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Big Ten Power Rankings: Week two, Hoosiers and Badgers face reality check

It was a bittersweet weekend for college football fans around the country as their teams won and lost but I must say, seeing thousands of fans around the country pack into stadiums was a welcomed sight. No matter the game or the teams, hearing the bands play and the students cheering for their schools showed how much we take it for granted each fall Saturday.  

A lot of top-25 programs struggled in their season openers and while the environment change could be a main factor, the Big Ten saw some shake up and a sense of continuity with the blue bloods at the top. 

Teams who struggled shouldn’t panic — it was just the first week of the season — but having a rough September could mean the season is coming to a spiraling end for most teams.

Michael Hickey/Getty Images

1. Ohio State

Last Week: 45-31 win at Minnesota 

It was a very scary first half for Ohio State last Thursday night as the offense got off to a really slow start. The Buckeyes remained poised and calm and the running backs group looked like everything we thought it would be. The defense seemed to be shaky stopping the run but the Buckeyes will really be tested next week.

Next Week: Vs No. 12 Oregon

2. Penn State

Last Week: 16-10 win at No. 12 Wisconsin  

The Nittany Lions responded to the environment in Madison very well last weekend. While Sean Clifford struggled, he still has Jahan Dotson, who was absolutely huge. Dotson had a touchdown on five receptions for 102 yards. Luckily for Penn State, they get past their biggest test early on in the season despite the offensive struggles.  

Next Week: Vs Ball State

3. Iowa 

Last Week: 34-6 win vs No. 17 Indiana  

Iowa’s defense was phenomenal. Two pick-sixes — both by Riley Moss — and the front seven were getting to Michael Penix Jr. all day. Last week I talked about how Spencer Petras needed to be consistent for this Iowa team to succeed. Well last week he didn’t have his best game but he didn’t need to. If the Hawkeyes' defense continues to perform at a high level, they may be the favorites out of the Big Ten West.  

Next Week: At No. 9 Iowa State

4. Wisconsin 

Last Week: 16-10 loss vs No. 19 Penn State

Graham Mertz hit while throwing against Penn St. (Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

Graham Mertz did not have quite the season debut that he had in 2020, throwing two interceptions, and one cost the Wisconsin the game in the red zone. He really struggled. And it cost the Badgers.

We know Wisconsin has a good defense and if it wasn’t for one slip up in the secondary leading to a Jahan Dotson walk-in touchdown, it very easily could have headed into overtime. Wisconsin dominated time of possession but three turnovers were critical mistakes that have to get fixed, fast. 

Next Week: Vs Eastern Michigan

5. Michigan

Last Week: 47-14 win vs Western Michigan

We got a small sample size of the Michigan offense last weekend. Cade McNamara looked solid in only throwing 11 times but the defense looked new and improved from last year. This is a judgement year for Jim Harbaugh and it’s off to a good start, but keep an eye on the Ronnie Bell injury as a key factor moving forward. 

Next Week: Vs Washington

6. Indiana

Last Week: 34-6 loss at No. 18 Iowa 

It was not the opening weekend Hoosiers fans wanted. At all. Indiana struggled mightily on offense, Penix had the worst game of his career and the Hoosiers just couldn’t move the ball. The defense responded well after the opening drive but it didn't help when the offense spotted the Hawkeyes 17 points. Indiana’s season is far from over, the Hoosiers just need to get comfortable and couldn’t do that in a tough environment. 

Next Week: Vs Idaho 

7. Maryland

Last Week: 30-24 win vs West Virginia

In a game that could have gone either way, the Terrapins impressed, getting the job done on both sides of the ball. The defense forced four turnovers and Taulia Tagovailoa was stellar, throwing three touchdowns. Maryland could surprise a lot of people this year if the Terrapins can find some consistent weapons. 

Next Week: Vs Howard 

8. Minnesota 

Last Week: 45-31 loss vs Ohio State

Mohamed Ibrahim in the season opener against Ohio State. (Sports Illustrated)

Look away! Mohamed Ibrahim is out for the rest of the season with a leg injury. 

A devastating blow for the Golden Gophers as the All-American running back was a pivotal part of the offense and as Tanner

Morgan struggled it does not bode well for the rest of the season. The secondary also struggled as Buckeyes receivers were wide open at times. However, Minnesota never quit and showed a lot of fight, something that could propel the team later on. 

Next Week: Vs Miami-Ohio

9. Rutgers

Last Week: 61-14 win vs Temple 

The Scarlet Knights offense came to play against Temple at home. It’s important for Rutgers to get a few games under their belt early on in the season before Big Ten play starts. The more experience for an inexperienced team the better. Greg Schiano is already recruiting well and the Scarlet Knights are on the up and up.

Next Week: At Syracuse 

Week 2 Big Ten Power Rankings (Max Wood/HN)

10. Michigan State 

Last Week: 38-21 win at Northwestern

One name. Kenneth Walker. 

It was quite the Spartans debut for the Wake Forest transfer. Four touchdowns on 23 attempts and 264 yards: a ridiculous statline that carried MSU over the Wildcats. It was the start to the season that head coach Mel Tucker needed as it looks like he can rely on the ground game in 2021. 

Next Week: Vs Youngstown State

11. Northwestern

Last Week: 38-21 loss vs Michigan State

This is a much different Wildcat team in 2021 than we saw in 2020. As mentioned, the inability to stop the Spartans' run game told the tale of the game and they were just getting blown upfront from the first whistle. Despite the favorable schedule it’ll be crucial for Northwestern to take advantage of a weak nonconference schedule. 

Next Week: vs  Indiana State  

12. Nebraska

Last Week: 52-7 win vs Fordham 

Nebraska needed something good to happen after its loss in Champaign. As expected, the Cornhuskers took care of business against an FCS program in Fordham. While it doesn’t take the sour taste out of their fans’ mouth from last week, it suppresses the sensation for the time being. Listen, this Nebraska team has a long way to go and I see a lot of Big Ten teams performing better than them at the current moment that's why they drop to 12 after a win. 

Next Week: Vs Buffalo 

13. Purdue

Last Week: 30-21 win vs Oregon State 

Purdue handled business at home last weekend and we know wide receiver David Bell is a stud. The offense was able to move the ball but it was an all-around sloppy game from both teams where Purdue’s defense was just too much for the Beavers to handle. 

Next Week: At UCONN 

14. Illinois 

Last Week: 37-30 loss vs UTSA 

Yikes. Coming off a win over Nebraska last weekend the response was not what it needed to be against UTSA — a program which has only had a football program for a decade. Illinois simply just really struggled on defense with an inability to stop the run and fell behind 14-0 early. After that, the Roadrunners never looked back. 

Next Week: At Virginia

We will start to see things come into form over the next few weeks in the Big Ten. Sooner rather than later the separation between contenders and pretenders will be evident.

Previous power rankings:

Week One

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