- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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On Friday, we wrapped up our preseason position rankings series, which you can view in its entirety here. What do the rankings as a whole tell us about the teams in the league in 2012?
In an effort to find out, we added up all of our unit rankings to see which teams looks the strongest overall. A first-place finish in one of the rankings was worth one point, a second-place showing was two points and so on. Like golf, lower scores are better here.
Here's what we came up, along with the extreme highs and lows for each team:
1. Nebraska -- 29 points
(High: Special teams: 1. Low: Linebackers: 7)
T-2. Michigan -- 35 points
(High: Quarterbacks and offensive line: 2. Low: Defensive line and special teams: 7)
T-2. Ohio State -- 35 points
(High: Defensive line: 1. Low: Wide receivers/TE: 9)
T-4. Michigan State -- 36 points
(High: Secondary and linebackers: 1. Low: Wide receivers/TE: 11)
T-4. Wisconsin -- 36 points
(High: Offensive line and running backs: 1. Low: Quarterbacks and defensive line: 8 )
6. Purdue -- 38 points
(High: Quarterbacks: 1. Low: Linebackers: 9)
7. Penn State -- 56 points
(High: Linebackers: 2. Low: Quarterbacks: 12)
8. Iowa -- 60 points
(High: Quarterbacks and wide receivers/TE: 4. Low: Running backs: 11).
9. Illinois -- 65 points
(High: Defensive line: 5. Low: Special teams: 12)
10. Northwestern -- 70 points
(High: Wide receivers/TE: 1. Low: Linebackers and secondary: 11)
11. Minnesota -- 79 points
(High: Quarterbacks and special teams: 6. Low: Running backs, wide receivers/TE and defensive line: 12)
12. Indiana -- 85 points
(High: Running backs and wide receivers/TE: 8. Low: Offensive line, linebackers and secondary: 12).
This outcome is somewhat surprising, as I did not expect Nebraska to come out on top. But the Huskers didn't have any low rankings, and indeed, they does not have any glaring weak spots heading into the fall. It's more of a question of whether this team has enough difference-makers in key spots. ... It's kind of funny that rivals Ohio State and Michigan tied for the same score and that Michigan State and Wisconsin, who were nearly inseparable last season, are also tied. ... The Spartans probably would have finished on top if not for their low scores at quarterback and receiver. And, of course, those are the real question marks for this team. ... Purdue finished surprisingly high, just behind the teams considered the very best in the league this year. That's partly a function of the experienced depth the Boilermakers have coming back. ... Penn State was a distant seventh, and could have been lower. We did the running back and receiver rankings before Silas Redd and Justin Brown transferred; those moves certainly would have cost the Nittany Lions a couple of spots. ... Iowa was surprisingly low but consistently scored in the bottom half of the league in many rankings. ... Northwestern's defense and Illinois's special teams and offensive skill positions proved costly, just as they might this season. ... Minnesota and Indiana understandably finished at the bottom since the rankings were heavily based on last season. ... These rankings for the most part reflect last year's performance and preseason expectations and obviously don't take things into account such as coaching, schedules, bad breaks, etc. But if the Big Ten finishes in this exact order, we're copyrighting the formula.
4dDan Murphy and Austin Ward