I was wondering which, if any, B10 football programs appear better positioned today than they appeared to be one year ago and thought I'd share my findings. I was going to just do a board post but it got awfully long and there aren't so many diaries these days anyhow.
My objective "anchor", so to speak, was naturally Bill C.'s S&P+ rankings. I'll sprinkle in some use of the 24/7 composite national rankings & some subjective thoughts when it's time to make a call.
OK, let's see how the B10 fared on the field and beyond in 2018 (warning: the theme was disappointment). Rankings via preseason S&P+:
1. OSU: S&P rating moved -7 points; S&P+ rank fell from national #1 (preseason) to #5 (final). Unexpectedly lost an all-time great Head Coach in his 50's; replaced him with a 1st time HC. Recruiting class (a small one, admittedly) is currently #13 after two straight #2 finishes. They arguably (probably?) still have the highest stock in the B10, but the only reasonable conclusion (BPONE be damned) is their stock is Down compared to a year ago today.
2. PSU: -4, #7 to #14. Bit of a disappointing season on the field, largely due to a precipitous offensive fall, despite a returning Sr. QB, in the first year w/o Moorehead. Recruiting is steady, but they've lost, i believe, 5 underclassmen to the draft and another 5 to the portal, 3-4 of whom were expected to contribute. I don't think it's unfair to conclude their stock is a bit Down.
3. Michigan: 0, #10 to #6. Despite what your soul tells you the team was about as good as expected this year. We're optimistic about the coaching changes but check back later. Losing Solomon, Gentry & Long but keeping Hill, Hudson, Patterson, et. al. feels like a push. The one needle-mover is recruiting: a year ago M was in striking out each at-bat en route to a #22 national finish; today we're #8 and proved able to close the deal on a high 5*....so this homer will call it a slight Stock UP.
4. Wisconsin: -4, #11 to #21. Disappointing season but not terrible; recruiting (#26) is a notch better than the ~40 from the past two years. Their biggest problem is an ascendant Nebraska but we'll call this Even
5. MSU: -8, #13 to #33. Second-most disappointing on-field season in the conference; the big 3 of the East seem to have distanced themselves; the attempt to fix a miserable offense involved coaching shakeups (smart!) which consisted entirely of job swaps (uhh?); recruiting continues to hover around #30. I'm so sad to say their stock is Down
6. Iowa: +4, #35 to #22, The rare Big Ten team that was better than expected this season. Recruiting has remained consistent around #40. If only b/c they were better than expected in a conference that was mostly disappointing, i'll give them a slight stock Up.
7. Northwestern: -8, #37 to #79, So, the Wildcats were actually far worse than predicted. Several of their division rivals are on the rise. They lose their NFL-ish QB. Recruiting remains around #50. But i just can't bring myself to say NW is in worse shape after a division title than they were a year ago so it has to be Even.
8. Indiana: -5, #49 to #83 - They were surprisingly awful this year, sure, but recruiting is up to #41 (despite a small class) after being down in the 60s two years ago. And they seem to have tightened their grip on the "5th best program in the division" honor thanks mostly to the I-95 idiots. Even
9. Purdue: +1, #51 to #52 - They were about as average as expected but recruiting class is #24 after being #51, and #72 before that. But that's burying the lede - by some miracle or witchcraft they fended off Louisville for Brohm and are, imo, going to become a true division contender for as long as he sticks around. Big time Up.
10. Nebraska: +1, #61 to #56 - this is what we expected right? They were bad this year, they're recruiting pretty well, Frost (hired Dec '17, ftr) is probably going to have them contending for the division as soon as 2019. Even
11. Maryland: +1, #71 to #71 - A year ago we didn't know just how vile Durkin was, so while it's good he's gone, by the rules their stock is Down.
12. Minnesota: +6, #76 to #49 - Boat's being rowed! They were the B10's biggest overperformer, recruiting looks fine, stock is Up.
13. Rutgers: -9 (!!!), #94 to #116 ... see below
14. Illinois: -3, #100 to #105 - When you begin at the extremes (e.g. in preliminary rankings) you're more likely to move towards the center, not due to your own quality, but simply due to the sheer number of alternatives on one side and lack thereof on the other (see: OSU's "disappointing" #5 finish). Against all odds, both of the Big Ten's embarrassments managed to descend deeper than the bottom of the basement. Both continue to get worse at recruiting (from 40's in 2017 to 50's last year to 60's now); both decided to delay their inevitable coaching change one more year. It's morbidly impressive to realize both stocks are Down.
In Conclusion: 4 Ups vs 6 Downs isn't good but it's not as bad as i expected, especially considering just 2 teams outperformed expectations by a FG-to-TD margin, whereas 4 were a TD + worse than expected, and another 4 were 4-6 points below expectations. Recruiting is part of the reason - I have 5 teams on the upswing in that regard vs 2-4 on the slide. The East looks set to remain a 3.5 horse race for a while to come, while the West's depth seems poised to turn it into an average (or better?) P5 division by ~2020.