After a down week for the Big Ten in Week 4, Week 5 of the college football season was a bit better for the conference. There were only a couple blowouts, but nothing incredibly out of the ordinary otherwise. Let’s get to this week’s updated power rankings.
1. Penn State Nittany Lions, 5-0 (2-0)
Previous Ranking: 1
The Nittany Lions continued to be boring but in a good way, as they easily handled a feisty Indiana team. They have continued to take care of business every step of the way and have done nothing to warrant me dropping them in my power rankings. Next Saturday brings the much-anticipated top five matchup against Iowa at Kinnick Stadium.
2. Iowa Hawkeyes, 5-0 (2-0)
Previous Ranking: 2
Iowa had the attention of most of the college football world on Friday night as it traveled to an undefeated Maryland team. Iowa forced seven turnovers on its way to a 51-14 win. The Hawkeyes have without a doubt proven they are legitimate this year. The question is whether they are just a Big Ten contender or also a national title contender. We should know a lot more about the resolve of this team after Saturday night against Penn State.
3. Ohio State Buckeyes, 4-1 (2-0)
Previous Ranking: 3
I am officially back to being terrified of the Ohio State offense. C.J. Stroud threw for 330 yards and five touchdowns as the Buckeyes destroyed Rutgers 52-13. This was a Rutgers team Michigan had struggled to put away just one week prior. I still believe the Buckeyes will win the conference at the end of the day, and expect them to jump the loser of Penn State vs. Iowa in my power rankings next week.
4. Michigan Wolverines, 5-0 (2-0)
Previous Ranking: 4
In case you haven’t heard, Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines won at Camp Randall for the first time in 20 years. Not only that, they won on the road as an underdog. Despite Wisconsin not living up to preseason expectations, there’s no doubt this was a big win for the Michigan program. Doubts still exist as to whether this team can compete with the Ohio State’s of the world, but for now we should all enjoy an undefeated season that has already surpassed projections.
5. Michigan State Spartans, 5-0 (2-0)
Previous Ranking: 5
The Spartans’ bend-don’t-break defense made just enough plays to defeat Western Kentucky 48-31. The Hilltoppers have one of the best offenses in the country, but also one of the worst defenses nationwide, so a shootout wasn’t altogether unexpected. While there has to be some concern over giving up 488 passing yards, Michigan State is still undefeated and looks to remain so against Rutgers and Indiana the next two weeks. Oct. 30 against Michigan is shaping up to be must-see TV nationwide, not just in the state of Michigan.
6. Maryland Terrapins, 4-1 (1-1)
Previous Ranking: 7
A large gap is starting to develop between the top five teams in the conference and everyone else. In full disclosure, I struggled to decide who to put at sixth. Does Maryland deserve to move up in the rankings after having seven turnovers against Iowa? Absolutely not. But its performance can be explained as more of a one-off aberration than Wisconsin, Rutgers or Indiana. I’m still high on the Terrapins and believe they can have success down the stretch. However, they travel to Columbus on Saturday and will need to show us something to merit being as high as sixth.
7. Nebraska Cornhuskers, 3-3 (1-2)
Previous Ranking: 12
Scott Frost and the Cornhuskers smashed an unprepared Northwestern team 56-7 last Saturday night. I may have been too quick to completely write off Nebraska this year, as they have had three good performances in a row, despite only winning one of them. With that being said, I still don’t buy them as a major threat in the conference. The early-season loss to Illinois may doom any chances they have in the future. Next up for Nebraska is a chance to outhit Michigan at home on Saturday night.
8. Wisconsin Badgers, 1-3 (0-2)
Previous Ranking: 6
At the end of the day, the Badgers are who we thought they were. They were a stout defense that could take away the run but slightly vulnerable through the air. They also were an offense lacking a quarterback able to make the plays necessary to win big games. Graham Mertz flashed his potential late in the first half, but was otherwise underwhelming. After his injury, Wisconsin wasn’t able to do much of anything on offense. Could I have ranked Wisconsin lower? Sure. However, the defense alone will keep them in every remaining game this season. In addition, the schedule gets significantly easier from here on out as they only have one ranked team remaining.
9. Rutgers Scarlet Knights, 3-2 (0-2)
Previous Ranking: 8
Apparently, Rutgers still has a ways to go in its rebuild. Just when you thought the Scarlet Knights were turning a corner after almost knocking off Michigan, they got smacked by Ohio State, 52-13. There’s no shame in losing to the Buckeyes if you’re Rutgers, but you would have liked to see a bit more fight and a closer game. Now it’s back to the drawing board for part three of Rutgers’ gauntlet, as it hosts Michigan State this weekend.
10. Indiana Hoosiers, 2-3 (0-2)
Previous Ranking: 9
Before the season, I would have pegged Indiana at Penn State as a big game in the conference and potentially the annual white-out. Just five weeks into the season and I was already uninterested in this one; it was almost guaranteed to be a Penn State victory. Michael Penix Jr. and the Indiana offense appear to be broken. The schedule only gets harder from here as Indiana’s next four games are against Michigan State, Ohio State, Maryland and Michigan. At what point do we begin to question if this is even a bowl team?
11. Minnesota Golden Gophers, 3-2 (1-1)
Previous Ranking: 13
Minnesota didn’t allow last week against Bowling Green to repeat itself, and you have to give it credit for that. It may not have been a pretty win against Purdue, but a win is a win. The Golden Gophers are off this week before hosting Nebraska. Hideous upset defeat aside, all of Minnesota’s goals are still in front of them. They have the potential to slowly climb up the power rankings but they’ll have to take it one game at a time.
12. Purdue Boilermakers, 3-2 (1-1)
Previous Ranking: 10
It’s very tough to get a read on Purdue this year. It hung tough with Notre Dame and took care of the rest of its non-conference schedule. Since conference play has started, the Boilermakers didn’t look great in a win over Illinois and looked even worse in a loss to Minnesota. Time will tell for this team, but my gut says they just aren’t very good.
13. Northwestern Wildcats, 2-3 (0-2)
Previous Ranking: 11
Northwestern was a trendy pick to cover and potentially even win against Nebraska. Many, including myself, thought Nebraska was due for a let-down game after almost beating both Oklahoma and Michigan State. Instead, Northwestern got boat-raced, 56-7. It’s hard to describe how disappointing the Wildcats have been this year. The quarterback plan in particular has not been good. They will need to use this bye week to regroup and get ready for Rutgers on Oct. 16.
14. Illinois Fighting Illini, 2-4 (1-2)
Previous Ranking: 14
Illinois won thanks to 257 rushing yards by Chase Brown, but it was not a convincing win. The Fighting Illini trailed at the half but used a big third quarter to take the lead prior to a scoreless fourth. Brandon Peters is back but threw for only 78 yards and one touchdown. Illinois hosts Wisconsin next who may be without Graham Mertz. Don’t expect many offensive fireworks in that one.