The 2009 football season is in the books, so let's take one final look at the Big Ten power rankings. No major surprises here, and there likely won't be a ton of shuffling at the top until the season kicks off in September.
1. Ohio State (11-2): That Purdue loss feels like a long time ago, doesn't it? Ohio State capped an impressive turnaround with a Rose Bowl championship, snapping a three-game slide in BCS bowls. Terrelle Pryor's performance in Pasadena and a productive defense raises the expectations for 2010, when Ohio State could contend for the national title.
2. Iowa (11-2): Everyone outside Iowa seemed to doubt the Hawkeyes all year long, but this team just kept winning. Iowa delivered its best performance of the season against Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl, jumping out to a 14-0 lead and never looking back. The final score didn't show how dominant Iowa was in this game. Ricky Stanzi and Adrian Clayborn will try to lead Iowa to a Big Ten title in 2010.
3. Penn State (11-2): Quarterback Daryll Clark and a valuable group of seniors went out with a big win in the Capital One Bowl against LSU. Penn State notched a signature victory against a talented opponent, completing an excellent two-year run. The Lions now must overcome some key personnel losses to challenge Ohio State for the league title this coming fall.
4. Wisconsin (10-3): A return trip to the Champs Sports Bowl ended up being the perfect opportunity for the Badgers to showcase the progress they made this season. Wisconsin beat Miami by only six points but thoroughly dominated the game on both sides of the ball. The Badgers return a bunch of key players, including running back John Clay, and will enter 2010 ranked in the top 15.
5. Northwestern (8-5): For the second straight year, the Wildcats participated in one of the most exciting bowl games, only to come out on the losing end again. Pat Fitzgerald's team gained some national respect with their comeback against Auburn, but Northwestern eventually needs to get over the hump in a bowl. The Wildcats lose several key pieces, but the program is on the rise and should again contend for a postseason berth in 2010.
T-6. Minnesota (6-7): The Gophers defense definitely came to play against Iowa State, but the offense couldn't translate good drives into points in the Insight Bowl. Getting the offense on track will be the top offseason priority for head coach Tim Brewster and his staff as they enter a pivotal 2010 campaign.
T-6. Michigan State (6-7): Credit the Spartans for performing admirably without 14 of their teammates in the Alamo Bowl, but their season long struggles in the secondary eventually caught up to them against Texas Tech. Despite a disappointing season, the Spartans are a young team that could make a jump next fall. Mark Dantonio must fix a defense that broke down too often this year.
8. Purdue (5-7): It would have been great to see Purdue represent the Big Ten in a bowl this year, but the Boilers' inability to finish games and avoid major mistakes kept them at home. Purdue is my early pick as the sleeper team in the Big Ten next fall, as head coach Danny Hope returns several exciting skill players and an excellent pass rusher in Ryan Kerrigan. I really liked what I saw in Big Ten play from the Boilers.
9. Illinois (3-9): Ron Zook will be back in 2010, but his coaching staff received a major facelift. Illinois will have new coordinators on both sides of the ball this coming season, not to mention several new position coaches. It'll be a make-or-break season for Zook, who needs young players to step up on both sides of the ball.
10. Michigan (5-7): The offense should be potent in 2010, but Rich Rodriguez must repair a defense that really couldn't stop anybody. Michigan loses its two top defenders in end Brandon Graham and cornerback Donovan Warren, so the coaches need to identify and develop talent during the offseason. The Wolverines simply can't afford another bowl-less season.
11. Indiana (4-8): Much like Michigan, Indiana's offense should be very dynamic in 2010, but the defense has major question marks in all three levels. The Hoosiers were close to getting over the hump this fall, but they lose a good senior class and continue to fight a history of defensive futility.