Though Northwestern fans had to watch their team lose to a lowly FCS opponent, the Big Ten was actually filled with tons of action this week. Many teams begin conference play this week, so let’s see how the Big Ten looks going into Week Four.
1. Ohio State (3-0, 0-0 B1G)
Last Ranking: 1
Last Result: 77-21 win vs. Toledo
Next: vs. Wisconsin
Though they played a non-power five team in Toledo, the Buckeye offense showed how electrifying it is and why it is one of the best in the country. Ohio State scored 77 points, and C.J. Stroud, the Heisman favorite at this point in time, threw for five touchdowns. Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka continue to emerge as star receivers next to Jaxson Smith-Njigba, who made his return against the Rockets.
The Buckeyes have also shown glimpses of how good their defense can be. In three games, they have given up a combined 43 points (10, 12, 21 respectively), and there is a different physical aspect, led by Zach Harrison. This makes Ohio State more formidable come conference play, especially this Saturday against Wisconsin.
2. Michigan (3-0, 0-0 B1G)
Last Ranking: 2
Last Result: 59-0 win vs. UConn
Next: vs. Maryland
Michigan did what it was supposed to do against the Huskies, which was blow them out of the Big House, and they did it while playing eight (eight!) different quarterbacks. But, J.J McCarthy is the guy who now controls the Wolverine offense, and their success this season will depend on him. Will McCarthy be able to win potential shootouts against quarterbacks like C.J. Stroud, Payton Thorne, Sean Clifford, and Taulia Tagovailoa? Time will tell.
Michigan’s receiving room, like Ohio State’s, is intriguing. Ohio State has more stars for sure, but Michigan has talent in Cornelius Johnson, Ronnie Bell, Roman Wilson and others. Donovan Edwards is also a receiving threat out of the backfield and adds another element to their offense. It will be interesting to see who emerges as time goes along.
3. Penn State (3-0, 1-0 B1G)
Last Ranking: 4
Last Result: 41-12 win at Auburn
Next: vs. Central Michigan
The Nittany Lions look good. Really, really good. So good that they just went into Jordan-Hare stadium and blew out Auburn, which is a hard feat to accomplish. They also beat Purdue away, and as of now, they have one of the best resumes in the country.
While Sean Clifford commands the offense, Nick Singleton continues to look like the most talented player on the team and arguably the most exciting player since Saquon Barkley. Sorry, Northwestern fans, with the team’s tackling issues, Singleton is going to have a field day on Oct. 1 against the ‘Cats.
4. Minnesota (3-0, 0-0 B1G)
Last Ranking: 5
Last Result: 49-7 win vs. Colorado
Next: at Michigan State
Through three games, the Gophers have scored 149 points and have let up 17. Their offense looks like the real deal, led by Mo Ibrahim. P.J. Fleck has a physical unit that is fit for the Big Ten.
As of right now, the Gophers should be the favorite in the Big Ten West. They look like the most complete team offensively and defensively. But, they have a real test this week in East Lansing against Michigan State.
5. Michigan State (2-1, 0-0 B1G)
Last Ranking: 3
Last Result: 39-28 loss at Washington
Next: vs. Minnesota
This was a humbling loss for the Spartans, who were riding the coattails of an incredibly successful season last year. Saturday’s score looks much better for Michigan State fans than the actual game: Washington jumped out to a 22-0 lead and never looked back, and Michigan State had to play catch-up in Seattle.
The biggest problem for Mel Tucker’s group is its secondary, which allowed Indiana transfer Michael Penix Jr. to throw for 397 passing yards and four touchdowns Saturday evening. At times the Big Ten can be pass-heavy, and Michigan State needs to fix its secondary before playing some of the best quarterbacks in the conference.
6. Maryland (3-0, 0-0 B1G)
Last Ranking: 7
Last Result: 34-27 win vs. SMU
Next: at Michigan
Maryland deserves to move up in the rankings after that SMU win. Taulia Tagovailoa looks like one of the best quarterbacks in the conference, Jacob Copeland and Dontay Demus are a wide receiver duo nobody wants to guard, and the Terps look like a much better team than they were last year.
Big Ten play will test them, starting with Michigan on the road this Saturday. If Tagovailoa and co. go into the Big House and compete with a Michigan team that has faced a cupcake schedule so far, look out for the Terps as a threat this year.
7. Wisconsin (2-1, 0-0 B1G)
Last Ranking: 6
Last Result: 66-7 win vs. New Mexico State
Next: at Ohio State
Following a loss against Washington State last weekend, the Badgers ran away against New Mexico State. But, that’s not important. What is important is this weekend’s showdown against Ohio State.
Ohio State is undoubtedly the top team in the Big Ten, and though it lost to Washington State, Wisconsin is a talented team. We’ll see if they can hold against the Buckeyes.
8. Rutgers (3-0, 0-0 B1G)
Last Ranking: 8
Last Result: 16-14 win at Temple
Next: vs. Iowa
Rutgers has a big question at the quarterback position, as Gavin Wimsatt and Noah Vedral are both game-time decisions for their conference opener against Iowa. But, Greg Schiano has a talented team, even with the losses of Isaiah Pacheco and Bo Melton.
They might be in a punt-off this week against the Hawkeyes.
9. Iowa (2-1, 0-0 B1G)
Last Ranking: 13
Last Result: 27-0 win vs. Nevada
Next: at Rutgers
Iowa deserves to be higher on this list because of ots defense, which through three games has been one of the best in the country. If the Hawkeyes stand any chance in the conference this year, it will be because of this unit.
The problem with the Hawkeyes: Spencer Petras. He just cannot be the quarterback to lead Iowa to where it wants to be this year.
10. Indiana (3-0, 1-0 B1G)
Last Ranking: 11
Last Result: 33-30 win vs. Western Kentucky
Next: at Cincinnati
Indiana, in terms of last year, already has a successful season: they surpassed their win total and won a conference game, which they were not able to do last year. Connor Bazelak looks like an upgrade from Michael Penix (who is balling out at Washington) or Jack Tuttle and Tom Allen should be happy with the way his team is playing.
Indiana’s tough part is the rest of the season, as it should not be favored in any more Big Ten games and a road bout at Cincinnati screams for a loss.
11. Illinois (2-1, 0-1 B1G)
Last Ranking: 12
Last Result: 24-3 win vs. Virginia
Next: vs. Chattanooga
Though nothing happened with the Fighting Illini, they move up in the rankings. There’s not much to say about them at this point in time. But, sorry Northwestern fans, they look better than the ‘Cats do.
12. Purdue (1-2, 0-1 B1G)
Last Ranking: 10
Last Result: 32-29 loss at Syracuse
Next: vs. Florida Atlantic
Purdue started the season with high expectations, and while both their losses were acceptable, it is not promising going into conference play. The Boilermakers are a team that should be contending in the Big Ten West, and maybe they will, with players such as Aidan O’Connell and Charlie Jones. But, for now, they sit towards the bottom of the Big rankings.
13. Northwestern (1-2, 1-0 B1G)
Last Ranking: 9
Last Result: 31-24 loss vs. Southern Illinois
Next: vs. Miami Ohio
There are not a lot of positives from Northwestern this week, but then again they are not in last. But, there is an argument that they should be after a humiliating loss to Southern Illinois. After the win in Ireland, Northwestern had a relatively easy path to 3-0, or even 4-0 heading into Happy Valley to face Penn State, but instead, it sits at 1-2 fighting for its life.
I’m sure Northwestern fans want positives, but this article can’t be the one to give you them. Their offense looked the worst it has on Saturday, the defense has few bright spots and there’s tons of pessimism right now in Evanston.
14. Nebraska (1-3, 0-1 B1G)
Last Ranking: 14
Last Result: 40-14 loss vs. Oklahoma
Next: vs. Indiana
The only reason the Wildcats do not deserve to be last is becaus Nebraska does. Scott Frost is gone, and somehow the Huskers looked worse. Yes, they played Oklahoma, but they looked really, really bad.
They have talent, starting with Casey Thompson and Trey Palmer. But, not much promise.