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Big Ten Football Power Rankings, Week 3: Maryland has entered the chat

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The top five stay unchanged while the rest shuffle places.

Ryan Kuttler-Northwestern Athletics

This week’s Big Ten contests produced a lot of expected results, but also some burger-inspired nicknames, unusual punting scenarios and false touchdown attributions. Let’s take a look at the power rankings after the conference’s third set of games:

14. Illinois (0-3)

Last ranking: 14

Last result: L vs Minnesota (41-14)

Next: vs Iowa

In the battle of last week’s two worst-ranked teams, Illinois emerged the loser, and it wasn’t particularly close. As a result, Lovie Smith finds him even more decidedly in last place this week. Expectations were low for Illinois this year, with our preseason power rankings slotting the Illini 11th in the conference. But, between a COVID outbreak that has sidelined their starting quarterback and non-existent defensive performances, Smith’s team has drastically underperformed. Nature is healing.

13. Michigan State (1-2)

Last ranking: 11

Last result: L @ Iowa (49-7)

Next: vs Indiana

After the Spartans shocked Michigan in Ann Arbor, all of us rethought the immense cloud of doubt that naturally gets placed over a team that lost by double-digits to Rutgers. Last week, though, Michigan State reminded the world it is still very much undergoing a rebuild in new head coach Mel Tucker’s first season. From the start, Iowa, who entered the game winless, pummeled them. They’ll now face their toughest test of the year thus far in undefeated Indiana.

12. Rutgers (1-2)

Last ranking: 10

Last result: L @ Ohio State (49-27)

Next: vs Illinois

It’s hard to justify dropping Rutgers in the rankings for losing a game that no one expected them to win, but their lackluster performance in Columbus, along with some key wins for teams previously ranked behind them has warranted the fall. If not for some trick plays run late in the game (well after it had already been decided), there’s a chance the Scarlet Knights wouldn’t have covered the whopping 37.5-point spread in their contest with the Buckeyes.

11. Nebraska (0-2)

Last ranking: 8

Last result: L @ Northwestern (21-13)

Next: vs Penn State

After rising to eighth in last week’s rankings despite a bye week, I wrote such a placement for the Huskers would “likely be temporary if they lose at Ryan Field on Saturday and all goes as expected across the conference (it won’t).” Well, Nebraska lost an ugly game in Evanston in which it made a litany of mindless mistakes, and, save for Maryland’s upset of Penn State, everything went pretty much as expected across the conference. Thus, we find UNL three spots lower in advance of their game with their fellow winless Nittany Lions. Speaking of whom...

10. Penn State (0-3)

Last ranking: 7

Last result: L vs Maryland (35-19)

Next: @ Nebraska

These are some comments from the Black Shoe Diaries’ (Penn State’s SB Nation blog) postgame coverage of the Nittany Lions’ loss against Maryland. I think they speak for themselves.

9. Minnesota (1-2)

Last ranking: 13

Last result: W @ Illinois (41-14)

Next: vs Iowa

After two painful losses to start the season, Minnesota finally got its first win of the year behind a monster game from Mohamed Ibrahim. The starting tailback ran 30 times for 224 yards and four touchdowns in Champaign and said after the game that the Gophers “cleaned up all their details on both sides of the ball.” Meanwhile, head coach PJ Fleck used the following children’s book to jumpstart his squad:

8. Michigan (1-2)

Last ranking: 6

Last result: L @ Indiana (38-21)

Next: vs Wisconsin

Michigan should really be ranked lower following itsgame in Bloomington — one in which they never competed with the Hoosiers. The Wolverines couldn’t get anything going on the ground, rushing for 13 total yards, and they couldn’t seem to stop the pass either, allowing 342 yards and three touchdowns to Michael Penix Jr. a week after Rocky Lombardi shred them. That said, I can’t honestly look at these rankings and place the Wolverines below any winless teams or Minnesota, whom they beat handily in Week One, nor can I slot them behind much less talent-laden one-loss squads like Rutgers or Michigan State.

7. Maryland (2-1??)

Last ranking: 12

Last result: W @ Penn State (35-19)

Next: vs Ohio State

Ever since his putrid college career opener against Northwestern, Taulia Tagovailoa has looked sharp as a knife. He’s thrown for 676 yards and six touchdowns while rushing for another 72 yards and two scores in the past two weeks. Simply put, Maryland’s turnaround has been Tagovailoa’s turnaround, and whether or not he can sustain his play this season against tougher opponents like Ohio State, his quick growth spells great things for the Terps going forward given his freshman stature.

6. Io_a (1-2)

Last ranking: 9

Last result: W vs Michigan State (49-7)

Next: @ Minnesota

After losing two close contests to start the season, the Hawkeyes played with authority and got their first win of the season. By the end of the first half of their blowout of Michigan State, Io_a had touchdowns in all three phases of the game and a 35-0 lead. Combined with the fact that, unlike those of many other teams on this list, neither of their losses were particularly embarrassing, the win brings them only one slot below where they started the season.

5. Purdue (2-0)

Last ranking: 5

Last result: BYE

Next: vs Northwestern

Purdue was on bye this week as its scheduled opponent, Wisconsin, continued to struggle with a COVID outbreak. The Boilers get Northwestern this week in what has become a battle for the lead in the Big Ten West.

4. No. 23 Northwestern (3-0)

Last ranking: 4

Last result: W vs Nebraska (21-13)

Next: @ Purdue

It was an ugly win for the ‘Cats, one in which Peyton Ramsey did not look as sharp as he had in prior weeks, but it was a win nonetheless. More so, with both teams they’d already beaten putting up impressive performances of their own, the Wildcats somehow have one of the more impressive resumés in the conference. Of course, their real two tests will come in the next two weeks, when they face the only other undefeated Big Ten West teams, Purdue and Wisconsin. If they can find a way to continue their hot streak against their toughest competition yet, Northwestern will be sitting pretty for its second division title in three years.

3. No. 13 Wisconsin (1-0)

Last ranking: 3

Last result: BYE

Next: @ Michigan

Now two canceled games into their program-wide fight against the coronavirus, the Badgers seem to be healthy enough to play Michigan, which critically keeps them qualified for the Big Ten Championship game. It’s an unfortunate situation for a team that showed so much promise in its first — and thus far only — game of the season. That said, they’ll be without the help of at least 10 players, potentially including freshman QB Graham Mertz, who, by Big Ten rule, may be required to sit the game out if his first positive test was taken within 21 days of Saturday. Fun times ahead and still plenty of questions in Madison.

2. No. 10 Indiana (3-0)

Last ranking: 2

Last result: W vs Michigan (38-21)

Next: @ Michigan State

The Hoosiers continue to impress, this week controlling their contest with Michigan from start to finish. Thus far, Michael Penix Jr. has yet to display arguably his biggest weakness — his susceptibility to injury — while the high-powered Indiana offense continues to easily cover for its defense, which has ranked 79th in the nation in points against per game.

1. No. 3 Ohio State (3-0)

Last ranking: 1

Last result: W vs Rutgers (49-27)

Next: @ Maryland

Ohio State beat up on an inferior opponent like usual, so that means everything else last week was just as normal, right? In all seriousness, there’s a lot of uncertainty in these rankings, with all but one team outside of the top five changing places from last week. Some matchups within the top five in the coming weeks are sure to shake things up themselves, but one thing seems fairly certain: the Buckeyes entered the regular season the best team in the Big Ten, they’re still the best team in the Big Ten, and they’ll likely leave the regular season the best team in the Big Ten.