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Big Ten Preseason Power Rankings

As we enter week one of the Big Ten football season, we rank each and every team in the conference based on expectations for the 2023 season.

Vrbo Fiesta Bowl - Michigan v TCU
Guess who’s #1 in the preseason ranks.
Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images

Welcome back to another year of Big Ten Power Rankings here at The Pants! With the retirement of our beloved Ben Ross…for now… I will be taking over the Power Rankings for the 2023 Big Ten Season.

It’s sure to be wild in the final year of divisions in the conference so be sure to catch up on all of the antics and tomfoolery from each week in these rankings. Now let us begin!


This was not what I originally had in mind for my #1 team. I’m sorry Hawkeye faithful, I caved to the national pundits in the beginning and placed Michigan atop the standings. Then… a sign… From out of the darkness of Twitter, or “X”, or whatever Elon decides to name the platform tomorrow, emerged a voice. “You either love it. Or you leave it.” I’m sorry Ricky Stanzi, I will never doubt the Hawks again.

With a retooled offense, and a defense that is primed to once again terrorize any opponent they run up against, this year’s version of the Hawkeyes is ready to compete for a championship. Something I don’t feel is being talked about enough about this particular team is that I get the feeling they are angry. With Cades McNamera’s winter comments about hoping people say the offense is going to suck, to a returning offensive line that was embarrassed at every turn last year. Even offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz. Regardless of what you think about him, don’t we have to assume that simply as a man, he has a shred of self respect and would want nothing more than to shut us all up? This team is just giving me vibes guys, and I’m going to ride’em. With that said, when the Hawks win 14-0 with four safeties and two field goals on Saturday, I may drop them down a notch.

2. Michigan

Now back to factual based reason. This Wolverine squad is stacked. From QB JJ Mcarthy to the two headed monster of Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards, an offensive line that every year seemingly reloads into an award winning unit, and a Jesse Minter defense that is arguably projected to be the best of the Harbaugh era, this team is built to win a third straight Big Ten championship.

If there was a question mark on this team, I would have to point at the wide receiver room. Granted, that question mark is a bit of a stretch, but the WR position at Michigan lost more production than any other on the roster. Gone is leading receiver and veteran Ronnie Bell along with transfers Andrel Anthony and A.J Henning. Cornelius Johnson returns and is talented enough to take the lead as is Roman Wilson, but behind them is a wardrobe full of unproven commodities and finely pleated Khaki pants.

The East is once again a beast, and with a trip to Happy Valley on the table, the wide receiver room may just determine the Wolverines fate.

3. Ohio State

Rant time. Ohio. St fans piss me off so much. All that has been talked about with this team is will it be the veteran Kyle Mccord? Or 5 star Wunder Kid Devin Brown at quarterback? The fact that this is being deemed a potential problem and causing Buckeye fans to stay awake at night is such a cry for attention. You know what’s really f****** scary Buckeye fans? Put yourself in Hawkeye shoes for a moment. You got em’ laced up nice and tight? Good.

Picture this: Your savior transfer QB who you’ve waited eight years for walks through the doors of your school, says all the right things, rally’s the fan base, and the first moment you get to watch him in action, his leg gives out. The herculean high you had just experienced of a deep pass actually being thrown and caught has left Kinnick Stadium quicker than Nick Bosa in 2017. You then glance over to the side lines and what you see is a backup who was a third stringer at Wisconsin behind former perennial pumpkin GRAHAM FREAKING MERTZ trotting out onto the field.

This alone is scary enough to haunt all of you 2023 football Saturdays. But it gets better, my friends. What if the former third stringer to GRAHAM FREAKING MERTZ gets hurt? Who plays then? The next QB is injured, then you have a freshman who doesn’t know how to even receive a snap from under center yet, and then… you see him…

Clad in a headset and shorts, a certain former Iowa starting QB from the last three seasons glaring straight back at you. You’ve been told it can’t happen by the Iowa staff. He can’t play. He won’t play… He won’t play…….. Right…………?

Nebraska v Iowa
He’s. Still. Here.
Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images

That is true horror Buckeye fans.

In all seriousness, whoever starts is going to be throwing to a plethora of NFL talent so it’s not like it’s going to matter. The Buckeyes real question will not be if they take a step forward under defensive coordinator Jim Knowles, it will be how big of a step? If Ohio. St’s loaded defense becomes a sack machine like Knowles’ defenses at Oklahoma. St and can at least limit the run, this team will win the Big Ten and the national championship. We just have to see it first before they can move up.

4. Penn. St

If it’s ever going to happen for James Franklin, this has to be the year. The Nittany Lions are the perfect blend of young offensive talent and veteran defensive leaders. Running backs Katron Allen and Nick Singleton rival Corum and Edwards for best duo in the country, and future first round draft pick Kalen King and Chop Robinson anchor the defense at cornerback and defensive end.

As with many teams with championship aspirations, it often comes down to QB play. Insert redshirt freshman Drew Alar. The 5 star all world youngster comes into his first season as a starter with some of the highest expectations of any Big Ten quarterback in the last quarter century. If Alar lives up to the hype, James Franklin’s team will not only have a great shot at winning the Big Ten, but a real chance at securing Penn. St’s first national championship since 1987. Now excuse me while I go barf.

5. Wisconsin

I think it’s dumb that Wisconsin is turning towards a high scoring brand of football. I think the newly dubbed “Dairy Raid” is dumb. I think the fact I can no longer buy Graham Mertz gear from the official Graham Mertz online shop is dumb. And I think my jealousy that all of this will eventually work out for the Badgers is dumb.

Can we not just go back to the old days of just watching the Badgers and Hawks plow into each other until somebody gives? Braeylon Allen running out of shotgun, what fun is that? Picking up QB transfer Tanner Mordicai so they have a quarterback who can actually complete a pass, that’s not entertainment. All in all, the Badgers in my estimate are going to look like world beaters one week, and Nebraska the next. Shoot, maybe this will be enjoyable?

6. Illinois

It’s so weird to say “I’m bullish on the Illini” after so many years of futility. Bert however has this Illinois program believing in itself again and that’s bad news for the Big Ten West in it’s final year. Illinois arguably was the best team in the division last year and should have had a rematch with Michigan in the Big Ten Championship. The Illini are getting dinged hard for the loss of much of their elite secondary as well as former defensive coordinator now Purdue Head Coach Ryan Walters. However, Beilima brings back a top 3 defensive line in the conference and a physical offensive line. The health of the d-line and players like preseason All-American Jer’zhan Newton and Keith Randolph will determine how far this team will go as there is a serious lack of depth behind them.

Purdue v Illinois
You wouldn’t like Bert when he’s angry.
Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

7. Maryland

The most undisciplined team in the Big Ten is back and looking to improve on their 8-5 record from a season ago. The Terrapins head into 2023 with the most proven quarterback in the conference in Taulia Tagovailoa. The fifth year senior signal caller in his fourth year as a starter is coming off a second consecutive 3,000+ yard season. And while he lost several weapons on the outside, sixth year senior Jeshaun Jones is back, looking to lead a room of talented young wideouts.

My continuous problem with Maryland is that they are coached by Mike Locksley. Last year they began to show real signs of an ability to compete in big games but Locksley coached teams always seem to make critical mental errors leading to the teams ultimate demise.

8. Minnesota

It makes my heart happy to see the Gilded Rodents stuck in the muck of mediocrity and that doesn’t appear to be changing in 2023. PJ Fleck rows his 6th Minneapolis canoe into 2023 with many question marks. Gopher fans seem to be pretty excited about quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis but I have two major issues with this. First, no way in hell is a guy named “Athan” winning the Big Ten West. Second, if your faith is in a quarterback who literally just had to hand the ball off to all world tailback Mohamed Ibrahim, and he isn’t around anymore, that’s a problem Rodent fans. Couple that with the loss of fellow All-American center John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmitz and I just don’t have much hope for the Goofers this fall.

9. Nebraska

Take solace Hawkeye fans that the only reason I have placed the Huskers this high is because everyone else below them simply sucks eggs. New head coach Matt Rhule may turn out to be a good hire but I’m not banking on it to bear much fruit this year.

I really don’t know what to think of Nebraska this year, and frankly, “do I care?” Of course I don’t. Fanbases of bigger and better programs in the conference don’t have time for the bottom dwellers which is exactly what Nebraska has been the last 5 years. These stats I’m about to share are both shocking and hilarious. Since 2017, the Cornhuskers have yet to win more than 5 games in a season and have only accomplished that feat once since 2015! Even better, only one team has fewer wins than Nebraska since 2017 and that’s Rutgers! Heavy is the dunce cap that sits atop this program’s head and I speak for all the other Big Ten programs when I say “I hope they keep the cap on.”

10. Purdue

How good is Texas transfer quarterback Hudson Card? That is the question that will define what this Boilermaker team is capable of in 2023. Aforementioned former Illinois defensive coordinator Ryan Walters takes over for the high scoring Hawkeye tormentor Jeff Brohm. Expect Purdue to struggle early while trying to work out the defensive kinks, but if any of the rumors about Card out of fall camp are true, Purdue could be a dangerous football team by year’s end.

11. Michigan State

This is a make or break year for Mel Tucker. In 2023, Spartan fans will find out if their head coach is the guy who led this team to an 11-2 season in 2021, or the floundering 5-7 version from last year. With former starting QB Payton Thorne and top WR Keon Coleman gone via the transfer portal, Mel Tucker has his work cut out to bring this program back to relevancy.

12. Indiana

Basketball coach Mike Woodson got a raise so I suspect it means he’s taking on football duties as well.

13. Rutgers

My friend Derek texted a group of us today saying he spent an hour fighting with a fax machine in the year 2023… Feel free to respond to him in the comments section below.

14. Northwestern

Come out of your holes Hawkeye fans! The dark wizard is gone! He can’t hurt us anymore!

With the departure of Pat Fitzgerald, I cannot help thinking that the Northwestern football program left with him as well. It will be interesting to look back 10 years from now and try to comprehend how Northwestern won two division titles and found themselves ranked multiple times under the leadership of the schools greatest player and most successful head coach.

So here’s to 2023 Hawkeye fans, and be sure to check back every week for more Big Ten Power Rankings!