Week one featured some impressive wins, some lopsided results, and some surprisingly close results between top-tier Big Ten teams and out-of-conference opponents. Penn State, Michigan State, Iowa, Indiana, and Illinois all got their week-one wins, but they weren’t pretty. But a win is a win right? In week one, they definitely are.
I got a look at every Big Ten team (except Nebraska, who had their game canceled), and there is a bit of shakeup in the rankings. There’s also a big group tied for tenth, because they all have a chance to show me a little more this week but haven’t yet proven they are better than the others.
Here’s how things stack up after week 1 of the college football season.
14. Illinois (1-0, 0-0)
Last week: 31-24 WIN vs Kent State
This week: vs Western Illinois (7:30 BTN)
At halftime at Memorial Stadium Saturday, Illinois fans weren’t feeling so good, down 17-3 to Kent State. While they did pull out a 31-24 win, I’m not sure how much better the Illini faithful feel now. However, there’s a theme you’ll notice from Big Ten teams this past week: a win is a win. Quarterback A.J. Bush wasn’t incredible throwing the ball, but with his 139 rushing yards, he ended up with 329 total yards.
This is year three for Lovie Smith at Illinois, and from the way week one went, it could be another long year similar to his previous two. The Illini are in the west, so they have that going for them. However, it’s hard to see more than three or four wins for this team.
Previous Ranking: 14
T10. Minnesota (1-0, 0-0)
Last week: 48-10 WIN vs New Mexico State
This week: vs Fresno State (7:30 FS1)
This is where the Big Ten gets very fuzzy. None of these next four teams deserve to be higher than the others at the moment. Let’s start with Minnesota.
The Gophers used a 28-point second quarter to help take care of New Mexico State. P.J. Fleck went with freshman Zack Annexstad, and he had a solid night; 16-for-33 for 220 yards and two touchdowns. The Gophers also had two 100-yard rushers, including the starter Rodney Smith, who ran for 153 yards on 24 carries. The best way to help a freshman quarterback is to have a solid running game, and it appears Minnesota has that.
Minnesota starts the Big Ten schedule in a few weeks with a gauntlet. They will need to use these next few games to continue to develop Annexstad and get him ready for a trip to Maryland in a couple weeks.
Previous Ranking: 13
T10. Rutgers (1-0, 0-0)
Last week: 35-7 WIN vs Texas State
This week: at No. 5 Ohio State (3:30 BTN)
Rutgers did what you would expect from them in a matchup with Texas State. They won convincingly without being very convincing. The Scarlet Knights also started a freshman quarterback, Artur Sitkowski, and he struggled. He threw for 205 yards and a touchdown, but he also threw three interceptions. They seem to be running a backfield by committee plan in Piscataway, with three backs with 11 or more carries, all with 60 or more rushing yards.
This will be quite the test for a freshman quarterback this week in Columbus. Rutgers fans, don’t expect much. Also, don’t overreact to getting destroyed by Ohio State. That’s going to happen to a lot of teams this year.
Previous Ranking: T11
T10. Nebraska (0-0, 0-0)
Last week: CANCELED vs Akron
This week: vs Colorado (3:30 ABC)
I was ready to move Nebraska up my list this week if they played well against Akron. However, we didn’t get a chance to see the Huskers due to the weather conditions in Lincoln. That means that the first game for first-year head coach Scott Frost and freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez will be a stern test against Colorado. There is a lot of hype around the program and a lot of cautious optimism around Martinez, but now Husker fans have to wait another week to find out what they have to cheer for.
This is a team that will need to find wins anywhere they can and losing a game against Akron certainly hurts that. If they can add a 12th game, expect it to be something like IU last season when they added Charleston Southern to make up for their cancelation with Florida International.
Previous Ranking: 10
T10. Indiana (1-0, 0-0)
Last week: 38-28 WIN at Florida International
This week: vs Virginia (7:30 BTN)
Indiana was another team following the “a win is a win” mentality this past week. Indiana was up several scores a couple times throughout the game, yet IU fans probably never felt comfortable until the game went final. There was a lot to talk about though for the Hoosiers.
Peyton Ramsey started, going 20-for-27 for 156 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Freshman Michael Penix Jr. stepped in throughout the game, finishing 8-of-10 for 96 yards and a TD. There were certainly good things from both quarterbacks in a game that seemed to be played pretty safe by the Hoosiers. The use of freshman athlete Reese Taylor throughout the offense was a positive sign, however the run game still seems to go stagnant at times. This week’s matchup with Virginia will test the quarterbacks and the team itself much more than last week and it will give the fans a good measurement on where this team is at.
Previous Ranking: 9
- Purdue (0-1, 0-1)
Last week: 31-27 LOSS vs Northwestern
This week: vs Eastern Michigan (12:00 BTN)
I wouldn’t have moved Purdue if it weren’t for Maryland’s big week (see below). However, Purdue did drop their opener at home against Northwestern. Purdue showed some resilience, being down 14 twice throughout the game. However, that 14 point deficit at halftime proved to be too much for the Boilers.
Purdue also has a quarterback competition. Elijah Sindelar went 18-for-30 for 196 yards and a touchdown, but he threw three interceptions, leading to three Northwestern scores. David Blough went 12-for-16 for 74 yards. The real storyline however is how good Rondale Moore is and is going to be for the rest of the season. He set the all-purpose yards record at Purdue with 79 rushing, 109 receiving and 125 returning. Jones is going to be a matchup problem for a lot of Big Ten teams this year.
They may have lost, but Northwestern is good, and I would still expect Purdue to be a solid team this season.
Previous Ranking: 8
- Maryland (1-0, 0-0)
Last week: 34-29 WIN vs No. 23 Texas
This week: at Bowling Green (6:00 ESPN+)
They’re experiencing déjà vu in both Austin, Texas and College Park, Maryland after the Terrapins upset the ranked Longhorns for the second straight season. Kasim Hill is back from injury and was again solid, throwing for 222 yards and a touchdown. The Terrapins only had one back take more than seven carries. They will need to figure out something out of the backfield if they want to continue to win big games.
That being said, the defense was pretty solid for the Terrapins against the run. With the quarterbacks healthy again and another big win to get some excitement around the program after a tumultuous offseason, there’s a chance this Maryland team could make some more noise in the Big Ten than we may have expected.
Previous Ranking: T11
- Iowa (1-0, 0-0)
Last week: 33-7 WIN vs Northern Illinois
This week: vs Iowa State (5:00 FOX)
Iowa was another team that struggled but found a way to win. Don’t let that final score fool you, this game wasn’t easy for the Hawkeyes. The score was 3-0 Iowa at halftime. However, they were able to pull away in the second half to win. Quarterback Nate Stanley was less than impressive, throwing for 108 yards, a touchdown and an interception. They have to replace former starter Akrum Wadley in the backfield. Sophomore Ivory Kelly-Martin got the bulk of the carries (16), but sophomore Toren Young had the most yards; 84 yards on eight carries.
Iowa should be fine. I would expect Stanley to play better in the future. However, the defense is still strong, and Kirk Ferentz is still the coach, so this team will be fine. They will have a chance to prove that in their annual rivalry game against the Cyclones this Saturday.
Previous Ranking: 6
- Northwestern (1-0, 1-0)
Last week: 31-27 WIN at Purdue
This week: vs Duke (12:00 ESPNU)
Northwestern was the second most impressive team of the week from the Big Ten. The Wildcats went into a hostile environment in West Lafayette and got off to an incredible start and then held on in the second half to win. The health of starting quarterback Clayton Thorson forced him to a “pitch count.” I would expect him to get the bulk of the play from now on once he gets healthier.
Jeremy Larkin looks like he will be a solid replacement for Justin Jackson. Larkin ran 26 times for 143 yards and two touchdowns. Northwestern is good and will probably be the west’s best chance at knocking off Wisconsin.
Previous Ranking: 7
- Michigan (0-1, 0-0)
Last week: 24-17 LOSS at No. 12 Notre Dame
This week: vs Western Michigan (12:00 FS1)
This week was the exact reason I didn’t rank Michigan any higher than I did last week. They have struggled to beat teams better than them. They have one of the longest losing streaks against ranked teams on the road in the country. Offseason addition Shea Patterson went 20-for-30 for 227 yards and an interception in his Michigan debut. The Wolverines had one player rush for more than 10 yards. The offense stalled out again, something Wolverine fans had some issues with a year ago, and something that Patterson was supposed to fix.
Michigan will have more opportunities this season, being in the Big Ten East, to get some big wins over highly ranked opponents. But for the time being, Michigan continues to be unable to beat teams that are better than them and continue to be a solid fifth best team in the conference.
Previous Ranking: 5
- Michigan State (1-0, 0-0)
Last week: 38-31 WIN vs Utah State
This week: at Arizona State (10:45 ESPN)
Friday night did not go as planned for Michigan State, but a win is a win, right? The Spartans struggled against Utah State at home in their season opener, allowing the Aggies to score 31 points and hang around until the end. The Spartans outscored the Aggies 11-7 in the fourth quarter to pull out the win.
The defense was great against the run, allowing only 25 total rushing yards on 25 Aggie carries. However, while they had two interceptions, they allowed 319 passing yards from Utah State. The Spartans are going to have to tighten up the defensive side of the football if they want to contend in the Big Ten East. The Spartans and Nittany Lions are in the same position right now. They won, but there are some issues that have to be addressed before week two, which for the Spartans is a trip out west to take on Arizona State.
Previous Ranking: 4
- Penn State (1-0, 0-0)
Last week: 45-38 (OT) WIN vs Appalachian State
This week: at Pittsburgh (8:00 ABC)
More issues for an elite Big Ten team, this time in Happy Valley. McSorley was fine, the running game was solid, but the defense struggled to make stops. They got the interception in overtime to finish the game, but they allowed 270 passing yards and 159 rushing yards throughout the game. Their issues are similar to Michigan State; the defensive side of the ball.
We have to remember this Penn State team had to replace a lot of talent, including Saquon Barkley. That being said, a loss against Appalachian State, or even Pittsburgh this week, would be unexpected and a step in the wrong direction for a team that still has playoff aspirations. When you’re in a division like the Big Ten East, you can’t afford to lose games against teams like Appalachian State. Penn State survived, but they have some issues to work on.
Previous Ranking: 3
- Wisconsin (1-0, 0-0)
Last week: 34-3 WIN vs Western Kentucky
This week: vs New Mexico (12:00 BTN)
Hey look, Wisconsin dominated a game in the trenches and held a non-conference opponent to three points and ran the ball well. It looks like Wisconsin hasn’t changed a bit.
Jonathan Taylor picked up right where he left off in his freshman campaign, rushing for 145 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 18 carries. Alex Hornibrook is exactly what Wisconsin needs at quarterback, throwing for 257 yards and two touchdowns. The Badgers continue to win the battles up front, both on offense and defense.
There wasn’t anything flashy about the win. There wasn’t anything special about a 31-point win over Western Kentucky. However, that was exactly what we expected, wasn’t it? Wisconsin looks like they could threaten to once again run the table.
Previous Ranking: 2
- Ohio State (1-0, 0-0)
Last week: 77-31 WIN vs Oregon State
This week: vs Rutgers (3:30 BTN)
Okay, so, Ohio State is really good. This team is loaded with athletes at every position. Dwayne Haskins was great, throwing for 313 yards and five touchdowns. Mike Weber was again spectacular, rushing for 186 yards and three scores.
The question is how bad is Oregon State? How much does a win like this actually mean for the Buckeyes? I don’t think much, but not much will change this week when they host Rutgers this week. I would expect more of the same, more explosive offense, more defensive takeaways, and another lopsided victory, this time in conference play.
The test will come in week three when the Buckeyes will challenge No. 16 TCU, without Urban Meyer on the sidelines. If the Buckeyes can get through that game and look good doing it, watch out.
Ohio State was definitely the most impressive Big Ten team in week one of the college football season, and I wouldn’t expect anything to change this week.
Previous Ranking: 1