If last week wasn’t great for the Big Ten, then what was this week? It was not pretty. In 13 Big Ten non-conference games, only six Big Ten teams won. The seven losses were against the American (two), Sun Belt, MAC, Big 12 (Kansas), SEC and one independent. This was the first time that the Big Ten lost seven non-conference games to seven unranked opponents in AP Poll history. Ohio State, Penn State, Iowa, Indiana and Minnesota are lone undefeated teams left.
The Buckeyes helped the Big Ten out in a big way with a solid win against TCU. They remain atop the rankings.
Here’s how the rest of the rankings stack up…
14. Rutgers (1-2, 0-1)
Last week: 55-14 LOSS at Kansas
This week: vs Buffalo (12:00 BTN)
Rutgers solidified its spot as the worst team in the Big Ten this past week with an embarrassing loss at Kansas. The Big Ten had a lot of bad losses, and this one probably wasn’t the worst, but this Kansas team lost to Nicholls State in week one. That same Kansas team beat Rutgers by 41 points.
The freshman-quarterback experiment in Piscataway is not going well. Sitkowski went 7-for-19 for 47 yards and three interceptions and a QBR of 0.8. Kansas ran for 400 yards, with three backs rushing for at least 60 yards and a touchdown.
I had Rutgers more toward the middle of the pack at the beginning of the season, thinking that this program may have been heading in the right direction. They have quickly proven that they are definitely not moving forward and may in fact be moving in the wrong direction after this most recent defeat.
Previous Ranking: 14
13. Illinois (2-1, 0-0)
Last week: 25-19 LOSS vs South Florida
This week: FRIDAY vs No. 10 Penn State (9:00 FS1)
Last week I thought Illinois could turn the program’s direction around with a solid win over a decent South Florida team.
“If Illinois could find a way to win this game, there would be a little more optimism around the program.”
However, a blown coverage with a little over two minutes to go allows South Florida to get the lead that they would eventually finish with. South Florida finished the game with 626 total yards, including 411 yards in the air. USF quarterback Barnett’s two interceptions helped keep the Illini in the game, but they couldn’t finish the deal down the stretch.
The injury to starting quarterback AJ Bush last week forced M.J. Rivers into the starting role. He went 20-for29 for 168 yards. The Illini have a solid running game but if they want to win games, or even hang around in a matchup like this upcoming one against Penn State, they are going to need to be more efficient through the air.
Previous Ranking: 13
12. Purdue (0-3, 0-1)
Last week: 40-37 LOSS vs Missouri
This week: vs Boston College (12:00 ESPN2)
There are a lot of grumbles in West Lafayette after a third consecutive loss, all at home, to start the season. They’ve had chances in every game so far this season, but two personal fouls and a game-winning drive from Missouri have contributed to the 0-3 start. This is a Purdue team that surpassed expectations last season and made everyone believe that they would build off that season again this year.
However, losing three of their seven home games already, they are going to have a difficult road back to six wins. David Blough took all the snaps at QB, throwing for 572 yards and three touchdowns. However, they had no running game and the defense couldn’t stop either aspect of the Missouri offense. An 0-4 start may cause some Boilermaker fans to wonder if Jeff Brohm is the right guy for the job.
Previous Ranking: 12
11. Nebraska (0-2, 0-0)
Last week: 24-19 LOSS vs Troy
This week: at No. 19 Michigan (12:00 FS1)
Andrew Bunch became the first Nebraska walk-on starting quarterback in school history, but his debut with the Huskers did not go well. He threw for 177 yards and two touchdowns, but also had two crucial interceptions. Troy didn’t do anything special, but they started fast, with a 17-0 lead, and held on from there.
This is not how Nebraska fans thought the first few games of Scott Frost’s Nebraska coaching career would go. However, it’s still year one and it’s only two games into his career, and he’s being forced to start a walk-on quarterback due to injury. If Nebraska fans have enough patience, I still think they have the right guy in Lincoln, but this could be a long season one for Frost and company.
Previous Ranking: 10
10. Northwestern (1-2, 1-0)
Last week: 39-34 LOSS vs Akron
This week: OFF
Northwestern started the season with a road win at Purdue, their ninth win in a row dating back to last season. Since then, they were shut down at home against Duke and outscored in a shootout with Akron. The Wildcats are now 1-2 and searching for answers with an off week before conference play begins.
Everything seemed to be alright for the Wildcats at halftime, leading 21-3. Thorson was taking most of the snaps and appears to be healthier. He threw for 383 yards and three touchdowns. However, his two interceptions were both returned for touchdowns, contributing to the 36-points Akron scored in the second half to overcome the 18-point deficit and take down the Cats.
This is an important bye week for Northwestern. They are 1-0 in the Big Ten, and if they can turn things around after the bye week, they can get themselves in the conference race and try and forget about weeks two and three.
Previous Ranking: 8
9. Maryland (2-1, 0-0)
Last week: 35-14 LOSS vs Temple
This week: vs Minnesota (12:00 BTN)
Maryland seems to have come back to Earth this past week with a surprising loss against previously winless Temple. Kasim Hill was 7-of-17 for 56 yards and an interception, while Temple’s quarterback Anthony Russo went 15-for-25 for 228 yards and a touchdown.
Maryland had run the ball well through weeks one and two, but with only one back rushing for more than 25 yards, that aspect of their offense seems to have gotten lost last week.
This could be one of those weeks where they just didn’t have it. However, Maryland will show us in the upcoming weeks which week was a fluke: the big win against Texas or the rough loss to Temple.
Previous Ranking: 7
8. Minnesota (3-0, 0-0)
Last week: 26-3 WIN vs Miami (OH)
This week: at Maryland (12:00 BTN)
I am a big fan of freshman-quarterback Zach Annexstad. He’s not going to put up mind-boggling numbers, but he avoids the big mistakes. In his first three games as a Big Ten starting quarterback, he’s thrown for 537 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions. His competition hasn’t been the stiffest, but that’s still impressive for a true-freshman.
Things will start to ramp up for Minnesota this week as conference play begins at Maryland. This will be the first big test for Annexstad, and if he can avoid the big mistakes, I like Minnesota’s chances not only in this game, but for a bowl berth by the end of the season.
Previous Ranking: 11
7. Indiana (3-0, 0-0)
Last week: 38-10 WIN vs Ball State
This week: vs No. 24 Michigan State (7:30 BTN)
Indiana fans may see this past week’s result as the best sign of the season. Indiana beat a team that they should beat, and they didn’t mess around either. After Ball State made a field goal on their first possession, the Hoosiers rallied off 31 unanswered and cruised to the 38-10 win.
Ramsey was solid, throwing for 173 yards, and freshman running back Stevie Scott had another 100+ yard game on the ground this week, scoring a pair of touchdowns. Four-star freshman running back Ronnie Walker Jr. saw some time as well, with nine carries for 41 yards and a touchdown in his first action of the season.
There’s a lot of excitement around this team in Bloomington, and with a home game against Michigan State and then a trip to Rutgers, this great start to the season could get even better the next few weeks.
Previous Ranking: 9
6. Iowa (3-0, 0-0)
Last week: 38-14 WIN vs Northern Iowa
This week: vs No. 18 Wisconsin (8:30 FOX)
With the chaos surrounding the Big Ten, get ready for Iowa to have the quietest 10-2 season and earn a berth to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship in December. This team is experienced, talented and well coached. Nate Stanley had another great game, throwing for 309 yards and two touchdowns. They also held Northern Iowa to six yards rushing, with three tackles for loss, three sacks and a forced fumble.
Iowa will win with their defense, but with one of the more tenured quarterbacks in the Big Ten, Stanley is capable of producing when called upon for the Hawkeyes. This week is the biggest test of the season for Iowa. I know they go to Penn State, but this one matters for a trip to Indy in December. If Iowa can take down an angry Wisconsin team this week, watch out for the Hawkeyes to be a sleeper in the College Football Playoff conversation.
Previous Ranking: 6
5. Wisconsin (2-1, 0-0)
Last week: 24-21 LOSS vs BYU
This week: at Iowa (8:30 FOX)
I’m not sure if this will just end up being a fluke, but a home loss to BYU is bad. Especially when you’re ranked sixth in the country and you were a 23-point favorite. It was ugly in every aspect for Wisconsin fans, all the way until the end with a missed 42-yard field goal to tie. In the Big Ten West, it is so important to not only take care of business against the non-conference opponents but beat them pretty soundly. Wisconsin now has a blemish on their resume that I’m not sure the committee will be able to get past.
Jonathan Taylor could still win the Heisman though, as he put up another 117 yards on 26 carries.
This is a big week for Wisconsin. If the Badgers go into Iowa City and beat the Hawkeyes, people will start to think the BYU game was a fluke. But if they go and lose to Iowa, the Big Ten West all the sudden runs through Kinnick Stadium.
Previous Ranking: 2
4. Michigan State (1-1, 0-0)
Last week: OFF
This week: at Indiana (7:30 BTN)
Michigan State had an oddly early off-week in week three. It came at a good time, however, as the Spartans look to rebound off a tough #Pac12AfterDark experience in week two. Hoosier fans are starting to get more and more optimistic about their team, and all the sudden there’s a belief they could knock off Michigan State this week.
However, Mark Dantonio and company have had an extra week to regroup and prepare for conference play. They haven’t looked sharp, but this is still a majority of the 10-win team from a year ago. If they can figure things out, they’re still in the thick of things in the East.
Previous Ranking: 4
3. Michigan (2-1, 0-0)
Last week: 45-20 WIN vs SMU
This week: vs Nebraska (12:00 FS1)
Slowly but surely Michigan continues to move up the ladder in the Big Ten. After week one, it looked like they could be the team leapfrogged by whoever would come out of that next group of teams. Now, they’re third in my rankings and the offense seems to have figured out how to score. Patterson looked good, throwing for 237 yards and three touchdowns, all to Donovan Peoples-Jones. It was another balanced rushing attack, with six Wolverines contributing to nearly another 200-yard rushing game. Defensively, they had eight tackles for loss and stifled an SMU team that hung around with TCU a week ago.
Michigan has a decently easy start to Big Ten play, with Nebraska and Maryland coming to the Big House, sandwiched around a trip to Northwestern. After that, they get Wisconsin, Michigan State and Penn State all in a row. I still need to see if Michigan can beat a team better than them, either home or away, before I can move them up into the top two.
Previous Ranking: 4
2. Penn State (3-0, 0-0)
Last week: 63-10 WIN vs Kent State
This week: FRIDAY at Illinois (9:00 FS1)
There are too many people who are going to continue to hold the Appalachian State game against Penn State. Yeah, they struggled in week one and probably should have lost, but they didn’t, and since then, they’ve won their two games by a combined 114-16. Engineered by senior quarterback Trace McSorley, this offense can score, and score fast. With a trip to Illinois coming up this week, we could see more of the same before they square off with the Buckeyes in week five.
ESPN’s Playoff Predictor as the Nittany Lions with the sixth best chance (37%) to make the Playoff, three spots behind Ohio State (54%). Penn State is still undefeated and is still very much in control of their own destiny, starting in week five with Ohio State coming to town. However, with that being said, they cannot overlook Illinois and somehow slip up in Champaign Friday night.
Previous Ranking: 3
1. Ohio State (3-0, 1-0)
Last week: 40-28 WIN vs TCU (Arlington, TX)
This week: vs Tulane (3:30 BTN)
Ohio State was the lone bright spot for the Big Ten this week. The Buckeyes made it past their biggest (and possibly only) non-conference test this past week, thanks to three touchdowns in about five minutes of game action. Dwayne Haskins continues to impress, throwing for 344 yards and two touchdowns. J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber split carries, each with 18 carries. Dobbins finished with 121 yards while Weber ended with 64 yards.
There are two big headlines in Columbus after this game. First, what is the status of star defensive end Nick Bosa, who exited Saturday’s game with a lower abdominal strain. He doesn’t really need to play this week against Tulane, but a long-term injury for Bosa could hurt this Buckeye defense.
Second, the return of Urban Meyer. It may be Tulane, but Buckeye fans will be excited for this game solely to see their signal caller back on the sidelines. This gives him a week to get back in the swing of things before they head to Happy Valley for the biggest game on their schedule (outside the Michigan game of course).
Previous Ranking: 1