1. Michigan (6-0, 3-0 B1G)
Last Ranking: 1
Last Result: 52-10 win at Minnesota
Next: vs. Indiana
Another week, another Wolverines blowout. J.J. McCarthy and company dismantled a Minnesota team that had come into the week near the top of the Big Ten West standings, featuring two rushing touchdowns from their quarterback as well as another connection from McCarthy to receiver Colston Loveland.
The Big Ten’s most unstoppable force will return home and face perhaps the conference’s most moveable object in the Indiana Hoosiers next weekend, which should provide even more opportunities for Michigan’s defense to strut its stuff.
2. Penn State (5-0, 3-0 B1G)
Last Ranking: 3
Last Result: 41-13 win at Northwestern
Next: vs. UMass
Penn State got the week off, allowing it to bask in the glory of its 28-point win over Northwestern on the road and prepare for a non-conference matchup against the UMass Minutemen.
Despite playing one less game than most teams in the Big Ten, Penn State’s versatile offense still ranks 3rd in total points (1st in points per game), as well as the having the third most rushing attempts — the latter a testament to the strength of Nick Singleton, Kaytron Allen and even Trey Potts.
3. Ohio State (5-0, 2-0 B1G)
Last Ranking: 2
Last Result: 37-17 win vs. Maryland
Next: at Purdue
After a lackadaisical first half against Maryland, the Buckeyes went back into the locker room during the break, and something clicked. The offense snapped off for three touchdowns, two originating out of the right arm of Kyle McCord, and one ran in by Chip Trayanum.
A game that Maryland once led 10-0 finished as a 20-point Ohio State blowout, further cementing Ohio State’s passing game as one of the best and most efficient in the conference.
4. Maryland (5-1, 2-1 B1G)
Last Ranking: 4
Last Result: 37-17 loss at Ohio State
Next: vs. Illinois
For a little bit, it looked like the Terps might shove Ohio State to the side and force the press to rank them alongside their undefeated peers. Instead, Maryland was handed its first loss of the season after scoring just seven points in the second half.
Nevertheless, Maryland is still in the midst of one of its strongest seasons in recent memory, thanks to not only quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa’s efforts but also a defensive unit that is one of the Big Ten’s very best at defending the pass.
5. Iowa (5-1, 2-1 B1G)
Last Ranking: 5
Last Result: 20-14 win vs. Purdue
Next: at Wisconsin
The Iowa Hawkeyes might not have had a receiver catch a pass all day, nor did offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz hop back on pace for his contractual points obligation, but they still managed to find a way to win.
Granted, Iowa was playing a 2-3 Purdue team that has been one of the conference’s worst at defending the run, but running backs Kaleb Johnson and Leshon Williams showed out, racking up 134 and 74 yards respectively and taking 30 carries between them. The Hawketes has options, which they’ll need to exploit playing a much tougher team in Wisconsin next week.
6. Wisconsin (4-1, 2-0 B1G)
Last Ranking: 6
Last Result: 24-13 win vs. Rutgers
Next: vs. Iowa
The Badgers cooled off a scalding hot Rutgers team this last week with a decisive victory that was diminished a bit by garbage-time points, and they got contributions from everywhere in the process.
Quarterback Tanner Mordecai didn’t play his best game, but he was picked up, as always, by star running back Kaytron Allen, as well as a key pick-six by Ricardo Hallman on the defensive end. Wisconsin will have to clean things up a bit when playing a tougher team next week, but the pieces are there.
7. Nebraska (3-3, 1-2 B1G)
Last Ranking: 8
Last Result: 20-7 win at Illinois
Next: vs. Northwestern
After a horrid first couple of games, the Cornhuskers have turned things around with a combination of strong play and weak competition, the latter epitomized by their two-score win over a flailing Illinois team last week.
Head coach Matt Rhule has helped to cultivate a ground game that racks up more yards per contest than every team in the conference besides Wisconsin. It was put on display in Champaign with two touchdown runs from two different backs, which were the deciding factor the game. The ‘Huskers face a team that’s a bit closer to their level in Northwestern in two weeks; another chance to showcase their new identity.
8. Rutgers (4-2, 1-2 B1G)
Last Ranking: 7
Last Result: 24-13 loss at Wisconsin
Next: vs. Michigan State
Rutgers picked up its second loss of the season at the hands of a surging Wisconsin team on the road, looking more like the team many expected them to be than the team we’ve seen over the first five weeks of the season.
The cracks in the Scarlet Knights’ offense showed through while facing a better run defense than their non-conference opponents, but a 14-point second quarter allowed by their defense ultimately set them back in last week’s matchup. They’ll have an opportune chance to reset against a scuffling Michigan State team next time out.
9. Minnesota (3-3, 1-2 B1G)
Last Ranking: 9
Last Result: 52-10 loss vs. Michigan
Next: at Iowa
Losing by over 40 points to Michigan at home probably halted any momentum they had left, but aside from a Week 11 matchup in Columbus, the Golden Gophers are out of the woods on really tough opponents.
Even so, this week’s loss has bumped them down to 11th on the Big Ten points allowed per game leaderboard, accentuated by a passing defense that ranks third-worst in the conference with 235.3 yards allowed per game in the air.
10. Northwestern (3-3, 1-2 B1G)
Last Ranking: 10
Last Result: 23-20 win vs. Howard
Next: at Nebraska
The ‘Cats’ game against Howard was closer than it should have been, but nevertheless, Northwestern is entering the halfway point in the college football season with a .500 record. Sure, its -32 point differential suggests NU as more of a 2-4 team, but it’s alright to applaud the effort this squad has put forth so far.
Still, there’s reason to believe that a decline is coming. Only one of the ‘Cats’ three wins has been against a conference opponent, and they rank in the bottom three of the conference in points allowed per game, rushing yards per game and rushing yards allowed per game. They do force opponents to run the ball more thanks to an above average pass defense, but that might change as they encounter some tougher Big Ten opponents.
11. Purdue (2-4, 1-2 B1G)
Last Ranking: 11
Last Result: 20-14 loss at Iowa
Next: vs. Ohio State
Last week’s matchup against Iowa was one that the Boilermakers should have won, especially considering that they limited Iowa quarterback Deacon Hill to just 110 passing yards on a 6-for-21 clip.
Ultimately, Purdue was held to just two scores by a middling Iowa defensive unit, as the Boilermakers’ usually solid passing game behind quarterback Hudson Card was not enough to push them across the finish line with the victory in hand. Not the result they were looking for as they prepare to host Ohio State next week.
12. Michigan State (2-3, 0-2 B1G)
Last Ranking: 13
Last Result: 26-16 loss at Iowa
Next: at Rutgers
Michigan State had the luxury of a bye week to rebound from a 10-point loss in Iowa City, and the Spartans were able to watch as some of the teams around them in this ranking got worse.
Sure, Michigan State’s offense ranks average to below average in most categories, but it at least managed to get the ball far enough down the field to chip away at an Iowa defense that has confounded the likes of Purdue, and would probably terrorize Illinois. The Spartans haven’t gotten better, but the field around them is teetering.
13. Illinois (2-4, 0-3 B1G)
Last Ranking: 12
Last Result: 20-7 loss vs. Nebraska
Next: at Maryland
This season has quickly turned into a disaster for the Fighting Illini, who managed just one passing touchdown against one of the Big Ten’s worst pass defenses. To his credit, quarterback Luke Altmyer managed 29 completions for 289 yards, but couldn’t get things done in the red zone.
Running the ball became an issue for Illinois. Nebraska boasts the best run defense in the conference aside from Penn State, and the Illini couldn’t come up with other options for short gains. Maybe they’ll fare better against a more middle-of-the-pack run defense in Maryland next week.
14. Indiana (2-3, 0-2 B1G)
Last Ranking: 14
Last Result: 44-17 loss at Maryland
Next: at Michigan
A 2-3 overall record usually isn’t basement material in the Big Ten, but Indiana has gotten slaughtered by both of its conference opponents, mustering only three points against Ohio State in Week One and getting blown out in College Park heading into its bye week.
Despite a solid secondary and the offense’s ability to air out the football, the Hoosiers have put their ineptitude on display when it comes to running the football and defending against the run. It’s hurt them even when playing against less run-heavy teams, because opponents know they can exploit this area of Indiana’s game. An upcoming contest in the Big House might bring out the worst of these shortcomings.