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Big Ten Power Rankings, Week Three

Powerhouses don’t budge, but most of the conference is shaken up

NCAA Football: Penn State at Illinois Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

With nearly a quarter of the season in the books, we’re starting to get a better sense of which Big Ten schools are distinguishing themselves — and which are regressing. Here are this week’s iteration of the Big Ten football power rankings.

1. Michigan (3-0, 0-0 B1G)

Last Ranking: 1

Last Result: 31-6 win vs. Bowling Green

Next: vs. Rutgers

The Wolverines continued their non-conference dominance last week, throttling the lowly Bowling Green Falcons both in the air and on the ground. Running back Blake Corum had his second straight strong game, rushing for 101 yards and two touchdowns including a massive 54 yard carry in the first quarter.

Corum’s play helped cover up an off day for quarterback J.J. McCarthy, who — despite throwing for two touchdowns — also threw three picks, and had just eight completions out of 13 passes on the day. Michigan will face its strongest competition yet in Rutgers next week, but it could be another cakewalk for an offense as versatile as this one.

2. Penn State (3-0, 1-0 B1G)

Last Ranking: 2

Last Result: 30-13 win at Illinois

Next: vs. Iowa

Penn State experienced its first Big Ten test as it took on the Illini in Champaign last week, and the PSU defense proved to be too much for Illinois to handle. The Nittany Lions allowed just one touchdown in each half while the offense went to work, putting the game out of reach in the early goings.

The Nittany Lions will welcome the No. 25 Iowa Hawkeyes into Happy Valley next week, giving them the greatest challenge they’ve had to face so far. Whether Iowa can outscore this multi-faceted Penn State offense, however, remains to be seen.

3. Ohio State (3-0, 1-0 B1G)

Last Ranking: 3

Last Result: 63-10 win vs. Western Kentucky

Next: at Notre Dame

Ohio State dismantled another non-conference opponent last weekend, raising its point differential against non-conference teams to a whopping +81 points. Newly minted starting quarterback Kyle McCord threw for over 300 yards and three touchdowns, while running back TreVeyon Henderson had two touchdowns of his own.

They faced Indiana during Week One, but the Buckeyes’ strongest opponent yet will come in their non-conference matchup against No. 9 Notre Dame next week, who will likely provide a stronger defense than anything McCord and company have seen so far.

4. Maryland (3-0, 0-0 B1G)

Last Ranking: 4

Last Result: 42-14 win vs. Virginia

Next: at Michigan State

The Terrapins are continuing to develop and grow around quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa, evidenced by last week’s come-from-behind win against a struggling Virginia team after being down 14-0 at the end of the first quarter.

Tagovailoa threw for nearly 350 yards, but it was the run game that sealed the deal with four touchdowns on 119 total yards. Maryland will likely look to run the ball again as it faces a weak Michigan State defensive line next Saturday.

5. Iowa (3-0, 0-0 B1G)

Last Ranking: 6

Last Result: 41-10 win vs. Western Michigan

Next: at Penn State

For now, the Iowa Hawkeyes are ranked. That might change after their visit to the Happy Valley next weekend, but they put up their best offensive showing of the young season against a weak Western Michigan team, with quarterback Cade McNamara making the most of red zone opportunities and running back Kamari Moulton breaking the plane twice as well.

The matchup against Penn State will be Iowa’s first in Big Ten play this season, and in all likelihood their toughest. The Hawkeye defense might be able to hold its own against Allar and the receiving corps, but what Iowa can do when it has the ball is a bit of a mystery.

6. Wisconsin (2-1, 0-0 B1G)

Last Ranking: 7

Last Result: 35-14 win vs. Georgia Southern

Next: at Purdue

The Badgers rebounded from a tough loss against Washington State with a relatively stress-free win against Georgia Southern. The early goings were tough for both teams, but Wisconsin pulled away in the third quarter, courtesy of three rushing touchdowns between Braelon Allen and Tanner Mordecai.

Wisconsin should be more than capable of bringing that momentum to West Lafayette, as the team faces a Purdue squad that allows more yards in the air per game than anyone else in the Big Ten. The Badgers have to watch out for the Boilermakers’ passing game, but Wisconsin has been the better team thus far.

7. Michigan State (2-1, 0-0 B1G)

Last Ranking: 5

Last Result: 41-7 loss vs. Washington

Next: vs. Maryland

The wheels seem to be falling out from underneath the Spartans in the wake of head coach Mel Tucker’s firing, and even though they faced a tough ranked opponent in the Washington Huskies, a 34-point loss is still brutal for a team coming off two straight wins.

Despite a relatively strong passing game, Michigan State’s defense has struggled to defend the pass all season to this point, which could be a problem when they run into Tagovailoa and the Terrapins this weekend.

8. Illinois (1-2, 0-1 B1G)

Last Ranking: 8

Last Result: 30-13 loss vs. Penn State

Next: vs. Florida Atlantic

The Illini got to host their first conference matchup of the season at home in Champaign, and immediately fell flat on their faces. Their first four drives of the game resulted in a missed field goal, a lost fumble and two interceptions thrown by quarterback Luke Altmyer.

Illinois managed to avoid complete embarrassment with a garbage time touchdown in the fourth quarter, but ultimately U of I became another notch under Penn State’s belt. Lucky for Bret Bielema’s team, it’ll get to face a much more favorable opponent next week in the AAC’s Florida Atlantic.

9. Rutgers (3-0, 1-0 B1G)

Last Ranking: 10

Last Result: 35-16 win vs. Virginia Tech

Next: at Michigan

Even at 3-0, it’s tough to call Rutgers a legitimate threat in this conference, but that doesn’t mean the Scarlet Knights can’t enjoy success while it’s there. They beat up on a Virginia Tech team that’s been middle of the pack in the ACC, capitalizing on a career day from running back Kyle Monangai.

The carpet ride will likely come to an end when the Scarlet Knights head to Ann Arbor to take on a Michigan team which has bulldozed everyone in its path so far, but the competition will all go downhill from there.

10. Minnesota (2-1, 1-0 B1G)

Last Ranking: 9

Last Result: 31-13 loss at North Carolina

Next: at Northwestern

Minnesota still sits atop the Big Ten West standings, but it looked decidedly more vulnerable against a ranked UNC team on the road last week. The Gophers’ only touchdown came from a Darius Taylor two-yard run toward the end of the first half, and they mustered just three more points in the second half as the Tar Heels tacked some on for good measure.

The Golden Gophers will have a soft landing pad in a scuffling Northwestern team next week, but there’s still a chance for them to fall if their defensive line isn’t in tip-top shape.

11. Indiana (1-2, 0-1 B1G)

Last Ranking: 11

Last Result: 21-14 loss vs. Louisville

Next: vs. Akron

The Hoosiers’ offense once again struggled to put points on the board, with two third quarter touchdowns being their only points of the day against the ACC-leading Louisville Cardinals. Despite a late attempt to tie the game, early-game inaction is ultimately what cost them.

Indiana has had a tough schedule so far, with losses coming against a good team in Louisville and a great one in Ohio State. But Akron should serve as a nice cushion before the team heads into nothing but Big Ten play.

12. Purdue (1-2, 0-0 B1G)

Last Ranking: 12

Last Result: 35-20 loss vs. Syracuse

Next: vs. Wisconsin

The Boilermakers’ defense once again looked like Swiss cheese, this time against a maybe-not-that-bad Syracuse team at home. Quarterback Hudson Card had himself a nice day, with 32 completions for 323 yards, as well as a touchdown on the ground and one in the air, but it was moot: the defense allowed the Orange to score on three of seven first-half drives.

Purdue will be tasked with facing a Wisconsin team coming off a 21-point win, but perhaps its run defense will pose more of a challenge for Braelon Allen and company.

13. Nebraska (1-2, 0-1 B1G)

Last Ranking: 14

Last Result: 35-11 win vs. Northern Illinois

Next: vs. Louisiana Tech

It only took one week for Nebraska to crawl its way out of the very bottom of the Big Ten. A dismantling of Northern Illinois is hardly a statement win, but it was a much-needed one for a Nebraska squad with a new head coach and a two-game losing streak.

The Cornhuskers will have one last non-conference game against CUSA’s Louisiana Tech next week, which will at least give them the chance to bring some momentum into Big Ten play.

14. Northwestern (1-2, 0-1 B1G)

Last Ranking: 13

Last Result: 38-14 loss at Duke

Next: vs. Minnesota

Facing their toughest opponent of the season by far to this point, the Wildcats turned back into a pumpkin after a feel-good win at home against UTEP during Week Two. Quarterback Ben Bryant managed only 123 yards on a 50% completion rate before Brendan Sullivan was brought in, and the defense never really gave the ‘Cats a chance to stay in this game.

Northwestern will take on a Minnesota group coming off a tough loss, but with no momentum of its own to show and a new quarterback who is still figuring out life in the Big Ten, it’s hard to have a lot of optimism for NU going forward.