Five Big Ten teams were on a bye this past weekend, making my job of ranking them a lot more difficult having not seen almost half of the Big Ten play. Because of that, there was little movement in the rankings.
What I did gather from Saturday is that there is officially clarity at the top, and tons of confusion from No. 7 down. Purdue is starting to win again, Northwestern keeps losing, and Indiana is winning but it doesn’t look pretty. Maryland, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin will be back in action this weekend, so hopefully with 6 matchups of Big Ten vs Big Ten, I will have a better grasp on where everyone stands for next week’s power rankings.
For now, here’s where I see everyone heading into week six…
14. Rutgers (1-4, 0-2)
Last week: 24-17 LOSS vs Indiana
This week: vs Illinois (12:00 BTN)
Rutgers was competitive this week. They went down 24-7 at halftime and things seemed to be heading in a very familiar direction. However, the Scarlet Knights fought back and made it a game in the fourth quarter. However, IU was just enough to get past Rutgers, and now the Scarlet Knights have lost four straight.
Artur Sitkowski was better against IU. He threw for 154 yards, a touchdown and a pick, but most importantly, wasn’t ever subbed out. He and backup Giovanni Rescigno have combined for two touchdowns and nine interceptions.
The good news for Rutgers is that Illinois comes to town this week. This is a winnable game for Rutgers to try and create some positive vibes in New Jersey.
Previous Ranking: 14
13. Nebraska (0-4, 0-2)
Last week: 42-28 LOSS vs Purdue
This week: at No. 16 Wisconsin (7:30 BTN)
It keeps getting worse and worse for Nebraska. Scott Frost said after the Michigan game that this was a “winnable game” for them. That statement was right after a 46-point loss at Michigan, but it was certainly used by the Boilers as bulletin-board material.
Adrian Martinez had his moments, throwing for 323 yards and two touchdowns. He also had a critical interception in the second half after the Cornhuskers had cut it to a two-score game.
The last four drives for Purdue were all punts, but Nebraska couldn’t capitalize, with their last three drives being an interception and two turnovers on downs. You can’t say Nebraska didn’t have their chances on Saturday, but the young Huskers weren’t able to come back and are still winless. It won’t get any better this week in Madison, Wisconsin.
Previous Ranking: 13
12. Illinois (2-2, 0-1)
Last week: OFF
This week: at Rutgers (12:00 BTN)
An off week for Illinois and a game against Rutgers this upcoming Saturday could help the Illini start to move up the rankings a little bit and create some positive momentum in Champaign. The Illini still have Rutgers, Purdue, Minnesota and Nebraska on their schedule. I’m not saying they’re going to win all four of those, but they have some opportunities to improve upon a couple really poor seasons to start the Lovie days at Illinois.
The bye week should help with some injuries for Illinois. However, they aren’t totally sure when AJ Bush will be back at quarterback, and they already lost star wide receiver Mike Dudek for the rest of the season.
Previous Ranking: 12
11. Minnesota (3-1, 0-1)
Last week: OFF
This week: vs Iowa (3:30 BTN)
Again, not a ton of movement in some of these teams in the middle/back of the standings because of all the bye weeks this past Saturday. Minnesota had a week to regroup after a really poor performance at Maryland two weeks ago. They got off to a 3-0 start that makes fans think they could make a bowl game in P.J. Fleck’s second season at Minnesota.
After Iowa and Ohio State, the Gophers play Nebraska, Indiana, Illinois, Purdue and Northwestern. They will have some opportunities to get those three wins they need while also giving true-freshman quarterback Zack Annexstad some valuable Big Ten reps and experience.
Previous Ranking: 11
10. Purdue (2-3, 1-1)
Last week: 42-28 WIN at Nebraska
This week: OFF
The Boilers finally had to leave Ross-Ade Stadium, and they didn’t skip a beat. David Blough was still impressive, throwing for 328 yards and a touchdown, while also running for 38 yards and a touchdown. Purdue looked good in spurts against Northwestern and Missouri but lost those games by one possession. Now, they’re still playing well, but they’re finishing games and they seem to be getting back on track.
After their bye week they will take on Illinois before a tough stretch against Ohio State, Michigan State and Iowa. Boiler fans are trying to find four more wins on the schedule. If they want that to happen, Purdue cannot afford to slip up to any of the unranked teams remaining on their schedule.
Previous Ranking: 10
9. Northwestern (1-3, 1-1)
Last week: 20-17 LOSS vs No. 14 Michigan
This week: at No. 20 Michigan State (12:00 FS1)
I talked about how that Northwestern vs. Michigan game would be closer than the spread. I still can’t believe the Wildcats couldn’t hold on. It was a quick 17-0 lead for Northwestern, but after that their drives were: punt, punt, end of half, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, end of game. That’s seven punts in their last nine drives, with three 3-and-outs.
The big issue for Northwestern was the rushing game. The team had 34 carries (including sacks) for 28 yards. Their longest carry as a team was nine yards. The loss of Jeremy Larkin is going to force this Northwestern team to be a pass heavy offense, and we saw how that worked out against the Wolverines. Thorson was sacked six times. That won’t get the job done.
I do believe that both Northwestern and Purdue are better than their records. However, that was a big missed opportunity for the Wildcats on Saturday.
Previous Ranking: 9
8. Indiana (4-1, 1-1)
Last week: 24-17 WIN at Rutgers
This week: at No. 3 Ohio State (4:00 FOX)
The Hoosiers won their road conference opener for the first time in over a decade. While it was a sloppy win at Rutgers, a wins a win. Indiana didn’t play the prettiest game, but they got the road win and are now only two wins away from bowl eligibility with seven games to go. The running game seems to be an issue all of the sudden for IU, as Stevie Scott had 18 carries for just 58 yards against the Scarlet Knights. They also struggled the week before that at home against the Spartans. Peyton Ramsey was efficient, throwing 27-for-40 for 288 yards and a touchdown. The defense had another takeaway, this time from freshman Jamar Johnson.
This week will be tough for IU, but if they can keep it close, it will give Hoosier fans some confidence before they come home for Iowa and Penn State.
Previous Ranking: 8
7. Maryland (3-1, 1-0)
Last week: OFF
This week: at No. 15 Michigan (12:00 ABC)
Maryland comes off a bye week to take a trip to the Big House to take on Michigan. Maryland already has a win over a proven Texas team and a dominating win against a previously undefeated Minnesota squad. We will learn a lot about this Maryland team this week. I’m still a little skeptical, only because of the shocking, multi-score, home loss against Temple. If they can just hang around at Michigan this week, Maryland can solidify its spot at No. 7 on this list. I don’t see anyone from the 7-10 group making a move to No. 6 anytime soon, however.
Previous Ranking: 7
6. Iowa (3-1, 0-1)
Last week: OFF
This week: at Minnesota (3:30 BTN)
Another Big Ten team that rested during week five. Not a whole lot to say about the Hawkeyes after they lost to Wisconsin last week. They will make a bowl game, but they are more than likely out of contention in the Big Ten west. I would expect a seven or eight win Iowa team once the season is finished.
Previous Ranking: 6
5. Wisconsin (3-1, 1-0)
Last week: OFF
This week: vs Nebraska (7:30 BTN)
Hey look, another Big Ten team that didn’t play last weekend. After their disappointing loss to BYU in week three, they bounced back at Iowa and are now in perfect position to return to Indianapolis again, and if they could knock off that Big Ten east team, they could throw themselves back into the playoff conversation. But I’m getting way ahead of myself. Let’s focus on this week, where Wisconsin will probably win by a lot.
Previous Ranking: 5
4. Michigan State (3-1, 1-0)
Last week: 31-20 WIN vs Central Michigan
This week: vs Northwestern (12:00 FS1)
I’m not too worried about Michigan State letting their big lead slip away toward the end of the game. They had it sewed up and the Chippewas scored some garbage time points to make it close. I’m a little concerned about Brian Lewerke. He didn’t look good against IU, and he was just 16-for-25 for 185 yards and an interception. While they have a solid rushing attack, they will need Lewerke to be better to knock off the top teams in the Big Ten east.
I hope they’ve learned from Michigan this past week that you can’t sleep on the Wildcats, even though they come into the game with a 1-3 record. Northwestern is better than their record and I wouldn’t be shocked to see them pull the upset.
Previous Ranking: 4
3. Michigan (4-1, 2-0)
Last week: 20-17 WIN at Northwestern
This week: vs Maryland (12:00 ABC)
Shea Patterson has yet to really impress me. He is efficient in taking good care of the football, with seven touchdowns and only two interceptions this season. However, he’s averaging 181 passing yards per game this season. However, this offense doesn’t have to be world-beating with the talented defense on the other side of the football.
It was an impressive comeback on the road against a feisty Northwestern team, holding them to seven punts in their last nine drives. This is how Michigan will win games this year: the defense will get a ton of stops, and eventually the offense will strike. Karan Higdon was great, rushing for 115 yards and two touchdowns to help the Wolverines complete the comeback. The defense had six sacks and 10 tackles for loss to help shut down Northwestern.
Previous Ranking: 3
2. Penn State (4-1, 1-1)
Last week: 27-26 LOSS vs No. 4 Ohio State
This week: OFF
Penn State was so close to becoming the new No. 1 team in the Big Ten. They had a 26-14 lead about midway through the fourth, and then, down one, they had the football with a fourth down and five. James Franklin calls, not one, but two timeouts to set up the play. Then, shocking everyone except for Ohio State’s front seven, the Nittany Lions ran the football and were stuffed for no gain. A shocking play call to end a really good game.
This Penn State team is good. Their defense shut down Ohio State for three and a half quarters. The offense started to get rolling in the second quarter and into the second half. McSorley threw for 286 yards and ran for 175 more. He is talented, but they decided to put the ball in someone else’s hands on fourth and five.
I’m worried that Penn State was in this game only because of the atmosphere. If this game is in Columbus, I think this could have gotten ugly. However, there’s no doubt in my mind the Nittany Lions are the second-best team in the Big Ten and are heading toward another New Year’s Six bowl game, on the outside of the playoff looking in, for the third year in a row.
Previous Ranking: 2
1. Ohio State (5-0, 2-0)
Last week: 27-26 WIN at No. 9 Penn State
This week: vs Indiana (4:00 FOX)
It took a while to get going, but once he did, Dwayne Haskins started to deliver in the second half for the Buckeyes. He finished with 270 yards and three touchdowns. The running game wasn’t amazing, but they got the job done when they needed it most. The defense was superb, coming up with four sacks and 11 tackles for loss, including the final defensive play of the game.
Now the Buckeyes appear to be in prime position to get back to Indianapolis again for the Big Ten Championship. They will still have to go to Michigan State, but Michigan will come to the Horseshoe at the end of the year.
I’m not saying this will happen by any means, but I’m just saying that the week after Ohio State won an emotional game against Penn State, they went to Iowa and were absolutely embarrassed, 55-24, to essentially be knocked out of the playoff. I’m not saying Indiana can do that at Ohio State, but just keep you eyes out for a bit of a letdown after that game on Saturday.
I do believe Urban Meyer remembers that feeling at Iowa and will have his team ready to go Saturday.
Previous Ranking: 1