This wasn’t the best week of football for the Big Ten. The conference went 3-3 against teams from other Power-5 conferences. They also had a team lose to a MAC school for the 13th consecutive season.
The conference still has a lot of talent and a few top-10 teams. Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin and Michigan all won convincingly, and look like they have things all geared up and ready for Big Ten play. I’m looking forward to learning more about teams like Minnesota and Maryland, who are 2-0 and are slowly climbing up the rankings.
Here are my rankings after week two…
14. Rutgers (1-1, 0-1)
Last week: 52-3 LOSS at No. 5 Ohio State
This week: at Kansas (12:00)
I knew things wouldn’t be pretty in Columbus on Saturday, but I didn’t expect to get this ugly so quickly. It was 35-0 Ohio State by halftime. With a quick glance, you may have saw this score and thought it was another one of those FBS powerhouse vs. FCS foe. However, it was a conference game, and it wasn’t pretty.
The two quarterbacks who played for Rutgers combined to throw 11-of-30 for 65 yards and two interceptions, while the Buckeyes passed for 354 yards and ran for 225. The total yardages: 579 vs. 134. These are two Big Ten opponents. This was a conference game. And yet, it felt like an out-of-conference FBS vs. FCS type game. I don’t think Rutgers will be the only Big Ten team to be stomped by Purdue, but at some point they are going to have to start being somewhat competitive.
Previous Ranking: T10
13. Illinois (2-0, 0-0)
Last week: 34-14 WIN vs Western Illinois
This week: vs South Florida (3:30 BTN)
Illinois moves up, not because they’ve looked great, but because Rutgers hasn’t looked good. And I’m sick of ties, it’s week 3 already. The Illini got a convincing win, but they lost their starting quarterback AJ Bush to an apparent knee injury. Lovie Smith said he is “Coach Smith not Dr. Smith” so we won’t know any further news on the injury until Monday.
M.J. Rivers stepped in and sparked some offense for the Illini. He threw for 105 yards and two touchdowns while running the ball nine time for 36 yards.
Illinois hasn’t really been tested yet, but they will this week against South Florida. If Illinois could find a way to win this game, there would be a little more optimism around the program.
Previous Ranking: 14
12. Purdue (0-2, 0-1)
Last week: 20-19 LOSS vs Eastern Michigan
This week: vs Missouri (7:30 BTN)
This was the biggest blemish for the Big Ten this week. A Big Ten team has now lost to a MAC school the last 13 years. This time around it was Purdue losing at home to Eastern Michigan. This is Purdue’s first 0-2 start in 15 years. There was so much excitement in West Lafayette, and now all the sudden you start looking at their schedule and wondering if they can even get to five or six wins now.
The saying “If you have two quarterbacks you have no quarterbacks” has certainly been true for the Boilers. They seem to be dealing with two quarterbacks that have not been able to separate themselves from each other. Both are making big mistakes, and both are underperforming. Purdue has a chance to turn things around this week at home against Missouri. If they lose, things could get ugly quickly in West Lafayette.
Previous Ranking: 9
11. Minnesota (2-0, 0-0)
Last week: 21-14 WIN vs Fresno State
This week: vs Miami (OH) (3:30 BTN)
Minnesota hasn’t done anything wrong so far this year. In fact, a 2-0 start with a freshman quarterback is solid. Zack Annexstad avoided the big mistakes on Saturday. His numbers aren’t flashy, but with a solid running game and a talented defense, he doesn’t need to be.
P.J. Fleck is slowly rowing the boat. He’s building for the future. That’s why you’re seeing a freshman quarterback for the Gophers.
Annexstad and company have one more tune-up before they start Big Ten play with a road trip to College Park to take on Maryland. This is his final week to make sure he’s ready for Big Ten football. A few more wins and Minnesota will start moving up this list.
Previous Ranking: T10
10. Nebraska (0-1, 0-0)
Last week: 33-28 LOSS vs Colorado
This week: vs Troy (12:00 BTN)
The Scott Frost era didn’t get off to a great start. The stadium was hyped up for the first game for the new head coach and they had a 28-20 lead midway through the third quarter. However, a missed field goal, a turnover on downs and an interception late in the game doomed the Huskers and sent them to 0-1.
Adrian Martinez showed flashes of athleticism, passing for 187 yards and running for 117 yards. He scored three touchdowns but threw a costly interception late and ended up having to leave the game with an injury. The Huskers can run the ball, however, with 329 rushing yards against Colorado. I think this program is heading in the right direction. They have the coach, they have the quarterback (when healthy) and they have the buzz in Lincoln. It will only be a matter of time before this team is winning big games and conference championships again.
Previous Ranking: T10
9. Indiana (2-0, 0-0)
Last week: 20-16 WIN vs Virginia
This week: vs Ball State (12:00 BTN)
This game was a mess, as many were around the Midwest on Saturday. Bloomington was caught right in the middle of the rainstorm, causing this game to be sloppy and weird. Somehow, in the middle of all this rain, four of the five touchdowns in this game were through the air. However, when the Hoosiers used the ground game, they fed freshman Stevie Scott, who ended the game with 204 yards and a touchdown.
Ramsey was alright, going 16-for-22 for 150 yards and two touchdowns. He wasn’t incredibly sharp and was bailed out by several pass interference calls, but you don’t want to put too much stock into a game played in those conditions. He managed the game well.
That being said, this was a big win for IU. They “finished,” Tom Allen’s word for this season, and they are now 2-0 and set for a possible hot start to begin the season.
Previous Ranking: T10
8. Northwestern (1-1, 1-0)
Last week: 21-7 LOSS vs Duke
This week: vs Akron (7:30 BTN)
This wasn’t pretty. Northwestern started the Big Ten’s tough week with an ugly home loss to Duke. The offense was completely out of sync with the rotation of Thorson and Green at quarterback. No one really knows when Thorson will be cleared to take the full allotment of snaps, but until then, this offense could really struggle to click and score points, or at least that’s what their last three halves of football have shown.
Northwestern scored 31 points in the first half against Purdue. Since then, they’ve scored only seven points. They are still undefeated in conference play, and if Thorson can get fully healthy and take the bulk of the snaps, they could still make some noise in the Big Ten West.
Previous Ranking: 6
7. Maryland (2-0, 0-0)
Last week: 45-14 WIN at Bowling Green
This week: vs Temple (12:00 BTN)
Boy can Maryland run the football. Ty Johnson has run 256 yards over the two games. Against Bowling Green alone Maryland ran for 444 yards and five touchdowns. Their top five rushers ran for 124, 102, 86, 69 and 42 yards respectively. Running the football will never be an issue for the Terps.
The issue may be the quarterback spot. They were excited to have a healthy Tyrrell Pigrome and Kasim Hill back this year, but neither has impressed. Pigrome got the bulk of the snaps against Texas, throwing for 175 yards and two touchdowns. In game two, Kasim Hill got all the snaps, throwing for 121 yards and a touchdown. Neither has made big mistakes but neither has looked great. There’s certainly a quarterback decision to be made in College Park. They’ll have one more week to figure it out before Big Ten play begins.
Previous Ranking: 8
6. Iowa (2-0, 0-0)
Last week: 13-3 WIN vs Iowa State
This week: vs Northern Iowa (7:30 BTN)
Is everyone ready for another 10-2 season from the Hawkeyes? Well get ready, because that certainly seems to be the path they’re taking so far. They’ve allowed only six points all season long. While the offense wasn’t great against the Cyclones, they got a double-digit win against a rival using a stifling defense.
We are two weeks away from Wisconsin coming to Iowa City for the Big Ten West showdown on September 22. Until then, Iowa has one last game to fine-tune everything against Northern Iowa before they have to take on the Badgers. This is an experienced team with a long-tenured head coach, a seasoned quarterback and a defense that doesn’t mess around.
Previous Ranking: 6
5. Michigan State (1-1, 0-0)
Last week: 16-13 LOSS at Arizona State
This week: OFF
If you didn’t stay up until 2:30 am Sunday morning, you missed Herm Edwards and Arizona State knocking off Michigan State with a last second field goal. However, you didn’t miss much from the Spartans’ offense. Lewerke was solid, throwing for 314 yards, but the running game was non-existent. The leading rusher on the Spartans ran for 22 yards. L.J. Scott, arguably their best running back on the roster, ran for only 19 yards on seven carries.
This has not been a good start at all for Michigan State. They struggled and needed a two-minute drill to beat Utah State in week one, then they forget how to score and lose at Arizona State in week 2. Now they have a week off before they head to Memorial Stadium to take on the Hoosiers. The last time Michigan State came to Bloomington, in 2016, the Hoosiers upset the Spartans on a game-winning field goal. They will have an extra week to figure out what’s gone wrong through the first two weeks before their trip to Bloomington.
Previous Ranking: 4
4. Michigan (1-1, 0-0)
Last week: 49-3 WIN vs Western Michigan
This week: vs SMU (3:30 BTN)
Michigan moves up because of someone moving down, but they also showed they can score points this past week. The Wolverines hung 49 points up on Western Michigan. Patterson threw three touchdowns, Higdon ran for 156 yards and the defense held the Broncos to 85 passing yards. This was the Michigan team everyone was excited about to start the season.
I’m not sure how good Notre Dame is after they struggled with Ball State, but if Michigan can keep winning and put a hard-fought, close road loss to a top-15 team behind them, they can start to prove that they are improved this season and they can make some noise in a stacked Big Ten East. If the Wolverines want to win, Patterson has to take his game to the next level. They have the defense and the running game to contend in the Big Ten, they just need Patterson to be a playmaker.
Previous Ranking: 5
3. Penn State (1-0, 0-0)
Last week: 51-6 WIN at Pittsburgh
This week: vs Kent State (12:00 FS1)
Penn State quickly silenced the critics in week two by destroying Pittsburgh. They exploded for 37 points in the second half to possibly prove that week one was a fluke. The numbers don’t stand out offensively. McSorley threw for 145 yards and two touchdowns, while Miles Sanders ran for 118 yards. However, it’s the defense that showed up for Penn State.
They weren’t great against the run, but the Nittany Lion defense allowed just 55 passing yards on nine completed passes. The defense had four sacks and 10 tackles for loss. McSorley is going to need to improve his play when they start to play some more talented Big Ten teams, but seeing the defense take a big step up after a rough week one was a really good sign for Penn State fans as they come home for a game with Kent State.
Previous Ranking: 3
2. Wisconsin (1-0, 0-0)
Last week: 45-14 WIN vs New Mexico
This week: vs BYU (3:30 ABC)
It was 10-7 Wisconsin over New Mexico at halftime. However, Jonathan Taylor and company took over in the second half, outscoring the Lobos 35-7 in the second half to cruise to another easy non-conference win for the Badgers.
Taylor is proving that he is proving he is a legit Heisman candidate, rushing for 234 yards and three touchdowns. The issue for Wisconsin is through the air. While experienced, Hornibrook isn’t going to put up big numbers. However, he may need to spread the wealth a little bit more. Against New Mexico, A.J. Taylor had five grabs for 134 receiving yards. The rest of the receiving core had four grabs for 17 yards. They’re going to need to use more of their weapons through the air for Hornibrook and this offense to be more explosive come Big Ten play.
Previous Ranking: 2
1. Ohio State (1-0, 0-0)
Last week: 52-3 WIN vs Rutgers
This week: vs No. 15 TCU (8:00 ABC- Arlington, TX)
Another easy win for the Buckeyes, and another opportunity for the Buckeyes to show off their athleticism and their depth at so many of their skill positions. Dwayne Haskins is really good, going 20-for-23 for 233 yards and four touchdowns. The running back group ran for 225 yards, and the defense had three sacks.
I am excited to see this team against the Horned frogs this weekend. They’re so talented, but we haven’t seen them tested yet. Ohio State has done a good job of scheduling at least one non-conference game against a power-5, ranked opponent. This time it’s at Jerry World against a Big 12 team that can put up points in a hurry. With the talent on the offensive side of things, this could be an old-fashioned, Texas-sized shootout.
Previous Ranking: 1