Big Ten
Big Ten

College Football Analysis: Returning Big Ten Offensive Firepower

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Previously we took a look at the returning offensive firepower in the ACC, Big 12, Pac-12 and the SEC. Now it's time to look at the Big Ten and find out who has the most ammunition coming back from last year.

Passing TPY RPY % Yardage Returning
Northwestern 3057 3057 100.00%
Penn State 2986 2986 100.00%
Purdue 1809 1809 100.00%
Michigan State 3073 3023 98.37%
Nebraska 2108 2006 95.16%
Illinois 1963 1829 93.17%
Michigan 3252 2655 81.64%
Ohio State 2971 1905 64.12%
Wisconsin 2593 134 5.17%
Indiana 3446 151 4.38%
Iowa 3049 45 1.48%
Minnesota 2713 34 1.25%

*TPY= 2010 total passing yards

*RPY= Passing Yards from 2010 for players returning in 2011

Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin will all be breaking in new QBs this year and Ohio State will have a new one for their first five games. It's interesting that the new head coaches at Minnesota and Indiana will be able to make an immediate stamp on their program with who they pick to run the show. There are six teams up top with the majority of their passing yardage returning from last year but they are very different. Who would you rather have at QB- Dan Persa or whoever Purdue decides to throw out there? Would you rather go to battle with veteran Kirk Cousins or whoever wins Nebraska's QB derby?

Rushing TRY RRY % Yardage Returning
Michigan State 1978 1978 100.00%
Michigan 3101 3050 98.36%
Northwestern 2027 1873 92.40%
Minnesota 1623 1414 87.12%
Wisconsin 3194 2153 67.41%
Ohio State 2861 1776 62.08%
Nebraska 3466 2123 61.25%
Indiana 1204 675 56.06%
Purdue 1930 1078 55.85%
Illinois 3199 1457 45.55%
Penn State 1853 829 44.74%
Iowa 1929 839 43.49%

*TRY= 2010 Total Rushing Yards

*RRY= Rushing Yards from 2010 for players returning in 2011

The conference returns about two-thirds of it's rushing production from last year. The team who has the most rushing yards returning (Michigan with 3,050) is going to be running a different style of offense, but with the same QB, so it will be real interesting to see how the numbers change for that team. You have to like what Michigan State and Wisconsin bring back this year in terms of running the football. Iowa is in the bottom 2 of the conference for both passing yards returning and rushing yards returning. That will be a storyline worth watching.

Receiving TotRec RetRec % Receptions Returning
Michigan 243 238 97.94%
Minnesota 209 193 92.34%
Northwestern 263 216 82.13%
Michigan State 244 169 69.26%
Penn State 236 155 65.68%
Illinois 165 100 60.61%
Indiana 311 176 56.59%
Nebraska 163 90 55.21%
Wisconsin 202 107 52.97%
Ohio State 228 111 48.68%
Iowa 226 105 46.46%
Purdue 197 76 38.58%

*TotRec= Total 2010 Receptions

*RetRec= Receptions from 2010 for players returning in 2011

Only the SEC returns less receiving prodcution than the Big Ten (although the Pac-12 is close). It's interesting to see teams that return no QB production but a ton of receptions (Minnesota). And vice versa teams that return very little in the way of receptions but all of their passing yardage from last year (Purdue). If Dan Persa is healthy and he has 82% of his receiving production back from last year, Northwestern will be a very dangerous team this year.


Taking into account the three metrics above (passing yards returning, rushing yards returning and receptions returning) as well as the overall percentage of the metric the team returned  I have compiled a "firepower" ranking which tells us which teams have the most offensive statistics returning from last year. What does this mean? I think it means different things for different teams but for consistency sake it means a lot for teams that have guys coming back. This is an interesting tool to use in conjunction with who teams having coming to challenge for playing time. For this exercise I took Ohio State's "Tattoo Five" and reduced their returning numbers by 5 games each so that definitely factored into their ranking.

The Big Ten really broke down into four clusters in terms of returning offensive production. The top cluster is Michigan, Northwestern and Michigan State. All of these teams are head and shoulders above the rest of the conference in terms of returning offensive statistics. Then you have four teams clumped together in Nebraska, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin. All are traditionally strong teams so them being in the "second tier" shouldn't effect them much as they usually re-load more often then they have to re-build. Then you have the third tier that includes Minnesota, Illinois and Indiana. These teams could be in trouble because they are tradionally among the middle to lower rung of the Big Ten totem pole. Two of these teams have new coaches and one has one on he hot seat so that makes these three teams very interesting to watch this year. The last tier is Purdue and Iowa. Iowa might be the most interesting team in the conference to watch this year (outside of Ohio State) because of all of the production that they lost on offense.

1. Michigan

2. Northwestern

3. Michigan State

4. Nebraska

5. Ohio State

6. Penn State

7. Wisconsin

8. Minnesota

9. Illinois

10. Indiana

11. Purdue

12. Iowa