This week featured the first of many colossal matchups in the Big Ten this year. Michigan State and Ohio State rose to the top while Michigan faltered and Penn State tumbled out of the Big Ten East picture, at least for now. There is still quite a bit of season left, but a clear top three appears to be emerging. Let’s take a look at this week’s power rankings.
1. Ohio State Buckeyes, 7-1 (5-0)
Previous Ranking: 1
Don’t look now, but Ryan Day and the Buckeyes have won six straight and are undefeated in conference play. Penn State held the Ohio State offense to their lowest point total all season at 33 points. Opposing secondaries should be very, very afraid moving forward.
2. Michigan State Spartans, 8-0 (5-0)
Previous Ranking: 3
The Spartans were the big winners of the weekend with their 37-33 victory over Michigan. I was tempted to jump the Spartans over the Buckeyes, just as the AP Poll did. However, I resisted for one simple reason: the Spartan secondary made Cade McNamara look like an All-American. Unless things drastically change, CJ Stroud should have a field day when the Buckeyes and Spartans meet on Nov. 20.
3. Michigan Wolverines, 7-1 (4-1)
Previous Ranking: 2
There is certainly reason to question Jim Harbaugh and his staff following another defeat to a rival. I’ve been as pessimistic as anyone about the future of this regime. However, the game against Michigan State did prove some legitimacy both ways. The brand of football played was significantly higher than that of the rest of the Big Ten, outside of Ohio State. The Wolverines may be playing third fiddle in the conference right now, but they certainly aren’t any lower than that on the pecking order.
4. Minnesota Golden Gophers, 6-2 (4-1)
Previous Ranking: 6
To be clear, I don’t believe Minnesota matches up with any of the top three teams in the conference, though it somehow avoided all of them on the schedule. I’m also still leery of the Golden Gophers moving forward as they’ve had as easy a schedule as anyone in the conference. With that being said, results speak for themselves. If the Bowling Green game never happened, this is a one-loss team with that sole loss being a respectable, season-opening loss to Ohio State. I don’t expect Minnesota to remain this high in the power rankings but they’ve continued to win, a statement which the next few teams on the list are unable to say.
5. Penn State Nittany Lions, 5-3 (2-3)
Previous Ranking: 5
With a mostly-healthy Sean Clifford, Penn State looked more like its normal self. The Nittany Lions put up a fight against Ohio State before finally falling. Now with three conference losses in a row, Penn State’s Big Ten East hopes are essentially dead. The focus now shifts to keeping the season respectable and retaining James Franklin.
6. Wisconsin Badgers, 5-3 (3-2)
Previous Ranking: 7
Wisconsin has quietly strung together four consecutive wins after being written off by most earlier in the season. The Badgers’ schedule gets noticeably easier moving forward and they are only one game back of Minnesota in the Big Ten West. Getting to Indianapolis is still in play, despite a pretty anemic offense that doesn’t look like it will improve.
7. Iowa Hawkeyes, 6-2 (3-2)
Previous Ranking: 4
Iowa has fallen from No. 2 in the country all the way down to No. 19 in just two short weeks. The Hawkeyes had a real chance to bounce back from their shocking upset at the hands of Purdue. Instead, they didn’t show up and got manhandled by Wisconsin. Penn State, Wisconsin, and Iowa are all 1-1 against each other so they are basically interchangeable in my power rankings. I elected to put Iowa last amongst the three solely due to the eye test.
8. Purdue Boilermakers, 5-3 (3-2)
Previous Ranking: 10
Purdue bounced back with a nice win over a scuffling Nebraska team. Its best win of the season over Iowa looks slightly less impressive now as Iowa lost again. In addition, Purdue’s schedule is about to ratchet up in difficulty as it hosts Michigan State prior to a trip to Columbus in the next two weeks. I fully expect the Boilermakers to drop both of those contests.
9. Maryland Terrapins, 5-3 (2-3)
Previous Ranking: 9
The Maryland offense continues to put up points at a blistering pace while the defense gives up points at an almost equally blistering pace. The Terrapins have four chances remaining to get bowl eligible with matchups against Penn State, Michigan State, Michigan and Rutgers on the docket. I like their chances to pull out at least one win.
10. Rutgers Scarlet Knights, 4-4 (1-4)
Previous Ranking: 11
Rutgers finally got its first Big Ten win of the season against Illinois, albeit very unconvincing. Given how high the hopes were in Piscataway when conference play started, it has to be a bit surprising its first win didn’t come until the last weekend in October. We’ll learn a lot about the resolve of this Rutgers squad when its hosts Wisconsin this coming weekend.
11. Nebraska Cornhuskers, 3-6 (1-5)
Previous Ranking: 8
All appears lost with Nebraska. The Cornhuskers finished the easy part of their schedule at 3-6 with only one Big Ten win. Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Iowa remain on the schedule. Nebraska will likely be large underdogs in all three contests. Would Scott Frost be able to salvage his job at 3-9 or even 4-8? It seems doubtful to me.
12. Illinois Fighting Illini, 3-6 (2-4)
Previous Ranking: 12
The Illini crashed back to Earth this week with a 20-14 loss to Rutgers. They appear to be past their 15 minutes of fame and will now fade back into obscurity in the Big Ten. At least Brandon Peters looked decent.
13. Indiana Hoosiers, 2-6 (0-5)
Previous Ranking: 13
There’s not much left to say about this Indiana team. Have the Hoosiers played arguably the toughest schedule in the country? Yes. However, when it’s November and your only wins are against Idaho and Western Kentucky, you’re in for a world of hurt.
14. Northwestern Wildcats, 3-5 (1-4)
Previous Ranking: 14
Northwestern was blown out for the third time in the last four weeks. This time, the Wildcats fell victim to Minnesota. It’s as simple as a lack of talent in Evanston this year. I don’t know where Pat Fitzgerald goes from here but he’ll need to recruit better in order to regain relevance in the Big Ten.