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Way-too-early 2015 Big Ten football power rankings

14. Northwestern Wildcats

justin-jackson-j-prime-21The Northwestern Wildcats enter 2015 as a program at a complete crossroads. After the heights of winning a bowl game, it’s been nothing but injuries, bad luck and losing seasons in Evanston, Ill. and 2015 is a season in which there will be plenty of changes coming.

Pat Fitzgerald’s team faces some of the biggest changes with a quarterback, two starting wide receivers, its best offensive lineman (Brandon Vitable) and two of the biggest defensive names on the roster all to replace.

Northwestern got some glimpse of the future at quarterback with both Matt Alviti and Zack Oliver playing late in the season. The results weren’t all that inspiring, as Oliver completed just over 50 percent of his passes for 367 yards and two touchdowns to three interceptions. Alviti only saw spot duty in four games, so we know less about him but the buzz around him when he got to campus makes him a name to keep an eye on this offseason.

However, what we do know from the history of Kain Colter to Trevor Siemian-only at quarterback is that this team needs something dynamic at the position to go anywhere. Thankfully the Wildcats have someone to lean on in running back Justin Jackson, who finished with over 1,000 yards on the season.

Even with a lot of starters back on defense, the Wildcats still have to solve the problem of allowing more points than they score and getting aggressive up front to match the secondary that is great at forcing turnovers on their own.

Needless to say this is a team with plenty of unknowns heading in to the offseason, and without answers quickly it could be a long 2015 ahead for the purple-clad faithful. After all, Stanford is up first on the schedule and so are trips to Duke, Michigan, Nebraska and Wisconsin.

It’s why they are at the bottom of our power rankings early on. With so much to replace and so much to rebuild against a nasty schedule things may get worse before they get better in Evanston.

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Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He's a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball

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