Rivals.com - Big Ten spotlight: Stacking up the starting lineups by star ranking
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Big Ten spotlight: Stacking up the starting lineups by star ranking

CJ Stroud
CJ Stroud (Scott Stuart)

The college football season is right around the corner, so Rivals national recruiting director Adam Gorney took the lists of projected starters for each Power Five conference from the Lindy’s preseason magazine and broke them down by star ranking coming out of high school.

Today, we move on to the Big Ten.

Note: Five-star players are allotted five points, four-stars get four points and so on for each of the 22 starters on every team.

RELATED: Star rankings of SEC starting lineups | ACC

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1. Ohio State

Total points: 89

Overview: The Buckeyes have the highest star rankings for projected starters in the Big Ten and there is a legitimate argument that some of their top players were actually under-ranked coming out of high school. Quarterback CJ Stroud and RB TreVeyon Henderson could have easily made that argument now.

Four-star WR Marvin Harrison Jr. could have a breakout season. The only three-star on the entire offense is OL Dawand Jones, who could end up being an early-round draft pick as well.

Bookend defensive ends JT Tuimoloau and Zach Harrison were both five-stars and could cause major problems in the Big Ten this season.

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2. Penn State

Total points: 83

Overview: Based on star rankings only for projected starters, Penn State could make a run at the Big Ten championship with this team. Everybody on the list offensively and defensively were four-star prospects except two-star WR Mitchell Tinsley (who had 87 catches for 1,402 yards and 14 touchdowns last season at Western Kentucky), three-star LB Tyler Elsdon and three-star defensive backs Joey Porter Jr. and Ji’Ayir Brown.

From QB Sean Clifford to the entire offensive and defensive lines, Penn State is loaded with four-stars.

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3. Michigan

Total points: 73

Overview: The Wolverines have some serious star power with 11 four-stars among their projected starters but two other things also stand out: No five-stars expected in that group yet and there were two key mis-rankings as WR Ronnie Bell was a two-star and standout OL Olusegun Oluwatimi wasn’t even ranked as he started his career at Air Force and then transferred to Ann Arbor.

Michigan’s numbers would be much higher if those two were ranked appropriately. QB Cade McNamara, RB Blake Corum and then WR Cornelius Johnson and TE Erick All were all four-star prospects.

On defense, four-star DL Mike Morris and Mazi Smith, linebacker Junior Colson and CB Gemon Green lead the way.

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4. Nebraska

Total points: 68

Overview: A lot is going on when it comes to the star rankings for the projected starters at Nebraska because the skill players from four-star quarterback Casey Thomspon to four-star running back Rahmir Johnson to four-star receiver Omar Manning and five-star WR Trey Palmer is loaded.

The offensive line is bookended by four-stars Turner Corcoran and Teddy Prochazka but up the middle looks weaker based on stars. On defense there are four-stars at all three levels in DT Ty Robinson, LBs Nick Henrich and Caleb Tannor and DB Tommi Hill.

But Nebraska’s numbers could even be higher if not for OL Trent Hixson and LB Luke Reimer not getting a ranking out of high school.

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5. Maryland

Total points: 67

Overview: The offense has firepower and star rankings to back it up as QB Taulia Tagovailoa ended up as a low four-star and that now looks a little low. The receiving corps has four-star Florida transfer, five-star Rakik Jarrett and others. But the defense looks a little suspect based on star rankings for projected starters only as linebacker Ruben Hyppolite II is the lone four-star among the group.

There are a bunch of three-stars up and down the starting lineup so Maryland could have something going in College Park.

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6. Indiana

Total points: 66

Overview: There are significant transfers across the skill positions for the Hoosiers whether it’s former three-star QB Connor Bazelak (Missouri) fighting for the starting job, four-star RB Shaun Shivers (Auburn), three-star receiver Emery Simmons or four-star WR D.J. Matthews and center Zach Carpenter played at Michigan before transferring to Indiana. There’s a lot of potential there but a lot to work through as well.

The defense is filled with veterans but CB Tiawan Mullen is the only four-star among the projected starters on that side of the ball.

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7. Michigan State

Total points: 66

Overview: There are a lot of talented transfers especially on defense with high four-star Khris Bogle and four-star nickel Chester Kimbrough coming over from Florida along with three-star DB Ameer Speed (Georgia) and four-star cornerback Ronald Williams (Alabama) moving over from the SEC as well.

The offense only has one four-star among the projected starters in right tackle Spencer Brown but three-star QB Payton Thorne and two-star WR Jayden Reed have clearly outplayed their high school rankings.

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8. Northwestern

Total points: 66

Overview: Other than quarterback Ryan Hilinski, who transferred from South Carolina, OL Peter Skoronski and DL Ryan Johnson, who transferred from Stanford, everyone else on the offense and defense for the Wildcats were ranked as three-stars, with one exception.

Northwestern’s total score for projected starters would be higher but OL Vince Picozzi was never rated coming out of high school. And an argument could definitely be made that Skoronski should have received five-star consideration to bump up Northwestern’s total a little more.

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9. Wisconsin

Total points: 66

Overview: What would this list be if not for Wisconsin players being underrated at many positions? Four-star quarterback Graham Mertz and OL Logan Brown were one notch from being five-stars but there are two players – tight end Jack Eschenbach and linebacker Tatum Grass – who went unranked out of high school which definitely affects the Badgers’ final score.

Three of Wisconsin’s projected offensive line starters were three-stars and an easy argument could be made that some were mis-ranked. The same could go for the secondary of three-star Jay Shaw, three-star Alexander Smith and two-star John Torchio as safety Hunter Wohler is the only four-star in that talented group.

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10. Minnesota

Total points: 65

Overview: The offense is especially interesting because of how many transfers there are now with four-star receiver Dylan Wright coming from Texas A&M, high four-star OL Quinn Carroll a Notre Dame transfer and four-star OL Chuck Filiaga coming over from Michigan. The best of the bunch could be center John Michael Schmitz and he was a three-star. So was running back Mo Ibrahim, whose return could be special this season.

On defense, the only four-star is safety Tyler Nubin as a whole host of three-stars take up many of the other spots.

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11. Iowa

Total points: 58

Overview: There is a history of under-ranking Iowa players based on the success in Iowa City and the NFL Draft status of players but this group reaches another level. The only four-stars on offense among the projected starters are quarterback Spencer Petras and OL Connor Colby although Sam LaPorta is one of the best tight ends nationally and we all know some offensive linemen will develop into pro players.

Defensively, top linebacker Jack Campbell was a three-star and standout cornerback Riley Moss was a two-star. Potential starter Joe Evans at defensive end was a walk-on so he received no ranking. But the secondary of Moss, two-star cornerback Jermari Harris, two-star safety Kaevon Merriweather and unranked Quinn Schulte must have some misses there.

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12. Purdue

Total points: 57

Overview: Purdue is not usually in contention for the Big Ten team recruiting title but this point total is unusually low although there are reasons behind it. Standout quarterback Aidan O’Connell was a walk-on so he wasn’t ranked out of high school. Neither was safety Chris Jefferson, who transferred to Purdue from Findlay.

There are also some under-ranked two-stars who should be higher and four-star receiver Milton Wright didn’t make it because he’s been ruled academically ineligible. From a star ranking perspective, this is not an excellent group but we all know the Boilermakers have talent.

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13. Rutgers

Total points: 56

Overview: There are transfers up and down Rutgers’ roster with four-star Curtis Dunlap being a major addition on the offensive line after coming over from Minnesota but OL J.D. DiRenzo (Sacred Heart) and Hollin Pierce (postgrad year at Fork Union Military Academy) were not ranked in the Rivals database. In part, that’s why the Scarlet Knights’ total star number is lower.

On defense, there are six three-stars and five two-star players projected to start for Rutgers led by three-star DL Aaron Lewis and Mayan Ahanotu, another transfer from the Golden Gophers. Linebacker Tyreem Powell and defensive backs Max Melton and Avery Young lead the way in the back seven.

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14. Illinois

Total points: 53

Overview: There is significant feast or famine on offense where four-star receiver Isaiah Williams and four-star tight end Luke Ford were both one notch away from being five-star prospects so there is talent in the receiving game. Also, Western Michigan transfer Chase Brown is better than a two-star prospect which he was ranked in high school. OL Alex Pihlstrom and cornerback Devon Witherspoon, who was supposed to go to junior college but then joined the Illinois team late, were unranked.

That negatively affects the final score here but there are far too many two-stars on the Illinois defense and the only four-star among the projected starters on that side of the ball is DT Verdis Brown.

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