1. Michigan (2-0, 0-0 B1G)
Last Ranking: 1
Last Result: 35-7 win vs. UNLV
Next: vs. Bowling Green
It’s hard not to be optimistic about the Wolverines, who have outscored their opponents by 55 points over the first two weeks as coach Jim Harbaugh serves his suspension. In short, they did exactly what dominant Power Five teams are supposed to do against non-conference opponents.
Michigan should have another shoo-in at home against 1-1 Bowling Green next week, having to wait until Week 4 for their first Big Ten matchup, again at home, against a middling Rutgers team.
2. Penn State (2-0, 0-0 B1G)
Last Ranking: 2
Last Result: 63-7 win vs. Delaware
Next: at Illinois
Like their conference-mates in The Great Lake State, Penn State has yet to be adequately challenged by their non-conference opponents. West Virginia and Delaware might be top dogs in the Big 12 and CAA respectively, but they looked like middle school teams against Big Ten receiving leader KeAndre Lambert-Smith and the Nittany Lions.
Penn State will have the chance to play their first conference opponent in Illinois next week, though it’s unlikely that an Illini pass defense that ranks dead last in the Big Ten in efficiency will have much of an answer for them.
3. Ohio State (2-0, 1-0 B1G)
Last Ranking: 3
Last Result: 35-7 win vs. Youngstown State
Next: vs. Western Kentucky
Ohio State may have lost Heisman finalist quarterback C.J. Stroud to the NFL, but junior Kyle McCord has taken the reins and run away with the job over these first two weeks, leading a passing game that ranks first in the conference in yards per game.
The Buckeyes will have their second non-conference matchup of the season against 2-0 Western Kentucky in Week 3, in which they’ll face Conference-USA’s best passing offense.
4. Maryland (2-0, 0-0 B1G)
Last Ranking: 6
Last Result: 38-20 win vs. Charlotte
Next: vs. Virginia
The Maryland run game was on full display against Charlotte last weekend, with quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa taking a back seat as running backs Roman Hemby, Colby McDonald, and Billy Edwards Jr. combined for 234 total yards and 3 TDs.
Tagovailoa had a touchdown of his own along with an impressive 287 yards on a 25/36 completion percentage, but he’ll likely have to take command against a struggling yet seasoned Virginia team next week.
5. Michigan State (2-0, 0-0 B1G)
Last Ranking: 9
Last Result: 45-14 win vs. Richmond
Next: vs. Washington
The suspension and impending termination of head coach Mel Tucker amidst a sexual harassment investigation undoubtedly leaves the Spartans’ future looking cloudy, but it’s hard to knock them down in the rankings until they show that they can’t win without their coach.
Michigan State has bodied their non-conference opponents thus far, outscoring them by 55 points, thanks to their ability to catch the football and prevent their opponents from doing so. However, they’ll face their first real threat this Saturday, hosting No. 8 Washington.
6. Iowa (2-0, 0-0 B1G)
Last Ranking: 5
Last Result: 20-13 win at Iowa State
Next: vs. Western Michigan
The Hawkeyes have checked off some important early season wins, especially last week against in-state rival Iowa State, but they haven’t beaten the brakes off their opponents like other 2-0 Big Ten teams have.
Brian Ferentz’s offense has looked anemic against non-conference opponents, averaging a conference-worst 3.1 rushing yards per attempt. The passing game is as bad as its ground counterpart, posting the third-worst completion percentage and passing yards per attempt in the Big Ten. Iowa’s defense has kept them in games, but as the competition gets harder, it’s tough to be optimistic about Iowa.
7. Wisconsin (1-1, 0-0 B1G)
Last Ranking: 4
Last Result: 31-22 loss at Washington State
Next: vs. Georgia Southern
Despite the Badgers dropping a game to the Pac-12’s Washington State this week, Braelon Allen and Chez Mellusi have emerged as the Big Ten’s most lethal ground attack, with Mellusi in particular averaging almost twice as many yards per carry as he did in 2022.
The bane of this team has been their defense, with the defensive line in particular being inept at stopping the opponents’ running game and giving quarterbacks too much time to make decisions. Wisconsin will have another tune-up at home against Georgia Southern next week, before going on the road and facing their first Big Ten opponent in Week 4.
8. Illinois (1-1, 0-0 B1G)
Last Ranking: 8
Last Result: 34-23 loss at Kansas
Next: vs. Penn State
Unlike the 2022 Fighting Illini team, the offense seems to be leading the way, win or lose. That’s not to say that they’ve been anything special, but the defense has been absolutely horrendous. Their 224 yards allowed per game on the ground makes them the worst in the Big Ten by 87.5 yards, a gap that’s barely smaller than the one between the conference’s second-worst team and the best team.
To make matters worse, they’ll be running up against arguably the conference’s best ground attack in Nicholas Singleton, Kaytron Allen and Penn State next week — which might show us the football equivalent of running a buzzsaw through a sheet of balsa wood.
9. Minnesota (2-0, 1-0 B1G)
Last Ranking: 7
Last Result: 25-6 win vs. Eastern Michigan
Next: at North Carolina
At first glance, it might seem like Minnesota is ranked far too low on this list. But there’s plenty of reason to believe that there’s more going on under the hood than what their 2-0 record and one conference win show on the surface.
The Golden Gophers handled a weak Eastern Michigan team last week but were barely able to scratch out their conference win against a proven terrible Nebraska squad during week one. Their offense mounted one decent drive in the second quarter but came away with only a field goal. If not for some 4th quarter heroics by quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis and receiver Daniel Jackson, we’d be seeing this team a lot further down the list.
10. Rutgers (2-0, 1-0 B1G)
Last Ranking: 10
Last Result: 36-7 win vs. Temple
Next: vs. Virginia Tech
Has Rutgers taken advantage of some weak opponents? Sure, but handling business early has cemented their status as the best of the Big Ten’s basement dwellers.
Through the first two weeks of play, no one in the conference has been better at stopping the run than the Scarlet Knights, holding opponents to 40 yards per game and 1.7 yards per attempt.
The Scarlet Knights have their first real test of the season next week when they take on a 1-1 Virginia Tech team at home, and they’ll have to show they can defend against a Power Five offense that isn’t the Northwestern Wildcats.
11. Indiana (1-1, 0-1 B1G)
Last Ranking: 13
Last Result: 41-7 win vs. Indiana State
Next: vs. Louisville
The Hoosiers rebounded nicely from a throttling at the hands of Ohio State to put a beating of their own on in-state rival Indiana State. Running back Jaylin Lucas turned on the jets early on, burning State for a pair of 25-yard touchdown runs to help end the game before it even really started.
Indiana will face their second Power Five opponent of the season when they take on 2-0 Louisville next week, giving us a chance to see how they fare against a more evenly-matched team than they’ve seen so far.
12. Purdue (1-1, 0-0 B1G)
Last Ranking: 11
Last Result: 24-17 win at Virginia Tech
Next: vs. Syracuse
The Boilermakers were able to take down a decent Virginia Tech team last week by one score, but with a +3 point differential in the season thus far while playing two non-conference opponents, it’s tough to envision much success for this team as we move closer to Big Ten play.
Purdue has been the worst team in the Big Ten at defending the pass, allowing 323 yards per game, highlighted by Fresno State quarterback Mikey Keene torching them for 366 yards and four touchdowns in a Week 1 shootout. They’ll face their second straight ACC opponent when they welcome Syracuse to West Lafayette this weekend, giving them another chance to see if their offense can make up for their inability to get stops.
13. Northwestern (1-1, 0-1 B1G)
Last Ranking: 14
Last Result: 38-7 win vs. UTEP
Next: at Duke
Northwestern fans need to enjoy this one while it lasts. After allowing UTEP to drive down the field and score on the first possession of the game, the Wildcats put on a show on both sides of the ball, jumping out to an impressive 28-7 lead heading into the fourth quarter before tacking on some garbage time points for good measure.
While it’s certainly a bit encouraging to see Northwestern clobbering bad teams (something they didn’t do last season), their one-game win streak will likely come to an end at the hands of an upstart Duke squad, coached by former Northwestern baseball parent Mike Elko.
14. Nebraska (0-2, 0-1 B1G)
Last Ranking: 12
Last Result: 36-14 loss at Colorado
Next: vs. Northern Illinois
The Cornhuskers suffered the unfortunate fate of becoming Deion Sanders’ punching bag on national television, mostly thanks to lackluster performances by quarterback Jeff Sims and their offensive line.
Nebraska had come close to beating Minnesota in Week 1, but a four-point lead was not enough to withstand a fourth-quarter collapse. Despite facing opponents that weren’t exactly shoo-ins, they’ll sit at the bottom of the Big Ten for now, waiting for conference play to possibly improve their fortunes or at least take some of their fellow basement dwellers down a peg.