It’s safe to say Week 4 was not a good week for the Big Ten. In the marquee matchup of the week, Wisconsin got its doors blown off by an average Notre Dame team. Minnesota suffered a humiliating upset to a MAC school, Iowa trailed at the half to a sub-par Colorado State team, and even the teams that did win did so by the skin of their teeth in Michigan, Michigan State and Indiana.
After the near-wreckage, let’s re-evaluate the power rankings for the Big Ten.
1. Penn State Nittany Lions, 4-0 (1-0)
Previous Ranking: 1
Penn State played in probably the least-watched game of the weekend against Villanova. The game wasn’t even given a line by Vegas due to how much of a blowout it was supposed to be. Sean Clifford threw for 401 yards (must be nice) and the Nittany Lions rolled 38-17. Don’t be concerned about giving up 17 points to Villanova, as 14 of those 17 came in garbage time late into the fourth quarter.
2. Iowa Hawkeyes, 4-0 (1-0)
Previous Ranking: 2
The Hawkeyes struggled on Saturday against an underwhelming opponent in Colorado State. Iowa struggled to run the ball with only 54 rushing yards as a team. They may be a bit overrated at fifth in the country but they have as good a resume as anyone in the country with an undefeated record and wins over Indiana and Iowa State. I have Iowa at second for now, but I expect them to drop over the course of the season as the Big Ten East slowly turns into the powerhouse it always is.
3. Ohio State Buckeyes, 3-1 (1-0)
Previous Ranking: 3
Given the way the Buckeyes have been playing lately, it was impossible for me not to get excited when Akron went up 7-0. How did they respond? By putting up 59 unanswered points with their backup quarterback throwing for 319 yards and two touchdowns. I may be beating a dead horse here, but I want to reiterate the Buckeyes are the most talented team in the Big Ten. Until they lose in Big Ten play, they’re still my favorite to win the conference.
4. Michigan Wolverines, 4-0 (1-0)
Previous Ranking: 5
It took everything in me to resist putting Michigan State ahead of Michigan. An abysmal second half against Rutgers has me questioning the longevity of the Wolverines’ winning streak. For now, Michigan is 4-0 but faces a stiff test in Madison this weekend against a team looking to rebound from a tough loss. Can Cade McNamara throw the ball downfield if and when Wisconsin stacks the box?
5. Michigan State Spartans, 4-0 (2-0)
Previous Ranking: 6
Leading up to this past Saturday, I started to hear a narrative about how Nebraska was underrated and Adrian Martinez was a star in the making. I don’t quite buy it. The Spartans pulled out the win in overtime, but I didn’t think it was their best performance of the season. However, it’s a testament to Mel Tucker that the Spartans remain undefeated and have appeared to be the better team on the field in each and every game so far.
6. Wisconsin Badgers, 1-2 (0-1)
Previous Ranking: 4
No Jack Coan, no problem...for Notre Dame. The Badgers lost Coan to the transfer portal this offseason and the Irish lost Coan for the game on Saturday to an injury before Notre Dame ran away from the Badgers to the tune of 31 fourth-quarter points. It seems so foreign to see a Wisconsin team struggle early in the season. I’m used to seeing the Badgers dominate inferior competition early before faltering late in the season. Their last chance to right the ship is this Saturday against Michigan.
7. Maryland Terrapins, 4-0 (1-0)
Previous Ranking: 8
Taulia Tagovailoa continues to put up video game numbers while leading the Big Ten in passing yards. The Terrapins just continue to win, but it’s hard to put them any higher in the rankings thanks to their strength of schedule. They won’t be able to say that soon as they host Iowa this Friday night before traveling to Columbus.
8. Rutgers Scarlet Knights, 3-1 (0-1)
Previous Ranking: 10
There are no moral victories in football, but this sure feels like one for Rutgers. For the second straight year, they put a scare into the Wolverines late in the game. We already know what Greg Schiano brings to the Rutgers program, but his outcoaching of Jim Harbaugh and the Michigan staff was impressive nonetheless. The Scarlet Knights should have no trouble getting bowl eligible this year.
9. Indiana Hoosiers, 2-2 (0-1)
Previous Ranking: 7
I mentioned last week I thought Indiana was the conference’s biggest disappointment this year, and they did nothing to disprove my point this week as the Hoosiers barely squeaked by a bad Western Kentucky team. The road doesn’t get any easier for Tom Allen, as Indiana’s next three games are at Penn State, home against Michigan State and home against Ohio State. There’s an easy path there to losing all three and sitting at 2-5, a record that seemed inconceivable at the beginning of the season.
10. Purdue Boilermakers, 3-1 (1-0)
Previous Ranking: 11
Purdue defeated Illinois 13-9 in what can only be described as a rock fight in West Lafayette. Do I think the Boilermakers are any good this year? Definitely not. However, there’s a real shot at Purdue getting six wins. With three already under their belt, they just have to win three games out of Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern and Indiana. There’s a chance!
11. Northwestern Wildcats, 2-2 (0-1)
Previous Ranking: 12
A win over Ohio may not sound like a huge accomplishment, but it was sorely needed for Pat Fitzgerald and Northwestern. They will need to keep up the momentum next week at Nebraska in order to turn the season around. In other good news for the Wildcats, Northwestern received a $480 million gift earmarked for improvements for Ryan Field.
12. Nebraska Cornhuskers, 2-3 (0-2)
Previous Ranking: 13
I have to give the Cornhuskers credit for pulling themselves up off the mat after their season-opening loss to Illinois. For the second time in two weeks, Nebraska lost a heartbreaker. They will need to start turning these close calls into wins in order for Scott Frost to keep his job.
13. Minnesota Golden Gophers, 2-2 (0-1)
Previous Ranking: 9
Minnesota followed up its demolishing of Colorado with a 14-10 loss...to Bowling Green...as a 30.5-point favorite. This was at home during homecoming...ouch. This massive upset has been widely underreported nationwide. To reiterate, the Gophers were a 30.5-point favorite and lost! This is a program-defining loss and a major red flag on PJ Fleck’s resume.
14. Illinois Fighting Illini, 1-4 (1-2)
Previous Ranking: 14
Remember the times when Illinois wasn’t last in our rankings thanks to its season-opening win over Nebraska? Good times. Since then, it’s been all bad times for the Fighting Illini who have lost four straight. I don’t think they’ll be claiming any fake conference titles in football this year.