The Big Ten is bad. While Michigan is good, really good, the conference is not. I don’t know how to rank teams 3-8 because they’ve all beaten each other and no one looks better than the others. The bottom of the conference is also really bad.
With that being said, I think Michigan is a national championship contender, and their No. 1 spot is not in any danger at the moment, with Rutgers and Indiana next on their schedule.
Here’s how things stack up going into week 11…
14. Rutgers (1-8, 0-6)
Last week: 31-17 LOSS at Wisconsin
This week: vs No. 4 Michigan (3:30 BTN)
Rutgers actually looked like a football team this week. Artur Sitkowski threw for 261 yards and a touchdown. He also had zero turnovers.
The issue was they had no running game and they couldn’t stop the run game from Wisconsin. Rutgers continues to lose and struggle in almost every facet. I can’t imagine Chris Ash is still the head coach next season.
Previous Ranking: 14
13. Minnesota (4-5, 1-5)
Last week: 55-31 LOSS at Illinois
This week: vs Purdue (3:30 ESPN2)
All of the progress that Minnesota made with a win over Indiana was lost this past weekend in Champaign. P.J. Fleck is firmly on the hot seat after his team laid an egg against one of the worst teams in the Big Ten.
Tanner Morgan was fine, throwing for 258 yards and two touchdowns. They also ran for 178 yards and scored 31 points. However, the defense allowed over 600 total yards again, this time it came thanks to 430 rushing yards from the Illini. Illinois averaged 12.3 yards per carry and scored 5 rushing touchdowns. Opponents have scored 30 or more points on Minnesota in their last six games. The defense is a big issue, and it could be the reason Fleck is gone after two years.
Previous Ranking: 11
12. Illinois (4-5, 2-4)
Last week: 55-31 WIN vs Minnesota
This week: at Nebraska (12:00 BTN)
A.J. Bush was good, throwing for 216 yards and two touchdowns. However, the running backs deserve a lot of the credit from the win. Reggie Corbin ran 13 times for 213 yards and two touchdowns, Bush ran 14 times for 127 yards and two touchdowns and Dre Brown ran seven times for 92 yards and a touchdown.
Illinois finishes the season with Nebraska, Iowa and Northwestern. While it’s not probable that Illinois makes it to a bowl game, this has certainly been an improvement for Lovie Smith in year three.
Previous Ranking: 13
11. Indiana (4-5, 1-5)
Last week: OFF
This week: vs Maryland (12:00 BTN)
The Hoosiers had a bye week to rebound off a very disappointing loss at Minnesota. Now they have to win two of their last three games, and one of those is at Michigan. That makes this week’s matchup with Maryland a must-win.
Previous Ranking: 12
10. Nebraska (2-7, 1-5)
Last week: 36-31 LOSS at No. 10 Ohio State
This week: vs Illinois
This was about as good of an outcome as Nebraska fans could have hoped for. I thought it would get ugly quickly in Columbus, but Nebraska hung around and even had a halftime lead.
Adrian Martinez threw for 266 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for 72 yards and two touchdowns. Martinez seems to be maturing every game and is a solid candidate for Scott Frost’s quarterback of the future.
Frost has things trending upward in Lincoln and the future is bright for Nebraska.
Previous Ranking: 10
9. Maryland (5-4, 3-3)
Last week: 24-3 LOSS vs Michigan State
This week: at Indiana (12:00 BTN)
I wrote about Maryland’s home success last week. This week was not a great way to back up to those stats. Maryland has had a lot going on in its athletic department and with the football team in particular.
74 passing yards won’t get a win. 26 rushing yards won’t get a win. A lot of teams have struggled against Michigan State’s defense, but this week was really bad for the Terrapins. Now they need one more win in their final three. This week is their best chance, at Indiana.
Previous Ranking: 9
8. Wisconsin (6-3, 4-2)
Last week: 31-17 WIN vs Rutgers
This week: at No. 20 Penn State (12:00 ABC)
Wisconsin has dropped a lot of spots this season. This was supposed to be an easy Big Ten West championship season for Wisconsin, and now they are behind the Wildcats and look to be out of the race for the Big Ten. Alex Hornibrook isn’t their quarterback anymore. After going 7-for-16 and throwing two interceptions, he was pulled for Jack Coan. However, it didn’t matter who was under center, with Jonathan Taylor running for 208 yards and three touchdowns.
Taylor is good, but this team is not what we thought they were to start the season. Without a solid quarterback option, Wisconsin’s season is pretty much done.
Previous Ranking: T6
7. Purdue (5-4, 4-2)
Last week: 38-36 WIN vs No. 16 Iowa
This week: at Minnesota (3:30 ESPN2)
Purdue is capable of winning the Big Ten. However, their week one loss to Northwestern could keep them from having a chance in Indianapolis.
The Boilermakers now have three wins over ranked teams (Ohio State, Iowa and Boston College). Their early season struggles were weird, but they’ve worked through them and are still in the hunt in the Big Ten West. They need some help, but David Blough, Rondale Moore and company aren’t dead yet. When you have Tyler Trent rooting you on, anything can happen, and they’ve proven that lately.
Purdue should probably be higher, but I can’t really justify putting them above Northwestern or Michigan State, who beat them.. Everyone from 3-8 is very similar, and anyone can beat anyone.
Previous Ranking: 8
6. Michigan State (6-3, 4-2)
Last week: 24-3 WIN at Maryland
This week: vs No. 10 Ohio State (12:00 FOX)
Michigan State has looked really good and really bad and I don’t know what to think of the Spartans. Brian Lewerke hasn’t been good this season. This past week he threw for 87 yards and an interception. However, their defense was great again and they established the run, allowing the Spartans to cruise past Maryland. Connor Heyward ran 15 times for 157 yards and two touchdowns.
Michigan State can still mess things up in the Big Ten with a win this week against Ohio State.
Previous Ranking: T6
5. Iowa (6-3, 3-3)
Last week: 38-36 LOSS at Purdue
This week: vs Northwestern (3:30 FOX)
Back to back road losses has now cost Iowa a chance at the Big Ten West title. The Hawkeyes were in the driver’s seat in the West and seemed to be playing some of the best football in the country. However, costly mistakes in consecutive weeks has cost them.
The defense couldn’t stop Blough. He threw for 333 yards and four touchdowns. Stanley had a solid game, throwing for 275 yards and a touchdown. However, their defense proved to be too big of an obstacle to overcome. Iowa can throw a wrench in the West with a win this week against Northwestern.
Previous Ranking: 4
4. Northwestern (5-4, 5-1)
Last week: 31-21 LOSS vs No. 4 Notre Dame
This week: at No. 21 Iowa (3:30 FOX)
Disappointing result for Northwestern. An 0-3 record in non-conference play is disappointing. However, they are still 5-1 in conference play and have a straight forward path to Indianapolis. Thorson struggled against Notre Dame, only throwing for 141 yards. Their defense couldn’t stop Ian Book, both through the air and on the ground.
Northwestern owns the tiebreakers over Purdue and Wisconsin, the two teams one game back of them in the West. So essentially, Northwestern has a two-game lead in the West with three weeks left. The Cats have a great chance of making it to the Big Ten Championship game.
Previous Ranking: 5
3. Penn State (6-3, 3-3)
Last week: 42-7 LOSS at No. 5 Michigan
This week: vs Wisconsin (12:00 ABC)
Someone has to be No. 3 in the conference. At times, I thought it was Penn State. At times, I thought it was Iowa. At times, I am starting to think it’s Northwestern or Purdue. However, I think talent wise, Penn State is the No. 3 team and that’s why they’re still there. It was ugly at Michigan, but a lot of teams will look really bad against one of the best defenses in the country, especially without a healthy Trace McSorley. So that’s why Penn State is still No. 3 in my rankings.
Previous Ranking: 3
2. Ohio State (8-1, 5-1)
Last week: 36-31 WIN vs Nebraska
This week: at No. 18 Michigan State (12:00 FOX)
Ohio State had a whole week to regroup from the Purdue disaster, and what did they do? They came home and struggled to beat a 2-6 Nebraska team. Haskins was sub-par compared to his previous numbers, going 18-for-32 for 252 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. J.K. Dobbins was phenomenal, rushing for 163 yards and three touchdowns, but their defense was spotty again. The defense is what will keep Ohio State from turning things around. I expect them to lose one of the next two weeks before they host Michigan.
Previous Ranking: 2
1. Michigan (8-1, 6-0)
Last week: 42-7 WIN vs No. 14 Penn State
This week: at Rutgers (3:30 BTN)
Michigan is good, the Big Ten is bad. It’s as simple as that for me. I think Michigan is national championship is good, but the conference is nowhere close to them. Michigan is clearly the best team in the Big Ten and the gap is continuing to grow.
Shea Patterson only had to throw 17 times, throwing for 144 yards and two touchdowns. Karan Higdon continues to shine. He has now rushed for 100 yards in seven straight games (longest streak in FBS). He ran 20 times for 132 yards and a touchdown.
Michigan shouldn’t be bothered before its battle at Ohio State. This could be the year Jim Harbaugh wins against his arch-rival Buckeyes.
Previous Ranking: 1