The national championship game takes place Monday night, which means the college football season isn't officially over. But with Big Ten teams having now wrapped up their seasons, we figured it was a good time to compile our final league power rankings.
Few people, if anybody, would have predicted Penn State's rise before the season. But the Nittany Lions' impressive stretch run helped them vault to No. 1. Here's a look at the full rankings, as voted on by the Big Ten crew.
1. Penn State (11-3, three first-place votes): The Nittany Lions' wild 52-49 Rose Bowl loss to USC didn't keep them out of the top spot in our final Big Ten poll. Of course, Ohio State's dud in the national semifinal contributed to Penn State finishing first here, as did Penn State's victory against Ohio State during the regular season and its Big Ten championship. It truly was a special season in Happy Valley.
2. Ohio State (11-2, one first-place vote): Those who questioned whether the Buckeyes even belonged in the playoffs without winning the Big Ten title were provided with more ammunition on New Year's Eve, when Ohio State lost 31-0 to Clemson. Still, Ohio State lived up to the high standard this season that coach Urban Meyer has set, even with a team that returned only six offensive and defensive starters.
3. Michigan (10-3): It's funny how two consecutive 10-3 seasons can feel so drastically different in Ann Arbor. In 2015, 10 wins showed just how far coach Jim Harbaugh had brought the team. In 2016, 10 wins showed just how much remained for Michigan to compete for a national title. A 33-32 loss to Florida State in the Capital One Orange Bowl capped a season in which Michigan lost three of its final four games by a combined total of five points.
4. Wisconsin (11-3): The Badgers weren't supposed to be this good in 2016. They were supposed to lose the season opener to SEC power LSU and fall under the weight of a brutal league schedule. Instead, Wisconsin thrived and won double-digit games for the third consecutive season. Wisconsin capped a stellar year with a 24-16 victory against Western Michigan in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic. Kudos to Paul Chryst and Co.
5. Iowa (8-5): With so many players returning off last year's Big Ten West-winning team, expectations were high for the Hawkeyes. But the playoff dream ended early with losses to North Dakota State and Northwestern, and the Big Ten title dream ended soon thereafter. Iowa rallied late in the year, sparked by a stirring upset of Michigan to reach the Outback Bowl. The Hawkeyes' offense didn't have enough left in the tank in a 30-3 bowl game loss to Florida.
6. Nebraska (9-4): When Nebraska stood 7-0 entering a primetime game at Wisconsin, it appeared the Cornhuskers were on the precipice of a monumental, program-boosting breakthrough. Instead, Nebraska lost in overtime, was blown out by Ohio State and Iowa and then lost 38-24 to Tennessee in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl. Nebraska made great strides in Year 2 of the Mike Riley era, but a 2-4 finish will leave a sour taste heading into the offseason.
7. Northwestern (7-6): The Wildcats lost their first two games at home against Western Michigan and FCS foe Illinois State before rallying down the stretch to reach the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. Northwestern beat Pitt 31-24 in one of the more impressive postseason showings by a Big Ten team. The fifth-year seniors became the first senior class in program history to win two bowl games.
8. Minnesota (9-4): The Gophers finished the season with at least nine wins for only the third time since 1905. Minnesota also defeated Washington State 17-12 in the National Funding Holiday Bowl. Tracy Claeys was fired after he publicly supported his players' protests of the school's suspension of 10 players in connection with a sexual assault investigation. But Minnesota quickly hired former Western Michigan coach PJ Fleck, who should make the Gophers even more competitive in the Big Ten West.
9. Indiana (6-7): The Hoosiers reached consecutive bowl games for the first time since 1990-91. Utah defeated Indiana 26-24 in the Foster Farms Bowl, but with defensive coordinator Tom Allen taking over as head coach for Kevin Wilson, the program will maintain continuity moving forward.
10. Maryland (6-7): Coach DJ Durkin orchestrated a solid turnaround in his first season in College Park, helping the Terrapins reach the Quick Lane Bowl, where they lost 36-30 to Boston College. It will be difficult to compete for championships in the rugged Big Ten East, but Durkin has Maryland headed in the right direction.
11. Michigan State (3-9): Who saw this coming? After three consecutive seasons with at least 11 wins, the Spartans barely escaped the Big Ten East basement. Michigan State lost nine of its last 10 games and left head coach Mark Dantonio scratching his head. It was quite an unusual year for a team that reached the College Football Playoff last year and has been among the Big Ten's best.
12. Illinois (3-9): The Illini have a long way to go in the Big Ten West, and that starts with showing more consistency. Just when it seemed Illinois could be turning a corner with a victory against Michigan State, the Illini lost their final three games by a total of 94 points.
13. Purdue (3-9): The Darrell Hazell era didn't make it through Year 4, and now Jeff Brohm inherits a team that is 3-31 in Big Ten play the past four seasons. Purdue lost its last seven games, although the Boilermakers nearly won the Old Oaken Bucket against Indiana in the finale.
14. Rutgers (2-10): It was a season to forget for first-year coach Chris Ash in Piscataway. Rutgers lost every Big Ten game and was shut out four times during league play. It marked the first time Rutgers had been blanked four times in a season since 1936. Ouch.