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Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Recapping Big Ten position rankings

By Adam Rittenberg

The 2011 Big Ten preseason position rankings are complete, and we hope you enjoyed them. We fully expect the rankings to look very different by November, but this is a fun way to prepare for the season.

In case you missed them, check out all the team and individual rankings.

Let's look closer at the team rankings.


What can we take away from this?

While I'd certainly caution against reading too much into any preseason rankings, this provides a picture of the Big Ten landscape entering 2011. The top two teams on average are Michigan State and Wisconsin, which would have had a higher quarterback ranking and overall ranking had Wilson's transfer been included. Nebraska and Ohio State both are in that top mix, although both teams have some potential red flags (Nebraska's offensive line and receivers, Ohio State's receivers and quarterbacks).

Minnesota and Indiana look like the league's two weakest teams, or at least the teams that have the biggest question marks. Although Minnesota's average rank is weaker, Indiana might have more units needing to prove themselves, particularly on the defensive side.

The Big Ten's wild cards include Iowa, Michigan, Northwestern, Penn State, Illinois and Purdue. Iowa's average rank finished about where I expected. Michigan is buoyed by strong quarterbacks and receivers, and the promise of a better defensive line, but the Wolverines remain a pretty big mystery before the games begin.

Purdue's average rank -- ahead of Northwestern and Illinois -- might surprise some folks, while both Northwestern and Illinois are hurt by question marks on defense. Penn State boasts some of the league's better skill groups -- secondary, linebacker, wide receiver -- but could have troubles along the line.

Which units could finish a lot higher after the season? Here are a few: Minnesota's running backs, Purdue's receivers, Nebraska's receivers, Michigan State's offensive line, Penn State's offensive line, Northwestern's defensive line, Illinois' secondary and Michigan's secondary.

The individual rankings don't necessarily translate into elite position groups or elite overall units, but a team-by-team breakdown is in order.

Here's how the teams fared in placing players in the top 10/top 5 lists.

Illinois: 12 (7 offense, 4 defense, 1 special teams)
Indiana: 5 (2 offense, 2 defense, 1 special teams)
Iowa: 11 (7 offense, 4 defense, 0 special teams)
Michigan: 8 (5 offense, 2 defense, 1 special teams)
Michigan State: 12 (6 offense, 4 defense, 2 special teams)
Minnesota: 5 (3 offense, 1 defense, 1 special teams)
Nebraska: 10 (4 offense, 6 defense, 0 special teams)
Northwestern: 8 (4 offense, 3 defense, 1 special teams)
Ohio State: 14 (5 offense, 6 defense, 3 special teams)
Penn State: 11 (4 offense, 6 defense, 1 special teams
Purdue: 10 (3 offense, 5 defense, 2 special teams)
Wisconsin: 15 (7 offense, 6 defense, 2 special teams)