Some great games (and some not-so-great games) have created a little shakeup in the power rankings as we approach the home stretch of Big Ten play. Here’s a more in-depth recap of the weekend’s action. With that out of the way, let’s get right into it:
1. Ohio State
Last Week’s Ranking: 1
Last Week’s Result: Win @ Northwestern (52-3)
Next Week: vs. Wisconsin
The Buckeyes dismantled Northwestern’s defense after the first quarter in what was very nearly a home game for tOSU. Justin Fields tossed 4 touchdown passes, and J.K. Dobbins carved out some big runs for 121 total on the night. The Buckeyes look really good (understatement of the year) going into their crucial date with Wisconsin next Saturday.
2. Penn State
Last Week’s Ranking: 3
Last Week’s Result: Win vs. Michigan (28-21)
Next Week: @ Michigan State
The Nittany Lions staved off a late Michigan comeback to remain undefeated. Sean Clifford was solid under center, tossing 3 touchdown passes. KJ Hamler caught 6 passes for 108 yards, including 2 touchdowns. Penn State looks like Ohio State’s by far biggest competitor in the Big Ten East.
Last Week’s Ranking: 2
Last Week’s Result: Loss @ Illinois
Next Week: vs. Ohio State
Lovie Smith’s Illini shocked the Badgers with a game-winning field goal as time expired. Heisman candidate Jonathan Taylor rushed for 132 yards, but had a costly fumble in Illinois territory. Jack Coan threw a pick, and the Badgers defense surrendered the most points they have this season by far.
Why aren’t the Badgers dropping further down in these rankings? Minnesota has all the momentum in the world, but one gets the sense that Wisky can bounce back from this. Their College Football Playoff aspirations are likely on life support, but the Badgers still have opportunities to pull ahead in the Big Ten West.
Last Week’s Ranking: 5
Last Week’s Result: Win @ Rutgers (42-7)
Next Week: vs. Maryland
The undefeated Gophers will not jump Wisconsin even after demolishing lowly Rutgers. Quarterback Tanner Morgan, running back Rodney Smith, and receiver Tyler Johnson are a dangerous trifecta on the offensive side of the ball. Crucial tests against Penn State, Iowa and Wisconsin await Minnesota. Can the Gophers overtake Wisconsin and win the West? Those three games will go a long way in deciding that.
Last Week’s Ranking: 4
Last Week’s Result: Loss @ Penn State (28-21)
Next Week: vs. Notre Dame
Michigan put forward a valiant comeback in Happy Valley, but ultimately fell short. Jim Harbaugh still doesn’t have a “signature win” against a Big Ten opponent. Shea Patterson and the offense gained 417 yards. The Wolverines can certainly take positives away from this loss as a top-20 home tilt with Notre Dame awaits them. but Jim Harbaugh’s group is running out of chances to make noise in conference play.
Last Week’s Ranking: 6
Last Week’s Result: Win vs. Purdue (26-20)
Next Week: @ Northwestern
The Hawkeyes held off Purdue to end their two-game skid. An injury to receiver Brandon Smith, who caught 9 passes for 106 yards, will certainly raise more questions regarding Iowa’s already shaky offense. Nate Stanley put together a solid game, nonetheless, reclaiming his status as a game managing quarterback. The Hawkeyes still find themselves behind Michigan (who looked solid in a hostile environment) and Minnesota (who, you know, haven’t lost yet).
7. Michigan State
Last Week’s Ranking: 7
Last Week’s Result: Idle
Next Week: vs. Penn State
Sparty had a bye this week and stays at the number 7 slot. Penn State’s visit to East Lansing is a perfect upset opportunity for Mark Dantonio’s squad to bounce back after being trounced by Wisconsin and Ohio State earlier this month.
Last Week’s Ranking: 8
Last Week’s Result: Win @ Maryland (34-28)
Next Week: @ Nebraska
#9WINDIANA is alive and well, folks. An injury to explosive quarterback Michael Penix, Jr. saw last year’s starter, Peyton Ramsey, enter the game in relief. His solid performance pushed the Hoosiers over the finish line to a six-point win over Maryland. Indiana could rise in these rankings in the coming weeks if the teams in front of it begin to fall, but, for now, the Hoosiers stand pat.
Last Week’s Ranking: 13
Last Week’s Result: Win vs. Wisconsin (24-23)
Next Week: @ Purdue
Illinois pulled off the biggest upset of the season so far, perhaps saving Lovie Smith’s job at the same time. The late comeback was capped off with an unbelievable play from cornerback Tony Adams and a game-winning field goal from James McCourt. By virtue of this win, Lovie Smith’s squad jumps 4 spots in these power rankings. Many a Northwestern fan might be dreading the trip down to Champaign this year.
Last Week’s Ranking: 9
Last Week’s Result: Idle
Next Week: vs. Indiana
Nothing to see here, folks. Move along. (This team is in trouble if Adrian Martinez cannot return to health.)
Last Week’s Ranking: 10
Last Week’s Result: Loss @ Iowa (26-20)
Next Week: vs. Illinois
Purdue performed admirably but ultimately came up short against Iowa. This team is still lacking both their starting quarterback, Elijah Sindelar, and arguably the most explosive player in college football, Rondale Moore. Injuries are the undoing for the Boilermakers this season, yet their performances against a relatively good Hawkeyes squad (and a touchdown loss to Minnesota) indicates a resiliency which could keep them in any game.
Last Week’s Ranking: 11
Last Week’s Result: Loss vs. Indiana (34-28)
Next Week: @ Minnesota
Maryland’s explosive offense has died off in recent weeks, certainly not helped by injuries to QB1 Josh Jackson and running back Anthony McFarland. The Terps failed to beat an Indiana team who lost their star freshman quarterback and have a tough schedule coming up, so Mike Locksley will be hoping for the health of the two key cogs of his offense to improve.
Last Week’s Ranking: 12
Last Week’s Result: Loss vs. Ohio State (52-3)
Next Week: vs. Iowa
The ‘Cats hung on for about a quarter before being obliterated at home by a talented Ohio State squad. The quarterback situation is still a mess, as neither Aidan Smith nor Hunter Johnson have performed well: both have failed to complete 50% of their passes.
The defense performed better than the statistics indicate and has the opportunity to slow down an Iowa offense which has kicked more field goals than extra points. It’s a dire time for Northwestern football (admittedly coming off of an incredibly tough stretch), and a win over the Hawkeyes could turn the season around.
Last Week’s Ranking: 14
Last Week’s Result: Loss vs. Minnesota (42-7)
Next Week: vs. Liberty
Nunzio Campanile’s tenure as interim coach has not improved Rutgers’ prospects. The Scarlet Knights are on their third quarterback of the season, Johnny Langan, who completed 9 passes for 48 yards with 3 picks against Minnesota. A garbage-time touchdown prevented Rutgers being shut out again, but it isn’t looking too good in Jersey at the moment.