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Big Ten Football Power Rankings, Week 7: Northwestern in free fall

At least the ‘Cats won’t lose this week!

Northwestern v Nebraska Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

As we near the middle of the Big Ten season, Week 6 saw two ranked-versus-ranked conference games, a few blowouts, and one game I’d rather avoid talking about. Here’s an excellent and much more comprehensive recap of Saturday’s contests. Now, let’s dive into this week’s power rankings:

1. Ohio State

Last Week’s Ranking: 1

Last Week’s Result: Win vs. Michigan State (34-10)

Next Week: Bye

Michigan State v Ohio State Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

The Buckeyes faced their toughest opponent so far this season in the Spartans and handled them effectively. After a slow start, Justin Fields and company ran all over Michigan State’s vaunted run defense. Along with Fields, J.K. Dobbins had a pretty big day as well, and the Buckeyes’ rush defense spotted Sparty just 67 rushing yards. Ohio State is the deepest, most talented team in the conference, despite their initial struggles against MSU, and remains the clear number one in these rankings.

2. Wisconsin

Last Week’s Ranking: 2

Last Week’s Result: Win vs. Kent State (48-0)

Next Week: vs. Michigan State

Kent State v Wisconsin Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

The Badgers played a weaker MAC opponent in the Golden Flashes and cruised to an easy victory. Jonathan Taylor padded his stats with five more rushing touchdowns. The Badgers’ beating up on a MAC team which barely got by Kennesaw State in overtime will not be enough to propel them above Ohio State, but, if both squads are undefeated on October 26, it’s going to be fun.

3. Penn State

Last Week’s Ranking: 3

Last Week’s Result: Win vs. Purdue (35-7)

Next Week: @Iowa

NCAA Football: Purdue at Penn State John Jones-USA TODAY Sports

Sean Clifford and the Nittany Lions round out an unchanging top three after defeating a Purdue team sans Rondale Moore and Elijah Sindelar. Nonetheless, Penn State’s offensive playmakers made explosive plays early on, and freshman running back Noah Cain showed flashes with 105 rushing yards on 12 carries. A test in Iowa City awaits James Franklin’s squad next week, where the Nittany Lions will put their undefeated record (and their all-important #3 spot on Inside NU’s weekly power rankings) on the line.

4. Michigan

Last Week’s Ranking: 5

Last Week’s Result: Win vs. Iowa (10-3)

Next Week: @Illinois

Iowa v Michigan Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Wolverine defense forced four turnovers against Iowa, picking off Nate Stanley three times, and eight sacks to win a game at the Big House which was bereft of offensive skill and explosiveness. Shea Patterson struggled again as the ground game, led by true freshman Zach Charbonnet, also failed to sustain drives. The Wolverines have a lot of things to fix offensively if they want to compete with the conference’s top tier, but a win over Iowa keeps any fleeting hope of a trip to Indy alive.

5. Iowa

Last Week’s Ranking: 4

Last Week’s Result: Loss @ Michigan (3-10)

Next Week: vs. Penn State

Iowa v Michigan Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Iowa’s offense struggled to move the ball down the field. As mentioned above, Nate Stanley threw three interceptions, though the Hawkeyes entered the game with only one turnover this season, best in the FBS. Can Stanley and the offense bounce back against another tough opponent in Penn State?

6. Michigan State

Last Week’s Ranking: 6

Last Week’s Result: Loss @ Ohio State (10-34)

Next Week: @ Wisconsin

Michigan State v Ohio State Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Sparty’s defense initially neutralized Justin Fields and the Ohio State offense but ultimately gave in. Brian Lewerke and the Michigan State’s offense failed to finish drives and flamed out down the stretch against one of the best defenses in the country, which is understandable, I suppose.

7. Minnesota

Last Week’s Ranking: 7

Last Week’s Result: Win vs. Illinois (40-17)

Next Week: vs. Nebraska

Illinois v Minnesota Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

By the grace of the Norse gods, the Golden Gophers are still undefeated after getting by a woeful Illini defense. Rodney Smith rushed for a career high 211 yards. Minnesotacould be a dark horse in the Big Ten West if they can get by Nebraska, Rutgers, and Maryland before the toughest stretch of their schedule in November.

8. Nebraska

Last Week’s Ranking: 10

Last Week’s Result: 13-10 Win vs. Northwestern

Next Week: @ Minnesota

Northwestern v Nebraska Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

Nebraska shut me up by beating a Northwestern team without any offensive potency and a penchant for mind-numbingly terrible play-calling. Still, though, Adrian Martinez’s injury should scare the heck out of Husker fans, as his status for their trip to the Twin Cities remains up in the air. The Huskers are in a better position than they were last season regardless—Scott Frost’s rebuild will take time, but improvement seems to be steadily coming.

9. Indiana

Last Week’s Power Ranking: 9

Last Week’s Result: Bye

Next Week: vs. Rutgers

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 28 Indiana at Michigan State Photo by Adam Ruff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Indiana stays at the number 9 slot but is jumped by Nebraska by virtue of the bye week. Let’s see if Michael Penix, Jr., can continue his good play and navigate the Hoosiers to at least a six win season. (#9WINDIANA is still alive, baby!)

10. Maryland

Last Week’s Power Ranking: 13

Last Week’s Result: Win vs. Rutgers (48-7)

Next Week: @ Purdue

Maryland v Rutgers Photo by Corey Perrine/Getty Images

The Terps bounced back from a shutout loss against Penn State to trounce Rutgers. Justin Jackson threw 2 touchdown passes but was injured mid-game. Maryland has explosive offensive potential and jumps by virtue of the incompetency of the teams behind it on this list.

11. Purdue

Last Week’s Ranking: 11

Last Week’s Result: Loss @ Penn State (7-35)

Next Week: vs. Maryland

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 05 Purdue at Penn State Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The explosive Rondale Moore as well as QB1 Elijah Sindelar were down with injuries as their squad were blown out in Happy Valley. The defense was also pretty banged up, but seemingly held their own in the second half. If and when Moore and Sindelar return, Purdue has the potential to put up a lot of points on the board.

12. Northwestern

Last Week’s Power Ranking: 8

Last Week’s Result: Loss @ Nebraska (10-13)

Next Week: Bye

NCAA Football: Northwestern at Nebraska Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Defense good, offense bad, Mick McCall even worse. You know the drill.

13. Illinois

Last Week’s Power Ranking: 12

Last Week’s Result: Loss @ Minnesota (17-40)

Next Week: vs. Michigan

NCAA Football: Illinois at Minnesota Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The Illini’s run defense is abysmal, allowing 300+ yards in two straight games. Starting quarterback Brandon Peters’ status is still unknown for the game against his former team in Michigan. Redshirt freshman Matt Robinson, who struggled to throw the ball downfield against Minnesota, would start in his place.

14. Rutgers

Last Week’s Power Ranking: 14

Last Week’s Result: Loss vs. Maryland (7-48)

Next Week: @ Indiana

NCAA Football: Maryland at Rutgers Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

The Chris Ash era came to a close, and interim coach Nunzio Campanile will have to deal with the midseason redshirts of quarterback Art Sitkowski and running back Raheem Blacksheer to preserve a year of eligibility and perhaps transfer. Things are not looking good in Jersey, to say the least, especially given that they just got word of starting quarterback McLane Carter’s medical retirement.