This past week separated the good from the great in the Big Ten and determined a clear leader in the East and the West. Let’s take a look at the conference power rankings after five weeks of play.
14. Penn State (0-5)
Last ranking: 14
Last result: L vs. Iowa (21-41)
Next: vs. Michigan
Penn State has been consistently outmatched in all aspects of the game. They currently rank 11th in the conference in total offense and 12th in total defense. James Franklin would be on the hot seat except for the fact that his newly signed contract has a $32 million dollar buyout. However, the schedule does get easier for Penn State, as they end the year with Michigan, Rutgers and Michigan State.
13. Michigan State (1-3)
Last ranking: 13
Last result: Game vs. Maryland canceled due to COVID-19
Next: vs. No. 8 Northwestern
Michigan State caught a break with a canceled game this past weekend before they host Northwestern and Ohio State in back-to-back weeks. Hopefully the time off allowed the Spartans to figure out their offensive woes.
12. Nebraska (1-3)
Last ranking: 9
Last result: L vs. Illinois (23-41)
Next: at No. 24 Iowa
Just when Nebraska looked to be getting back on track, they were throttled by a subpar Illinois squad. Luke McCaffery threw three interceptions, and the defense had no answer for Brandon Peters. It’s going to be hard to win games when you give up almost 500 yards to Illinois. The season only get tougher as the Cornhuskers travel to an Iowa team that’s finally found their identity.
11. Rutgers (1-4)
Last ranking: 12
Last result: L vs. Michigan (42-48 3OT)
Next: at Purdue
“Painful.” That’s all Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano had to say regarding the triple overtime loss to Michigan, a game in which the Scarlet Knights led 17-0 in the first half. On the bright side, the team looked energized and the receiver duo of Bo Melton and Aaron Cruickshank has looked like one of the best in the Big Ten. Expectations may remain low for the rest of this season, but the future should look brighter in New Brunswick.
10. Illinois (1-3)
Last ranking: 11
Last result: W at Nebraska (43-21)
Next: vs No. 4 Ohio State
The Fighting Illini looked dominant on Saturday, jumping out to a 28-10 halftime lead and never looking back. Brandon Peters’ activation off of the COVID-19 restricted list was a godsend for this team, and the run game finally got going as Illinois picked up 285 yards on the ground. Expect this team to fall back to earth Saturday when the Buckeyes come to town.
9. Minnesota (2-3)
Last ranking: 10
Last result: W vs. Purdue (34-31)
Next: Game vs. No. 16 Wisconsin canceled due to COVID-19
Minnesota escaped a trip from Purdue with an undeserved win. The Golden Gophers were outplayed for the majority of the game and were gifted the game off a controversial offensive pass interference call. After multiple players and staff within the program tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week, UM now has a bye week before hosting Northwestern.
8. Purdue (2-2)
Last ranking: 6
Last result: L at Minnesota (31-34)
Next: vs. Rutgers
After starting 2-0, Purdue has suffered back-to-back heartbreakers. Coach Jeff Brohm has a decision to make after Jack Plummer played exceptionally well in place of injured starting QB Aidan O’Connell. The Boilermakers had a touchdown called back on their final drive after a rather soft offensive pass interference call, but the game shouldn’t have gotten to that point.
7. Michigan (2-3)
Last ranking: 8
Last result: W at Rutgers (48-42 2OT)
Next: vs. Penn State
Michigan comes in at seven because it looks like they finally found their starting QB in redshirt freshman Cade McNamara. It’s telling that Michigan had outscored Rutgers 207-21 the past four years before letting this year’s game go to double overtime because the Wolverine’s defense has yet to stop anyone, giving up 36 points per game.
6. Maryland (2-1)
Last ranking: 7
Last result: Game vs. Michigan State canceled due to COVID-19
Next: at No. 12 Indiana
Maryland moves up a spot after Purdue’s tumble but hasn’t played football in almost three weeks. That’s not a good sign with a looming matchup with an Indiana team that is coming off a close loss to Ohio State.
5. No. 24 Iowa (3-2)
Last ranking: 5
Last result: W at Penn State (41-21)
Next: vs. Nebraska
Iowa continues to impress, following their two game stumble to start the season. A win at Penn State doesn’t mean much these days, but it was a good sign that the Hawkeyes can beat up on lesser competition. Tyler Goodson and Mekhi Sargent continue to be a two-headed monster at running back, and an always stout Iowa defense has given up only 16 points per game. The Hawkeyes travel to Lincoln this weekend and will face a Nebraska team desperate for a win.
4. No. 16 Wisconsin (2-1)
Last ranking: 2
Last result: L at No. 11 Northwestern (7-17)
Next: Game vs Minnesota canceled due to COVID-19
Is Northwestern just that good, or is Wisconsin not as dominant as they appeared to be? It’s probably a mix of both at this point, but the Wisconsin offense was dreadful last weekend. It’s back to the drawing board for coach Paul Chryst and QB Graham Mertz, who struggled immensely against their first quality opponent. However, the bad news just keeps coming for the Badgers as their third game of the season was canceled due to COVID-19 concerns, knocking them out of the race for the Big Ten title.
3. No. 12 Indiana (4-1)
Last ranking: 3
Last result: L at No. 3 Ohio State (35-42)
Next: vs. Maryland
The video below sum up Indiana’s game with Ohio State in a nutshell. Every time the Hoosiers inched back, they fell just a little bit short. There were definitely some positive takeaways for IU though, as Michael Penix Jr. threw for almost 500 yards and the defense tripled Justin Field’s career interception mark in one afternoon.
What a rollercoaster of a play pic.twitter.com/G1c5MzNFYB— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) November 21, 2020
2. No. 8 Northwestern (5-0)
Last ranking: 4
Last result: W vs No. 16 Wisconsin (17-7)
Next: at Michigan State
The Fighting Rece Davises are for real this year. Northwestern is living up to its identity having given up only 10 second half points through five games this year. The ‘Cats rank 10th in the country in total defense, giving up only 302 yards per game. If Mike Bajakian’s run game catches a spark, the ‘Cats will be the complete package. Since Wisconsin has been disqualified from Big Ten title contention due to not playing enough games, the Wildcats are one win away from a rematch with the Buckeyes in Indy.
We've officially reached the most chaotic moment of this already chaotic year: Northwestern's College Football Playoff ranking is higher than its U.S. News and World Report ranking. https://t.co/M5bv7DdnuC— Ella Brockway (@ellabrockway) November 25, 2020
1. No. 4 Ohio State (5-0)
Last ranking: 1
Last result: W vs. No. 12 Indiana (42-35)
Next: at Illinois
As expected, the Buckeyes continue to play winning football, although the Hoosiers did exploit some massive holes in OSU’s game, including an unusually weak secondary. That might not matter much for now, but it will if they reach College Football Playoff. However, to get there, the road travels through Indy where the Buckeyes will most likely face Northwestern on December 19.