Big Ten Power Rankings: Gophers have potential to be the surprise team


Jul 24, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany speaks during the Big Ten media day at the Chicago Hilton. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

It’s game week!  The season is finally upon us and I think I can speak for all college football fans by saying amen!  With that being said, let’s take a look at where the teams stack up heading into the season.

1. Ohio State: This is a no-brainer.  If you were to look up 100 sets of power rankings, I’m willing to bet that 95 of them will have the Buckeyes.  They are far from perfect, but they have the best coach, quarterback, and overall roster in the conference, not to mention they’re coming off an unbeaten season.

If they were a hotel they’d be The Four Seasons: a five-star hotel with all the bells and whistles.

2. Michigan: I think Devin Gardner is going to be brilliant at quarterback for the Wolverines.  If he is, they will give the Buckeyes their only loss of the season and win the Legends comfortably.

If they were a hotel they’d be: The Waldorf Astoria.  Classic, elegant, and timeless.  However, some consider it to be dated, stuffy, and old fashioned.

3. Nebraska: The Huskers have the easiest schedule of all the Big Ten contenders.  They get most of their tough match-ups at home: UCLA, Nebraska, and Michigan State.

If they were a hotel they’d be: The Grand Hyatt.  This hotel’s facilities are through the roof.  They simply spare nothing, but even with all the amenities it feels like it doesn’t measure up to the best hotels in the world.  Something is missing.

4. Northwestern: The Wildcats have definitely outkicked their coverage with Pat Fitzgerald.  You could easily make the argument that he is a top five coach in all of college football.  Northwestern meanwhile is maybe a top 50 job.  They are improving their standing by the minute with new facilities and teams that continue to improve.   You will not find a more disciplined well coached team in all of college football and that will be the case for as long as Fitzgerald roams the sidelines in Evanston.

If they were a hotel they’d be: The Westin.  People always feel welcome at the Westin.  This hotel is very popular with large groups on a road trip.  I always get the feeling inside a Westin that the guests provide most of the atmosphere and make the hotel seem a little cooler than it is.

5. Wisconsin: Great offensive line, great running backs, hand the ball off and get the heck out of the way quarterback, bend but don’t break defense, solid coaching, arrogant fanbase.  Looks like the same old Bucky to me.  Solid, not spectacular team that should win 8-9 games.

If they were a hotel they’d be: The W.  It’s the ultimate party hotel.  Everyone has a great time at the W.  Yet you wake up hungover with a pounding headache.  As you check out you notice the hotel looks like it could fall apart at any minute and you vow to never stay there again.  One year later you return to the W.  Lather, rinse, repeat.

6. Michigan State: You know the Spartans quarterback situation is dire when they are envious of the New York Jets.  They also lost Le’Veon Bell who seemingly accounted for roughly 867 percent of their offensive production.   The defense will be spectacular once again, led by one of the best defensive coordinators in all of college football – Pat Narduzzi.  If the Spartans can just be mediocre offensively they could challenge in the Legends.

If they were a hotel they’d be: The Fairmont.  The ultimate steak and potatoes hotel.  Everything is nice and you can’t find anything to complain about, yet it will never have the name brand recognition of the Waldorf Astoria.

7. Penn State: Bill O’Brien is god.  He turned Matt McGloin into a competent quarterback.  End of discussion.  He also took a program that looked like it was going to have to field a roster similar to the Texas State Armadillos.   However, O’Brien didn’t have to drive down to rural Texas to recruit a 34-year-old quarterback named Paul Blake.  Most of the roster decided to hang around State College and they won eight games last year.  Credit O’Brien.  I do see Penn State taking a small step back this year with a young quarterback and limited scholarships.

If they were a hotel they’d be: Country Inn and Suites.  Nice comfortable hotel, but you can’t help but feel like you are in Grandma’s house.   Everything is outdated and it smells like meatloaf.

8. Minnesota: It’s year three, and this is historically the year Jerry Kill flips a program.  Kill won 10 games at both Southern and Northern Illinois in year three.  The task is taller at Minnesota.  If everything goes as planned, the Gophers may win nine games, if everything falls apart they win four.  Realistically they win six or seven.  I think the Gophers are a better team than last year, but that doesn’t always translate to more wins.

If they were a hotel they’d be: Aloft.  If you go to the Aloft Hotels website it states a vision of W Hotels.  Meaning it is in the infancy stages of becoming similar to the W.  It has everything the W has, it’s just missing the track record.  Some guests of the Aloft swear by it and think it’s a cleaner less obnoxious version of the W.  I tend to agree.

9. Indiana: Kevin Wilson’s offense will be explosive and the defense will be — um — screwed defensively.  The Hoosiers are going to have to win a bunch of ball games 41-38.  Wilson and his staff did a brilliant job recruiting last year, especially in-state.  Some of those recruits were on the defensive side of the ball so I see the defense improving down the road, just not this year.  The Hoosiers will score their way to six wins and a bowl game, which will be just their second since 1993.

If they were a hotel they’d be: Hampton Inn.  Nothing wrong with a little continental breakfast.  Most Hampton’s have pools and fitness centers too.  They’re definitely improving their image.

10. Iowa: The Hawkeyes offense looks like something out of the 1920s.  If things are going well, they look like a great smash mouth football team. If not, they just look old-fashioned and slow.  Right now they look like the latter.

If they were a hotel they’d be: Motel 6.  Tom Bodett says that he will leave the light on for ya.  Well, he forgot to turn the light on last year.

11. Illinois: The cupboard is not completely bare.  The Illini have some players.  I was scratching my head when the Illini hired Tim Beckman but I like the hire of offensive coordinator  Bill Cubit.  Maybe he will be able to solve the inconsistencies of talented quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase.

If they were a hotel they’d be: Any Disney Hotel.  Think about this.  Most people shell out hundreds of dollars a night to be surrounded by screaming children in one of the most overrated locations on earth.

12. Purdue:  Darrell Hazell comes highly regarded by everyone.  He worked under Jim Tressel at Ohio State.  I haven’t heard one bad thing about this man.  He seems smart, likable, the whole nine yards. He better be great because he has a mess in West Lafayette.  The schedule is brutal and the cupboard is bare. He has made some in-roads in recruiting.   This is the toughest job in the conference in my opinion.  Good luck Coach Hazell, you’re going to need it.

If they were a hotel they’d be: Super 8.  You won’t find any of these in a big city.  Some Super 8’s have farm pasture behind them.  Super 8’s have an unmistakable smell.  Not a bad hotel on a budget though.