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Big Ten Power Rankings Week 7: Tough Week For the Spartans

Michigan State takes one of the biggest tumbles of any team this season, dropping from fourth to a tie for sixth, while Northwestern moves up. The cream of the crop is rising, while the middle is still murky. I have solid opinions on most teams, while I’m still creating opinions on teams like Maryland, Indiana and Purdue.

Here’s how I have the conference stacking up heading into week seven…

14. Rutgers (1-5, 0-3)

Last week: 38-17 LOSS vs Illinois

This week: at Maryland (12:00 BTN)

This could have been the last chance Rutgers had this season to get another win, and they were embarrassed at home against Illinois. Sitkowski had another rough outing, being forced to throw the football 49 times. He threw for 267 yards and a touchdown, but he also tossed three interceptions. He also fumbled once, but it was recovered by Rutgers. They can’t afford to turn the ball over so many times and expect to beat anyone.

I had Rutgers near the top ten at the beginning of the season because I thought they were making some progress. Any progress this team was making is now gone, and I would imagine Chris Ash could also be gone soon if this continues.

Previous Ranking: 14

13. Nebraska (0-5, 0-3)

Last week: 41-24 LOSS at No. 16 Wisconsin

This week: at Northwestern (12:00 ABC)

Three straight Big Ten losses for the Huskers and they’ve allowed 40 or more points in all three.

It has been a tough start to the Big Ten season for Nebraska, taking on Michigan, Purdue and Wisconsin. This week, Nebraska struggled defending the run, which lots of teams will do against Nebraska. The Badgers ran for 370 yards and four touchdowns, including 221 yards and three touchdowns from Jonathan Taylor.

It was arguably Adrian Martinez’s best game as a Husker, throwing for 384 yards and two touchdowns, while rushing for 57 yards and another touchdown. However, their backs combined to rush for 56 yards on 10 carries. I will continue to say that you need to give Frost some time. He shouldn’t be judged by his results this week, but he needs to get a win at some point soon or else this fan base may come unhinged.

Previous Ranking: 13

12. Minnesota (3-2, 0-2)

Last week: 48-31 LOSS vs Iowa

This week: at No. 3 Ohio State (12:00 FS1)

Minnesota struggled a few weeks ago at Maryland. They were on a bye the week afterward, but this past weekend, after the bye, they came out and struggled again, this time allowing 48 points to Iowa. The Hawkeyes hadn’t scored 40 points in any game this season, and they ran up 48 points on the Gophers.

After having thrown zero interceptions in non-conference games, he has been welcomed into Big Ten play with five interceptions in his first two conference games. He threw for 218 yards, three touchdowns and three picks against Iowa last week. His three turnovers plus a poor rushing attack and bad defense created Minnesota’s second straight loss. Things aren’t going to get any better this week when they head to the Horseshoe.

Previous Ranking: 11

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

Last week: 38-17 WIN at Rutgers

This week: vs Purdue (3:30 BTN)

Illinois has a winning record heading into week seven of the college football season. How about that?

AJ Bush was back against Rutgers. He didn’t have to do much with his arm, throwing the ball only 18 times for 89 yards and a touchdown. However, Bush made an impact with his legs, rushing for 116 yards and two touchdowns. The Illini as a team ran for 330 yards and four touchdowns.

Not only are the Illini 3-2, but they now go back home to take on a 2-3 Purdue team. Illinois has a chance to be 4-2 and start thinking about going to a bowl game. This all could be an overreaction, but this team seems to be turning things around in year three of Lovie Smith.

Previous Ranking: 12

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

Last week: OFF

This week: at Illinois (3:30 BTN)

I don’t have anything to add about Purdue at the moment after their bye week. They’re better than their record, and they will have chances to prove that this season.

However, they better not sleep on Illinois. This is a better Illini team than in years past.

Previous Ranking: 10

T8. Indiana (4-2, 1-2)

Last week: 49-26 LOSS at No. 3 Ohio State

This week: vs Iowa (12:00 ESPN2)

Indiana kept things close in Columbus for a lot longer than most people thought. This was still a game as it crept into the fourth quarter. However, the Buckeyes ran away with it in the fourth to win the game pretty handedly.

This was arguably Peyton Ramsey’s best game, finishing with 322 yards and three touchdowns on 49 pass attempts. However, it was arguably the secondary’s worst game of the season. Dwayne Haskins threw for 455 yards and six touchdowns. The defense as a whole only had one sack and three tackles for loss.

There were positives from this game for the Hoosiers, but there was also the same narrative as always: Indiana can’t finish against top-tier teams. It feels like it’s coming, but it always feels that way, and never happens. Indiana will have some chances in the next two weeks to change that narrative.

Previous Ranking: 8

T8. Maryland (3-2, 1-1)

Last week: 42-21 LOSS at No. 15 Michigan

This week: vs Rutgers (12:00 BTN)

I was ready to praise Maryland if they could hang around with Michigan. However, they were beat down pretty badly at the Big House, and the Terrapins will return home having slipped in the rankings just a bit.

A lot of teams will struggle against Michigan’s defense, but there was no resemblance of an aerial attack, as Hill was 5-for-10 for 62 yards and an interception. The defense ended with zero sacks and only two tackles for loss, unable to get any penetration against the Michigan offensive line.

This should be a good opportunity to bounce back against Rutgers this week. Maryland will have some more opportunities to either pull a big upset or to just win some games in order to make a bowl game.

Previous Ranking: 7

T6. Northwestern (2-3, 2-1)

Last week: 29-19 WIN at No. 20 Michigan State

This week: vs Nebraska (12:00 ABC)

I’ve been waiting on this big win for Northwestern, because I believe they are better than their record shows, and with that win last weekend, I could finally move them up my rankings. I thought they would do it last week, but they squandered another lead. While they almost did it again this weekend, a big fourth quarter touchdown sealed the 10-point win over the previously ranked Michigan State Spartans.

While he threw two interceptions, Thorson was pretty solid, throwing for 373 yards and three touchdowns. The issue for Northwestern, after the retirement of Jeremy Larkin, is that they don’t have a running game. The Wildcats ran for 8 yards on 20 carries. That is a long-term issue that Pat Fitzgerald and company will need to figure out.

Previous Ranking: 9

T6. Michigan State (3-2, 1-1)

Last week: 29-19 LOSS vs Northwestern

This week: at No. 8 Penn State

Last week, I said I wasn’t too worried about Michigan State, after almost losing their lead against Central Michigan. However, I am now very worried about Michigan State after their latest loss, this time at home to Northwestern.

Lewerke had one of his best games of the season, throwing for 329 yards and a touchdown. However, they couldn’t get any sort of ground game going, rushing for under 100 yards as a team.

It is officially time to eliminate the Spartans from Big Ten Championship conversation. Now the Spartans need to avoid having another season like 2016, starting with high expectations and then missing a bowl game. I’m not saying they will, but they need to turn things around quick in the difficult Big Ten.

Previous Ranking: 4

5. Iowa (4-1, 1-1)

Last week: 48-31 WIN at Minnesota

This week: at Indiana (12:00 ESPN2)

Anything can happen in a rivalry game. That includes Iowa scoring 48 points. The Hawkeyes tore up the Gopher defense and held onto the Pig. Nate Stanley threw for 314 yards and four touchdowns while the defense had five sacks and three interceptions.

There still isn’t a lot to say about Iowa. They go about their business, but they missed their big chance against Wisconsin, so Indianapolis is probably out of the question. So Iowa will continue to win these games and get themselves into a decent bowl game.

Previous Ranking: 6

4. Wisconsin (4-1, 2-0)

Last week: 41-24 WIN vs Nebraska

This week: at No. 12 Michigan (7:30 ABC)

There isn’t a whole lot to take away from a home win against Nebraska, but that will change quickly when Wisconsin heads to the Big House for a primetime showdown.

Heisman candidate Jonathan Taylor continues to put up video-game numbers. After a 221 yard and three touchdown night from Taylor against Nebraska, he’s up to 849 yards and eight touchdowns for the season. He’s averaging 6.7 yards per carry and 170 yards per game this season. They will need him to be solid again against the incredible rush defense of Michigan, taking some of the pressure off Alex Hornibrook and the passing attack.

Previous Ranking: 5

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

Last week: OFF

This week: vs Michigan State (3:30)

Well, Penn State got a week off to regroup after an emotional loss against the Buckeyes. Now, they get a fired-up Michigan State team coming off a disappointing home loss.

Everyone seems to be eliminating the Nittany Lions after only one loss. As disappointing as a loss at home was, especially in the fashion in which they lost, they aren’t out of the playoff conversation yet. But they will need to win out and get some help in the conference in order to get back in the hunt.

Previous Ranking: 2

2. Michigan (5-1, 3-0)

Last week: 42-21 WIN vs Maryland

This week: vs No. 15 Wisconsin (7:30 ABC)

I’m starting to fall into Michigan’s yearly trap. They continue to beat up on mediocre opponents, so I start to believe in them as a contender. The reason most people are skeptical is that their wins this season are against Western Michigan, SMU, Nebraska, Northwestern and Maryland. Western Michigan and Maryland are the only two teams with winning records.

Everyone says if they can beat a good team, then they will start believing in Michigan. Well, the lights will be shining bright this Saturday when Wisconsin comes to town. A win in this game could not only get people to believe in the Wolverines but get them one step closer to a showdown with Ohio State at the end of the season.

Previous Ranking: 3

1. Ohio State (6-0, 3-0)

Last week: 49-26 WIN vs Indiana

This week: vs Minnesota (12:00 FS1)

It was a sloppy game for Ohio State, and they still won by 23. They turned the ball over three times, and still won by 23. Indiana torched Ohio State’s secondary, and they still won by 23. Let’s just say the Buckeyes are pretty dominant.

Dwayne Haskins was incredible, throwing for 455 yards and six touchdowns. The defense wasn’t fantastic against the Hoosiers, and I’m sure that’s one of the things Urban Meyer will try and fix.

Michigan is the only ranked team remaining on their schedule, and their next three games are against Minnesota, Purdue and Nebraska. The point is, Ohio State has plenty of time to work on some of their defensive issues, specifically defending the big play, before their games against Michigan State and Michigan.

Previous Ranking: 1

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