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Ranking the Big Ten's Football Rosters for 2014

Penn State Nittany Lions

Love or hate football recruiting, it matters. Coaching, support staffs, financial situations and even a little bit of luck goes into winning football games, but having great players always helps too.

So recruiting rankings are just one facet of a deliberate and in-depth equation that helps Athlon Sports project the college football season every year.

When the staff sits down to hash out the Athlon Sports preseason Top 25 each year, recruiting rankings are as much a part of the discussion as returning starters, scheduling differences, coaching changes and historic trends. It all gets incorporated into what eventually becomes the best-selling college football preview magazine on newsstands.

The Big Ten has seen plenty of movement of late. Not only does the conference welcome the Playoff Era in 2014 but it also welcomes two new teams — two new faces with fertile recruiting bases in the Northeast that should benefit every team in the league to some degree. The coaching ranks have seen plenty of turnover as well with changes taking place at powerhouses Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin over the last two years in addition to Purdue and Illinois.

One guys still stands above the rest when it comes to Big Ten recruiting. However, could there be a new face in the league poised to challenge in the very near future?

Here is how the Big Ten rosters rank entering the 2014 season. Below is each roster in the Big Ten based on average national recruiting ranking over the last five classes (according to 247Sports), each team's win-loss record over the last four seasons and some analysis of what it all means heading into the '14 season.

 

Team

 

'14

'13

'12

'11

'10

Rank

W/L

Conf.

1.

Ohio State

3

2

5

6

20

7.2

42-10

26-6

2.

Michigan

20

4

6

26

16

14.4

33-19

18-14

3.

Nebraska

35

22

30

17

26

26.0

38-16

23-9

4.

Penn St

24

30

48

31

11

28.8

30-20

20-12

5.

Michigan State

25

37

33

32

23

30.0

42-12

25-7

6.

Rutgers

60

50

24

27

48

41.8

28-23

13-16

7.

Maryland

43

41

38

52

40

42.8

22-28

11-21

8.

Iowa

53

58

40

28

35

42.8

28-23

15-17

9.

Wisconsin

33

38

65

39

49

44.8

39-15

23-9

10.

Indiana

51

42

56

55

69

54.6

15-33

6-26

11.

Northwestern

46

52

55

62

59

54.8

28-23

12-20

12.

Illinois

70

49

64

38

63

56.8

20-30

7-25

13.

Minnesota

57

66

59

54

55

58.2

20-30

10-22

14.

Purdue

72

62

49

75

51

61.8

18-32

9-23

What did we learn?

Lapping the field
Urban Meyer has had two full recruiting classes in the Big Ten and the level with which he is attracting talent is putting the rest of the conference to shame. Ohio State has posted three consecutive top-five classes nationally under Meyer while only Michigan (6th in 2012 and 4th in 2013) brags even one class inside the top 20 nationally. The Buckeyes have the fifth-best roster in the country and sit well ahead of the rest of the conference. Only Michigan at 12th overall is ranked in the top 20 nationally in terms of talent. In the Big Ten, there is Ohio State and then everybody else when it comes to recruiting.

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Who can challenge Urbs?
This one is easy. James Franklin at Penn State is the perfect mix of energy, talent, charisma, success, support and swagger that is needed to attempt to battle Urban Meyer head-to-head on the recruiting trail. This team remarkably posted 10 conference wins in two heavily sanctioned seasons under Bill O’Brien. The Nittany Lions don’t take any steps back with the transition to the new coaching staff and, in fact, Franklin is a better fit considering his background and love of the college game. Penn State enters this fall with the fourth-best roster in the league and 28th-best roster overall. Fans in Happy Valley should fully expect that ranking to improve dramatically over the next few recruiting cycles.

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What happened to Michigan?
Losing five of your last six games will have an impact on recruiting, and, while Brady Hoke still landed a top-20 class in 2014, Michigan limped to the finish on National Signing Day. Michigan still brags what is clearly the second-best roster in the Big Ten and now the Wolverines' division has gotten even tougher. This team is dramatically more talented than every other team in the league not named Ohio State and there really is no excuse for the offensive ineptitude the Maize and Blue have experienced over the last 18 months. This, of course, is why Hoke made a change on his offensive staff. New coordinator Doug Nussmeier has obvious talent to work with and a returning quarterback in Devin Gardner. This coaching staff has to show marked improvement in 2014 or Hoke's seat will only continue to heat up in Ann Arbor.