While the top three teams in the Big Ten Conference will surprise no one who has watched college football this century, the fourth, sixth, seventh and 12th teams in the conference recruiting rankings figure to raise some eyebrows.

What are Maryland (No. 4) and Minnesota (6) doing above No. 7 Wisconsin and No. 12 (twelve?!) Nebraska? Fair question.

The Terrapins, out east, and the Gophers, smack in the middle of the west, are trying to build programs and jump ahead of perennial contenders in those standings that matter more than recruiting rankings (you know, the actual win-loss conference standings). Teams such as Wisconsin, Michigan State, Iowa and Nebraska have outperformed Minnesota and Maryland in recent standings, but this year has seen Maryland and Minnesota build their brands off the field and make a jump in recruiting rankings.

Wisconsin and Iowa often turn middle-of-the-pack recruiting classes into conference contenders. Nebraska, on the other hand clearly is suffering a recruiting slump coming off a 4-8 season.

But the story this year in the Big Ten — aside from the giants dominating again — is the rising programs in the top six. D.J. and P.J. — that would be Durkin in Maryland and Fleck in Minnesota — know that a good start to trying to reverse the standings is to first reverse the recruiting rankings.


Big Ten rankings

Ranked by 247sports.com composite ranking, with the number of five- and four-star recruits in parentheses:

1. Ohio State (19)

2. Penn State (10)

3. Michigan (8)

4. Maryland (3)

5. Michigan State (4)

6. Minnesota (2)

7. Wisconsin (1)

8. Rutgers (1)

9. Iowa (1)

10. Indiana

11. Purdue

12. Nebraska (5)

13. Northwestern (1)

14. Illinois (1)