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Big 10 Power Rankings: Week 2

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After a frustrating week, where do the Wolverines land in our Big 10 power rankings?

Cincinnati v Michigan Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images

The second week of Big 10 football has come and gone in a blur of frustration for all Wolverine fans. Outside of that annoyance of a win (we are spoiled), the conference underwent several “important” developments: Ohio State faced a better quarterback/ wide receiver combo than Richard Lagow and Simmie Cobbs (much to the chagrin of Kirk Herbstreit); Nebraska still thinks they play in the Big 12; Northwestern is forcing me to eat crow; the Big 10 would trade Rutgers for a timeshare in North Korea. Just another day in the neighborhood!

What we learned this week is that every team in the conference has flaws and nothing else. So how do I rank these teams? What criteria do I use for justification? I am not going to simply reciprocate publicized rankings (Texas and Michigan State were ranked 11 and 12 respectively after week 2 last season) or drastically overreact to one game. I am going to utilize advanced analytics to derive the… I am going to use my damn eyes.

After two weeks, this is how I see the Big 10.

Pittsburgh v Penn State Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

1. Penn State (2-0)

09/09 Pittsburgh 14 vs. Penn State 33

Saqon Barkley and Trace McSorley remain the best offensive combo in the conference, yet I still can’t board the McSorley hype train; too many 50/50 balls and no Chris Godwin in 2017 to save the day. I digress.

Penn State did not look great in this game. They were out gained (342-312) and Pitt even dominated time of possession (38:20 to 21:40). How did they win? Defense, discipline, and Saquon Barkley. The Nittany Lions forced three turnovers and only committed one penalty. When James Franklin isn’t insulting the quality of opponents, he is preparing his team to not beat themselves; having the best player in the country doesn’t hurt either. Did you know Barkley can power cling 405 lbs? Take a shot every time his weight room mastery is recalled during a broadcast. You won’t make it to halftime.

2. Wisconsin (2-0)

09/09 Florida Atlantic 14 vs. Wisconsin 31

This game should have been something closer to 45-0. Florida Atlantic converted two third downs, punted 11 times, controlled the ball for only 21:26 of the game, and were out gained 564 to 248; yet the Fighting Lane Kiffins were only defeated by 17. Turnovers and stagnant offensive stretches remain this team’s Achilles’ heel, but the balanced offensive production is unrivaled in the Big 10.

3. Michigan (2-0)

09/09 Cincinnati 14 vs. Michigan 36

Cincinnati v Michigan

In one of the ugliest games in the Harbaugh era, Michigan still won by 22 points. “But if Michigan struggles with Cincinnati, what are they going to do against Ohio State?” Listen, bad games happen. In week 2 last year, Clemson only beat Troy by six points. September isn’t about being your best, it’s only about winning. Yes, I have more confidence in Suicide Squad 2 being an Oscar contender than I do Wilton Speight completing a 10-yard out route, but that does not negate all of the positives.

The sophomore defensive trio of Rashan Gary, Devin Bush, and Khaleke Hudson (we need a name for them, the KGB?), have been phenomenal. Ty Isaac, despite beginning his collegiate career in a leather helmet, has become Michigan’s true RB-1. Michigan fans need to R-E-L-A-X. Every team performs well on their good days (even Rutgers), it’s how they perform on their bad days that makes a champion. Winning defines a champion. Where’s my Pulitzer?

4. Ohio State (1-1)

09/09 Oklahoma 31 vs. Ohio State 16

Whatever talent J.T. Barrett had left after his 2014 injury and confidence crushing positional timeshare with Cardale Jones in 2015, has officially been stolen by the Monstars. Barrett has become Taylor Martinez: an athlete pretending to be a quarterback. Barrett would make a great triple option quarterback, but for non-archaic offenses, Barrett is a liability and the problems don’t stop with Barrett either.

The secondary is incapable of covering their own eyes, let alone opposing receivers surrendering 690 yards in two games this season. But enough with the jokes and negatives, this team is far from terrible. J.K. Dobbins is an outstanding running back and the defensive line for Ohio State is immensely talented. In 2014, Ohio State lost their second game of the season 35-21, at home, before winning the national title. Baker Mayfield’s flag placement post game could awaken a giant; the Buckeyes are not out of it.

5. Iowa (2-0)

09/09 Iowa 44 vs. Iowa State 41 (OT)

Iowa v Iowa State Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images

Iowa is 2-0 for the fourth straight year and Nathan Stanley apparently took my criticisms to heart last week as he finished 27-for-41 with 333 yards and five touchdowns. It helps playing a team from a conference where defense is optional, however the option on defense referred to both teams. The Hawkeyes regressed defensively allowing 467 total yards (347 through the air) during this shootout. But, in the end, a road win against a rival is always a good thing.

Epilogue: I am still not over the horrific events of Nov. 12, 2016, so enjoy all praise at the expense of my suffering Hawkeye fans.

6. Maryland (2-0)

09/09 Towson 17 vs. Maryland 63

D.J. Durkin’s team is FAST! Dominating Towson doesn’t mean much, but this team plays hard and truly echoes their head coach’s passion. Freshman quarterback Kasim Hill, D.J. Moore, and Ty Johnson, make up one of the most explosive trios in all of college football. However, this porous pass defense and finesse-only offense have severe limitations once Big 10 play begins.

Good news for Terrapins fans thought is this team is laying the foundation for something special and their success is beginning faster than anticipated.

7. Michigan State (2-0)

09/09 Western Michigan 14 vs. Michigan State 28

Believe it or not, I like Brian Lewerke and I don’t mean that sarcastically as a Michigan fan. I think he is a quality player and this team will win more than three games this season (RIP 3-9 jokes) solely because of his arm. Lewerke threw for 161 yards on 13-for-21 passing, with one touchdown and one interception (nothing to write home about, but the potential is evident). The defensive performance, however, is what stood out to me. Western Michigan rushed for 263 yards last week against USC, but only managed 116 yards against the Spartans. Now, as long as Michigan State continues to play a MAC schedule they may go undefeated.

SPARTY IS BACK BABY! I’m totally kidding, but MSU is no longer a conference embarrassment.

8. Indiana (1-1)

09/09 Indiana 34 vs. Virginia 17

NCAA Football: Indiana at Virginia Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

Kirk Herbstreit’s favorite quarterback Richard Lagow quickly found the pine pony in this one and Peyton Ramsey promptly stole his position. The redshirt freshman quarterback finished 16-for-20 for 173 yards and a pair of touchdowns. With a quarterback who doesn’t throw like an inebriated Dante Culpepper, can Indiana put together a run?

9. Minnesota (2-0)

09/09 Minnesota 48 vs. Oregon State 14

Simply, I am not drinking the P.J. Fleck Kool-aid. The Gophers run a traditional offense that only attempted eight passes in this game. Reasoning? Conor Rhoda is an inept quarterback who must be protected (from hurting his own team). I believe Fleck will make this team a contender in the coming years, but I’m not buying it this season.

10. Nebraska (1-1)

09/09 Nebraska 35 vs. Oregon 42

NCAA Football: Nebraska at Oregon Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Nebraska you are in the Big 10, not the Big 12, play some damn defense! This game was just weird. Oregon was up 42-14 in the second quarter before Nebraska remembered they changed conferences and started scoring themselves. The Cornhuskers demonstrated resilience, but on a defense that Beavis & Butthead could score on, I place zero faith.

11. Northwestern (1-1)

09/09 Northwestern 17 vs. Duke 41

My Drake song of the week goes to the Northwestern Wildcats with Furthest Thing from 2013’s Nothing Was the Same: “The furthest thing from perfect like everyone I know.” This was my darkhorse team to win the Big 10 and they were embarrassed by Duke. Justin Jackson rushed for a career low 18 yards and Clayton Thorson finished 11-for-29 with 120 yards and a pair of interceptions. The Northwestern starters only mustered 10 points and 116 yards of total offense before the reserves led a 75-yard scoring drive. Like the aforementioned Drake lyrics, apparently I was ‘drinking on the low’ when I made the Wildcats my darkhorse pick.

12. Purdue (1-1)

09/08 Ohio 21 vs. Purdue 44

The surprise of the Big 10, Purdue is climbing from the depths of Big 10 obscurity attempting to regain relevance. David Blough is completing passes at a clip of 74.4 percent and averaging just over 10.5 yards-per-attempt. He is still turnover prone, but he is no longer throwing with reckless abandon like he did in 2016. In this clinic against Ohio, he was 11-for-13 for 235 yards and three touchdowns. Fighting… urge… to… talk… reckless… PURDUE WINS AT LEAST FOUR GAMES THIS SEASON!

13. Illinois (2-0)

09/09 Western Kentucky 7 vs. Illinois 20

Illini fans, I am sorry. Last week, I stated that you were the worst team in the Big 10 and I was wrong. Illinois’ defense was stifling and the freshman running back Mike Epstein rushed for over 100 yards on 21 carries. I was going to criticize your team further this week and state, “enjoy the last win of your season,” but I can no longer do that. Illinois has one more win scheduled? Who, you might ask? Do they play Slippery Rock? No, they play Rutgers.

14. Rutgers (0-2)

09/09 Eastern Michigan 16 vs. Rutgers 13

Eastern Michigan v Rutgers Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

The last five minutes of this game were a complete disaster. Both teams played awful and tried excruciatingly hard to lose the game; Rutgers would not be denied! I praised the Scarlet Knights last week for their efforts against Washington and they appeared to be on the right track. How fast things change because I have now come to the conclusion that Kyle Bolin might be the worst starting quarterback in the FBS. I thought Rutgers could win four games this season, but they’ll be lucky to win two.

This weekend’s schedule:

09/15 7:00 pm

Illinois vs. South Florida

09/16 12:00 pm

Northern Illinois vs. Nebraska

Air Force vs. Michigan

09/16 3:30 pm

Middle Tennessee vs. Minnesota

Morgan State vs. Rutgers

Florida International vs. Indiana

North Texas vs. Iowa

Wisconsin vs. BYU

09/16 4:00

Purdue vs. Missouri

09/16 4:30 pm

Army vs. Ohio State

09/16 7:30 pm

Bowling Green vs. Northwestern

Georgia State vs. Penn State

Maryland & Michigan State BYE weeks

*All times Eastern Standard Time