Big Ten Power Rankings: Buckeyes, Michigan separate themselves
Ohio State pasted Rutgers. Michigan won a defensive clash with Wisconsin. The two East Division powers are looking the class of the conference after two big wins. See where all 14 teams landed in this week's Big Ten Power Rankings.
1. Ohio State Buckeyes
The best team in the Big Ten looked head and shoulders above its counterparts this weekend, steamrolling lowly Rutgers in a 58-0 blowout. Yeah, the Scarlet Knights don’t present much of a challenge, but the Buckeyes have been doing this to pretty much every team they’ve played so far. Relentless on offense behind J.T. Barrett, Mike Weber and a seemingly endless supply of pass-catchers. Suffocating on defense with a unit that looks as good as the two elite ones that went head to head in Ann Arbor. Until Ohio State loses or wins by fewer than a billion, it will stand firmly on top of this list.
2. Michigan Wolverines
After routing easy opponents in their first four wins, it was a bit of a mystery how the Wolverines would stack up against another top-tier team. They stack up just fine. The Michigan defense might just be the country’s finest, impressing with a tremendous performance against Wisconsin. The Wolverines held the Badgers to an eye-popping 159 total yards, shutting down the passing and rushing attacks that looked so good against Michigan State a week prior. And though the Wisconsin defense looked very good, too, the Michigan offense put up much better numbers, made the game’s biggest play and would’ve had a much bigger lead if not for three missed field goals.
3. Wisconsin Badgers
It’d be unfair to drop the Badgers too far down the list after suffering their first loss on the road to a top-four team with perhaps the nation’s stingiest defense. Yes, it looked like a heck of a step backward for Alex Hornibrook, who after impressing against Michigan State threw three picks against Michigan. But the Badgers’ defense remained awesome, benefiting from three missed field goals but also keeping the Wolverines to 130 rushing yards, coming away with a huge interception, recording four sacks and keeping the team in the game till the very end. Even if the loss bumped Wisconsin from college football’s elite, the defense still deserves that adjective.
4. Nebraska Cornhuskers
Still perfect. The Huskers needed a fourth-quarter comeback to beat the visiting Illinois Fighting Illini, but what a fourth quarter it was. Nebraska dropped 21 points with the offense dominating an Illinois defense that did its fair share of dominating through the game’s first 45 minutes. The Huskers got huge fourth-quarter efforts from Terrell Newby and Tommy Armstrong and flipped a panic-inducing loss into a two-touchdown win. The defense allowed just one Illini touchdown. With Mike Riley off to a tremendous start to Year 2 and Wisconsin falling at Michigan, is Nebraska the current Big Ten West favorite?
5. Indiana Hoosiers
What a win for Indiana over Michigan State on Saturday night, an overtime victory that might be the finest of the Kevin Wilson Era. Their first win over the Spartans since 2006, the Hoosiers took advantage of several critical mistakes, particularly in overtime when Michigan State missed a field-goal try and then bailed out Indiana with a penalty on the Hoosiers’ own missed kick. But give the Hoosiers credit because they deserve it. The offense woke up after a listless first half and flashed that big-play ability they’ve made a staple under Wilson, and the defense — easily gashable in recent seasons — made some huge plays against the Spartans, forcing three and outs at key moments and getting back-to-back sacks to make that overtime field-goal attempt so difficult.
6. Maryland Terrapins
Maryland is still undefeated and despite a soft schedule to this point has one of the best rushing attacks in the country. A win over lowly Purdue doesn’t often mean much, but this weekend’s was a 50-7 blasting that kept the good times rolling for first-year head coach DJ Durkin. Only six teams in college football have been better running the ball than the Terps, and two of them are ranked in the top seven in the AP poll, Ohio State (No. 2) and Louisville (No. 7). Maryland padded those numbers this weekend, out-rushing Purdue 400-10. Seriously. Four straight games against Penn State, Minnesota, Michigan State and Indiana might not end with a 4-0 mark, but they all certainly seem winnable at this point.
7. Penn State Nittany Lions
Penn State needed a win and got it this weekend, coming back to beat Minnesota in overtime. Amid questions about James Franklin’s job security and following a 49-10 thumping at Michigan, a three-point first half and double-digit halftime deficit wasn’t what anyone in Happy Valley wanted to see. But Trace McSorley came up big with 335 passing yards, and Saquon Barkley’s walk-off touchdown in the extra period produced some much-needed good feelings. And certainly this offense has been transformed. Last year, 471 total yards in a comeback win would’ve been close to unthinkable.
8. Minnesota Golden Gophers
The Gophers continued to put up good offensive numbers against the Nittany Lions, seeing a pair of rushers go over the century mark in an overtime loss, though that Penn State defense hasn’t provided much resistance to teams with good rushing attacks this season. Minnesota’s undefeated season ended with the loss in Happy Valley, and falling from a double-digit lead was not a great sign. But this offense seems far more capable than it has in recent seasons, and that should bode well for a long stretch of very winnable games against Iowa, Maryland, Rutgers, Illinois and Purdue.
9. Michigan State Spartans
It’s been a bad couple weeks for Sparty. After getting dominated on both sides of the ball by a very good Wisconsin team, Michigan State fell flat in an overtime loss to Indiana, a team it hadn’t lost to in a decade. There were mistakes aplenty, especially in that ugly extra period, which featured sacks of Tyler O’Connor on second and third down before a missed field-goal try on fourth down. But back-to-back short possessions ending in punts in the second half and giving up huge plays on three straight Indiana touchdown drives during that same stretch were perhaps more jarring from a team that has looked mostly terrific in recent seasons under Mark Dantonio.
10. Iowa Hawkeyes
What’s wrong with the Hawkeyes? A loss to a previously believed to be reeling Northwestern team now makes Iowa look like the plummeting group, the last three games featuring a pair of upset losses and a narrow win over Big Ten basement-dweller Rutgers. The biggest red flags come in the running game on both sides of the ball. Despite a deep running back corps, Iowa mustered a combined 113 rushing yards in its two losses to North Dakota State and Northwestern. And the last three weeks, the Hawkeyes’ defense has allowed rushing totals of 198, 193 and 239 rushing yards.
11. Northwestern Wildcats
The Cats looked like an entirely different team from the one that started the season 1-3 in a win over the Iowa Hawkeyes. The offense, in particular, was so good it was practically unrecognizable from the unit that was among the country’s worst last season and wasn’t off to an exhilarating start to this season. The Cats racked up 362 total yards including 198 yards rushing behind a big day from Justin Jackson. But the passing attack is quietly looking much better than it did last year, with Austin Carr catching three touchdown passes this past weekend and currently leading the Big Ten in receptions (32), yardage (465) and touchdowns (six).
12. Illinois Fighting Illini
For three quarters, the Illinois defense wowed against the then-No. 15 team in the country. But Nebraska stormed back with 21 points in the fourth quarter, spurred on by an impressive 10-and-a-half-minute drive straddling the third and fourth quarters. That clearly wore the Illini down, and the Huskers had some home-run plays on following drives. Of course, the Illinois offense didn’t help, with just one second-half drive accounting for all three of the team’s second-half first downs. But note that Illinois has played one of the tougher schedules in the country to date and gets relative breathers against Purdue and Rutgers in the next two weeks.
13. Rutgers Scarlet Knights
What can you say about how Rutgers was manhandled by Ohio State this past weekend? The Buckeyes are arguably the best team in college football. The Scarlet Knights are not, to put it mildly. Chris Ash’s former defense absolutely shut down his new offense. Rutgers gained just 116 total yards (compared to the whopping 669 that Ohio State put up), only 33 through the air on a mere three completed passes. Meanwhile, the Knights’ defense was torched for 410 rushing yards, surrendering 7.2 yards per carry while their offense averaged just 2.1 yards per attempt. This was no contest from the word go.
14. Purdue Boilermakers
With how bad Purdue has been under Darrell Hazell, seeing a lopsided score like 50-7 isn’t exactly surprising, but you’d think it would be a beat down handed out by Ohio State or Michigan. Not Maryland, which was in dire enough straits to fire its coach midway through last season. But the Terps demolished the Boilers on Saturday, out-rushing them by a ridiculous 400-10 margin. Purdue actually won the turnover battle and committed fewer penalties, but giving up 400 rushing yards and gaining only 10 is just an outrageous statistic.