2013 Pre-Preseason Big Ten Rankings

Posted Jan 24, 2013

The too early look at how good the Big Ten should be in 2013.

CFN 2013 First Look Rankings

Big Ten Leaders

2012 CFN Final Season Rankings
The Top 10 | Rankings 11-29 | Rankings 30-48 | Rankings 49-67
- Rankings 68-86Rankings 87-105The Bottom 19

FINAL 2012 Rankings By Conference
- ACC | Big East | Big Ten | Big 12 | C-USA | Ind
- MAC | Mountain West | Pac-12 | SEC | Sun Belt | WAC
- Based On Opinion ... CFN 2012 FINAL Rankings, Top  25
- CFN 2012 Pre-Preseason Big Ten Leaders Rankings
- CFN 2012 Pre-Preseason Big Ten Legends Rankings

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It might seem way too early, but considering the returning starters and the teams coming back, where does everyone stand before Signing Day and spring ball? Here's CFN's first look at all the teams for 2013 based on how good they appear to be at the moment.

- CFN 2013 Pre-Preseason Big Ten Legends Rankings

1. Ohio State (12-0)

Will the Buckeyes be able to build on their great first season under Urban Meyer, or will they pull a USC and struggle under the weight of lofty expectations? It's possible for neither to happen – the program is still at least a year away from truly starting to rock and roll again with Meyer's phenomenal recruiting classes needing time to jell.

The offense won't have much of a problem moving the ball with the return of quarterback Braxton Miller, who'll finally starting getting his due Heisman consideration, along with eight other starters. Four seniors will start up front, and Carlos Hyde is back to help Miller carry the mail, but the key to the attack might be the improvement of the receiving corps needing Devin Smith and Corey Brown to do even more. Safety valve tight end Jake Stoneburner is gone.

The defense that had consistency problems has to hope for several young players to step up and shine on the line with all four starters gone including John Simon, Nathan Williams and tackle Johnathan Hankins, who left early for the NFL. Linebacker Ryan Shazier is destined for All-America honors, and Bradley Roby is a rising star at corner but the D as a whole might take a wee step back before making a giant leap forward in 2014.

2. Wisconsin (8-6)

Can Gary Andersen make it four Rose Bowls in a row, and can he possibly win one? It might not seem like it after the three defeats in Pasadena, but this has been a special time for a Wisconsin program that won the first two Big Ten championships and has found ways to get the job done when it has had to – at least before making the trip to California. The problem is that Ohio State is back and kicking, and Michigan, Michigan State and Nebraska aren't going away.

As always, the Badgers will run the ball and run it well. Montee Ball is off to the NFL, but James White and Melvin Gordon can handle the load behind another massive line. Center Travis Frederick is leaving early for the next level and tackle Ricky Wagner is done, but three starters are back. Receiver Jared Abbrederis needs help from Jordan Fredrick, Kenzel Doe and Chase Hammond to get more from the passing game, and they need better quarterback play. Curt Phillips is gone after stepping in to right the ship, and this offseason will be a battle between Joel Stave and Danny O'Brien to be the main man.

The defense was the best in the Bret Bielema era, and it could be even better. Leader Mike Taylor is gone at linebacker, but Chris Borland is a big hitter in the middle and Ethan Armstrong is solid on the outside. All four starters are back up front along with nice backups for the rotation. The secondary is the problem with three starters gone and only free safety Dezmen Southward returning.

3. Penn State (8-4)

Yes, they're still playing football in Happy Valley, but the focus and spotlight after an emotional and wild 2012 football season won't be there. Can Bill O'Brien pull off another winning season? It all depends on the development of the depth, but the starters will be strong enough to play with anyone in the league.

The first step will be to find a quarterback to replace Matt McGloin after his shockingly outstanding year. Steven Bench was the key backup at the end of the season, but Nittany Lion fans will be counting the minutes until superstar recruit Christian Hackenberg takes over the job. Talk about pressure; Hackenberg might be the most talented passer at PSU since Kerry Collins, and he'll be expected to shine from Day One. Three starters are gone from the line, including guard John Urschel and tackle Mike Farrell, but there's talent returning led by rising star receiver Allen Robinson. Can Zach Zwinak go from being a surprise leading rusher to even more of a workhorse? There are several options to keep him fresh.

The defense loses Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges from the linebacking corps, but Glenn Carson is a good one in the middle and Mike Hull is a playmaker on the outside. Jordan Hill is gone from his spot as the anchor up front. But DaQuan Jones is a big body who can hold up against the run. Three starters are back in the secondary with only cornerback Stephon Morris gone.

4. Indiana (4-8)

Is Kevin Wilson going to be able to take the program to another level? The 4-8 record might not have been a positive, but the Hoosiers went into mid-November with a chance to win the Leaders. The three game slide to close things out was ugly, but it was still a step forward.

Center Will Matte is gone from the offense – that's it. The Hoosier offense led the Big Ten in passing and ran relatively well when it wasn't trying to keep up in shootouts, and now ten starters are back helped but the improvement of a young line that should be grown up and more consistent. Cameron Coffman is a nice quarterback and Stephen Houston is a talented back who could do far more. The upside is there.

The defense is another story, even with nine starters returning. The D finished last in the Big Ten in total defense and scoring defense, having the biggest problem against the run. That's an issue considering tackles Larry Black and Adam Replogle, the team's two top pass rushers, are the two losses. The entire back seven is back led by leading tackler, safety Greg Heban. Linebacker David Cooper has the potential to be a major factor.

5. Purdue (6-7)

New head coach Darrell Hazell has to try to get more out of the team against the better squads on the slate, and that will start with a more powerful offense and a defense that doesn't get pushed around so often. Both will take time and a few decent recruiting classes. Fortunately, he has a slew of veterans returning to rely on right away.

The quarterback situation that's been so muddled over the last few seasons might be a bit more settled with Robert Marve and Caleb TerBush gone – it should be Rob Henry's gig now. Akeem Hunt has to show he can handle the full-time workload at running back, but it's the passing game that should shine brightest with O.J. Ross and Gary Bush returning to make up for the loss of Antavian Edison. Three starters return to the offensive front that did a decent job.

The defense has to do the near-impossible and replace Kawann Short on the defensive interior, but Bruce Gaston is a rising star at tackle. More of a pass rush is needed on the outside from Ryan Russell and Ryan Isaac. Sean Robinson is a big-hitter at linebacker, and all three starters are back in the secondary. There's depth and a few nice options for several jobs, but overall, the D needs more playmakers.

6. Illinois (2-10)

Let's just say things could've gone better in Tim Beckman's first season. After finished second-to-last in the nation in total offense and scoring offense, former Western Michigan head man Bill Cubit was brought in to take over the attack and provide a boost. But after losing nine straight games and going 0-8 in the Big Ten, it'll take a massive overhaul across the board.

For good and bad, nine starters return to the miserable offense, led by quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase for yet another season as the starter. The running game never got going, but Donovonn Young and Josh Ferguson are good backs who need room to move. That could be a problem behind a mediocre line that loses tackle Hugh Thornton and center Graham Pocic. All the top targets are back for Scheelhaase.

The defense had the talent, but didn't do anything with it. Linebacker Jonathan Brown has to be healthy to help bail out a line that loses tackle Akeem Spence early to the NFL and has to find replacements for Michael Buchanan and Glenn Foster. Four starters are gone from a five-man secondary that didn't give up a ton of yards, but got torched by anyone who wanted to throw. Punter Nick Immekus is going to be a key factor again.

- CFN 2013 Pre-Preseason Big Ten Legends Rankings