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Big Ten Power Rankings: Preseason

With the Big Ten Football season getting under way this weekend, where do teams stand heading into the title hunt?

NCAA Football: Big Ten Media Days Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

With football less than one month away, all the talk is centered around who will take home the Big Ten Championship and likely secure a berth in the College Football Playoffs. Illinois fans know that this rebuild by Coach Lovie Smith and crew is a process, but nonetheless are anxiously awaiting their turn atop the Big Ten Power Rankings.

As we look to 2017, this appears to be a four team race atop the Big Ten, and as always, should create some drama throughout the season.

Ohio State Buckeyes

Ranking: 1

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Featuring a high octane offense let by Heisman hopeful JT Barrett, the Buckeyes will look to the be cream of the crop in the Big Ten. Can Urban Meyer make it to his third College Football Playoff in four seasons?

Penn State Nittany Lions

Ranking: 2

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After giving Head Coach James Franklin a massive extension through the 2022 season, the Nittany Lions will look to challenge the Buckeyes in the Big Ten East. Their October 28th matchup with Ohio State could very well determine the divisional champion.

Wisconsin Badgers

Ranking: 3

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Widely expected to come out on top of the Big Ten West, the Wisconsin Badgers feature one of the easier schedules in the Big Ten. The home game against Michigan in November will be their strongest test, but by then Wisconsin has the potential to be 10-0.

Michigan Wolverines

Ranking: 4

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In Jim Harbaugh’s third year under control of the Michigan Wolverines, Harbaugh brings back a bevy of talent and depth to Michigan Stadium. Could Harbaugh improve on the 10-3 record from a year ago? If Wilton Speight plays well and Chris Evans displays the athleticism many expect, they could make the Big Ten East a three team race.

Northwestern Wildcats

Ranking: 5

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“Evanston’s Big Ten Team”, the Wildcats and Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald are coming off a season that featured both a bowl appearance and a home loss to FCS Illinois State. Can Fitzy work some magic and continue to build on some recent semi-success?

Minnesota Golden Gophers

Ranking: 6

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New coach PJ Fleck is working to change the culture and national perception of the Minnesota Football program. After the debacle around former Head Coach Tracy Claeys and the suspension of ten players for allegations of sexual misconduct, Minnesota could use some good favor in 2017.

Nebraska Cornhuskers

Ranking: 7

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Huskers fans may begin to pine for the days of ten win Bo Pelini as current Head Coach Mike Riley enters his third year in Lincoln. Increasing his win total in year two to nine wins, a three win boost, Nebraska is looking to challenge for a spot in the Big Ten Championship. The departure of Tommy Armstrong, Jr to graduation likely means growing pains in 2017 for the Husker faithful.

Iowa Hawkeyes

Ranking: 8

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The Hawkeyes have Coach Kirk Ferentz locked up until the end of time and will need to get what they are paying for, as Iowa has a grueling 2017 slate. With trips to Iowa State, Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Northwestern, the Hawkeyes will need to win the games they are supposed to win if they hope to reach bowl eligibility.

Indiana Hoosiers

Ranking: 9

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Still working on a build of their program, the Hoosiers feature a solid defense to go along with a few playmakers on the offensive side of the ball. Can Head Coach Tom Allen and Quarterback Richard Lagow find a way to move the ball enough to score enough to help the defnese?

Maryland Terrapins

Ranking: 10

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Maryland got a good coach in DJ Durkin, who took the Terrapins to a bowl game in his rookie season. Can he build on that success? His time learning from the likes of Jim Harbaugh and Urban Meyer says he has the potential to be a very good young coach.

Michigan State Spartans

Ranking: 11

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The downward spiral of the Spartan football program continues, as Michigan State is still reeling after that 38-0 drubbing in the 2015 College Football Playoff. Can Coach Dantonio improve on the 3-9 record posted in 2016? With their schedule, it seems unlikely.

Illinois Fighting Illini

Ranking: 12

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This is what you all came here for. I wanted to put Illinois higher on my list, and I honestly believe they have the potential to be better than their current ranking, but the lack of depth at key positions concerns me. If the offense can stay healthy and the defensive line can play up to or above what is expected, the Illini could surprise some teams in 2017.

Purdue Boilermakers

Ranking: 13

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Jeff Brohm’s debut season at Purdue will be the beginning of a long rebuild project for Boilermaker fans. Left with a bare cupboard, Illinois fans understand how a rebuild goes. Look for Purdue to climb this list in the next several years, but as for now, they will likely remain in the cellar of the Big Ten.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Ranking: 14

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In their fourth season in Big Ten play, Rutgers is still working on becoming the kind of program they were under Greg Schiano, and the New Jersey program is hoping Chris Ash is the man to help them rise from the ashes...so far, it’s a work in progress.