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Big Ten power rankings, post-2016 regular season edition

It’s finally time to start thinking about bowl season. Where will the Big Ten’s reps play?

Michigan v Ohio State Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

1. Ohio State Buckeyes (11-1)

In a game that lived up to its immense hype, Ohio State was able to pull off a comeback victory against arch-nemesis Michigan, closing out a double-overtime victory. Ohio State isn’t perfect, and many would argue that Michigan lost the Week 13 matchup more than the Buckeyes earned a win, but that doesn’t changed the fact that they have all but locked themselves into the 2016 College Football Playoff. No team in college football boasts as many quality wins (at Oklahoma, at Wisconsin, vs. Michigan), and combined with their strength of schedule and overall record, that clearly sets them apart from the field. Even though Penn State held the tiebreaker over the Buckeyes in the Big Ten East, and thus a trip to Indianapolis for the Big Ten championship, Urban Meyer and his staff shouldn’t be sweating when the selection committee picks the final four on Sunday.

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Previous Ranking: No. 1

Bowl Projection: College Football Playoff

2. Wisconsin Badgers (10-2)

The gap between the second, third and fourth teams on this list is quite slim, yet Wisconsin edges out the others and assumes the role as the second best-team in the Big Ten at the end of conference play. Almost no one gave this Wisconsin team a shot a 10-2 record, or even a chance in the Big Ten West, but that is what the Badgers accomplished with a win over Minnesota. The Badgers’ defense has proved to be one of nation’s best time and again, while the offense—particularly quarterback Bart Houston—is playing much stronger as of late.

There is a TON at stake in the Big Ten championship game for Wisconsin: If the Badgers win, a chance at the playoff is a possibility and the worst is a Rose Bowl berth; a loss drops them into fourth place in the Big Ten. I see Wisconsin gritting out another tough win in the Big Ten championship game, yet losing out to the playoff.

Note: Badger fans should be rooting HARD for Colorado against Washington on Friday night in the Pac-12 championship game.

Next Week: Big Ten championship game vs. No. 7 Penn State

Previous Ranking: No. 3

Bowl Projection: Rose Bowl

3. Penn State Nittany Lions (10-2)

James Franklin and his Nittany Lions finished out an incredible 2016 regular season campaign on Saturday, using a second-half surge to down Michigan State. Penn State used its tie-breaker against Ohio State, a head-to-head victory over the Buckeyes on Oct. 22, to vault itself into the Big Ten championship game. After a tough start to the year, Penn State got healthy on defense, while its offense is arguably the best in the Big Ten, which is saying a lot. With so much at stake in the upcoming matchup with the Badgers, keep an eye on how Wisconsin deals with quarterback Trace McSorley, as he can make big plays with his arm and feet. If the Nittany Lions win, they have a serious shot at sneaking into the fourth spot in the playoff.

Up Next: Big Ten championship game vs. No. 6 Wisconsin

Previous Ranking: No. 3

Bowl Projection: Cotton Bowl

4. Michigan Wolverines (10-2)

Michigan fought hard early vs. Ohio State, yet blew a 10-point second half lead due to numerous brutal errors, specifically two interceptions that devastated the Wolverines’ chances. With the loss, the Wolverines now can only sit back and wait and see what happens next. They possess some great wins this year (Colorado, Wisconsin), but losing two of their last three games while not playing their best ball at the end of the season will likely keep them out of the playoff.

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Previous Ranking: No. 2

Bowl Projection: Orange Bowl

5. Iowa Hawkeyes (8-4)

In what will be quite a turnaround, the Hawkeyes completed an impressive late-season turnaround, winning their last three games and crushing Nebraska in the season finale. I see them leap frogging Nebraska and heading to the Outback Bowl for what seems like an every-other-year affair for the Hawkeyes.

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Previous Rank: No. 6

Bowl Projection: Outback Bowl

6. Nebraska Cornhuskers (9-3)

The Huskers dropped a disappointing game to Iowa. With no significant wins all season, expect Nebraska to head to the Holiday Bowl with nine wins.

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Previous Rank: No. 5

Bowl Projection: Holiday Bowl

7. Minnesota Gophers (8-4)

Despite having a 17-7 lead at halftime, the Gophers were absolutely blitzed in the second half by a focused Wisconsin team, eventually losing 31-17.

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Previous Rank: No. 7

Bowl Projection: Music City Bowl

8. Indiana Hoosiers (6-6)

The Hoosiers were able to close in on six wins for the season by squeezing by rival Purdue, 26-24. With their sixth win, Indiana will play in a bowl game.

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Previous Rank: No. 8

Bowl Projection: Quick Lane Bowl

9. Northwestern Wildcats (6-6)

In a season where Northwestern should have seen at least one to two more wins, Northwestern finished on a positive note by cruising by struggling Illinois, 42-21.

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Previous Rank: No. 9

Bowl Projection: Foster Farms Bowl

10. Maryland Terrapins (6-6)

D.J. Durkin turned in a solid rebound season with the Terrapins, as they beat up on Rutgers in the final game of the season, 31-13.

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Previous Rank: No. 11

Bowl Projection: Heart of Dallas Bowl

11. Michigan State Spartans (3-9)

Michigan State has been playing better recently, but a brutal second half of the season finale cost them the game to Penn State.

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Previous Rank: No. 10

Bowl Projection: None

12. Purdue Boilermakers (3-9)

The Boilermakers fought hard, yet were unable to beat rival Indiana.

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Previous Rank: No. 12

Bowl Projection: None

13. Illinois Fighting Illini (3-9)

In a season to forget, the Illini were blown out once again, dropping their ninth game of the season, this time to Northwestern.

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Previous Rank: No. 13

Bowl Projection: None

14. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (2-10)

Chris Ash has quite a task ahead of him, as Rutgers managed only two wins on the season.

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Previous Rank: No. 14

Bowl Projection: None