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Big Ten Power Rankings Week 12: Northwestern’s Time to Shine

The Northwestern Wildcats will be in Indianapolis in December, playing for a Big Ten Championship game. They’ve now won 13 of their last 14 Big Ten games, dating back to last season. Northwestern is also one of eight Big Ten teams with either a 5-5 or 6-4 record, making it very difficult for me to rank all of these teams with such similar records.

Meanwhile, at the top, Ohio State is finally back on track, maybe, and Michigan is still dominating. As long as they take care of business this week, they’re set for another monumental rivalry matchup in Columbus next week.

Here are my rankings heading into Week 12…

14. Rutgers (1-9, 0-7)

Last week: 42-7 LOSS vs No. 4 Michigan

This week: vs No. 14 Penn State (12:00 BTN)

Another rough day for Rutgers. Quarterback Artur Sitkowski threw for 40 yards and ended with a 2.1 QBR. Thanks to his 80-yard touchdown run, running back Isaih Pacheco ran for 142 yards and a touchdown.

There isn’t a lot to say, again, about Rutgers. They played poorly, lost by a lot, and still haven’t won a game since September 1.

Previous Ranking: 14

T12. Minnesota (5-5, 2-5)

Last week: 41-10 WIN vs Purdue

This week: vs No. 22 Northwestern (12:00 BTN)

Minnesota with one of the more impressive wins in the conference this past weekend. However, I have to keep in mind that it’s only one week removed from Illinois running up the score on Minnesota, and that’s why they aren’t ahead of the Illini.

Tanner Morgan is doing what he needs to do, stepping in for the injured Annexstad. Morgan threw for 139 yards and a touchdown. However, it was the defense and the run game that helped Minnesota run away with it.

The Gophers ran for 265 yards as a team and held Purdue to only 88 yards rushing. They also held David Blough to 142 yards. Minnesota needs one more win to get into a bowl game, which would be a positive ending to a wild season for P.J. Fleck and company.

Previous Ranking: 13

T12. Illinois (4-6, 2-5)

Last week: 54-35 LOSS at Nebraska

This week: vs Iowa (3:30 BTN)

After a promising win against Minnesota, the defense fizzled against Nebraska. Bush wasn’t great at quarterback, throwing for 126 yards and two picks. The ground game was phenomenal though, rushing for 383 yards and five touchdowns as a team.

However, Nebraska ran for 316 yards and four touchdowns of their own. Add that to Adrian Martinez’s 290 yards and three touchdowns through the air and you get 54 points and 606 yards allowed by the Illini defense.

Now they have to win out to make a bowl game. Even if they don’t do that, this season has been a slight improvement for Lovie Smith in Champaign.

Previous Ranking: 12

11. Maryland (5-5, 3-4)

Last week: 34-32 LOSS at Indiana

This week: vs No. 10 Ohio State (12:00 ABC)

Maryland was certainly hurt by the injury to Kasim Hill. However, they still didn’t take care of the football and coughed away their chance at a bowl game.

The Terrapins ran for 353 yards, spearheaded by Anthony McFarland, who ran 29 times for 210 yards. However, they had to settle for four field goals and turned the ball over four times.

The reason I say they coughed up their chance at a bowl game is because their final two opponents are Ohio State and Penn State. Unless they can pull a big upset, the Terrapins are staring a 5-7 season in the face.

Previous Ranking: 9

10. Indiana (5-5, 2-5)

Last week: 34-32 WIN vs Maryland

This week: at No. 4 Michigan (4:00 FS1)

Peyton Ramsey had arguably his best game of the season. He threw for 243 yards and two touchdowns, while also scoring a 35-yard touchdown on the ground, featuring some sweet juke moves. Stevie Scott eclipsed 100 yards, rushing for 103 yards and a touchdown.

The defense continues to be the issue. They allowed 353 rushing yards and 189 passing yards against a team that has struggled to pass all season. However, Indiana’s takeaways were the difference and kept a bowl game within reach.

Previous Ranking: 11

9. Nebraska (3-7, 2-5)

Last week: 54-35 WIN vs Illinois

This week: vs Michigan State (12:00 FOX)

Another really solid performance for Nebraska. Adrian Martinez threw for 290 yards and three touchdowns and Devine Ozigbo ran for 162 yards and three more touchdowns. The forced seven fumbles from Illinois, recovering three of them. They also forced two interceptions.

After an 0-6 start, Scott Frost has his team playing some solid football. They’ve now won three of their last four games, with the one loss being at Ohio State. The future is starting to look brighter in Lincoln.

Previous Ranking: 10

8. Wisconsin (6-4, 4-3)

Last week: 22-10 LOSS vs No. 20 Penn State

This week: at Purdue (3:30 BTN)

Wisconsin is still riding Jack Coan, and he’s not taking them very far. Coan went 9-for-20 for 60 yards and two interceptions. Jonathan Taylor did all he could to keep Wisconsin in the game, rushing for 185 yards a touchdown, but they were no match for Penn State.

Wisconsin was once a top-10 team. Now, they’re one of the eight Big Ten teams with a 5-5 or 6-4 record. A disappointing season that keeps getting uglier each week.

Previous Ranking: 8

7. Purdue (5-5, 4-3)

Last week: 41-10 LOSS at Minnesota

This week: vs Wisconsin (3:30 BTN)

This was the most surprising result of the week. Purdue needed one more win in their final three games, which featured Minnesota, Wisconsin and Indiana. There were plenty of people, including myself, who thought this could end up being an 8-4 Purdue team. However, Minnesota had other plans.

Blough struggled, and the ground game fizzled in snowy conditions at Minnesota. The Boilermaker’s leading rusher was D.J. Knox, who ran 10 times for 34 yards. Their longest rush as a team was 15 yards. The kicker: 0-for-12 on third downs. That’s not going to get it done.

I would still expect Purdue to get their sixth win this week against Wisconsin, but I don’t feel as good about it as I did a week ago.

Previous Ranking: 7

6. Michigan State (6-4, 4-3)

Last week: 26-6 LOSS vs No. 10 Ohio State

This week: at Nebraska (12:00 FOX)

The two-quarterback rotation still wasn’t enough for Michigan State to score a touchdown, let alone compete with Ohio State. The Spartans mustered up just 54 yards on the ground and turned the ball over three times in the loss.

I understand that injuries have hurt Michigan State, but they have played some of the ugliest football of any Big Ten team this season, and that includes Rutgers. While they’ve won six games, it hasn’t been pretty.

Previous Ranking: 6

5. Iowa (6-4, 3-4)

Last week: 14-10 LOSS vs Northwestern

This week: at Illinois (3:30 BTN)

Iowa didn’t move and hasn’t moved much during their three-game skid because the teams behind them keep losing in humiliating fashion. I was ready to move Purdue up until they lost to Minnesota by 31. I was ready to keep Michigan State in the top-5 until they had no offense against Ohio State.

Iowa couldn’t get anything going on the ground against Northwestern. While Nate Stanley was good, throwing for 269 yards and a touchdown, they were too one-dimensional to get the job done in one of the ugliest football games of the season.

Three weeks ago, I thought the West would for sure go to Iowa. Now, it’s hard to believe I ever thought that with the way the season has plummeted for the Hawkeyes.

Previous Ranking: 5

4. Penn State (7-3, 4-3)

Last week: 22-10 WIN vs Wisconsin

This week: at Rutgers (12:00 BTN)

Penn State did nothing wrong, but they aren’t playing for the Big Ten Championship in December, so I dropped them below Northwestern out of respect for the Cats. However, it was another soild win for Penn State behind 159 yards on the ground from Miles Sanders. McSorley was also solid, throwing for 160 yards and a touchdown.

Not much else to say about Penn State. They can get to 9-3 and be a top-15 team but that’s about it for the Nittany Lions.

Previous Ranking: 3

3. Northwestern (6-4, 6-1)

Last week: 14-10 WIN at No. 21 Iowa  

This week: at Minnesota (12:00 BTN)

Congratulations are in order for the Wildcats. I had them ranked 10th at one point this season. However, having won six straight Big Ten game, the Cats have moved into the top-three. Are they better than Penn State? Probably not. But because they’re going to Indianapolis and because of the respect I have for the Northwestern program, I am putting them in third.

Isaiah Bowser was phenomenal against Iowa, rushing for 165 yards and a touchdown. Shoutout to Fort Wayne and Homestead High School product Ben Skowronek who grabbed the game-winner in incredible fashion to lift the Cats over the Hawkeyes.

Previous Ranking: 4

2. Ohio State (9-1, 6-1)

Last week: 26-6 WIN at No. 18 Michigan State

This week: at Maryland (12:00 ABC)

Ohio State finally looked like the top-10 team they should be. After some subpar wins over Minnesota, Indiana and Nebraska and the humiliating loss against Purdue, they dominated Michigan State from start to finish and ran away with it in the fourth quarter.

Dwayne Haskins threw for 227 yards and a touchdown, while Mike Weber ran for 104 yards and a touchdown.

Ohio State needs to take care of business at Maryland, then they’ll be set up for the Big Ten East championship against Michigan at the Horseshoe.

Previous Ranking: 2

1. Michigan (9-1, 7-0)

Last week: 42-7 WIN at Rutgers

This week: vs Indiana (4:00 FS1)

Not much to talk about here. Michigan struggled at first, but eventually did what most teams have done against Rutgers. Patterson threw for 260 yards and three touchdowns. Higdon didn’t rush for 100 yards for the first time in eight weeks, but he still ran for two touchdowns.

The defense is still good, albeit against Rutgers. They have another subpar opponent this week with Indiana before they get ready for the Big Ten East championship against Ohio State.

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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