Big Ten West Power Ratings: Week 1
No. 1 Iowa Hawkeyes
Week 1: The No. 17 ranked Iowa Hawkeyes open up the season at home against Miami (Ohio) on Saturday afternoon in Kinnick Stadium. The Hawkeyes should easily hold serve in their opener and knock off a once pesky Mid-American Conference program. Iowa's main concern in the nonconference will come in the two weeks to follow with a rivalry game with Iowa State and a "save face" game against North Dakota State.
No. 2 Minnesota Golden Gophers
Week 1: This week will be all about dominating a poor team from a Power 5 conference. If Minnesota and senior quarterback Mitch Leidner want respect across the conference they will come out and significantly beat up Oregon State and win the game with ease. I will also be watching the Gopher defense and evaluate if losing defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys to the big chair will result in a decrease in performance or if the Minnesota defense will continue to be the team's identity.
No. 3 Northwestern Wildcats
Week 1: The Cats open up at home against the Western Michigan Broncos of the Mid-American Conference. If one Big Ten team needs to worry about the possibility of a major upset at home to start of 2016 it has to be Northwestern. The Broncos, under P.J. Fleck are trending in the right direction and are poised to be a top program in the MAC. Look for Fleck to be a Big Ten head coach within three seasons.
No. 4 Nebraska
Week 1: The Huskers open up Year 2 of the Mike Riley experiment with a home night game Saturday night at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln. The Husker crowd should be ready for a party and so should senior quaterback Tommy Armstrong, who will be starting his 34th game at Nebraska. The opponent is Fresno State and fifth year head coach Tim DeRuyter. The Bulldog program appears to be rejuvenated in DeRuyter's first two season as he lead the program to 20 wins, but since it has been a struggle for Fresno as the last two years have only yielded nine victories.
No. 5 Wisconsin
Week 1: It should be a great scene in Green Bay on Saturday afternoon as the Badgers play host to the LSU Tigers in a marquee match. For Wisconsin it should be just a sign of things to come in 2016, facing a nasty schedule week in and week out. Wisconsin may be one of the best teams in the West, but their schedule will result in making them look like a bubble team for bowl eligibility. It could be interesting to see how the LSU defense welcomes Badger quarterback Bart Houston to the starting line up.
No. 6 Illinois
Week 1: The Lovie Smith era will kick off on Saturday afternoon in Memorial Stadium when the Murray State Racers arrive in Champaign. While it may take Smith a few years to get Illinois into contention for a West title, he should have no problem in his opener. I will be watching the Illini offense to see if any of their receivers are looking to step up to become a significant target for talented quarterback Wes Lunt.
No. 7 Purdue
Week 1: Purdue opens up Darrell Hazel's fifth season in West Lafayette with a home game against Eastern Kentucky. The Boilermakers will struggle in 2016, but they should be able to outclass the Colonels of EKU. Purdue will have a chance to show competence next weekend when they host Cincinnati.
*DTCR: Division Title Confidence Rating