- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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Over the past several weeks, we presented you our postseason rankings for each position group in the Big Ten, a series that ended on Wednesday with a look at special teams.
I thought it might be interesting to tally up all those rankings and see what it might tell us about the strength of the teams in the league in 2011. This is not a highly scientific process, and it doesn't take into account things like coaching, schedules, turnovers, intangibles, etc. But the teams with the best and worst position groups ought to shake out that way in the conference standings, right?
Here's how I did this: I added up each position ranking for each team, assigning a corresponding point to their ranking. So if a team were to rank No. 1 in all eight categories -- QB, RB, WR/TE, OL, DL, LB and specialists -- its score would be 7 points. The lower, the better, in this case.
The results look like this:
1. Wisconsin: (25 points)
Highest ranking: No. 1 in quarterbacks, running backs and offensive line
Lowest ranking: No. 6 in linebackers and special teams
2. Michigan State (26)
Highest ranking: No. 1 in wide receivers, defensive line and defensive backs
Lowest ranking: No. 8 in running backs
3. Michigan (34)
Highest ranking: No. 2 in offensive line and defensive line
Lowest ranking: No. 7 in linebackers and special teams
4. Nebraska (37)
Highest ranking: No. 1 in special teams
Lowest ranking: No. 9 in wide receivers/tight ends
5. Penn State (39)
Highest ranking: No. 1 in linebackers
Lowest ranking: No. 12 in quarterbacks
T-6. Iowa (55)
Highest ranking: No. 4 in wide receivers/tight ends and offensive line
Lowest ranking: No. 9 in defensive line and defensive backs
T-6. Ohio State (55)
Highest ranking: No. 3 in running backs
Lowest ranking: No. 12 in wide receivers
T-6. Purdue (55)
Highest ranking: No. 2 in special teams
Lowest ranking: No. 9 in linebackers
9. Illinois (58)
Highest ranking: No. 3 in defensive backs
Lowest ranking: No. 12 in special teams
10. Northwestern (67)
Highest ranking: No. 3 in wide receivers/tight ends
Lowest ranking: No. 11 in running backs and linebackers
11. Indiana (86)
Highest ranking: No. 9 in offensive line
Lowest ranking: No. 12 in defensive line and linebackers
12. Minnesota (87)
Highest ranking: No. 9 in special teams
Lowest ranking: No. 12 in running backs, offensive line and defensive backs
This actually lines up pretty well with how the teams finished. I doubt you'd get too many arguments that Wisconsin, Michigan State and Michigan were the three best teams in the league. The Spartans and Badgers are separated by the thinnest of margins, just as they were in their two meetings last season.
The rankings can actually tell you quite a bit about the teams. Penn State ranked very high in defensive categories but was last in quarterbacks, telling you everything you need to know about why the Lions didn't win the Big Ten. Iowa, Purdue and Ohio State all finished middle of the pack and were mediocre in most of the rankings; that's exactly how their seasons went, too.
A mild surprise for me was Indiana ranking ahead of Minnesota, as the Gophers won two more games than the Hoosiers. Neither team enjoyed many high rankings in the position groups.