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Big Ten Power Rankings Week 8: Michigan Makes a Statement

The Wolverines made a big statement with a resounding victory over Wisconsin. Ohio State continues to look slightly beatable, while still winning by multiple scores. Purdue seems to be back, while Indiana is trending the wrong direction. Finally, Nebraska was so close to win, but their potential has moved them up a spot.

Check out my updated rankings here…

14. Rutgers (1-6, 0-4)

Last week: 34-7 LOSS at Maryland

This week: vs Northwestern (12:00 BTN)

Another week, another embarrassing loss for Rutgers. This time, it was with local east coast foe Maryland. Here are the stats that tell the story.

Artur Sitkowski: 2-for-16, 8 yards and four interceptions

Giovanni Rescigno: 0/1, interception

That’s about all that needs to be said at Rutgers, who has permanently placed themselves in 14th.

Previous Ranking: 14

13. Illinois (3-3, 1-2)

Last week: 46-7 WIN at Illinois

This week: at No. 23 Wisconsin (12:00 FS1)

All of my optimism about Illinois football quickly vanished on Saturday afternoon. Illinois was only able to run for 69 yards as a team on 31 carries. The passing game wasn’t much better, with Bush throwing for 170 yards and an interception. Meanwhile, they allowed Purdue’s D.J. Knox to run for 150 yards and David Blough to throw for 377 yards and three touchdowns.

Illinois still has to play Nebraska, so we will find out who is the better team when that matchup takes place. Records say Illinois, but my eyes tell me Nebraska has more potential.

Previous Ranking: 11

12. Nebraska (0-6, 0-4)

Last week: 34-31 LOSS (OT) at Northwestern

This week: vs Minnesota (3:30 BTN)

The Huskers were so close to a win, but a passive game plan down the stretch, both offensively and defensively, cost Scott Frost his first win as Nebraska’s head coach. However, we’re seeing the potential in this team. Adrian Martinez was able to throw for 251 yards, while Devine Ozigbo ran for 159 yards and two touchdowns.

However, the defense allowed Clayton Thorson to throw for 455 yards and three touchdowns. That plus their three turnovers doomed the Huskers, who will head back home for a very winnable game against the Gophers.

Previous Ranking: 13

11. Minnesota (3-3, 0-3)

Last week: 30-14 LOSS at No. 3 Ohio State

This week: at Nebraska (3:30 BTN)

You’ve got to give a lot of credit to the Gophers for their fight this past weekend in Columbus. While Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins had a great day through the air, the Buckeyes couldn’t muster 100 yards on the ground. The Gophers had a great day on the ground, with Mohamed Ibrahim rushing for 157 yards and two touchdowns.

However, true freshman Zack Annexstad struggled in a hostile environment, going 13-for-23 for 218 yards and two interceptions. These will be important learning opportunities for the young quarterback as he continues to get more and more comfortable in Fleck’s offense and Big Ten football in general.

Previous Ranking: 12

10. Indiana (4-3, 1-3)

Last week: 42-16 LOSS vs Iowa

This week: vs No. 18 Penn State (3:30 ABC)

This was possibly Indiana’s ugliest game in quite a while. The Hoosiers were out of this game from the get-go. With the combination of poor tackling, undisciplined football and bad offensively play calling, the Hoosiers proved no threat to the Hawkeyes.

Nate Stanley threw for six touchdowns, while the defense had only one sack and three tackles for loss.

Peyton Ramsey threw two interceptions, while the running game contributed 67 yards on 25 carries. The offense has become completely one-dimensional, giving up on the run game, or trying it in the wrong times. The optimism that was surrounding this team in the first half of the season is gone, and there are some fans wondering if this team will even make a bowl game anymore.

Previous Ranking: T8

9. Purdue (3-3, 2-1)

Last week: 46-7 WIN at Illinois

This week: vs No. 2 Ohio State (7:30 ABC)

Okay, I think it’s time to get back on the Purdue bandwagon. I know, they’ve defeated Nebraska and Illinois in their last two games, but it has been definitive. Purdue is leaving no doubt that they are much better than Nebraska and Illinois, and they don’t belong in the bottom of the Big Ten.

David Blough continues to put up incredible numbers, while they finally got a good game from D.J. Knox on the ground (stats above under Illinois). If this team can be two-dimensional, pairing with a solid and stout defense, Purdue will get things back on track and appear in back-to-back bowl games.

Previous Ranking: 10

8. Northwestern (3-3, 3-1)

Last week: 34-31 WIN (OT) vs Nebraska

This week: at Rutgers (12:00 BTN)

Northwestern won, but it wasn’t convincing. I know, I’m being a little picky, but an overtime win at home against winless Nebraska doesn’t exactly equal a vote of confidence.

It was a big win for the Wildcats as they try to stay within striking distance of Wisconsin and Iowa in the Big Ten West. Thorson had another incredible game (look under Nebraska), but the running game still couldn’t get anything going. The team ran 23 times for 32 yards. Ever since losing Jeremy Larkin to retirement, this team has been completely one-dimensional. That won’t get it done against some of the better teams in the conference.

Previous Ranking: 7

7. Maryland (4-2, 2-1)

Last week: 34-7 WIN vs Rutgers

This week: at No. 19 Iowa (12:00 ESPN2)

I can’t figure out Maryland. My hunch says they are a solid team that will be a bowl game and can give some top teams fits. However, they aren’t an elite Big Ten team.

This past week didn’t teach us a whole lot. They ran for 290 yards, while Kasim Hill threw for three touchdowns. However, he only had 76 yards and eight completions.

If Maryland wants to hang around and shock some teams in the Big Ten, they will need to establish an aerial attack. This week will be an interesting test for the Terrapins.

Previous Ranking: T8

6. Iowa (5-1, 2-1)

Last week: 42-16 WIN at Indiana

This week: vs Maryland (12:00 ESPN2)

It was a dominating performance in Bloomington for the Hawkeyes. Nate Stanley threw for six touchdowns and the Hawkeyes seemed invincible on both sides of the ball. It felt like the Hawkeyes were dosed in butter because they couldn’t be tackled.

Enough of that, I think Iowa is really good. I think they are probably better than Wisconsin, but because they lost to the Badgers I feel obligated to have them behind them by a spot.

However, with the latest Wisconsin loss at the Big House, that opens the door slightly for Iowa to get back in the west race.

Previous Ranking: 5

5. Wisconsin (4-2, 2-1)

Last week: 38-13 LOSS at No. 12 Michigan

This week: vs Illinois (12:00 FS1)

This was ugly. It was quite a way to eliminate themselves from the playoff conversation and to bring others back into the race in the Big Ten West. Alex Hornibrook went 7-for-20 for 100 yards and two interceptions. Jonathan Taylor was held to 101 yards (that’s well under his 158.3 yards per game). The defense allowed 320 yards on the ground, while forcing zero Michigan turnovers.

Wisconsin still has the tiebreaker in the west over Iowa, but now Purdue and Northwestern are adding themselves to the list. With Wisconsin’s loss, there are now four teams in the west with one loss, making for a compelling finish to the season.

Previous Ranking: 4

4. Michigan State (4-2, 2-1)

Last week: 21-17 WIN at No. 8 Penn State

This week: vs No. 6 Michigan (12:00 FOX)

Alright Sparty, I see you. That’s one way to bounce back off a disappointing home loss. The Spartans went into College Park, and while it wasn’t pretty, they upset the Nittany Lions and got themselves back into the race in the East, albeit still a steep uphill climb.

Lewerke was forced to throw the ball 52 times, but he was effective, throwing for 259 yards and two touchdowns. The ground game wasn’t incredible, but it was enough to make themselves slightly two-dimensional.

The defense didn’t get any pressure on McSorley, recording only one sack. However, a win is a win, and Michigan State sets them up much better for their rivalry matchup with Michigan.

Previous Ranking: 6

3. Penn State (4-2, 1-2)

Last week: 21-17 LOSS vs Michigan State

This week: at Indiana (3:30 ABC)

Yikes. Penn State’s playoff hopes are crushed in week seven. Back-to-back late-game defeats eliminate Penn State not only from the playoff race but from the conference race as well. Two straight games at home, two straight defeats. That’s not what the Nittany Lions drew up for this season.

Miles Sanders ran 17 times for 162 yards and a touchdown. McSorley, wasn’t incredible, throwing for 192 yards and a touchdown, while fumbling once. Michigan State fumbled four times, but none of them were recovered by the Nittany Lions. Those are missed opportunities that ended up hurting Penn State.

Previous Ranking: 3

2. Michigan (6-1, 4-0)

Last week: 38-13 WIN vs No. 15 Wisconsin

This week: at No. 24 Michigan State (12:00 FOX)

Alright, it’s time to buy the Wolverines. Their kryptonite was always teams equal or better than them. Any game that was a tossup it seemed Michigan always lost. However, they changed this storyline on Saturday with a convincing win over a ranked Wisconsin team, a matchup they would have lost in previous years.

The next step is to back this up. They’re ranked No. 6 in the country and are the favorites, alongside Ohio State, to make it out of the Big Ten into the playoff. However, a few rivalries still stand in the way of this, starting this weekend against Michigan State.

Previous Ranking: 2

1. Ohio State (7-0, 4-0)

Last week: 30-14 WIN vs Minnesota

This week: at Purdue (7:30 ABC)

I’m not sure what to read about these past few weeks for Ohio State. They’ve both been double-digit victories, but they haven’t been convincing. First, Indiana was down only nine heading into the fourth quarter, then Minnesota missed a field goal late in the fourth to make it a one possession game before Ohio State scored to put the game out of reach late.

Back to back close games at home against middle-to-bottom tier Big Ten teams. If the Buckeyes continue to play sloppy this week, a trip to West Lafayette could become a lot harder than it needs to be. They will be favored in every game remaining and will be picked by many to be the playoff representative from the Big Ten. However, games like a road trip to Purdue can be tricky if they’re not prepared.

Previous Ranking: 1

Austin Render

I am a sophomore from Fort Wayne, Indiana majoring in Sports Media. Last year I worked with IUSTV Sports doing recap and feature packages for IU field hockey, women's basketball and baseball. I am one of the current WIUX Co-Sports Directors. I am a student broadcaster for WIUX as well as Big Ten Network Student U. You can reach me at austinrender99@gmail.com and you can follow me on Twitter @austinrender.

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