As we bid farewell to 2020 and its corresponding mess of a college football season, here is the final edition of our Big Ten power rankings.
14. Purdue (2-4)
Last ranking: 14
Last result: Game at Indiana canceled due to COVID-19
Purdue’s season ends with back-to-back cancelations against its rival Indiana — an uneventful and unfortunate finish to the exhilarating college career of soon-to-be NFL wideout Rondale Moore.
13. Michigan (2-4)
Last ranking: 12
Last result: Game at Iowa canceled due to COVID-19
Michigan managed to slip one last spot while dormant this week due to Nebraska’s win. Thus, their final ranking of second-worst in the conference will also be their lowest of the year. But hey, winningest program in college football, amirite?
12. Nebraska (3-5)
Last ranking: 13
Last result: W @ Rutgers (28-21)
Maybe Nebraska should move up more than one spot after their season-ending win over Rutgers, which was ranked eighth last week and now has a worse record than the Cornhuskers. Then again, the Huskers found a way to beat the Scarlet Knights by only one score despite outgaining them by a whopping 368 yards. Any team that has more yards both in the air and on the ground than their opponent has overall should be winning by a more decisive margin than seven points, so while UNL moves up, I can’t justify giving them more than a minor boost to close things out.
11. Illinois (2-6)
Last ranking: 11
Last result: L @ Penn State (21-56)
The Fighting Illini got absolutely manhandled by the Nittany Lions in Happy Valley on Saturday, but most of their fans were probably more focused on what happened before the game, when U of I announced the Bret Bielema would be the football team’s new head coach. I’ll let the words of our Wisconsin friends at Bucky’s Fifth Quarter, who watched Bielema take their team to three straight Big Ten Championship Games, tell you just how fortunate Illinois’ flagship state university should feel to have secured his leadership.
10. Rutgers (3-6)
Last ranking: 8
Last result: L vs. Nebraska (21-28)
Even with its loss to Nebraska, this has to be considered a better year for Rutgers than most of its seasons in the Big Ten. As one of only two teams in the conference to play its full nine-game slate as originally scheduled, the Scarlet Knights successfully avoided any major confrontations with COVID-19, and their three victories this year represent unusually decent play against Big Ten competition. Still, if the Scarlet Knights are going to make significant growth under Greg Schiano, they’ll need to up their consistency and decrease their reliance upon turnovers and big plays on special teams.
9. Maryland (2-3)
Last ranking: 9
Last result: Game vs. Michigan State canceled due to COVID-19
Congrats, Maryland! You win the award for most games canceled due to COVID-19 this season with four. Accordingly, you don’t get a boost in the wake of Rutgers’ fall, which will instead go to your scheduled opponent, Michigan State. Better luck in Year 1.5, Terps fans!
8. Michigan State (2-5)
Last ranking: 10
Last result: Game at Maryland canceled due to COVID-19
Without a game, Michigan State joined Illinois in having its biggest news of the week come off-the-field when Temple’s starting QB of three years, Anthony Russo, announced he was transferring to MSU for his final year of eligibility. The transfer now sets up an intriguing position battle between Russo and Peyton Thorne, a redshirt freshman who closed the year out starting for the Spartans, as Mel Tucker enters his second year as head coach.
7. Minnesota (3-4)
Last ranking: 6
Last result: L @ Wisconsin (17-20)
In an overtime thriller, the Golden Gophers failed to pull off the upset against hated rivals Wisconsin. They end the year one game under .500, meaning that even in a tumultuous season with more downs than ups, they were one extra point away from a winning record.
6. Penn State (4-5)
Last ranking: 7
Last result: W vs. Illinois (56-21)
The Nittany Lions were able to rehab their season somewhat successfully after falling as low as last place in these rankings upon their 0-5 start. While their closing rout of Illinois was easily their most dominant win of the season, the truth is that PSU’s steady improvement throughout the year serves as evidence that this year was more of a fluke than anything else for James Franklin’s program, which has perennially threatened for Big Ten titles for the better part of the last decade.
5. Wisconsin (4-3)
Last ranking: 5
Last result: W vs. Wisconsin (17-20)
Next: Duke’s Mayo Bowl vs. Wake Forest
After free-falling without a win since their late-November loss in Evanston, the Badgers cleaned up their act and kept their beloved Axe by taking down Minnesota this weekend, cementing their place as the conference’s worst bowl-bound team this season. Late in the game, UW’s yearlong starting QB Graham Mertz went down with an injury and was replaced by Chase Wolf, who led the Badgers to an overtime victory while Jack Coan, who was under-center for Wisconsin’s Big Ten Championship Game run last season, watched from the sidelines. Notably, Coan entered the transfer portal a day later.
4. No. 15 Iowa (6-2)
Last ranking: 4
Last result: Game vs. Michigan canceled due to COVID-19
Next: TransPerfect Music City Bowl vs. Missouri
With their final Big Ten game canceled and their bowl game in jeopardy, it’s possible that the Hawkeyes’ Week 8 win over Wisconsin was the final game of their 2020 season. If so, they deserve to be lauded for their quick turnaround after starting the season with two close losses before winning their last six games. With a quarterback it’ll likely be able to depend upon for years to come in Spencer Petras, things are looking up for Iowa.
3. No. 14 Northwestern (6-2)
Last ranking: 3
Last result: L vs. Ohio State (10-22)
Next: Vrbo Citrus Bowl vs. Auburn
The ‘Cats gave it their all in Indy but ultimately couldn’t get past a dismal offensive performance in which Peyton Ramsey played arguably his worst game of the year. Now, as departures in the administration, coaching staff and roster pile up, NU is preparing for another significant bowl game against an Auburn team undergoing its fair share of turnaround, too.
2. No. 11 Indiana (6-1)
Last ranking: 2
Last result: Game vs. Purdue canceled due to COVID-19
Next: Outback Bowl vs. Ole Miss
On this week’s edition of “CFP Committee Incompetence,” the Hoosiers, whose only loss this season came on the road at the hands of playoff-bound Ohio State, were slighted a New Year’s Six bowl appearance in favor of Iowa State, who lost to three non-playoff teams. And with the Citrus Bowl picking Northwestern as its Big Ten representative, IU players, coaches and alums alike seem none too happy with their Outback Bowl selection.
1. No. 3 Ohio State (6-0)
Last ranking: 1
Last result: W vs. Northwestern (22-10)
Next: CFP Semifinal at the Sugar Bowl vs. Clemson
If you had told me that Justin Fields threw for only 112 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions while rushing for only 35 yards more in any game this season, I would’ve told you that the Buckeyes lost said game. Enter Trey Sermon, who broke OSU’s record for rushing yards in a game with 331, and exit any hopes and dreams of a new Big Ten Champion this season.