Technically, no upsets occurred this week in the Big Ten. However, that doesn’t mean teams didn’t have large, season-defining wins. Michigan survived a tough test at Penn State and Rutgers had its best win of the season. Let’s see how the dust settles in this week’s conference power rankings.
1. Ohio State Buckeyes, 9-1 (7-0)
Previous Ranking: 1
This isn’t the world-beating Buckeye team we have seen in recent years. However, it’s still far and away the class of the Big Ten. Ryan Day and company do face the toughest possible schedule remaining with Michigan State and Michigan on the docket. They control their own destiny and at this point in time, it’s hard to seem them losing either game.
2. Michigan State Spartans, 9-1 (6-1)
Previous Ranking: 2
I was very, very tempted to jump the Wolverines over the Spartans yet again, but I couldn’t pull the trigger. Michigan State returned to the win column with a victory over Maryland. Despite not having a secondary, the Spartans have already surpassed any reasonable preseason expectations. Now comes the real test: a trip to Columbus on Saturday. Michigan State controls its own destiny, but Saturday is a must-win if it wants to reach Indianapolis.
3. Michigan Wolverines, 9-1 (6-1)
Previous Ranking: 3
Jim Harbaugh got a big victory when he desperately needed one. Step one is complete. Step two: hoping for a Buckeye victory against the Spartans this weekend. This seems plausible as Ohio State opened as a three-score favorite. Step three? Actually beating the Buckeyes. I’ll believe it when I see it. Next up, though, is a pesky Maryland team. With a shot to get to 10 wins, I don’t expect the Wolverines to trip up against the Terrapins.
4. Wisconsin Badgers, 7-3 (5-2)
Previous Ranking: 5
The Badgers control their own destiny in the Big Ten West following their 35-7 victory over Northwestern. Graham Mertz has started to look functional of late, which could be dangerous for the rest of the conference. We know how good their defense is, but if the Badger offense can find itself by the Big Ten Championship, maybe it won’t be a blowout after all.
5. Iowa Hawkeyes, 8-2 (5-2)
Previous Ranking: 7
Iowa notched a huge win over Minnesota on Saturday and now sits tied atop the West. In order to reach Indianapolis, the Hawkeyes will need Wisconsin to drop a game (vs. Nebraska, at Minnesota) and win out themselves (vs. Illinois, at Nebraska). To me, this seems like a plausible outcome, though not the most likely. They seem destined for yet another ho-hum 10-2 type of season resulting in a decent bowl win.
6. Penn State Nittany Lions, 6-4 (3-4)
Previous Ranking: 4
By the end of Penn State’s defeat to Michigan, I started to feel bad for Sean Clifford. The veteran quarterback routinely made plays both with his arm and his feet, but with so little help, the Nittany Lion offense looked helpless against Aidan Hutchinson and the Michigan defense. Make no mistake, they are a talented team and a prime example of what can happen when just one unit is bad, in this case being the offensive line. It can wreck your entire season.
7. Purdue Boilermakers, 6-4 (4-3)
Previous Ranking: 6
There’s no shame in losing to Ohio State this year. Aidan O’Connell continued to put up video game numbers with 390 yards and four touchdowns. The Boilermakers were unable to go 3-0 against top five competition this year, but no one will blame them for that. The unfortunate aspect for them is it drops them back in the Big Ten West. They’ll need both Iowa and Wisconsin to drop a game, which seems unlikely at this juncture.
8. Minnesota Golden Gophers, 6-4 (4-3)
Previous Ranking: 8
PJ Fleck and Minnesota had several chances to grab a hold of not just the game, but the Big Ten West Saturday against Iowa. Unfortunately, the Gopers let both slip through their fingers. Ky Thomas and Chris Autman-Bell both had big days, but it wasn’t enough. Indiana and Wisconsin remain on the schedule, along with a chance to wreak havoc on the conference standings.
9. Maryland Terrapins, 5-5 (2-5)
Previous Ranking: 9
Maryland’s 40-21 defeat to Michigan State was actually closer than the final score indicates. However, that will hardly matter as the Terrapins have now lost five of their last six. They need to win one of their last two to get bowl eligible. They’ll host Michigan this weekend before travelling to Rutgers.
10. Rutgers Scarlet Knights, 5-5 (2-5)
Previous Ranking: 12
As if you needed more proof the wheels have fallen off at Indiana, Rutgers came into town and smashed the Hoosiers, 38-3. Neither team had a quarterback throw for 100 yards, but Isaih Pacheco scored twice on the ground to propel the Scarlet Knights. The only goal left on the table for them is bowl eligibility. They’ll need to pick up a win either at Penn State or at home against a hungry Maryland team.
11. Illinois Fighting Illini, 4-6 (3-4)
Previous Ranking: 10
Illinois was on bye this week.
12. Nebraska Cornhuskers, 3-7 (1-6)
Previous Ranking: 11
Nebraska was also on bye this week. However, it’s become noteworthy the opportunity the Cornhuskers have to shake up the standings in the Big Ten West. They host Wisconsin before going to Iowa with a chance to determine the winner of the division. Not quite the stakes Scott Frost had envisioned, but noteworthy nonetheless.
13. Indiana Hoosiers, 2-8 (0-7)
Previous Ranking: 13
What more can be said of Indiana this year? The Hoosiers are baaaaaaaad.
14. Northwestern Wildcats, 3-7 (1-6)
Previous Ranking: 14
The Wildcats continued to look putrid on offense as Andrew Marty threw for 100 yards and three interceptions. It didn’t help the Northwestern defense made Graham Mertz look like an all-conference caliber quarterback. The end of the season can’t come soon enough for Pat Fitzgerald and the Wildcats.