Two games into conference play, the Big Ten has continued to wow with its competitive play and unpredictable manner. Upset road losses saw a few ranked teams fall to lesser foes, leaving the conference virtually wide open heading into 2020
Let’s take a look at where the Big Ten stands with the new year around the corner:
1. Ohio State (11-1, 1-1 B1G)
Last week’s ranking: 1
The Buckeyes have been through some ups and down since our last rankings — the No. 2 team picked up its first loss of the season with an upset on the road by an unranked Minnesota, despite having just coasted to wins over both North Carolina and Penn State.
In true Buckeye fashion, Ohio State bounced right back to top Kentucky, diminishing any doubts brought on following the loss to Minnesota.
2. Penn State (10-2, 1-1 B1G)
Last week’s ranking: 5
The No. 20 Nittany Lions proved that they can keep up with the top of the conference with a big win over Maryland. They also edged out Alabama and easily beat Central Connecticut State.
After losing by over 30 points to the Buckeyes earlier this month, Penn State stepped up to establish themselves as an emerging threat. Lamar Stevens and co. will need to keep up this momentum as they face Iowa next in conference play.
3. Maryland (10-2, 1-1 B1G)
Last week’s ranking: 2
The seemingly unstoppable Terps have now suffered back-to-back losses against Penn State and Seton Hall after going undefeated in their first 10 games of the season.
The real test for this team will come when Maryland faces a tough lineup of Indiana, Ohio State, and Iowa in the first weeks of January. If Mark Turgeon’s squad can come out strong on the other side, the Terps can be considered a legit conference title contender.
4. Michigan (9-3, 1-1 B1G)
Last week’s ranking: 3
After starting off the season red hot with wins over the likes of North Carolina and Gonzaga, Michigan has fallen in the rankings after consecutive losses to Illinois and Oregon.
The Wolverines were unable to put up more than 70 points in either loss. A blowout win over the Presbyterian Blue Hose (dope name) might kick start their momentum once again, but that question likely won’t be answered until the Wolverines face Michigan State in their next conference matchup.
5. Michigan State (9-3, 2-0 B1G)
Last week’s ranking: 4
Michigan State made news as the only team in the Big Ten to win a road game so far, topping Northwestern 77-72 as part of their four-game winning streak.
Looking at the schedule, two of the three Spartan losses so far have been to top-ranked teams (Kentucky and Duke) and were determined by less than 10-point differences, so it is possible this MSU squad could make a name for itself during conference play. That being said, outside of Cassius Winston, Tom Izzo’s squad didn’t look too impressive in Evanston.
6. Minnesota (6-5, 1-1 B1G)
Last week’s ranking: 11
Minnesota shot up in the rankings this week, and for good reason. The Gophers upset over Ohio State warrants the question of where they stand: can they keep up with the best of the Big Ten, or was this win just a fluke?
A string of conference games against the likes of Purdue, MSU and Michigan will give Minnesota a chance to answer this question and prove whether this team is a true conference threat.
7. Indiana (11-1, 1-1 B1G)
Last week’s ranking: 7
Despite losing their first Big Ten game to Wisconsin, the Hoosiers have gone on a run ever since, beating Nebraska in overtime and edging out Notre Dame. IU boasts a share of the best record in the conference, but it’s hard to jump to any conclusions given their less than impressive strength of schedule.
The real test for Indiana will come when the team faces Maryland in the next round of conference matchups.
8. Iowa (9-3, 1-1 B1G)
Last week’s ranking: 9
Wins over both Iowa State and Cincinnati have helped this Iowa team regain their footing following its loss to Michigan. The Hawkeyes look strong as they prepare to return to conference play and face Penn State, a team that is shaping up to be tough to beat.
9. Illinois (8-4, 1-1 B1G)
Last week’s ranking: 8
The Fighting Illini showed glimmers of impressive play in their win against Michigan, but their most recent loss to Missouri — during which they only put up 56 points — proves that this season will feature some ups and downs in Champaign. The Illini haven’t quite been able to put together the pieces despite having loads of talent on the roster.
10. Purdue (7-5, 1-1 B1G)
Last week’s ranking: 6
The Boilermakers were looking hot after beating the defending national champions, but were upset by Nebraska in their second Big Ten matchup of the season. This followed with a loss to Butler, so Purdue should be looking at upcoming games against Minnesota and Illinois as chances to redeem themselves. Getting big man Matt Haarms back from injury should give the Boilers a much-needed boost.
11. Nebraska (5-7, 1-1 B1G)
Last week’s ranking: 14
The bottom of the conference seems to be shrinking as more teams (Nebraska and Minnesota) prove that they can compete with the best of the Big Ten. Nebraska came out on top against Purdue and kept Indiana on its toes until overtime, despite suffering some tough losses to teams like UC Riverside and Southern Utah earlier in the season.
The Cornhuskers will face Rutgers in their next conference matchup.
12. Rutgers (9-3, 1-1 B1G)
Last week’s ranking: 10
A win over Seton Hall finally gave Rutgers a reason to boast, but for now, the Scarlet Knights still remain at the bottom of the conference. The team is slotted to travel to Lincoln at the start of January, where a win could help distance themselves from the bottom of the pack.
13. Wisconsin (6-5, 1-1 B1G)
Last week’s ranking: 12
With the exception of a home win over Indiana, the Badgers have not looked like a real threat this season. Their loss to Rutgers keeps them at the bottom of the conference, and a looming matchup against Ohio State puts the Badgers in a tough spot to start the new year.
14. Northwestern (5-6, 0-2 B1G)
Last week’s ranking: 13
Despite showing a lot of young talent and potential, Northwestern is the only team that hasn’t won a conference game yet, so this one was easy. Boo Buie is awesome, but it’s still a rebuilding year for Chris Collins.