Big Ten football power rankings after spring portal closes: Did Nittany Lions get better?

Ohio State and Oregon loaded up with transfer portal additions this offseason and have separated themselves in the new Big Ten as the top two contenders. So, where do James Franklin and the Penn State Nittany Lions stand?
Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Drew Allar
Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Drew Allar / Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
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This offseason, the spring transfer portal window was a bit quieter than a year ago when several quarterbacks changed teams and there was movement all over the country. Still, coaches put the finishing touches on their rosters for next season, so now with the portal closed and only a few players still searching for homes, we can start to predict who will be good next season. 

The Big Ten specifically underwent a monumental restructure this offseason, adding UCLA, USC, Oregon, and Washington. Two of those programs will be ready to compete right away and the Ducks look ready to fight for the conference title in Year 1. 

With Jim Harbaugh’s move to the NFL and Kalen DeBoer’s departure for Alabama, Washington, and Michigan, who played for the national title last season, will take a big step back. With new contenders joining and last year’s dominant teams undergoing rebuilds, it could be James Franklin’s year to make a statement and bring his second Big Ten title to Happy Valley. Let’s get into the early power rankings for the conference with the transfer portal closed. 

481. Illinois. . . Key losses: Jer'Zhan Newton, Isaiah Adams, Tip Reiman. Head Coach: Bret Bielema. Last Year: 5-7. team. . 18

Key losses: Jer’Zhan Newton, Isaiah Adams, Tip Reiman Key additions: J.C. Davis, Cole Rusk

When Illinois got to 8-5 in 2022, it did it with a dominant defense, but that unit has lost a lot of talent over the past two years. Jer’Zhan Newton was a dominant force on the defensive line last season but with him and Keith Randolph Jr. off to the NFL, the regression will continue. Bret Bielema is only in Year 4 at Illinois, but it appears his best season is already in the rearview mirror. 

The outlook for 2024 looked bleak to begin with, but the spring portal window hit hard. Illinois has been ravaged by departures and is in an even tougher spot heading into the summer.