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The definitive, final and absolutely indisputable Big Ten football power rankings

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Only 239 days till more Wildcat Football

NCAA Football: Northwestern at Illinois Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

The Wildcat-less Big Ten finished the bowl season with a discouraging 4-5 record. However, they were only two terrible officiating jobs against two of their best teams from finishing 6-3. Whatever, I’m not salty at all. Either way, the season is now officially over for the conference, so we can finally conclude who was the best, who was the worst and who was in between.

1. Ohio State (13-1, 10-0)

NCAA Football: College Football Playoff Semifinal-Ohio State vs Clemson Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

This story of this game was exactly what I expected in my playoff preview. Ohio State had more overall talent and outplayed the defending national champions for nearly the entire game, but somehow lost 29-23 when seemingly every bad break, either self-inflicted or ref-inflicted, went against them. It was a full embodiment of Ohio State’s “Clemson Curse.”

Some of you are probably glad to see the Death Star of the Big Ten fall, others are probably disappointed that the Big Ten representative couldn’t win on the national stage and bolster the league’s reputation. Either reaction is fine, but it’s clear that this was yet again the best football team in the Big Ten.

2. Penn State (11-2, 7-2)

NCAA Football: Cotton Bowl Classic-Memphis vs Penn State Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State out-dueled the frisky Memphis Tigers 53-39 in the Cotton Bowl, and is a serious threat to Ohio State’s crown next year. They were one of the youngest teams in the country and are bringing back loads of talent in the fall of 2020. Watch out.

3. Wisconsin (10-4, 7-3)

NCAA Football: Rose Bowl-Oregon vs Wisconsin Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

This was the most “Wisconsin” season ever. Go under the radar in preseason only to storm out of the gates and generate national buzz? Check. Inexplicable mid-season loss that submarines any national title hopes? Check. Lose twice to a program that simply has way more player-by-player talent than you? Check. Prove in a rematch with that team that you honestly could compete with anyone in the country? Check.

Lose the Rose Bowl and any chance at national respect? You already know.

4. Minnesota (11-2, 7-2)

NCAA Football: Outback Bowl-Minnesota vs Auburn Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Even thought they beat a highly regarded Auburn team 31-24, they remain at 4th because a) Wisconsin absolutely dominated them in one of the program’s most important games ever, and b) I don’t think they’re a “better” team than Penn State, as that upset was more a result of seizing the moment than proving your overall dominance.

Still, this was one heck of a season from P.J. Fleck’s squad.

5. Michigan (9-4, 6-3)

NCAA Football: Citrus Bowl-Michigan vs Alabama Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Admittedly UM put up a much more valiant effort against Alabama than I predicted, losing 35-16 after leading at halftime and giving up a meaningless last-minute touchdown. Michigan was very good and can’t slide behind Iowa after dominating the Hawkeyes’ offense earlier in the season.

However, the Wolverines were nowhere near as good as the national media projected (shocking, I know), and Shea Patterson overthrew so many receivers in the Citrus Bowl that I wondered if he thought he was getting bonus points for it.

6. Iowa (10-3, 6-3)

NCAA Football: Holiday Bowl-Southern California vs Iowa Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Just like the Badgers, this was a very typical “Iowa” season. It lost three close games to teams with superior talent, had a very stout defense, pulled an upset over a top-ten ranked Big Ten team and finished with a 49-24 romp over USC.

7. Michigan State (7-6, 4-5)

NCAA Football: Pinstripe Bowl-Michigan State vs Wake Forest Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan State not only won but covered the spread in a 27-21 win over Wake Forest, who was one of the best teams in the ACC. Tells you something about the disparity between the overall depth in each conference.

8. Indiana (8-5, 5-4)

NCAA Football: Gator Bowl-Indiana vs Tennessee Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Why’d Indiana move behind Michigan State? It went 8-0 against teams with losing records, and 0-5 against teams with winning records, capped off by blowing a 13-point lead with under five minutes to go to Tennessee in the Gator Bowl, ending all chances of #9WINDIANA. Good season, but not a great team.

9. Illinois (6-7, 4-5)

NCAA Football: Redbox Bowl-California vs Illinois Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

This was the best season for the program since 2014, and that’s something Illini fans should be proud of. However, it also tells you just how downtrodden the program is when its best season in a long time finished with a three-game losing streak, which included losses to the worst NU team of the decade and losing 35-20 to Cal in the Redbox Bowl. HAT.

10. Purdue (4-8, 3-6)

NCAA Football: Indiana at Purdue Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

Nothing against Eli Karp and his ranking of Nebraska over Purdue in last week’s Big Ten power rankings, I just think the Boilermakers should be ahead because both teams were the same level of mediocre during the final stretch of the season, and Purdue won head-to-head. It is what it is.

11. Nebraska (5-7, 3-6)

NCAA Football: Iowa at Nebraska Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

See Purdue above. (Also LOL, Nebraska finished with a losing record again).

12. Northwestern (3-9, 1-8)

NCAA Football: Northwestern at Illinois Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Northwestern is where it deserves to be after its worst season of the Fitz era. The key is not letting it happen again, or else the program could head on a very dangerous path. Can’t let it happen.

13. Maryland (3-9, 1-8)

NCAA Football: Maryland at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Thank you for being worse than Northwestern this year.

14. Rutgers (2-10, 0-9)

NCAA Football: Ohio State at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Here’s to a new Schiano-led decade!