Big Ten

Big Ten Power Rankings: Spartans score season's most impressive win


Big Ten Power Rankings: Spartans score season's most impressive win

Sparty on!

Michigan State scored the most impressive win of the 2015 season to date with its 31-28 win over Oregon on Saturday night in East Lansing. It's made the Spartans one of the country's best teams, but are they better than the Buckeyes?

Ohio State moved to 2-0, too, thanks to a 38-0 blanking of Hawaii, and the defending national champs still look the part.

Bottom line: This is going to be a fun season watching Ohio State and Michigan State duke it out in the polls before duking it out for real in November, perhaps with a trip to the College Football Playoff on the line.

Northwestern, Iowa and Illinois stayed perfect, too, with Week 2 wins. How do all the teams shake out this week?

Take a look:

1. Ohio State Buckeyes (2-0, 0-0)

Last week: 1

Until the Buckeyes give us a reason why they shouldn’t be ranked No. 1, they’ll stay at the top spot. Yes, Michigan State had the season’s most-impressive win to date, knocking off then-top-10 team Oregon on Saturday, but Ohio State was pretty darn impressive, too, even if it was a much easier task in blowing out Hawaii, 38-0. Yeah, maybe there were some folks concerned about a mere 17-0 lead after three quarters. But Ezekiel Elliott hit the end zone three times, and the Buckeyes’ defense was astounding, holding the Warriors to just 165 total yards and forcing four turnovers. No need to panic, people. Ohio State is as dominant as they come.

2. Michigan State Spartans (2-0, 0-0)

Last week: 2

Though while Ohio State remains the king of the Big Ten, Michigan State has closed the gap in mighty impressive fashion, moving into the top four after Saturday night’s monstrous win over Oregon and lining things up nicely for a shot at a spot in the College Football Playoff. The Spartans learned from last year’s loss against the Ducks, refusing to yield when Oregon threw a punch on Saturday, responding with big plays on both sides of the ball. It was a team effort, with all facets contributing: Connor Cook and Aaron Burbridge had a nice connection going, L.J. Scott had two touchdowns and the defensive front flustered Oregon quarterback Vernon Adams all night long. There’s no resume in college football right now stronger than the Spartans’.

[MORE BIG TEN: Revenge, achieved: Spartans stand strong, beat high-powered Oregon]

3. Northwestern Wildcats (2-0, 0-0)

Last week: 3

Eight quarters. No touchdowns. That’s a pretty good start for the Northwestern defense, which shone again in Week 2 after suffocating Stanford in Week 1. Eastern Illinois is an easy opponent, sure, but out-gaining a team 496-138 in a 41-0 blowout is still an impressive feat. Matt Harris had two picks in this game, returning one for a touchdown. Northwestern registered three sacks. Clayton Thorson is coming along nicely, but it was the running game with a massive afternoon, gaining an eye-popping 344 yards on the ground. A tough challenge awaits in Week 3, which brings a road trip to play Duke away from the comforts of Evanston.

4. Iowa Hawkeyes (2-0, 0-0)

Last week: 5

Iowa hasn’t played any world-beaters in two games, turning in wins over Illinois State and Iowa State, but the fashion with which its recorded those victories has been something to cheer about. The Hawkeyes slogged through games last season behind a generally ineffective offense. Not the case so far in 2015, as they followed up 431 yards in a 31-14 win over Illinois State with 475 yards in a 31-17 win over Iowa State. This time around, C.J. Beathard was downright excellent, throwing for 215 yards and three touchdowns, and Jordan Canzeri had a big day on the ground, going for 124 yards and a score. There are injury concerns moving forward, with star defensive end Drew Ott injured in the win over the rival Cyclones. But two weeks in, the Hawkeyes are looking like one of the Big Ten’s better teams.

[MORE BIG TEN: Northwestern No. 23, Spartans up to No. 4 in AP poll]

5. Minnesota Golden Gophers (1-1, 0-0)

Last week: 4

It sure wasn’t easy — is it ever with this Minnesota team? — but the Gophers were able to bounce back from a season-opening loss with a win over Colorado State in Week 2. The schedule has been and will remain extremely tough, and it showed. Minnesota needed a late scoring drive and a Colorado State fumble in overtime to squeak by with a 23-20 victory. The numbers ended up looking pretty good as the Gophers out-gained the Rams by 100 yards and Mitch Leidner threw two touchdown passes. But there’s no dancing around the fact that the Gophers’ offense is still not where it needs to be. It was enough against Colorado State — and this was a quality win after a “quality” loss to TCU in the opener — but will it be against Ohio State and Wisconsin?

6. Wisconsin Badgers (1-1, 0-0)

Last week: 7

Now that’s how you bounce back. Injury concerns still linger, as Corey Clement couldn’t go in Week 2 after seeing limited action in Week 1. But generally this was a perfect day for the Badgers, who followed up an embarrassing season-opening loss to Alabama with a 58-0 dismantling of Miami (Ohio). Joel Stave was great for the second week in a row, throwing for 236 yards and three touchdowns. And Clement backups Taiwan Deal and Dare Ogunbowale combined for 157 rushing yards and three touchdowns, boosting a run game that did nothing against Alabama. The Wisconsin defense answered the bell after getting run all over by Alabama, holding Miami to negative-three rushing yards. The Badgers can’t play Miami every week, but they’ll take it as a confidence booster after the way the Paul Chryst Era got started.

[MORE BIG TEN: It's only Week 2, but Spartans look to be on playoff track]

7. Illinois Fighting Illini (2-0, 0-0)

Last week: 8

Also from the “great performances against terrible opponents” department, the Illini are a rock-solid 2-0 after smoking Western Illinois, 44-0, on Saturday. That brings Illinois’ two-game scoring total to 96-3, and much like the other Land of Lincoln team, the orange-and-blue defense has also gone eight quarters without allowing a touchdown. That defense continued to impress this week, holding Western to 141 total yards, grabbing a pair of interceptions — both from Taylor Barton — and blocking a punt that was returned for a touchdown. Wes Lunt was good again, throwing for 316 yards. For a team that two weeks ago was deemed to be in total disarray, the 2015 has gotten off to a very good start under interim head coach Bill Cubit. A step up in competition comes in Week 3 with a road trip to North Carolina.

8. Nebraska Cornhuskers (1-1, 0-0)

Last week: 6

Nebraska didn’t lose on a Hail Mary this weekend, and that’s a step in the right direction. No, it was a very good week for the Huskers, who blew out South Alabama, 48-9. Nebraska posted 561 yards of offense, 303 through the air and 258 on the ground. Tommy Armstrong was again strong and now has 589 passing yards and five touchdowns through two games. But this was the Terrell Newby Show, a bust-out game for the Huskers’ new top back. He rushed for 198 yards and a pair of touchdowns and added a touchdown catch, too. While South Alabama is not an impressive foe and still managed to pass for 313 yards, the Huskers held the Jaguars to just 19 rushing yards on 24 attempts and kept them out of the end zone. Not bad for a defense carved up by BYU a week earlier.

[MORE BIG TEN: Illini crush Western Illinois, two straight dominant wins under Cubit]

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

Last week: 9

Another nice bounce back in the Big Ten, Michigan needed it after that season-opening loss to Utah. The Wolverines got a big day on the ground to power the first win of the Jim Harbaugh Era. The team rushed for 225 yards, and De’Veon Smith scored three touchdowns in a 35-7 win over Oregon State. The Wolverines’ defense impressed, too, limiting the Beavers to a staggeringly low 138 yards. Some of that had to do with Oregon State mistakes, but it was a tremendous effort from the Michigan defense, nonetheless. Jake Rudock isn’t exactly out of the woods yet, throwing another pick in this game to come within one of his 12-game total a season ago. But overall, it was a very good day for the Wolverines.

10. Indiana Hoosiers (2-0, 0-0)

Last week: 12

Well, the Hoosiers have two wins. And if we’re going to stop there, that’s a perfectly fine start. The Indiana defense was actually improved in a Week 2 win over Florida International, but it again seemed way too close for comfort against a team the Hoosiers should have beat handily, much like the Week 1 near-loss to Southern Illinois. This time, Indiana out-gained its opponent but still allowed more than 400 yards of offense and trailed in the fourth quarter. But a game-tying field goal was followed shortly by a go-ahead touchdown pass from Nate Sudfeld — who had three total touchdowns — and the Hoosiers defense responded with a big play, a pick six late in the fourth to go up two scores. Indiana had 11 penalties but got another big day from Jordan Howard. There's good and bad, but the Hoosiers are 2-0.

[MORE BIG TEN: De'Veon Smith, defense lead Michigan to first win of Harbaugh Era]

11. Purdue Boilermakers (1-1, 0-0)

Last week: 13

After a late collapse to lose in Week 1 at Marshall, Austin Appleby and Purdue bounced back nicely against Indiana State, taking down the FCS opponent, 38-14. Appleby threw four interceptions in that game against Marshall, but Saturday the quarterback had four touchdown passes (and no picks). The most-impressive was a 51-yard Hail Mary score to end the first half. It was another good day on the ground, with 251 rushing yards, D.J. Knox going for 91. It might not have come against high-quality competition, but it was a win the Boilermakers needed.

12. Penn State Nittany Lions (1-1, 0-0)

Last week: 14

Speaking of a much-needed win, Penn State was the talk of the country for all the wrong reasons after a stunning Week 1 loss to Temple. But the Lions avoided disaster a second week in a row, beating Buffalo relatively easily, 27-14. Christian Hackenberg’s numbers still remain unimpressive, as he threw for 128 yards and a touchdown. But Penn State might be onto something with running back Saquon Barkley, who with just 12 carries amassed 115 yards and scored a touchdown. Barkley was a highly rated recruit in the Class of 2015, and he busted out with a big game Saturday. Perhaps a little more Barkley will do the Lions good as Hackenberg and the passing attack continue to underwhelm.

[MORE BIG TEN: Rutgers' receiver Leonte Carroo suspended for second time this season]

13. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (1-1, 0-0)

Last week: 10

Losing a home game is never good. Losing a home game to a team that lost to Portland State the week before is terrible. Rutgers looked so good in Week 1, winning by 50. But in Week 2, a not-so-great Washington State team took it to the Knights, winning a 37-34 decision. The Knights almost pulled off a tremendous comeback, erasing a two-touchdown deficit and scoring 22 points in the fourth quarter, the team’s third touchdown of the final frame coming with just a minute and a half remaining. That was Janarion Grant’s second kick-return touchdown of the quarter. But the Cougars hit the end zone with 13 seconds to play, ending the game in crushing fashion. The Knights could’ve used a big win to distract from the off-the-field issues — which kept coming with the indefinite suspension of Leonte Carroo on Sunday — but instead it lost in gut-wrenching fashion.

14. Maryland Terrapins (1-1, 0-0)

Last week: 11

Will Likely had another punt-return touchdown, and the Terps led at halftime. If only it could’ve ended there. After a long halftime caused by a lightning delay, Maryland and Bowling Green traded touchdowns in an extremely exciting second half. But then Bowling Green kept going without Maryland answers, and one big play after another had the Falcons cruising to victory thanks to a 28-7 fourth-quarter scoring edge. Maryland lost the game, 48-27, but the bigger headaches might come at quarterback. Randy Edsall pulled the plug on Perry Hills after the starting quarterback threw a costly interception. But backup Caleb Rowe fared even worse, throwing two interceptions in his three passing attempts.

See how they stack up: Week 12 college football top 25 rankings


See how they stack up: Week 12 college football top 25 rankings

With Week 12 in the books, here’s my top 25:

1. Oklahoma (10-1)

Still the team with the best resume in the country, no one can compete with OU’s wins over TCU, Ohio State and Oklahoma State, the latter two coming away from Norman. Baker Mayfield might not be a choir boy, but he’s the best player in the nation.

2. Miami (10-0)

You might think that being down 28-14 to Virginia in the second half was cringe-worthy, but the Canes made up for things by storming back with 30 unanswered points. Now they finally have to go away from South Florida for the first time since almost losing to North Carolina last month.

3. Alabama (11-0)

Tide gonna roll. But this Cupcake Weekend in the SEC has got to stop. While teams in other conferences are slugging it out against rivals, Bama gets to take a day off against Mercer? It’s just not fair. Also, Bama’s schedule is so soft, there’s no way it deserves to be the No. 1 team in the country.

4. Georgia (10-1)

The Dawgs should wrap an 11-1 regular season this weekend against Georgia Tech. But the SEC title game presents a kind of no-win scenario: undefeated Alabama or Auburn, who throttled Georgia earlier this month.

5. Wisconsin (11-0)

You didn’t need Wisconsin to do what it did to Iowa and Michigan to prove it had one of the best defenses in the country — but that sure didn’t help. Stockpiling national love with those two wins, a win in the Big Ten title game figures to make the Badgers a Playoff lock.

6. Clemson (10-1)

Why’d Kelly Bryant have to go and get hurt for that Syracuse game? The Tigers would be No. 1 and the undisputed best team in the country. Still, though, a win over Miami in the ACC title game ought to get the champs back into the Playoff.

7. Auburn (9-2)

Great job pounding Louisiana-Monroe, Tigers. You shall not escape the wrath over Cupcake Weekend in the SEC. That dumb game aside, Auburn and Alabama will meet in a titanic Iron Bowl this weekend with a trip to the SEC title game on the line — and perhaps a Playoff spot, as well.

8. Ohio State (9-2)

Not that pummeling Illinois is any big deal, but the Buckeyes are still alive in this thing and look like a team capable of making some Playoff noise. First, Ohio State has to win The Game and then the Big Ten title game to knock out undefeated Wisconsin.

9. Notre Dame (9-2)

Out of the Playoff chase thanks to that loss at Miami, Notre Dame squeaked by Navy this past weekend. Hope a New Year’s Six bowl game is enough for the Irish. We know it’s not enough for those ND fans. So maybe join a conference? Just saying.

10. TCU (9-2)

The Frogs can still make their mark on the Playoff race, even if they can’t get in themselves. The Big 12 title game will almost surely be TCU’s attempt at revenge on Oklahoma. Unfortunately, if revenge does come, it will probably cannibalize the conference’s Playoff hopes, too.

11. Penn State (9-2)

Why Penn State gave up 44 points to Nebraska, I do not know. What I do know is that probably no one cared because Penn State is going to go down as the most inconsequential 10-2 team of all-time. Such a bummer considering the preseason expectations for both the team and Saquon Barkley.

12. USC (10-2)

Yeah, I guess there’s still a way for USC to make the Playoff, but it’s hard to imagine that madness unfolding, even in the oft-mad college football. The Trojans get the winner of the Apple Cup in the Pac-12 title game.

13. UCF (10-0)

Finally we get our much-anticipated UCF-USF showdown this weekend. Make it count, Knights. This is probably gonna be Scott Frost’s last regular-season game in Orlando.

14. Washington (9-2)

It’s hard to say who has the edge in the Apple Cup, but certainly the stakes are high, with the winner going off to play USC in the Pac-12 title game. Can either team make the Playoff? Well, probably not, no.

15. Washington State (9-2)

Is this it for Mike Leach on The Palouse? He could be a hot candidate this offseason and leave for perceived greener pastures. Winning the Apple Cup would go a long way toward making that happen.

16. Mississippi State (8-3)

A win in the Egg Bowl means a 9-3 regular season for the Bulldogs with their three losses coming against three top-10 teams.

17. Oklahoma State (8-3)

Poor Okie State has been so good all year and had two losses to the two best teams in its conference, and then it went and lost to K-State for some ridiculous reason. The Mullet deserved better in 2017.

18. Northwestern (8-3)

The Cats are the fourth-best team in the Big Ten, simple as that, with wins over Michigan State and Iowa and conference losses to Wisconsin and Penn State. As commendable an effort as you’ll find in a highly competitive league. Plus, Fitz’s team is on a six-game win streak that could end up extending to eight.

19. Stanford (8-3)

Already with a win over Washington, Stanford could close the regular season with two wins over top-10 teams in its final three games. Also Bryce Love is back in the groove after back-to-back 100-yard games.

20. Memphis (9-1)

The Tigers have lost just one game all season, to the best Group of Five team out there. Heck of a season by Memphis.

21. Michigan State (8-3)

A 17-7 win over Maryland couldn't have been the most exciting way for anyone to spend their weekend. Sparty's had a mighty fine season, though, considering how badly things went in 2016.

22. LSU (8-3)

The SEC has seemingly gotten increasingly better as the year has progressed, with LSU and Mississippi State making for a solid-enough middle tier. But remember when LSU lost to Troy? That wasn’t good.

23. South Florida (9-1)

If not for that loss to Houston, USF’s showdown with UCF this weekend would be for Group of Five supremacy. Even without that, though, this should be a highly entertaining affair.

24. Virginia Tech (8-3)

The Hokies have a chance to salvage their tumble at the close of the season with a win at Virginia. But given how well the Cavs played at Miami this past weekend, a VT win is no sure thing.

25. Iowa State (7-4)

I understand the math and all, but can't the Big 12 just suspend its rules and send Iowa State to the title game? We all want to see the OU-ISU rematch. Why are you preventing us from being happy, Big 12?

See how they stack up: Week 11 college football top 25 rankings


See how they stack up: Week 11 college football top 25 rankings

With Week 11 in the books, here’s my top 25:

1. Oklahoma (9-1)

The Sooners probably won’t be No. 1 in the Playoff rankings, as the committee will almost surely move Bama up a notch. But OU has an incredible resume, one much better than the Tide’s, with wins over Ohio State, TCU and Okie State. No one in the country can compete with those wins.

2. Miami (9-0)

The Canes are too legit to quit after pulverizing Notre Dame on Saturday night. That signature win teamed with the prior week’s win over Virginia Tech makes that near loss to lowly North Carolina seem like forever ago. Welcome to Miami, indeed.

3. Alabama (10-0)

A great win on Saturday night by the Tide in what seemed like their first actual game of the season. The schedule has been soft as silk, but now Auburn’s status as an SEC juggernaut makes the Iron Bowl a colossal clash.

4. Georgia (9-1)

Knocked off the top of the college football mountain, the Dawgs still deserve to be in the Playoff field, just a one-loss team with that one loss coming to another top team and that still-excellent win at Notre Dame. The resume’s still there, but now the SEC title game will be for all the marbles.

5. Wisconsin (10-0)

Bucky’s sitting pretty after making Iowa look like an FCS team on Saturday — especially impressive considering what Iowa did the week prior. Expect Michigan and Minnesota to provide decent enough challenges, but it seems like Wisconsin’s set up for a Big Ten title-game date with Ohio State.

6. Clemson (9-1)

Miami is the king of the ACC, but thankfully the ACC title game looks to be a Playoff play-in game between the Tigers and Canes. The champs still have as good a shot at this thing as anyone.

7. Auburn (8-2)

Two-loss Auburn in the Playoff? It’s not crazy at all after what the Tigers did to Georgia on Saturday, destroying the No. 1 team in the country and setting up what will be another titanic Iron Bowl meeting with Bama.

8. Notre Dame (8-2)

The Irish’s Playoff hopes sank like a ship in Biscayne Bay thanks to the demolition Miami dolled out on Saturday night. ND’s resume is still fine — two losses to two Playoff-caliber teams. But with no conference title to play for, a two-loss ND team might as well be a six-loss ND team.

9. Ohio State (8-2)

Guess who's still lurking in the Playoff race? It seemed Brutus was dead as could be after getting woodshedded by Iowa last weekend, but then Ohio State put a whooping on Michigan State and everyone’s ears perked up again. Appearing destined for the Big Ten title game, things could get interesting.

10. TCU (8-2)

The Frogs will most likely still get a crack at a Big 12 title — and revenge on the Sooners, who picked em apart on Saturday — but the Playoff might be out of the cards now.

11. Oklahoma State (8-2)

You know who’s still really good despite having losses to the two top teams in the Big 12? Okie State. That was some game between the Pokes and the ‘Clones on Saturday. If only the Mullet could be unleashed on the Playoff. Alas.

12. USC (9-2)

Dramatically overrated in the last batch of Playoff rankings, the Trojans now seem to be the cream of the unimpressive Pac-12 after Washington’s loss. All sorts of madness would have to occur in order for USC — or any Pac-12 team — to land in the final four.

13. Penn State (8-2)

Great job beating up on Rutgers this weekend, Penn State. Now what? With games against Nebraska and Maryland left, will any preseason favorite (outside Florida State, of course) get less attention down the stretch than the Lions?

14. UCF (9-0)

Central Florida is that Group of Five team this year. If it beats USF in the regular-season finale, people you know will be like, “Why shouldn’t UCF be in the Playoff?” And you’ll just have to give them a look and walk away.

15. Washington State (9-2)

Wazzu has to win one game and it’ll play USC for a Pac-12 title. Despite the lack of Playoff stakes, the Cougs winning a conference championship would be a pretty big deal.

16. Washington (8-2)

Of course, standing in Wazzu’s way is Washington, which tripped up against Stanford and could follow up last year’s Playoff appearance with absolutely nothing.

17. NC State (7-3)

The ACC and SEC seemed to have flipped roles overnight. The once-mediocre SEC now has three playoff-caliber teams and a couple other decent ones. The once-awesome ACC now has two of the best teams in the country and then … NC State.

18. Mississippi State (7-3)

The Bulldogs put up one heck of a fight against Bama on Saturday, and if it wasn’t for that ridiculous sequence of play-calling following Bama’s missed field goal, they might have won. Oh well.

19. LSU (7-3)

LSU beat Arkansas on Saturday, which isn’t a terribly difficult thing to do. 2017 will go down as a “what if” year for the Bayou Bengals. As in, what if they hadn’t lost to Troy?

20. Stanford (7-3)

Two of Stanford’s losses have come against ranked teams. It’s now beaten Washington and could beat Notre Dame in two weeks. It has one of the best running backs in America. So shouldn’t Stanford be better?

21. Memphis (8-1)

Since losing at UCF, Memphis has rolled everyone, winning five straight by an average of 47.8-27.2. Good job, Memphis.

22. Arizona (7-3)

The Wildcats are 7-3 this season and have scored at least 45 points in every one of those wins. That includes last weekend’s win over Oregon State, in which Khalil Tate ran for 206 yards and two touchdowns. Dude's good.

23. Northwestern (7-3)

Meow. The Cats are winners of five straight, even if their overtime streak came to an end. The quest for a 9-3 finish is on, with only Minnesota and lowly Illinois left on the regular-season schedule.

24. Michigan State (7-3)

Two losses in three weeks for Sparty, who got absolutely steamrolled by Ohio State this past weekend. Michigan State will likely be rooting for Michigan in The Game as it would figure to wrap its regular season with wins over Maryland and Rutgers.

25. West Virginia (7-3)

The ‘Neers have only lost to Virginia Tech, TCU and Okie State, which is not too bad. But that’s a couple losses too many in the high-flying Big 12.

Others receiving votes:

Virginia Tech (7-3)

Things have bottomed out for the Hokies, who have lost back-to-back road games to Miami and Georgia Tech after a 7-1 start. Without the loss to the Jackets, Virginia Tech’s resume would look real nice. But alas.

Iowa State (6-4)

There was almost another Attack of the ‘Clones this past weekend in a thriller with Okie State. But the Pokes came out on top, sending Iowa State to its fourth loss. That dream Big 12 title game featuring the ‘Clones? A fantasy. Sigh.

Michigan (8-2)

Michigan only has two losses, which means it has to be kinda good, right? Well, it’s lost its only two games against ranked teams and its best win is Florida, so … no, I guess not.

South Florida (8-1)

Way to beat UConn, South Florida.