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Big Ten Football Power Rankings, Week Two — The Hawkeyes soar, the ‘Cats fall flat

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What a treat we had this past weekend.

NCAA Football: Indiana at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Well, that was fun! After a wild weekend that saw some surprising results, we’ll try to sift through the mess of week one games. Let’s take a league-wide look at the Big Ten... and don’t worry, there won’t be any overreactions (no promises).

1. No. 3 Ohio State (1-0, 1-0 B1G)

Last ranking: 1

Last result: W at Minnesota (45-31)

Next: vs. No. 12 Oregon

Uh oh, the Buckeyes are down at the half, Stroud looks shaky, this isn’t the same Ohio State team, they’re too young — so much for that. The Buckeyes are stacked at wide receiver, their running back depth is exceptional and Stroud had it figured out by the third quarter. Every time Minnesota inched closer, Ohio State responded. A road win against a team that will have several quality wins by the end of the year shouldn’t go unnoticed and the Buckeyes can prove why they should sit atop this week’s rankings against the Ducks Saturday.

2. No. 11 Penn State (1-0, 1-0 B1G)

Last ranking: 3

Last result: W at No. 18 Wisconsin (16-10)

Next: vs. Ball State

Penn State managed to win at Camp Randall this past weekend despite Wisconsin dominating the time of possession 43 minutes to 17. The Nittany Lions won the turnover battle, but their offense was stifled, as they only converted three third downs in 13 attempts and had under 300 yards. Penn State’s ability to pull out a win on the road against a tough Wisconsin team is definitely a good sign for the Nittany Lions going forward, who see a much easier MAC opponent in week two.

3. No. 10 Iowa (1-0, 1-0 B1G)

Last ranking: 5

Last result: W vs. Indiana (34-6)

Next: at No. 9 Iowa State

What was supposed to be a competitive matchup between closely ranked Big Ten teams was over by halftime. Iowa took advantage of Indiana’s mistakes by turning three interceptions into 14 points. The Hawkeyes defense was strong but Petras has to be better and Iowa has to protect the ball if they want to beat the No.9 Cyclones.

4. Michigan (1-0, 0-0 B1G)

Last ranking: 6

Last result: W vs Western Michigan (47-14)

Next: vs. Washington

Michigan handled their MAC opponent and in-state rival in the Broncos by piling 551 yards — 335 of which came on the ground — and 47 points on top of them. Their matchup next week against Washington was supposed to provide tougher competition, but the Huskies’ loss to FCS team Montana likely spoils that. It’s hard to determine how good the Wolverines are after this win but for now they’ll sit just inside the top five.

5. No. 18 Wisconsin (0-1, 0-1 B1G)

Last ranking: 2

Last result: L vs. Penn State (16-10)

Next: vs. Eastern Michigan

The Badgers can’t drop too far after a close loss to Penn State, especially after an elite showcase by their defense. Wisconsin’s run defense was spectacular, allowing only 50 yards to a strong Penn State running backs room. The game was ultimately decided by Graham Mertz’s interceptions, including his devastating goal-line pick in the final minutes. The Badgers’ offense was worrisome but they remain a top contender in the West.

6. Michigan State (1-0, 1-0 B1G)

Last ranking: 13

Last result: W at Northwestern (38-21)

Next: vs. Youngstown State

Northwestern saw firsthand that this isn’t the same Michigan State from a year ago. Payton Thorne, Kenneth Walker III and Jayden Reed carried the Spartans to over 500 yards against the ‘Cats. The Spartans defense was strong as well, only allowing eight third down conversions on 19 attempts. They limited NU to 3.1 yards per carry but allowed several big plays, something top teams like Michigan and Ohio State will likely be able to abuse if the Spartans don’t shore up those gaps.

7. Maryland (1-0, 0-0 B1G)

Last ranking: 11

Last result: W vs West Virginia (30-24)

Next: vs. Howard

The Terps offense was splendid Saturday, and a decent win against a Power Five team is very good for their resume. Their offense is loaded with talent; quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa threw for 332 yards and three touchdowns and Tayon Fleet-Davis ran for 123 yards. They held the Mountaineers to 48 rushing yards and dominated time of possession. Considering how they looked Saturday, the Terrapins could start off with a 4-0 record but will still struggle against their in-conference gauntlet that includes Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan.

8. Minnesota (0-1, 0-1 B1G)

Last ranking: 8

Last result: L vs. No. 3 Ohio State 45-31

Next: vs. Miami (OH)

Minnesota gave a noble effort against the No. 3 team in the nation. They never gave up and shouldn’t drop because of a difficult opening matchup. Losing Mohamed Ibrahim to an Achilles injury is a killer loss but the Golden Gophers are a tough group and should still be able to compete in the Big Ten West

9. Purdue (1-0, 0-0 B1G)

Last ranking: 9

Last result: W vs. Oregon State (30-21)

Next: at Connecticut

The Boilermakers beat an uninspiring Oregon State squad by single digits — not an impressive victory — but Jake Plummer had a strong game and found his favorite target, David Bell, eight times. It’s fair to reserve judgment until their week three matchup against Notre Dame, assuming they don’t lose to an absolutely miserable Connecticut team.

10. Rutgers (1-0, 0-0 B1G)

Last ranking: 10

Last result: W vs. Temple (61-14)

Next: at Syracuse

Rutgers’ dominant victory against a mediocre Temple squad shouldn’t be thrown out when projecting the Scarlet Knights’ 2021 outlook. Greg Schiano’s squad is on the upswing and this isn’t the same old Rutgers. There was hesitation to put the Scarlet Knights higher but think they are right there with the three teams above them and could see a bump with a victory against Syracuse.

11. Indiana (0-1, 0-1 B1G)

Last ranking: 4

Last result: L at Iowa (34-6)

Next: vs. Idaho

The Hoosiers fell mighty short of their lofty expectations following a successful 2020 season. QB Michael Penix Jr. was supposed to be a top quarterback in the Big Ten, but his performance against Iowa was abysmal. He threw for 156 yards and three interceptions and IU only rushed for 77 yards. Indiana needs to use their game against Idaho as a tune-up before they have to face No. 7 Cincinnati in week three.

12. Northwestern (0-1, 0-1 B1G)

Last ranking: 7

Last result: L vs. Michigan State (38-21)

Next: vs. Indiana State

If you only watched Hunter Johnson on Friday, you’d be rightfully furious about Northwestern’s spot in this week’s rankings. Unfortunately, a couple of beautiful deep balls wasn’t enough to avoid a loss that was hard to watch. It’s difficult to win when Kenneth Walker III runs for 264 yards and four touchdowns. It’s especially difficult to win if, while that ground attack is happening, Payton Thorne is able to consistently find open receivers. The Wildcats’ defense sorely missed Mike Hankwitz and the personnel and depth are lacking after the team’s crucial losses in 2020. The Wildcats should be able to turn things around given their easy non-conference schedule, but there is work to be done if they expect to compete with the top Big Ten teams.

13. Illinois (1-1, 1-0 B1G)

Last ranking: 12

Last result: L vs. UTSA (37-30)

Next: at Virginia

Let’s be blunt; the Illini just lost to UTSA, a school that has only had a football program for a decade. What happened? After a surprising performance in week one, there was an unusual optimism that maybe the Illini had turned a new leaf after their 2-6 disaster last season. Any hope for the Illini was promptly drained and no one knows what to expect with this team ahead of their matchup against the Cavaliers on Saturday.

14. Nebraska (1-1, 0-1 B1G)

Last ranking: 14

Last result: W vs. Fordham (52-7)

Next: vs Buffalo

Is a blowout win against an FCS team supposed to sway my opinion on a team that allowed Illinois to score 28 unanswered in their season-opening loss? The Cornhuskers’ rushing attack was impressive against Fordham accumulating 329 yards, but considering they lost to a team (checks notes to make sure this isn’t a typo) that lost to UTSA at home, I’m not convinced.