The first week of action in the Big Ten was often as crazy as some of the other games in college football this year. Anything can happen in the vacuum of a week, but we were able to get our first look at how the pecking order appears to be in the conference to start the year with some pleasant surprises and surprising developments.
With that in mind, here is our second edition of the MnB power rankings this year.
1. Ohio State (1-0, Last week: 1)
The Buckeyes were one of the known commodities coming into the week and they showed this is still their conference to lose with a 52-17 drubbing of Nebraska. The Cornhuskers did not even play that poorly and did give OSU a bit of a game early on. But once Justin Fields and company hit the accelerator, there’s not much you can do.
2. Michigan (1-0, Last week: 5)
Well now, what do we have here? Michigan’s 49-24 win over Minnesota showcased that talented and deep offense we have been hearing so much about led by quarterback Joe Milton. The scary thing for them is that it really seems like there were still plays left on the field. There were some cracks in the defense, but they were able to get to the quarterback and force him into some critical errors. If this team gets better and keeps winning, it might set something special up the last week of the year in Columbus.
3. Indiana (1-0, Last week: 6)
The Hoosiers finally got the monkey off their back against a top ten team and exorcised a lot of demons this weekend despite not playing all that well. Fortunately, James Franklin was feeling generous and gift-wrapped them a chance for a victory. Then, Michael Penix did the rest on what will go down as one of the most controversial plays in the history of the program on a two-point conversion. Indiana delivered on the chaos it has so many times has been on the opposite side of. Michigan comes to town in a few weeks in what is another major measuring stick game in the East.
4. Wisconsin (1-0, Last week: 4)
I had difficulty placing Wisconsin this week, which is weird to say after an impressive 42-7 win over Illinois and seemingly finding a star at quarterback in Graham Mertz. However, Mertz now find himself out for three weeks after testing positive for COVID-19 and apparently his backup has, too. With Jack Coan already out due to injury, quarterback is suddenly a huge concern again. Without a star running back to lean on, things could get weird here. In any other situation, they would be third in these rankings.
5. Penn State (0-1, Last week: 2)
What was once a team thought to be in the driver’s seat as the conference’s biggest challenge to Ohio State is now in a dark spot. Everything other than making some common sense decisions at the end of the game suggested that PSU should have won this game. OSU comes to Happy Valley on Saturday and with a victory puts the Nittany Lions in an 0-2 hole to start the year. A win against the Buckeyes was always going to be critical to achieving their goals, but now it might just be a must-win to salvage the season. Good luck with that.
6. Northwestern (1-0, Last week: 12)
We mentioned the first time around in these rankings that Northwestern was a team to keep an eye on with Peyton Ramsey at quarterback and some new blood on the offensive side of the ball, especially at coordinator. They responded by routing Maryland 43-3 and ran all over the Terrapins. Pat Fitzgerald’s team is always going to have a commendable defense, but if they get this type of production offensively (they won’t quite like this, Maryland is terrible), I’m not so sure they are not one of the teams to beat in the West now.
7. Minnesota (0-1, Last week: 3)
The Gophers are a much better team than what Michigan did to them on Saturday. But without members of the offensive line, a few key contributors on defense and their entire kicking game, it might be a rough go of it in a division that looks like it might be a bit deeper than expected. It looks like the Gophers are primed for a bit of a comedown, but that could also be a testament to how goo their opponent looked on Saturday night.
8. Purdue (1-0, Last week: 8)
What a strange game in West Lafayette over the weekend. The Boilermakers beat Iowa 24-20 despite never leading until late in the game and without their head coach and best offensive weapon. This could be another tough out in the Big Ten West if they are at full strength.
9. Iowa (0-1, Last week: 7)
I don’t know what to make of the Iowa loss over the weekend. All I can tell you is that Spencer Petras did not play well enough for them and if that is what to expect at quarterback, perhaps Iowa’s chances of winning the West were a bit overstated.
10. Nebraska (0-1, Last week: 9)
As I said above, I didn’t think Nebraska played that poorly at Ohio State. But it’s clear they just are not there yet as a program. Another recruiting class coming through there and these young players getting development might make them a factor next season. I just do not see it this year, but they could provide some chaos in a weird season.
11. Rutgers (1-0, Last week: 14)
Look at the Scarlet Knights climbing out of the cellar! They nabbed their first conference win since 2017 via a victory in East Lansing on Saturday afternoon. This might be the highest they are in these rankings all year, but they should be somewhat-competently coached by Greg Schiano. We will see if they can build on it this weekend against Indiana.
12. Illinois (0-1, Last week: 11)
Illinois put a scare into a lot of the teams in the Big Ten last year, but it looks more like a one-off than a sustainable build for Lovie Smith. They did not do anything particularly well in the loss at Camp Randall on Friday night.
13. Michigan State (0-1, Last week: 13)
Oof. This was about as bad a first game for Mel Tucker as it could have been. One can forgive him for not having a good roster, but seven turnovers is just brutal. They did not look ready to play at all. They might wind up being the worst team in the Big Ten this year.
14. Maryland (0-1, Last week: 10)
This should have been MSU’s spot, but Maryland decide that it wanted to be the most embarrassing performance of the weekend, instead. I think that was a blip on the radar for them and that they will be better, but that was U-G-L-Y on Saturday night at Northwestern.