It has been nearly four months since our end-of-the-season rankings. So, naturally, we felt compelled to fill our power rankings void.
Six of us tried our hardest to rank each Big Ten team, one through 14. And though we agreed on some picks -- 1-3 were identical -- we differed on most others.
Here's the result of our power rankings, after taking every B1G blogger's poll into account:
1. Ohio State Buckeyes (6 first-place votes): Absolute no-brainer. They're the reigning national champs, and they have a ridiculous amount of talent returning, including three NFL-caliber players just at quarterback. The scary thing here is that the Buckeyes could be even better than last season.
2. Michigan State Spartans: Sure, the offense is without playmakers such as running back Jeremy Langford and wide receiver Tony Lippett. And the defense no longer has the likes of cornerback Trae Waynes and defensive end Marcus Rush. But underestimate Michigan State at your own risk. The Spartans have won double-digit games in four of the past five years -- and they still have two of the best players in the conference, quarterback Connor Cook and defensive end Shilique Calhoun.
3. Wisconsin Badgers: No Melvin Gordon? No problem sort of. Corey Clement is a more-than-adequate replacement, and this passing offense can't possibly be worse than last year. Dave Aranda's defenses are always stingy and, even with some new faces at outside linebacker and linebacker, this team should be just fine.
4. Nebraska Cornhuskers: Obviously, it's still unknown how Mike Riley's pro-style offense and attacking 4-3 defense will fare. But the Huskers have won at least nine games for seven straight years, and Riley has a lot to work with, with vets returning at key spots -- such as quarterback (Tommy Armstrong), left tackle (Alex Lewis), defensive tackle (Maliek Collins, Vincent Valentine), linebacker (Michael Rose-Ivy) and safety (Nate Gerry).
5. Minnesota Golden Gophers: All Jerry Kill does is exceed expectations. Even without linebacker Damien Wilson, the defense will remain strong -- this secondary will be among the conference's best -- but there are question marks on offense. Mitch Leidner returns, but this team can't afford to be so one-dimensional in 2015. Not without David Cobb.
6. Penn State Nittany Lions: Like last year, it's the offensive line that's really preventing PSU from being ranked higher. Still, with a strong defense under coordinator Bob Shoop and a strong-armed quarterback like Christian Hackenberg, it's difficult to count these Lions out. If Nyeem Wartman can replace Mike Hull, this defense should once again be among the nation's elite.
7. Michigan Wolverines: Jim Harbaugh is a demanding coach -- and maybe a "bit insane" -- but he's also the right person to lead this team. It's just difficult to envision a scenario where the Wolverines don't improve upon last season. Offensive turnovers should no longer be the norm, and this defense has plenty to build off of.
8. Rutgers Scarlet Knights: Rutgers deserves a lot of credit for a successful 2014 season -- but it's not going to get any easier in 2015. Gone is longtime quarterback Gary Nova and, in his stead, a quarterback competition between Chris Laviano and Hayden Rettig. Rutgers has a lot of young talent -- think defensive end Kemoko Turay and running backs Josh Hicks and Robert Martin -- but quarterback is the key.
9. Iowa Hawkeyes: Kirk Ferentz and these Hawkeyes have become the Mendoza Line of the Big Ten so, naturally, they're ranked closer to the middle of the pack. The offense showed flashes last season when it went away from its conservative style, so a lot hinges on just how well C.J. Beathard and these receivers play. The offensive line also needs some help with the departure of both tackles.
10. Maryland Terrapins: New quarterback, new receivers, new linebackers -- there's a lot to replace from last year's 7-6 team. The front-seven will be almost entirely new and continues to transition to a 4-3 scheme, while the offense is short on established playmakers. The Terps still have talent at wideout, and are especially strong in the secondary, but there's a lot to overcome here.
11. Illinois Fighting Illini: The injury of Mike Dudek is clearly a big blow to this offense. But once he returns -- reportedly around October -- this offense should be firing on all cylinders with a healthy Wes Lunt and an underrated Josh Ferguson. The big(ger) problem? This defense ranked last in the conference by allowing 34 points per game last year and might not be much better this season.
12. Northwestern Wildcats: Justin Jackson is one of the young stars of the Big Ten. The problem is that the Wildcats don't have too many other offensive stars. (Northwestern is trying to fill the shoes of three offensive linemen, a starting quarterback and a leading receiver.) The defense should be strong, but will that be enough to carry this team to a bowl? At this point, we don't think so.
13. Indiana Hoosiers: On one hand, the school's best rusher in Tevin Coleman is off to the NFL. On the other hand, at least Nate Sudfeld returns and the Hoosiers won't be forced to start a third-string quarterback. (Plus, UAB transfer Jordan Howard could prove to be a pleasant surprise.) But, in a refrain all too familiar to IU fans, the defense is what could end up holding this team back. Again. It allowed 32.8 ppg last season.
14. Purdue Boilermakers: Our mothers taught us that if you can't say anything nice about a program, then you shouldn't say anything at all. So that'll do it for our way-too-early power rankings.