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Big Ten Power Rankings, Week 4: A new #1 emerges

After some impressive wins and thorough losses, there was plenty of movement even with rampant bye weeks.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 21 Michigan at Wisconsin Photo by Dan Sanger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The fourth week of the 2019 college football season brought a lot of blowout performances in the first true week of Big Ten play. Despite five conference teams not in action, the rankings themselves shifted relatively significantly.

If you’re looking for a more in-depth breakdown of the games, click here, but now, without further ado, the fourth edition of our 2019 Big Ten power rankings:

1. Wisconsin Badgers

Last Week’s Ranking: 2

Last Week’s Result: 35-14 win vs. Michigan

Next week: vs. Northwestern

For the first time this season, somebody has usurped Ohio State at the top. The Badgers drubbed Michigan at Camp Randall, holding the Wolverines scoreless for the first half. As I mentioned in three things to know earlier this week, the Badgers defense gave up their first touchdown of the year in the third quarter of their last game and seem unstoppable as of now. Their offense looks capable of keeping pace with the best of the conference and, in fact, the nation. Wisconsin looks to be heir apparent to the Big Ten West crown and may be rewarded with a second matchup in three years with Ohio State in Indianapolis.

2. Ohio State

Last Week’s Ranking: 1

Last Week’s Result: 76-5 win vs. Miami (OH)

Next week: @ Nebraska

I understand this placement (as well as the Wisconsin one) are controversial, but the role of power rankings as a concept is a snapshot in time. While the Buckeyes have destroyed all competition who dared to step in their way, OSU’s next four games (at Nebraska, vs. Michigan State, at Northwestern, and vs. Wisconsin) will prove defining for their National Championship hopes.

Quarterback Justin Fields has dismantled defenses with precision, and the step up to more difficult opposition will be a true indicator of the ability of this Ohio State team. With the falling of Michigan to Wisconsin, the Buckeyes became the clear favorites in the Big Ten East (with Michigan State and Penn State remaining relatively challenging matchups).

3. Penn State

Last Week’s Ranking: 3

Last Week’s Result: Bye

Next Week: @ Maryland

The Nittany Lions barely escaped their Week 3 clash with Pitt unscathed, pulling out a 17-10 win, but had time this week to begin addressing their offensive issues. Maryland should be a good first indicator for the quality of the Nittany Lions before they face a talented Iowa team.

4. Iowa

Last Week’s Ranking: 5

Last Week’s Result: Bye

Next Week: vs. Middle Tennessee State

After a close call in the Cy-Hawk game against rival Iowa State, the Hawkeyes look to be one of the biggest threats in the West. Similarly to Penn State, Iowa escaped the Cy-Hawk due to a muffed punt. Like many Hawkeye teams past, the defense has looked solid but when faced with tougher competition, the Iowa offense struggled to up their game.

5. Michigan State

Last Week’s Ranking: 6

Result: 31-10 win at Northwestern

Next Week: vs. Indiana

After a heartbreaking last-second field goal loss to Arizona State, the Spartans bounced back with a dominant victory against Northwestern. Michigan State’s run defense appeared just as dominant as they have been over the past few years, and the offense showed out as well against a struggling Wildcat team. After Indiana, the Spartans have a trip to Columbus, Ohio to face OSU, in a game that may prove defining in determining the Big Ten East champion.

6. Michigan

Last Week’s Ranking: 4

Last Week’s Result: 35-14 loss @ Wisconsin

Next Week: vs Rutgers

The Wolverines have looked mediocre in their last two games. Michigan barely escaped an early season home loss to Army, winning in OT. Experts expected the Wolverines to begin to fix some of their most pressing issues — mental errors — before their important trip to Camp Randall. However, a lackluster quarterback performance and poor game management by coaches leave Jim Harbaugh on the hot seat once again.

7. Nebraska

Last Week’s Ranking: 8

Last Week’s Result: 42-38 win vs. Illinois

Next Week: vs Ohio State

I love to be the bearer of this bad news but Nebraska is not good. Consistently one of the two most overhyped teams in Big Ten Football (hello Michigan), the Huskers have yet to prove enough on the field to justify their preseason hype. Their defense looked like a sieve early on against Illinois last week, but a solid performance from Adrian Martinez kept them in the game. Martinez threw for 327 yards and 3 touchdowns and was the Huskers’ leading rusher with 118 yards.

8. Minnesota

Last Week’s Ranking: 9

Last Week’s Result: Bye

Next Week: @ Purdue

Speaking of overhyped Big Ten teams — Minnesota! The Gophers struggled through their non-conference games, winning the three by a combined 13 points. A matchup with a battered Purdue team may return Gophers’ dreams to earth, but Fleck’s squad so far has not deserved the dark horse babes they received from so many before the season.

9. Northwestern

Last Week’s Ranking: 7

Last Week’s Result: 31-10 loss vs. Michigan State

Next Week: @ Wisconsin

There’s not much need to re-litigate the details of this game again. The Wildcats seem to have the individual pieces to be a successful team, but have struggled to do many of the things that Northwestern teams pride themselves most on — not taking penalties and having the team collectively perform better than a group of individual talents. The team still has the ability to bounce back, but issues in quarterback play and playcalling have not helped the Wildcats.

10. Maryland

Last Week’s Ranking: 10

Last Week’s Result: Bye

Next Week: vs. Penn State

Maryland was fortunate enough to have a bye week when they needed it most. After starting the season with two blowout wins, the Terps lost a shocking game to Temple. The Terps have a serious challenge in Penn State on Saturday and an opportunity to get their season back on track after a loss.

11. Indiana

Last Week’s Ranking: 12

Result: 38-3 win over UConn

Next Week: @ Michigan State

After their blowout loss to Ohio State, the Hoosiers beat UConn in Bloomington by a big margin, keeping hopes of #9wIndiana in tact. The main issue for Indiana is questions around the health of starting quarterback Michael Penix Jr. The Hoosiers will need the health of Penix to take on Michigan State seriously, and could present issues for the Spartan defense.

12. Purdue

Last Week’s Ranking: 11

Last Week’s Result: Bye

Next Week: vs. Minnesota

Injuries, injuries, injuries. The Boilermakers could not have had their bye week come at a better time. Starting quarterback Elijah Sindelar is questionable for this Saturday’s clash with Minnesota after suffering a concussion against Vanderbilt earlier this month. Other injuries to DT Lorenzo Neal before the season and LB Markus Bailey (who is out for the season) have taken two of the biggest talents away from this Purdue team.

13. Illinois

Last Week’s Ranking: 14

Last Week’s Result: 42-38 loss to Nebraska

Next week: Bye

Illinois came close to a major upset of Nebraska this past Saturday, leading the entire game for the first three quarters. Quarterback Brian Peters, a transfer quarterback from Michigan, has had an early disconnect, going 9 for 21 for 78 yards and struggling to get anywhere on their final drive to tie the game.

14. Rutgers

Last Week’s Ranking: 13

Result: 30-16 loss vs. Boston College

Next Week: vs. Michigan

The most notable part of this game was quarterback Artur Sitkowski being punched in the face. With starting quarterback McLane Carter still out after a concussion suffered against Iowa, Sitkowski remains the starter. The Scarlet Knights are not good, and will need to try to make significant change soon if they have dreams of bowl eligibility.

Disclaimer: These are the opinions of the author and the author alone (especially the Northwestern ranking), not the rest of the Inside NU staff.