Ohio State might not play enough games. Northwestern is now in a must-win situation in the final week against Illinois. Maryland and Michigan are on pace to not play this week. Wisconsin is eliminated from championship contention.
No word better describes the Big Ten this season than “chaos.” Nobody knows what is going to happen in the final two weeks, but what I do know is where everyone ranks in my latest power rankings. A quick reminder: I rank these teams based very much off of “what have you done for me lately.” The bottom half of the conference is a mess, so I tried my best to rank them even though they’ve all beaten each other.
14. Nebraska (1-4)
Last week: 20-26 LOSS at No. 24 Iowa
Previous ranking: 11
No one is winless anymore, and everyone behind Nebraska won this past week, so the Cornhuskers, who may or may not have saved Big Ten football, are the worst team in the Big Ten. Talent wise, they may not be, but by production and performance, they certainly are. They can’t decide who their quarterback is, their leading rusher who is actually listed as a running back had five carries for 23 yards, and their defense played well but was forced to be on the field for too long.
Thank you for bringing back Big Ten football.
Next up: at Purdue; Saturday, Noon ET on BTN
13. Penn State (1-5)
Last week: 27-17 WIN at Michigan
Previous ranking: 14
Penn State did win, and that was good to see, but it’s still a flawed team with a lot of injuries in key positions. Without its top three running backs, freshman Keyvone Lee was great, running for 134 yards and a touchdown. Clifford was fine, throwing for 163 and a QBR of 80.8, but he is still inconsistent through the air.
Penn State has its issues, but for the moment, after a win, I’ll move them out of the cellar, even though Nebraska owns the head-to-head.
Next up: at Rutgers; Saturday, Noon ET
12. Michigan (2-4)
Last week: 17-27 LOSS vs Penn State
Previous ranking: 10
Michigan is bad, and that is official (if it wasn’t already). One hundred and 12 yards between the two quarterbacks, they allowed 254 yards rushing, and lost to the only winless team in the Big Ten. Now, they’ve shut down their facilities because of a couple of COVID-19 positive tests.
This could be very interesting, because if they are enough to cancel games, they have Ohio State in two weeks and could stand in the way of Ohio State qualifying for the Big Ten Championship. They can’t beat OSU, but maybe they will have to cancel, keeping Ohio State out of the Big Ten Championship and potentially the College Football Playoff.
Next up: at Purdue; Saturday, 4 p.m. ET on FS1
11. Michigan State (2-3)
Last week: 29-20 WIN vs No. 8 Northwestern
Previous ranking: 13
Michigan State just doesn’t want to go away, does it? I thought they were the worst team in the Big Ten, then they knock off No. 8 Northwestern. I don’t know anymore. The Spartans are 2-1 against ranked teams somehow. Rocky Lombardi was only 11-for-27, but he made some big time throws in the first half for touchdowns. He was also effective on the ground (10 carries, 65 yards). The defense was also great, picking off Peyton Ramsey twice and forcing two fumbles.
I’m not about to say they can hang with Ohio State this weekend, but I don’t know, maybe there is some talent on this Michigan State team, just maybe.
Next up: vs No. 4 Ohio State; Saturday, Noon ET on ABC
10. Minnesota (2-3)
Last week: OFF
Previous ranking: 8
Minnesota has a lot of COVID-19 issues among its team, so there isn’t anything new to report here. The Gophers game this week has already been canceled.
Next up: CANCELED vs No. 8 Northwestern
9. Rutgers (2-4)
Last week: 37-30 WIN at Purdue
Previous ranking: 12
Rutgers is close to a good football team. They lost in double overtime to Michigan and lost late to Illinois. Flip even one of those games and they have a chance at finishing over .500 this year. Even without Noah Vedral, Rutgers threw for over 250 yards between Artur Sitkowski and Johnny Langan. Langan ran all over the Purdue defense, finishing with 95 yards on 21 carries. They also didn’t turn the ball over at all, certainly a recipe for success on the road in the Big Ten.
This is a bad loss for Purdue but a great win for Rutgers. They needed it and now have a favorable schedule and a chance to finish 4-4 and possibly sneak into a bowl game. What a turnaround for Rutgers football this season.
Next up: vs Penn State; Saturday, Noon ET
8. Illinois (2-3)
Last week: 34-31 WIN vs. Purdue
Previous ranking: 9
Illinois is one of the many in the bottom half of the league I can’t figure out how to rank. They had such a horrible start to the season, but also got a couple of nice wins over Rutgers and Nebraska to start to turn the season around. I don’t think they’re terrible, and I think not having the starting quarterback hurt them early. Now they have Brandon Peters back and they’re playing much better football.
Illinois will have a chance to play spoiler on the final week when they take on Northwestern. A win could keep the Wildcats out of the Big Ten Championship game.
Next up: at No. 18 Wisconsin; Saturday, 2 p.m. ET on BTN
7. Purdue (2-3)
Last week: 30-37 LOSS vs Rutgers
Previous ranking: 6
I don’t think Purdue is good, but no one outside the top five is really that good, so I struggle on where to rank them. They’ve all beaten each other. Purdue has beaten Iowa, a very solid win, and Illinois, but they’ve lost to Minnesota (but probably shouldn’t have), Rutgers and Northwestern. I know it was a good win for Rutgers, but it was a terrible loss for Purdue. They had a double-digit lead and ran only four plays in the fourth quarter and watched the lead slip away.
Purdue is average. They’re very solid on offense and very poor on defense. It’s as simple as that for the Boilermakers.
Next up: vs Nebraska; Saturday, Noon ET on BTN
6. Maryland (2-2)
Last week: 11-27 LOSS at No. 12 Indiana
Previous ranking: 7
Maryland is also not very good. However, because of its COVID outbreak, the team missed games and was missing a lot of players for the Indiana game, helping stay in the top half of my rankings. Taulia Tagovailoa wasn’t great, throwing three interceptions and having a really poor read on a read option play, leading to a game-changing safety. Indiana cornerback Tiawan Mullen talked about how if Taulia looks one way, he’s going that way, and it was easy to read him. That’s something that will likely improve over time.
I still don’t think Maryland is in the bottom tier of the Big Ten, but their ranked 6th because no one else really deserves it.
Next up: at Michigan; Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET on BTN
5. Iowa (4-2)
Last week: 26-20 WIN vs Nebraska
Previous ranking: 5
Iowa is a solid football team, and I’m sure the Hawkeyes would like to have those first two weeks back, especially that 17-0 lead they had on Northwestern. They are still in the race if Northwestern loses to Illinois, but either way, they’re looking at a possible matchup with Indiana or Ohio State in the crossover week nine. Certainly a chance to prove themselves.
Spencer Petras isn’t great, but the run game and the defense are good enough to win them games. We knew this already.
Next up: at Illinois; Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET on BTN
4. Wisconsin (2-1)
Last week: OFF
Previous ranking: 4
Wisconsin was off, so no movement here. They can move up, obviously, with a win over Indiana this week.
Next up: vs No. 12 Indiana; Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC
3. Northwestern (5-1)
Last week: 20-29 LOSS at Michigan State
Previous ranking: 2
Northwestern was the biggest loser this week. The team only dropped one spot, but man, that was an awful loss. This team was looking at a matchup with Ohio State and a chance at the College Football Playoff, but instead, they couldn’t get past Rocky Lombardi and the Spartans. Turnovers were bad, timely stops on defense weren’t there, but most important, the quarterback play is underwhelming.
Ask Indiana fans about Ramsey. They loved him as a guy and he did a lot of great things, but in big moments, he tends to struggle. That was a big moment Saturday and he faded away.
Next up: CANCELED at Minnesota
2. Indiana (5-1)
Last week: 27-11 WIN vs Maryland
Previous ranking: 3
Indiana may have moved up, but the Hoosiers lost Michael Penix for the year and may not stay here for long. Jack Tuttle is unproven, so maybe he’ll lead a late-season surge, but Indiana could be in some trouble. Its saving grace will be its defense, which forced three more turnovers against Maryland. They also got three touchdowns from Stevie Scott on the ground plus 106 yards from freshman running back Tim Baldwin, who filled in for Sampson James.
If Indiana can have a balanced attack and a strong defense, that will make life much easier for Jack Tuttle. He’ll be thrown into the fire Saturday against Wisconsin.
Next up: at No. 18 Wisconsin; Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC
1. Ohio State (4-0)
Last week: OFF
Previous ranking: 1
No game for Ohio State this week, which created more buzz than if the Buckeyes had beaten Illinois. They cannot miss any more games or else they will not be eligible for the Big Ten Championship. If I’m being honest, they might get more out of beating Iowa or Wisconsin in the second-place game than a limping Northwestern team in the Championship. But, we’ll see what happens and if Ohio State ends up playing this weekend.