2014 Big Ten Preview: Parity, a killer for conference strength


Jan 3, 2014; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Braxton Miller (5) looks on during the second half against the Clemson Tigers in the 2014 Orange Bowl college football game at Sun Life Stadium. Clemson won 40-35. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Ten is often looked at overall as the weakest football conference in many circles. This year, unfortunately, appears to be setting up in much the same way.

Teams at the low end of the conference are returning a significant amount of starters. The higher ranked teams, have lost multiple key pieces.

Ohio State has been considered a strong contender with an impressive undefeated streak while they were under the post season ban. However, the first games in the post season that Ohio State has played in since the ban, resulted in two losses. Though, OSU returns dual-threat quarterback sensation Braxton Miller.

Michigan State, who won the Big Ten Championship and defeated the Stanford Cardinal in the Rose Bowl, return 13 starters, including all four starting defensive lineman. Defense wins championships, which, MSU proved last season.

The Big Ten also added two teams from the American Athletic Conference and Atlantic Coastal Conference—Rutgers and Maryland. Both teams did not have the best seasons in their former respective conferences and it is hard to say how they will transition to their new conference.

Rutgers lost to Notre Dame in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. The only notable victory for the Scarlet Knights was against the Arkansas Razorbacks in a comeback performance.

Maryland appeared to start the season strong in the ACC winning the first 4 games, including defeating the Big 12’s West Virginia 37-0 before winning only three of their final 9 games.

Regular Season Standings:


  1. Ohio State 12-2
  2. Wisconsin 9-4
  3. Penn State 7-5
  4. Indiana 5-7
  5. Illinois 4-8
  6. Purdue 1-11


  1. Michigan State 13-1
  2. Nebraska 9-4
  3. Iowa  8-5
  4. Minnesota 8-5
  5. Michigan 7-6
  6. Northwestern 5-7

New Members:

  1. Maryland 7-6 (ACC)
  2. Rutgers 6-7 (AAC)

Many teams in the Big Ten can upset anyone in conference play, which is a part of the nationally held perception of the weakness of the conference. A Michigan Wolverines team had high expectations, only to have a 7-5 regular season, nearly upset Ohio State and fell 42-41.

Ohio State was the only team in the Big Ten with a top 20 recruiting ranking. Big Ten Champion Michigan State was the next closest at 22.

2014 Recruiting Rankings:

  • Ohio State – 3
  • Michigan State – 22
  • Penn State – 24
  • Michigan – 31
  • Nebraska – 32
  • Wisconsin – 33
  • Indiana – 38
  • Minnesota – 51
  • Maryland – 52
  • Rutgers – 57
  • Iowa – 59
  • Northwestern – 68
  • Purdue – 72
  • Illinois – 75

Penn State had a decent season as well as a recruiting year, being 24th overall and 3rd in the Big Ten following the Sandusky sexual abuse scandal. They also, lost their head coach Bill O’Brien to the NFL, but did get a good coach in Vanderbilt’s James Franklin.

They will continue to weather the post season ban and scholarship restrictions through the 2014 season. They will be eligible to compete in the post season after the 2015 season. Penn State still will compete in the regular season, and potentially ruining the front runners’ chances of making the playoff.

Simple mathematics will tell you there are four playoff spots and five conferences. Yes, I know, the conference alignment doesn’t matter as the top four teams are selected. The SEC proponents are expecting two teams from that conference to be in the playoff next year, I am not. However, going undefeated in your respective conferences helps the cause. The Big Ten could very well be left out in the cold.

I am predicting that it will be a race between the Big Ten and the Big 12 for one of the wanted spots. Oklahoma, is a favorite to win the Big 12 in the upcoming season. Their schedule works out for them to go undefeated. Baylor loses several offensive weapons, and has to make the trip to Norman. An undefeated Big 12 champion, will most likely go before a one-loss Big Ten Champion.

Looking at every thing that the Big Ten has coming into the next season, the most likely candidate to go undefeated, and make a run at the play off will be the Ohio State Buckeyes. Michigan State has what it takes to make it as well, but I don’t believe Urban Myer will allow Ohio State to be knocked out a second straight year.

I foresee a rematch of last year’s title game; an undefeated Ohio State taking on a one or two loss Michigan State (Ohio State and Oregon are on MSU’s schedule in the upcoming season.) It’s always difficult to beat a team a second time in a row. I can see that championship game going either way.

That’s the definition of parity right?