016 Record: 6-7 (4-5 Big Ten)
Indiana played better than its record indicated last year, but the program still decided to fire head coach Kevin Wilson though five of its seven losses were 10-point games or less. Now it's former defensive coordinator Tom Allen's turn to see what he can do with the Hoosiers.
Richard Lagow returns at QB after throwing 19 touchdowns and 17 interceptions last season. If he can improve those numbers this fall and connect with top receiver Nick Westbrook, Indiana could turn a couple of those close losses into wins. They are going to be tested immediately with a Big Ten Thursday night matchup in week one against the Ohio State Buckeyes, the preseason favorites to win the conference title.
Week 1: vs. Ohio State; Thursday, Aug. 31, 8 p.m. ET
8. Minnesota Golden Gophers
2016 Record: 9-4 (5-4 Big Ten)
Minnesota has had more than its fair share of offseason hype after hiring P.J. Fleck away from Western Michigan. He's brought his "row the boat" mentality with him and the Gophers are making noise in the offseason.
We'll see how that translates to the field, where the Gophers are among a handful of teams expected to compete for the West title. Minnesota needs to replace three-year starter Mitch Leidner but returns two strong running backs in Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks.
Week 1: vs. Buffalo; Thursday, Aug. 31, 7 p.m. ET
7. Iowa Hawkeyes
2016 Record: 8-5 (6-3 Big Ten)
Another team that figures to be in the mix in the West is the Iowa Hawkeyes, who have some big holes to fill in their roster. Gone are quarterback C.J. Beathard, tight end George Kittle, defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson and defensive back Desmond King. They were major contributors, and the Hawkeyes need players to step up.
Week 1: vs. Wyoming; Saturday, Sept. 2, noon ET
6. Nebraska Cornhuskers
2016 Record: 9-4 (6-3 Big Ten)
Nebraska collapsed down the stretch last year, losing four of their last six games and falling out of contention in the Big Ten West. They'll look to be more consistent this season as they break in a new quarterback.
Tulane transfer Tanner Lee is a true pro-style quarterback, a change from the recent history at Nebraska and QBs like Tommy Armstrong Jr. and Taylor Martinez. If he can get the offense moving right away, Nebraska could be dangerous this fall.
Week 1: vs. Arkansas State; Saturday, Sept. 2, 8 p.m. ET
5. Northwestern Wildcats
2016 Record: 7-6 (5-4 Big Ten)
The Wildcats get the nod over the Cornhuskers because we know they have a good QB in Clayton Thorson and we haven't seen Nebraska's transfer QB in action for his new team yet. Northwestern knows they have a capable leader in Thorson, who is among the best in the Big Ten.
Week 1: vs. Nevada; Saturday, Sept. 2, 3:30 p.m. ET
4. Michigan Wolverines
2016 Record: 10-3 (7-2 Big Ten)
Michigan is expected to go places this fall, but they'll need to prove they can overcome the burden of replacing all but one starter on defense and five starters on offense after the depth chart was pilfered by the NFL.
We'll truly be able to gauge Jim Harbaugh's recruiting classes as this team will mostly feature his recruits. If Wilton Speight can run the offense with confidence this fall, Michigan should be able to compete for the title and a spot in the College Football Playoff. They'll get a tough test right off the bat in week one.
Week 1: vs. Florida (neutral site); Saturday, Sept 2, 3:30 p.m. ET
3. Wisconsin Badgers
2016 Record: 11-3 (7-2 Big Ten) — Conference Runner-Up
The Badgers head into 2017 after winning the Big Ten West a year ago but losing some key pieces — namely T.J. Watt, Vince Biegel and Ryan Ramczyk to the NFL and Jack Cichy to injury. They'll need some young faces and transfers to step up this fall.
Wisconsin does return quarterback Alex Hornibrook, who started a few games last year and played in tandem with Bart Houston. Another stable of running backs will look to keep Wisconsin's strong running game tradition alive. Wisconsin's schedule is also favorable this year, with no matchups against Ohio State or Penn State. They are the favorites in the West.
Week 1: vs. Utah State; Friday, Sept 1, 9 p.m. ET.
2. Ohio State Buckeyes
2016 Record: 11-2 (8-1 Big Ten)
A playoff team a season ago, Ohio State can quickly make a statement in Big Ten play this fall with a dominating performance against Indiana to open the season. The Buckeyes return a ton of firepower, including quarterback J.T. Barrett.
The last time we saw Ohio State play they were destroyed by Clemson in the playoff quarterfinals. You can bet they've been itching to get out on the field and prove that was a fluke. Look out, Indiana.
Week 1: at Indiana; Thursday, Aug. 31, 8 p.m. ET
1. Penn State Nittany Lions
2016 Record: 11-3 (8-1 Big Ten) — Conference Champions
The reining conference champions take the top spot in the preseason poll behind one of the best offenses in college football. Trace McSorely, Saquon Barkley, Mike Gesicki and more lead a potent attack that can score seemingly at will.
The Nittany Lions need to step up on defense if they want to avoid another Rose Bowl situation. We know the offense can score on anyone. Can the defense come through and win a game, too? If so, Penn State has a chance to repeat as conference champions and earn a spot in the College Football Playoff.
Week 1: vs. Akron; Saturday, Sept. 2, noon ET