Big Ten power rankings: Week 1

By Daily Illini Staff Report

1. Michigan State

The Spartans are poised to defend their Big Ten title after winning the Rose Bowl last season. Michigan State has a booming offense that returns with starting quarterback Connor Cook, as well as senior running back Jeremy Langford.

2. Ohio State

Braxton Miller’s season-ending shoulder injury puts the Buckeye’s season in question. The expected Heisman Trophy candidate’s void leaves the offense in the hands of freshman J.T. Barrett, which could be troubling early in a somewhat tough nonconference schedule starting with Navy on the road.

3. Wisconsin

The Badgers’ true test comes fast with a season opener against SEC powerhouse LSU on Saturday night. If starting running back Melvin Gordon can lead Wisconsin past the Tigers, the Badgers will be off to a good start in their run to take the Big Ten West division.

4. Iowa

Running back Mark Weisman will look to lead the Hawkeyes through an easy schedule that can see the team reach a probable 10-0 before hosting Wisconsin and Nebraska at home.

5. Nebraska

Senior running back Ameer Abdullah will look to lead the Cornhuskers to the top of the Big Ten West, but will have to run through Michigan State, Wisconsin and Iowa to get there.

6. Michigan

The Wolverines have struggled over the past few seasons, adjusting to Brady Hoke in the head coaching role. Quarterbacks Devin Gardner and Shane Morris’ versatility will look to boost the offense past tough competition with their annual games against Michigan State and Ohio State.

7. Penn State

The Nittany Lions’ average 7-5 season left them in third place in the Legend’s Division last year, but running back Bill Belton will look to have a breakout season in 2014.

8. Northwestern

The Wildcats lost running back Venric Mark after he transferred following a team disciplinary issue. The loss damages the team’s promising offense, which goes up against a tough nonconference schedule against California and Northern Illinois before entering Big Ten play.

9. Maryland

Maryland’s 7-6 record in 2013 will look to be improved as the Terps transfer to the Big Ten with 17 returning starters. But the team’s nonconference slate holds away games at South Florida and Syracuse, while they host West Virginia at home.

10. Minnesota

The Golden Gophers will likely have trouble in the Big Ten play with away games at Michigan, Nebraska and Wisconsin, but they might be able to close the gap in their record with a relatively easy nonconference schedule.

11. Illinois

The Illini’s focus is on whether Wes Lunt can deliver as the new starting quarterback, but it might depend more on the defense. After a rough 2013, Illinois’ record will depend on whether or not it can stop an opposing offense.

12. Indiana

The Hoosier’s set a Big Ten record in 2013, but not the one they wanted when the defense allowed an average of 560.2 yards per game. New coordinator Brian Knorr is looking to shake things up, but isn’t likely to do so in his first season.

13. Rutgers

Rutgers will have a tough transition into the Big Ten, having to play at Ohio State, Nebraska and Michigan State, while also facing Michigan and Wisconsin at home.

14. Purdue

The Boilermakers’ dismal 2013 season isn’t likely to make a turnaround in head coach Darrell Hazell’s second go-around with a team that’s still young.