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Big Ten Week 11 Power Rankings: Lots of byes set up an important Saturday

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A snoozefest of a week creates a little clarity at the bottom of the rankings.

Nebraska v Minnesota Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Week 10 did not exactly bring us a ton of Big Ten action (for full recaps of the games, though, follow this link), but the upcoming weekend should clarify things a bit. For now, despite a couple of intriguing changes, things are mostly stationary. Let’s get into it:

1. Ohio State

Last Week’s Ranking: 1

Last Week’s Result: Bye

Next Week: vs. Maryland

NCAA Football: Wisconsin at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

A week off does nothing to change the fact that Ohio State is clearly the best team in the Big Ten, if not the country. With games against Maryland and Rutgers coming up, the Buckeyes should be able to run up the score and get the backups some playing time, while Chase Young, Justin Fields and J.K. Dobbins continue to build their Heisman resumes.

2. Penn State

Last Week’s Ranking: 2

Last Week’s Result: Bye

Next Week: at Minnesota

NCAA Football: Penn State at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

After a tough stretch of games, the Nittany Lions got a much-needed week off before their big matchup at undefeated Minnesota. This should be a good test of strengths: Penn State’s defense is second in the country allowing only 9.6 points per game, while Minnesota’s offense averages a shade under 40 points per game.

3. Minnesota

Last Week’s Ranking: 3

Last Week’s Result: Bye

Next Week: vs. Penn State

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

The Gophers also had the week off to prepare for their first matchup against a team with an RPI higher than 40 this season. Clearly, Minnesota has not played an opponent of Penn State’s caliber, but they’ve taken care of business in every game and should be ready for this matchup of unbeatens.

While the game has major implications for both teams, this is the biggest football-related event for Minnesota since the ‘60s, and should create an electric environment in Minneapolis as the Gophers will look to continue their success in P.J. Fleck’s third season.

4. Wisconsin

Last Week’s Ranking: 4

Last Week’s Result: Bye

Next Week: vs. Iowa

NCAA Football: Wisconsin at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Wisconsin had the week off as well, after suffering back-to-back losses at Illinois and Ohio State. Even after the two defeats, Wisconsin gets the nod in the rankings over Michigan due to the stomping they gave the Wolverines when the two played in late September. Iowa will come to Madison this week for a Big Ten West matchup that could have implications down the stretch if Minnesota falters.

5. Michigan

Last Week’s Ranking: 5

Last Week’s Result: Win at Maryland 38-7

Next Week: Bye

NCAA Football: Michigan at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan’s Giles Jackson returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown against Maryland, and the Wolverines never looked back, cruising to an easy 38-7 victory in College Park. The Wolverine offense punched in three touchdowns on the ground, and the defense held Maryland to a measly 104 yards passing. They get this week off as they prepare to face their crosstown rival Michigan State.

6. Indiana

Last Week’s Ranking: 6

Last Week’s Result: Win vs. Northwestern 34-3

Next Week: Bye

NCAA Football: Northwestern at Indiana Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The Hoosiers reached seven wins for the first time since 2007, by doing what just about every other team who has played Northwestern has done this year – whatever they wanted. The Hoosiers shut down the ‘Cats’ lifeless offense, holding them to three points and 199 yards of total offense while forcing three turnovers. After this week’s bye, Indiana faces a difficult stretch to end the season with games against both Penn State and Michigan.

7. Iowa

Last Week’s Ranking: 7

Last Week’s Result: Bye

Next Week: at Wisconsin

NCAA Football: Iowa at Northwestern Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa was yet another Big Ten team on bye this week. The Hawkeyes will travel to face Wisconsin in what is sure to be a low scoring defensive battle. This game is effectively a Big Ten West elimination game for both teams, as it will be nearly impossible to win the division with three losses.

8. Michigan State

Last Week’s Ranking: 8

Last Week’s Result: Bye

Next Week: vs. Illinois

NCAA Football: Penn State at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Finally, we’ve reached the end of teams on bye last weekend in Michigan State. The Spartans will host a surprisingly hot Illinois team as they hope to climb back over .500 after a three game losing streak. Winning this game will be critical for the Spartans in preventing their season from going off the rails after 3 straight losses.

9. Illinois

Last Week’s Ranking: 9

Last Week’s Result: Win vs. Rutgers 38-10

Next Week: at Michigan State

NCAA Football: Rutgers at Illinois Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Lovie Smith’s Illinois team is peaking right now as winners of three in a row, after their dismantling of Rutgers pushed the Fighting Illini to 5-4. Illinois’ defense came up big against the Scarlet Knights, forcing three turnovers and returning two of them for touchdowns.

While the Illini are hot, and now above .500, a win against lowly Rutgers wasn’t enough to move them ahead of Michigan State. But this week’s matchup should give us a definitive answer as to who deserves spot number eight.

10. Purdue

Last Week’s Ranking: 11

Last Week’s Result: Win vs. Nebraska 31-27

Next Week: at Northwestern

NCAA Football: Nebraska at Purdue Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

Not much has gone right this season for Purdue, and even a rare win came with the loss of their second quarterback this season, as Jack Plummer suffered an ankle injury. The game featured a wild fourth quarter that had four lead changes, the final one being a David Bell rushing touchdown with just over a minute to go, sealing the game for the hosts. The Boilermakers visit Ryan Field this week in what will likely be one of the uglier games of the weekend.

11. Nebraska

Last Week’s Ranking: 10

Last Week’s Result: Loss at Purdue 31-27

Next Week: Bye

NCAA Football: Nebraska at Purdue Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

After an offseason filled with hype, the Huskers’ season has officially hit rock-bottom. A loss to Purdue makes the Huskers losers of four of their last five, with the lone win coming at home against Northwestern. While the hype was a little bit unjustified, it’s still hard to believe that this team was ranked going into the season, and is now losing games to Purdue’s second and third string quarterbacks. Scott Frost will need to get things together during this week’s bye, as UNL can still rally and reach a bowl.

12. Maryland

Last Week’s Ranking: 12

Last Week’s Result: Loss vs. Michigan 38-7

Next Week: at Ohio State

NCAA Football: Michigan at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

This may sound hard to believe, but this Maryland team was once ranked this season. After reaching #21 in the polls, the Terps have lost six of their last seven games, with the lone win coming against Rutgers. Maryland has lost its last two games by a combined score of 90-17, and somehow things get worse as they now must visit Ohio State to cap off a three game stretch that may be reminiscent of what the Scarlet Knights faced in 2015.

13. Rutgers

Last Week’s Ranking: 13

Last Week’s Result: Loss at Illinois 38-10

Next Week: Bye

NCAA Football: Rutgers at Illinois Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Rutgers is terrible, and yet another 20-plus-point loss proves this, but the one thing the Kinghts have that Northwestern doesn’t is that elusive second win. Until the ‘Cats can get that victory, the Knights will keep their grip on the 13 slot. Following this week’s bye they will host Ohio State in what is sure to be a massacre.

14. Northwestern

Last Week’s Ranking: 14

Last Week’s Result: Loss at Indiana 34-3

Next Week: vs. Purdue

NCAA Football: Northwestern at Indiana Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

At this point, what is there to say about the ‘Cats. Each week feels like rock-bottom until it somehow gets even worse. The lone bright spot of the week was the return of Hunter Johnson, which didn’t actually help the ‘Cats on the field, but it was great to see him back out there after his family issues nonetheless. The ‘Cats hope to get back on track this weekend as they host Purdue.