Despite a week of incredibly odd results, which included Iowa sending any semblance of offensive football in the Hawkeye State back to the Stone Age, Rutgers garnering a comeback win, and Nebraska being tied with FCS North Dakota at halftime, the Big Ten is the only conference in college football that did not suffer an out of conference loss in Week 1. To celebrate this wonderful weekend of football, here are your Week One power rankings:
1. No. 2 Ohio State (1-0, 0-0 B1G)
Last ranking: 1
Last result: 21-10 W vs. #5 Notre Dame
Next: vs. Arkansas State
This pick was difficult to make after the Buckeyes struggled with No. 5 Notre Dame, going into halftime with just seven points on the board and requiring a late fourth-quarter touchdown to seal the game. However, the Buckeyes keep this ranking for two reasons: defense and CJ Stroud. The Buckeye defense (often overlooked in preseason predictions for the squad) held the Fighting Irish to just 76 yards rushing and 3-of-13 on third downs. As for Stroud, one of the favorites for the Heisman, he had a relatively pedestrian game (24 of 34 for just 223 yards) but was incredibly efficient and responded nicely to the loss of wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba early in the game. It wasn’t an awe-inspiring performance, but a double-digit win over a top five opponent earns the Buckeyes the top spot on this list.
2. No. 8 Michigan (1-0, 0-0 B1G)
Last ranking: 2
Last result: 51-7 W vs. Colorado State
Next: vs. Hawaii
Despite all the oddities coming out of Michigan football during the offseason the product on the field doesn’t appear to have dropped off too much from last year. The defending Big Ten champions rolled Colorado State Saturday, and despite tension between quarterbacks Cade McNamara and JJ McCarthy, the offense was rolling. The Wolverines averaged almost six yards per carry as three different players found the end zone from the ground and the three (yes, three) quarterbacks that played combined to throw for 206 yards. The defense, despite the losses of Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo, still looked very good, holding Colorado State to just 219 yards of total offense. To be perfectly honest, the Wolverines would be sitting at the top of this list right now if their quarterback situation was figured out, but for now, they’ll have to be comfortable with a spot they were very familiar with until last year: behind the Buckeyes.
3. No. 18 Wisconsin (1-0, 0-0 B1G)
Last ranking: 3
Last result: 38-0 W vs. Illinois State
Next: vs. Washington State
The only thing the Badger state produces better than cheese and brews appears to be running backs, as the team has yet another in the line of Montee Ball, Melvin Gordon III, and Johnathan Taylor. The latest iteration from this running back factory is a 6-foot-2, 235-pound block of muscle and speed named Braelon Allen, and the sophomore appears to have been born to carry a football. To begin the encore to his 1300-yard season last year (as a true freshman, no less) he took 14 carries for 148 yards and two scores against Illinois State. Wisconsin football has long been built off of running backs and defense, and if their first game this year is any indication, they’ll have yet another team in contention for a Big Ten West crown.
4. No. 15 Michigan State (1-0, 0-0 B1G)
Last ranking: 4
Last result: 35-13 W vs. Western Michigan
Next: vs. Akron
Despite the loss of Kenneth Walker III to the NFL last year, the Big Ten’s other team from Michigan looks to be very competitive this year. Last year’s starter Payton Thorne returned for his junior year and opened the campaign up nicely with a four-touchdown showing on just 24 attempts. Whether or not Wisconsin transfer Jalen Berger will be able to fill the large footsteps of Walker is up for debate, but 120 rushing yards in the opener is a good start. The defense had some holes and did allow two fourth-down conversions, but overall the Spartans should be able to get back to the postseason easily.
5. Minnesota (1-0, 0-0 B1G)
Last ranking: 7
Last result: 38-0 W vs. New Mexico State
Next: vs. Western Illinois
Perhaps the most impressive part of the Golden Gophers’ 9-4 mark last year was that they accomplished most of that without then-junior running back Mo Ibrahim. Ibrahim torched Ohio State for 163 yards and two touchdowns and appeared to be on his way to a third 1000-yard season until a lower leg injury knocked him out for the entirety of P.J. Fleck’s 2021 campaign. Ibrahim is back this year, as is three-year starter Tanner Morgan, and those two should pack a powerful punch on offense. The defense appears to be very good as well, coming off a performance in which they held New Mexico State to just 91 total yards. If the opener is a good prediction for the future, Minnesota’s boat should continue rowing in Fleck’s sixth year.
6. Maryland (1-0, 0-0 B1G)
Last ranking: 9
Last result: 31-10 W vs. Buffalo
Next: at Charlotte
The Tagovailoa name continues to be a part of college football, and Taulia appears to be following in his big brother’s footsteps nicely. He doesn’t have the accolades or national championships that his brother Tua does, but the junior is coming off a year in which he threw for over 3800 yards and 26 touchdowns. He struggled a bit against Buffalo, but running back Roman Hemby’s 114 yards and two touchdowns (on just seven carries) helped the Terrapins to an easy win. The offense was highly productive, and if Tagovailoa can cut down on his mistakes, Maryland will be a tough out for any team in the Big Ten.
7. Northwestern (1-0, 1-0 B1G)
Last ranking: 13
Last result: Week 1 bye, Week 0 31-28 W vs. Nebraska
Next: vs. Duke
The current leaders of the Big Ten West absolutely belong in the top half of the conference. The Wildcats kicked off the Big Ten’s 2021-22 season with a victory in Ireland over Nebraska, and what they showed in that victory means that they earned a significant bump in this week’s rankings. The staff here at Inside NU has been over that rip-roaring victory many times, and the positive influence it had is clear. With Ryan Hilinski under center (27/38 against the Cornhuskers) and Evan Hull and Cam Porter (211 combined rushing yards) in the backfield, Northwestern’s offense could potentially win some shootouts this year. Going down 11 to Nebraska twice isn’t great, but the grit the team showed in coming back deserves praise. If the defense (especially the secondary) is able to fix some of the issues on display in Ireland, Northwestern could be heading towards a bowl game, at the very least.
8. Penn State (1-0, 1-0 B1G)
Last ranking: 6
Last result: 35-31 W at Purdue
Next: vs. Ohio
The ageless wonder Sean Clifford has returned for his 19th — wait, scratch that — 6th collegiate season, and he opened it with some dramatics. Clifford bounced back from what seemed to be a crushing pick-six to throw a game-winning touchdown (his fourth of the day) with less than a minute to go. Clifford and head coach James Franklin have been constants for the Nittany Lions in a stretch that has seen them go from the Cotton Bowl to 4-5 to the Outback Bowl. If the Penn State defense can fill some holes that gave up over 350 passing yards to Purdue, this year will be a lot closer to the Outback Bowl than to 4-5.
9. Indiana (1-0, 1-0 B1G)
Last ranking: 14
Last result: 23-20 W vs. Illinois
Next: vs. Idaho
The Hoosiers were able to escape conference foe Illinois thanks to Missouri transfer QB Connor Bazelak, who was making his first start for the team. On the team’s 12-play scoring drive to close the game, Bazelak accrued 70 passing yards, including a 12-yard completion on third and four with under two minutes to go. There were some offensive issues (Bazelak missed on 24 passes and the team totaled just 32 yards rushing), but the defense made up for it by garnering 10 tackles for loss and forcing four turnovers, one of which happened on the final play of the game. Tom Allen’s squad failed to defeat a single Big Ten opponent last year, so getting a conference win to open a season that includes four battles with ranked opponents could help momentum immensely.
10. Rutgers (1-0, 0-0 B1G)
Last ranking: 12
Last result: 22-21 W at Boston College
Next: vs. Wagner
The Scarlet Knights somehow won a game in which their offense accounted for just 110 passing yards, committed one turnover and nearly lost two more, and converted just four of their 14 third down opportunities. How did they do it? Well, the defense held Boston College to only 29 yards rushing, forced three turnovers, and did not allow a point on the scoreboard for the final 23 minutes of the game. While it’s unclear who will be under center for Rutgers the rest of the way, sophomore running backs Al-Shadee Salaam and Kyle Monangai were good enough on the ground to suggest that the Scarlet Knights’ offense will have a spark this year. The defense, in addition to the turnovers, also had eight tackles for loss and eight quarterback hurries, so perhaps a Rutgers program without a bowl win since 2014 will be able to make some moves in the Big Ten East this year.
11. Nebraska (1-1, 0-1 B1G)
Last ranking: 10
Last result: 38-17 W vs. North Dakota
Next: vs. Georgia Southern
Anthony Grant looks really, really good. The junior from Georgia has opened the year with back-to-back 100-yard rushing games and has made four trips to the end zone. Perhaps the best stat for him so far this year is that he’s doing all of this on an eye-popping 6.9 yards per carry. However, Grant has been the lone true bright spot for the Cornhuskers in a year that many in Nebraska believe is Scott Frost’s last at the helm. Frost’s ignominious record in one score games continued in Ireland against Northwestern, and despite a 21-point win over North Dakota, Cornhusker fans cannot be happy with the fact that the game was a 7-7 tie at the half. Casey Thompson, the Texas transfer QB, has looked solid for most of the year and has made very few bad decisions, but he hasn’t yet been the game changer he was for the first half of last season. In a year where Frost’s seat might be hotter than a kitchen on Thanksgiving, the Cornhuskers can’t afford many more losses.
12. Illinois (1-1, 0-1 B1G)
Last ranking: 11
Last result: 23-20 L at Indiana
Next: vs. Virginia
The Fighting Illini should probably be 2-0 and about four spots higher on this list right now. What’s keeping them here? Poor mistakes on offense and defense. Committing two turnovers in the fourth quarter and coming away with nothing on fourth and goal from the one is a great way to lose a game, as is running a prevent defense on a second and seven that leads to a receiver being WIDE open. The Wyoming win was impressive, sure, but how much credit should you get for a team that had just 30 passing yards in a game in the year 2022? 1-1 is solid, but it could be much better, and after blowing the game against Indiana, Illinois should just feel lucky they’re ahead of the next team on this list.
13. Iowa (1-0, 0-0 B1G)
Last ranking: 5
Last result: W 7-3 vs. South Dakota State (all tapes of this game should be destroyed immediately)
Next: vs. Iowa State
Why did I waste 2 hours of a perfectly good Saturday afternoon watching this game? Why was this televised at all, or even played in front of fans? Why was Spencer Petras, who put up a QBR of 1.1, allowed to come away with a victory? Why, oh why, can a team score seven points off of tackles and kicks? And why must I continue power-ranking a team that basically doesn’t have an offense?
14. Purdue (0-1, 0-1 B1G)
Last ranking: 8
Last result: 35-31 L vs. Penn State
Next: vs. Indiana State
Unfortunately for the Boilermakers, they’re the only winless team in the conference right now and therefore have to bring up the rear in these power rankings. There were some bright spots in the Penn State loss: Aidan O’Connell threw the ball pretty well, and aside from being on the all-name team, King Doerue was able to find the end zone twice and lead the team in rushing. Unfortunately for the Boilermakers, their offense sputtered out in the final quarter and punted four times before failing to score as time expired. The defense could also use some work, but overall there’s not too much shame in losing to an experienced, well-coached Penn State team.