After a solid start to conference play for the Big Ten, going 11-3 in week one of the college football season, it seems there might just be more teams in the race for the conference title than expected, early on.
Even in the three losses, there was still some encouragement. Rutgers hung in their with No. 8 Washington, losing just 30-14. Purdue gave Lamar Jackson and Louisville a scare, and Indiana fell to conference foe Ohio State, who they also pushed for an upset in the first half.
While the teams with high expectations in the conference did have some scares, they overall took care of business. So with all of this being said, here's a look at the first power rankings in the Big Ten as I see it.
1st: No. 2 Ohio State (1-0)
The Buckeyes had a bit of a slow start against Indiana, but showed in the second half who they will be the entire season: a tough team to beat. They still have so much talent of old (J.T. Barrett) and new (J.K. Dobbins) that helped this team put up 49 points in week one — and they didn't even look their best. Their defense was shaky at times, and they get Baker Mayfield and company this weekend in Columbus, so we will know more about them after this weekend. For now, its hard to not have them on top of the conference.
2nd: No. 4 Penn State (1-0)
The Nittany Lions' came to play, and they did it with a purpose. They blew out Akron 52-0 and showed no signs of slowing down from how their offense ended last season. With players like Saquon Barkley and Trace McSorley running the show, Penn State will be a tough team to beat all year long. Not to mention, they only allowed 159 total yards on defense — the second fewest in James Franklin's tenure.
3rd: No. 8 Michigan (1-0)
The offense had their problems, back-to-back interceptions returned for touchdowns is never acceptable, but were overall smooth the rest of the day. The Wolverines look like they could have arguably the best defense in the conference, again. With new players like Devin Bush and LaVert Hill playing like they have years of experience behind their speed, it only makes them more scary with the defensive players they return. They sacked the Gators six times and allowed 11 rushing yards and under 200 total yards. Let the offense settle in, and buckle in for the ride. This team could win the conference, and maybe, see the playoff.
4th: No. 9 Wisconsin (1-0)
Wisconsin was another top-tier team that started slow, creating a 10-0 gap to open the game against Utah State thanks to a couple mistakes for their wideouts. However, they played with fire in the second half and their secondary could be the best in the conference and a top unit in the country. With a running back like Troy Fumagalli, this team could steamroll its way into the conference title contention. They are set up to role for a couple weeks.
5th: Maryland (1-0)
How can't D.J. Durkin and the Terps crack the top-5 of this weeks standings? They went out and beat No. 23 Texas in their home stadium to start the season, an upset that should probably be talked about more. There is still room to improve for this team, as they watched their lead get slimmer and slimmer throughout the game until they eventually were able to outscore the Long Horns. With a physical defense and an offense that put up points, Maryland fans have a reason to be excited.
6th: Iowa (1-0)
The Iowa defense, led by Josey Jewell who had a game-high 14 tackles, looked legit and shut down anything that Wyoming threw at them. It was the ultimate difference in the game, while the offense held its own and didn't have any costly turnovers to make their cushion deflate. The Hawkeyes will have a lot of work to do in order to be contenders, but for now, they look like a team that could turn a few heads this fall with a defense that could hold them in almost any contest.
7th: Northwestern (1-0)
Pat Fitzgerald and company did start out the season better than they did a year ago when they lost to Western Michigan. The only reason this one was better, was because they won the game. Clayton Thorson did a good job under center, going 28-for-38 for 352 yards with a pair of TD's, an INT and a rushing score of his own in the fourth quarter that sealed the 30-21 victory for the Wildcats. They get Duke this week, so the improvements will need to come quick in order to avoid a loss to a team of more quality than Nevada.
8th: Michigan State (1-0)
A rocky start for the Spartans against one of the worst teams in the MAC conference turned into a relatively clean blowout of Bowling Green. However, Mark Dantonio and company better get in gear quicker than they did in week one, or a proven team in the MAC will give them a real scare in WMU. Brian Lewerke did look like a stable quarterback that the Spartans have been searching for, and he has the chance to get a lot more people behind him with a win over the Broncos in week two.
9th: Nebraska (1-0)
Yet again, this is another team that should be thanking their lucky stars they don't have to answer questions about how they lost in the opening week to a lesser opponent. Their new 3-4 defense allowed just under 500 total yards of offense to Arkansas State, which shouldn't happen to almost any team in the Big Ten. They have a date with Oregon this weekend, so if this defense can't settle the game down, the Corn Huskers will be looking at an even record.
10th: Minnesota (1-0)
Considering that the first team P.J. Fleck got to go up against was a MAC school (Buffalo), you would've thought the result would be better. Regardless, this team does have a lot of talent back from a solid campaign a year ago and may have just been getting out first game jitters. Neither quarterback caught the attention of anyone for the Gophers, and in the trenches they struggled against a school they should've blown off the line. Given Fleck's past, they make the top-10, but the window is closing.
11th: Indiana (0-1)
They gave the Buckeyes all they had, and that's not an easy task to do considering how talented Urban Meyer and his squad is. Indiana once again seems to have a fast-paced, quick-moving offense that can really throw the ball. While this team will probably climb the standings sooner or later, a loss is a loss, and this is where they stand for now.
12th: Rutgers (0-1)
This one, even though its still the bottom of the barrel, might be the biggest surprise of these rankings. The Scarelt Knights looked like a competitive team against a preseason top-team in the county (Washington). Kyle Bolin made multiple good throws and showed promise at the position while tailback Gus Edwards can help the offense change their pace. Washington is just a better and a team with more speed, but Rutgers found themselves in the game. That's something they didn't do against anyone last season, so it's a start.
13th: Purdue (0-1)
Sometimes their is small victories within a defeat, and if you are Jeff Brohm, this game was one of those. It gives Boilermaker fans hope to start the season that there truly could be change in the near future. David Blough and his receivers kept up with Jackson for the entire game, and the defense found a way to scrape together some key plays. Purdue didn't win, but almost beating a former Heisman Trophy winner and Louisville is enough to shed light on this season.
14th: Illinois (1-0)
Illinois blocked a last-second field goal to avoid overtime against Ball State, a subpar MAC team at the best. That really says it all. Mike Dudek and Mike Epstein looked like playmakers for the Fighting Illini on offensetein looked, but other than that, this game was a dumpster fire from the start.
What's next: The highlight game of the weekend is clearly the Sooners traveling to the Horse Shoe to take on Ohio State, beginning at 7:30 p.m. on ABC. College Gameday on ESPN will also be traveling to Columbus this weekend.
Outside of that, the in-state games involve Michigan taking on Cincinnati at noon on ABC, and the Spartans with a tough test against a WMU team that gave No. 6 USC a scare in Pasadena. That one kicks-off at 3:30 p.m. and will be on the Big Ten Network.
The remaining slate of Big Ten games can be viewed courtesy of Fox Sports, right here.