With just two weeks until the regular season comes to a close, the competition in the Big Ten is heating up. Between Michigan’s statement win over No. 9 Penn State and Illinois’s nail-biting overtime victory over Indiana, Week 11 provided just a glimpse of what fans could be in store for throughout the end of the season.
Although it’s just a formality that either Michigan or Ohio State will win the Big Ten this year, there are still several exciting storylines to follow. For starters, do the Wolverines or the Buckeyes, if not both, make the playoffs? Who wins the contentious Big Ten West? And most importantly, will Northwestern clinch a bowl game on Saturday against Purdue?
There’s a lot to look forward to as the season winds down. But for now, let’s revisit what happened this past weekend in this week’s Big Ten Power Rankings.
1. Michigan (10-0, 7-0 B1G)
Last Ranking: 1
Last Result: 24-15 win at Penn State
Next Game: at Maryland
No Harbaugh? No problem. Under interim coach Sherrone Moore, the Wolverines took care of business against Penn State — its first ranked opponent of the season — as James Franklin dropped to 3-7 all-time against Michigan. The story of the day was the run game, as Blake Corum erupted for 145 yards and two touchdowns. Donovan Edwards also contributed with a rushing touchdown of his own, while the defense held Nittany Lions quarterback Drew Allar to 70 yards of passing and a fumble.
The Wolverines continue to flourish even in spite of the recent sign-stealing controversy that has rocked the program. They will travel to Maryland next weekend to take on the Terrapins before returning home for the biggest game of the year versus Ohio State.
2. Ohio State (10-0, 7-0 B1G)
Last Ranking: 2
Last Result: 38-3 win versus Michigan State
Next Game: versus Minnesota
Ohio State absolutely showed out in one of its best all-around games this season. Kyle McCord threw for a career high 335 yards and posted a 77.4% completion percentage to complement his three passing touchdowns. But it was Marvin Harrison Jr., who caught two touchdowns and ran for one, who led the way for Saturday’s offensive explosion in Columbus.
The defense also stymied the Spartans’ offense, keeping them under 200 total yards despite missing three starters from its secondary. Though it mattered little against a weak Michigan State team, the Buckeyes hope to get back their playmakers, which include star linebacker Tommy Eichenberg, before their regular season finale in Ann Arbor.
3. Penn State (8-2, 5-2 B1G)
Last Ranking: 3
Last Result: 24-15 loss versus Michigan
Next Game: versus Rutgers
Last Saturday’s loss to Michigan looks to be the nail in the coffin for Penn State’s playoff hopes. In what has become a recurring theme these last few seasons, Penn State once again failed to prove that it could hang in there with the Wolverines and Buckeyes. After kicking a field goal to get on the board first, everything went south for Penn State. Drew Allar threw for 70 yards and lost a fumble, while the defense was simply no match for Michigan’s running attack.
Penn State closes out its season with two winnable games against Rutgers and Michigan State. The contests will likely be inconsequential for their playoff hopes, but the Nittany Lions can at least finish the season strong before their bowl game.
4. Iowa (8-2, 5-2 B1G)
Last Ranking: 5
Last Result: 22-0 win versus Rutgers
Next Game: versus Illinois
Iowa’s defense was impeccable in a win that makes them the unquestionable frontrunner to claim the Big Ten West. The Hawkeyes have held opponents to under 20 points in all but one of their games this season, but their shutout against Rutgers is the most dominant performance yet. In addition to an interception, Iowa’s defense held Kyle Monangai, one of the best backs in the Big Ten, to 39 yards on 13 carries.
For his part, Deacon Hill looked good under center, throwing for 223 yards and a fourth quarter touchdown to seal the game. With the win against Rutgers, Iowa clinched at least a share of the Big Ten West. And with two matchups remaining against Illinois and Nebraska, it’s in a prime position to claim what could be the final division title.
5. Rutgers (6-4, 3-4 B1G)
Last Ranking: 4
Last Result: 22-0 loss at Iowa
Next Game: at No. 12 Penn State
Rutgers traveled to Iowa City on Saturday hoping to rebound after a tough loss to Ohio State. Unfortunately, things couldn’t have gone worse for the Scarlet Knights. Gavin Wimsatt threw for 93 yards and an interception, while star running back Kyle Monangai could not push past Iowa’s formidable front seven. To the defense’s credit though, it held its own for most of the game until the Hawkeyes exploded in the fourth quarter and added 16 points to their total.
The Scarlet Knights have now suffered back-to-back losses for the first time this season. They look to avoid continuing the cold streak as they gear up for two tough matchups against Penn State and Maryland to wrap up their 2023 campaign.
6. Maryland (6-4, 3-4 B1G)
Last Ranking: 6
Last Result: 13-10 win at Nebraska
Next Game: versus No. 2 Michigan
While Saturday’s game in Lincoln was closer than they would’ve liked, the Terrapins came away with a much-needed win behind a solid performance from Taulia Tagovailoa, who threw for 283 yards and a touchdown. The key to the win, however, was the defense, which intercepted four Nebraska passes, including three on its final three drives, to hold the Cornhuskers to just 10 points.
After losing four straight, Maryland was desperate for any taste of victory, and that’s exactly what they got as kicker Jack Howes drained a game-winning field goal as time expired. Maryland will need to carry any momentum it seized from this win into next week, when it faces an undefeated Michigan squad that has serious playoff aspirations.
7. Nebraska (5-5, 3-4 B1G)
Last Ranking: 7
Last Result: 13-10 loss versus Maryland
Next Game: at Wisconsin
Saturday was ugly for the Cornhuskers, but the result was not entirely their fault. Losing starting quarterback Heinrich Haarberg to injury in the second quarter was a pretty devastating blow. Despite Emmett Johnson running for 84 yards on 17 carries, the offense couldn’t get it going, in large part due to the four interceptions thrown by Nebraska quarterbacks.
Nebraska has now lost two straight, in large part due to an offensive breakdown. The team will travel to Camp Randall for a game against Wisconsin that it can certainly win, but only if the offense finds itself.
8. Illinois (5-5, 3-4 B1G)
Last Ranking: 9
Last Result: 48-45 win versus Indiana
Next Game: at Iowa
Illinois’s offense looked the best it has all season as the team won an overtime thriller against Indiana. The reason? Quarterback John Paddock, who made his first start for Illinois after Luke Altmyer went down with an injury last week. Paddock threw for 507 yards and four touchdowns, spearheading his squad’s offensive renaissance. Reggie Love also had a day of his own, rushing for 140 yards and reaching the end zone twice.
Illinois’s offense will be put to the test next week against a scary Iowa defense. Altmyer is set to return, but after Paddock’s huge game, one has to wonder if Illinois has a real quarterback conundrum on its hands.
9. Northwestern (5-5, 3-4 B1G)
Last Ranking: 11
Last Result: 24-10 win at Wisconsin
Next Game: versus Purdue
Ben Bryant is back and so are Northwestern’s bowl game hopes. After an embarrassing loss to Iowa at Wrigley Field, the Wildcats rallied to earn a crucial win that keeps their season alive. Bryant, after missing four games, looked solid in his return, throwing two touchdown passes to A.J. Henning and Cam Johnson. Meanwhile, the defense was spectacular, holding the Badgers to three points for most of the game.
Next week is huge for the Wildcats. Purdue is certainly a manageable win, but Northwestern will need offensive production similar to last week if it hopes to clinch what would be its first bowl game since 2020.
10. Minnesota (5-5, 3-4 B1G)
Last Ranking: 8
Last Result: 49-30 loss at Purdue
Next Game: at No. 3 Ohio State
After a strong start to the year, Minnesota has now lost two straight, and letting up 49 points to Purdue is perhaps rock bottom. Athan Kaliakmanis did what he could to keep the Golden Gophers in the game, throwing for 292 yards, three touchdowns and no turnovers. The defense, however, was atrocious, allowing 353 rushing yards in addition to Hudson Card’s 251 passing yards. Before Saturday, it had been over a month since Purdue put up more than 20 points in a game.
With the ugly loss, Minnesota’s chances at a bowl game do not look bright. They will need to beat either Ohio State or Wisconsin in the coming weeks if they want to be playing come December. If their performance resembles that of last week in any way, the Gophers will be watching the postseason from the couch.
11. Wisconsin (5-5, 3-4 B1G)
Last Ranking: 10
Last Result: 24-10 loss versus Northwestern
Next Game: versus Nebraska
Wisconsin is officially in panic mode. After starting the year 4-1 and leading the Big Ten West, the Badgers have now lost four of their last five games to drop to 5-5. Saturday’s game against Northwestern was an abysmal offensive performance. Individually, everybody looked solid, but the Badgers were unable to get the ball in the end zone at all. And while the defense held its own in the second half, the 24 points Northwestern dropped in the first half proved to be too insurmountable a lead to come back from.
Wisconsin has two relatively even matchups to close out the year, as they’ll host Nebraska before traveling to Minnesota for the regular season finale. However, given the way the Badgers have been trending over the last month, things aren’t looking very bright.
12. Indiana (3-7, 1-6 B1G)
Last Ranking: 12
Last Result: 48-45 loss at Illinois
Next Game: versus Michigan State
Indiana was one sweet overtime John Paddock pass away from pulling off an epic upset over Illinois. Despite the loss, the Hoosiers’ offense looked great. Brendan Sorsby had one of the best games of his career, throwing three touchdowns and taking another two in himself. Unfortunately, the defense spoiled Sorsby’s legacy game by allowing Illinois backup John Paddock to have his own legacy game in which he threw for over 500 yards.
Indiana’s postseason hopes are all but over at this point, but with games against fellow Big Ten bottom feeders Michigan State and Purdue to close out the year, the Hoosiers can build a little bit of momentum as they look ahead towards their 2024 campaign.
13. Purdue (3-7, 2-5 B1G)
Last Ranking: 14
Last Result: 49-30 win versus Minnesota
Next Game: at Northwestern
Purdue’s rushing attack was simply unstoppable as the Boilermakers won in dominant fashion over a solid Minnesota squad. Devon Mockobee averaged nine yards per carry on his way to 153 yards and a touchdown. Meanwhile, Tyrone Tracy Jr. averaged 8.1 yards per carry as he finished the game with 122 yards and 2 touchdowns. Add on to that Hudson Card’s three-touchdown game under center, and there was no stopping Purdue on Saturday.
This Saturday, Purdue will travel to Evanston in the hopes of putting the Wildcats’ bowl game hopes on hold for another week. If the Boilermakers’ rushing tandem exploits Northwestern’s defense in the same way they did with Minnesota’s, Wildcat fans may leave Ryan Field disappointed.
14. Michigan State (3-7, 1-6 B1G)
Last Ranking: 13
Last Result: 38-3 loss at Ohio State
Next Game: at Indiana
It’s been a rough season for Michigan State, and last Saturday’s matchup against Ohio State only added to the list of woes. The Spartans defense could do nothing but watch as Kyle McCord and Marvin Harrison Jr. went off in front of a packed Columbus crowd. Offensively, they were basically nonexistent as they only mustered 182 yards.
Fortunately for Michigan State fans, the misery is almost over. The Spartans travel to Bloomington this Saturday to face Indiana before playing one final game in East Lansing against Penn State.