Big Ten Expansion: Power Rankings if ND, Nebraska, Mizzou and Rutgers joined today
The news reverberated quickly yesterday as word spread that the Big Ten had formally invited Notre Dame, Rutgers, Nebraska and Missouri to join. Then it sort of fizzled a bit as Nebraska denied any overture from the Big Ten, Rutgers and Missouri sort of issued a non-denial denial and Notre Dame remained pretty silent.
Even Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany has denied the report—but we shouldn't expect anything different.
But as many college football fans and reporters tried to dissect what this meant, who would say yes and what might be the next step.
What if all four do say yes? More than likely another school will get a call as well (Maryland, Vanderbilt, Pittsburgh and Syracuse). But until then, let's take a look at how those teams would look in the 2010 Big Ten Power Rankings if all could join immediately.
The culture at IU just isn't football. There have been those who have tried and Coach Bill Lynch is the latest to give it a go.
Indiana may just have the conference's best receivers, led by Tandon Doss. The offense also boasts RB Darius Willis and QB Ben Chappell. The Hoosiers have an easy non-conference schedule, but they must travel to Ohio State and Wisconsin.
The past two seasons have been a major bummer for the Fighting Illini, especially after making the Rose Bowl in 2007.
This year's team has no major stars that scare any opponent. Even following the spring game there were many unanswered questions for Ron Zook's team.
Most years, the Gophers have scheduled their way to five easy wins. This year that won't be so easy with home games with USC, Ohio State, Iowa and Penn State.
Minnesota's offense was the worst in the league and Tim Brewster needs to get that situation righted immediately. QB Adam Weber should make it easier. LB Mike Rallis made the switch from safety and solidifies the defense.
The Wolverines are loaded with returning players on both sides of the ball, but there's just a lot of bad karma surrounding this team.
QB Tate Forcier is back, but after spring practice it appears Denard Robinson may be fitting the Pat White mold that Rich Rodriguez is looking for to jumpstart the Wolverines following back-to-back losing seasons.
The Boilermakers went 4-4 in the league last year, but a 1-3 mark in non-league games keeps you home during the bowl season.
Many pundits believe Purdue will make a bowl and move up in the conference this year. If expansion happened now the Boilermakers would be home for the holidays.
If all four newcomers could start in 2010, the Tigers would be the lowest ranked of the newcomers. Missouri has enjoyed a few years of success in the Big 12 North while Nebraska was down, but that's not enough to step up to the Big Ten.
The Tigers do have a big time QB in Blaine Gabbert, but the receiving corps is thin. So Gary Pinkel may have to turn to the running game and Derrick Washington more than he'd like.
9. Notre Dame
Coach Brian Kelly continues to recite the Notre Dame mantra that the Fighting Irish want to remain independent. But playing for a conference championship is something that gets a rise out of the former Cincinnati coach.
Notre Dame has one of the best receivers in the nation (Michael Floyd), but QB Dayne Crist is inexperienced. Kelly also spent the spring chiding his team and lowering expectations. And actual move to the Big Ten now might improve the Fighting Irish's fortunes.
With 17 victories over the past two seasons under coach Pat Fitzgerald, expectations are high for the Wildcats.
Dan Persa must replace Mike Kafka at QB, a task that won't be easy. But Persa is athletic and should shine in Northwestern's spread offense.
The Scarlet Knights are not considered a serious football program, and historically that is true. But Greg Schiano has built a formidable team that would hold its own in the Big Ten right away.
Sophomore Tom Savage could easily be the second-best quarterback in the conference. He took over the starting role about midway through the first game of 2009 and threw for 2,211 yards and 14 TDs. WR Mohamed Sanu is a great target for Savage. The sophomore caught 51 passes and is also dangerous as a Wildcat back. Rutgers defense would be a weak spot, but one it could overcome against the bottom half of the league.
6. Michigan State
The Spartans are coming off a losing season and more off-the-field trouble than any program not named Oregon.
But Mark Dantonio is an outstanding coach and won't settle for another average season. QB Kirk Cousins owns the starting gig and should solidify the offense. Defense is another matter as the secondary is the weakest area.
The Hawkeyes were so close to winning the Big Ten title last season, so a drop to fifth may seem a bit drastic.
Iowa's defense returns eight starters from one of the conference's best units. The real strength of the group comes from defensive lineman Adrian Clayborn, Karl Klug, Christian Ballard and Broderick Binns. The Hawkeyes offense isn't shabby either with Ricky Stanzi back at QB and Adam Robinson at RB.
The Badgers really are the wildcard. When expectations were low last season, Bret Bielema's team put together a nice season.
Wisconsin will pound the ball on the ground behind one of the conference's better lines and with RB John Clay. QB Scott Tolzien is also serviceable. The Badgers defense has some holes, especially on the line.
3. Penn State
Expansion is what Joe Paterno wants and he's going to get it (if he's still coaching when the teams actually join). Adding an East Coast team should help the Nittany Lions recruiting.
The Nittany Lions will remain near the top of the conference in this set up thanks to an outstanding offensive line that will need to protect an unproven QB. Penn State also returns seven on defense, including star safety Drew Astorino.
The Cornhuskers would be an immediate impact player in the new-look Big Ten, and could fight Ohio State for the top spot.
Nebraska would succeed quickly because of defense. In Prince Amukamara the Cornhuskers have one of the best corners in the nation. On offense, Nebraska will need to improve and seniors QB Zac Lee and RB Roy Helu should lead the group.
1. Ohio State
None of the potential new members are at the level of the Buckeyes, but Nebraska isn't too far.
The Buckeyes have Heisman candidate QB Terrelle Pryor leading an offense that should be better in 2010. OSU's defense would be one of the top three defenses led by DE Cameron Heyward. And despite never winning a Big Ten Coach of the Year honor, Jim Tressel is the best coach in the league.