Big Ten Power Rankings: The Game can't get here soon enough
Big Ten Power Rankings: Week 6
Ohio State keeps dominating, and Michigan is an absolute force. Those two teams are obviously at the top, but how did the rest of the Big Ten Power Rankings shake out this week?
1. Ohio State Buckeyes
Last week: 1
It wasn’t the kind of show the Buckeyes put on against Rutgers a week earlier, but a 38-17, three-touchdown win over Indiana will do just fine when it comes to keeping Ohio State in the top spot. The Buckeyes racked up 290 yards on the ground, with J.T. Barrett rushing for 137 of them and scoring a pair of total touchdowns. Michigan is looking mighty impressive, but until Ohio State stumbles, it’ll remain on top.
2. Michigan Wolverines
Last week: 2
OK, Michigan. We see you. The Wolverines laid a 78-0 whooping on Rutgers on Saturday night, besting the shutout pasting Ohio State delivered a week prior by 20 points. The Knights are no good, but at this point, the Wolverines’ defense is so amazing it's beyond understanding. Michigan limited Rutgers to a jaw-dropping 39 total yards and just five passing yards on two completed passes. Meanwhile, the Wolverines rushed for 481 yards! Are you kidding? The Game can’t get here soon enough.
3. Wisconsin Badgers
Last week: 3
A bye week for the Badgers, but that defensive performance in that loss to Michigan is still relatively fresh in the collective memory. While the Wolverines’ defense has been out of this world, the Badgers aren’t too far behind, ranking fourth in the country in scoring defense (12.2 points per game) and 11th in the country in total defense (291.4 yards per game). Wisconsin doesn’t have an undefeated record anymore. But thanks to that defense, it still has one of the best chances to make a December trip to Indy.
4. Nebraska Cornhuskers
Last week: 4
The Huskers didn’t have a game this weekend, and they needed the bye week in a bad way. Nebraska’s top pass-catchers Jordan Westerkamp and Cethan Carter are nursing injuries that Mike Riley already said will keep them out of the team’s next game. Thankfully the Huskers are deep and Tommy Armstrong is playing like one of the best quarterbacks in college football. As long as Armstrong can keep the Nebraska offense humming, it’ll be a leader in the West Division race.
5. Penn State Nittany Lions
Last week: 7
Putting the Lions at No. 5 seems far too high given the inconsistent play they’ve demonstrated this season. But the middle of the Big Ten keeps beating each other up, leaving it a complete jumble each and every week. Penn State got the win this weekend, finding plenty of offensive success against the previously undefeated Maryland Terrapins. Saquon Barkley was already a wowingly terrific back, but he added to his legend this weekend, bursting out for a huge game: 202 yards and a touchdown plus a whole highlight reel worth of evasive maneuvers.
6. Iowa Hawkeyes
Last week: 10
After two bad losses in three weeks to North Dakota State and Northwestern, Iowa bounced back with a win over Minnesota. The Hawkeyes’ offense still looked pretty stuck in the mud, but the defense played great, holding the Gophers to 268 total yards. Both teams turned the ball over three times, so it’s not like Iowa has solved all its problems. But the poor trends of rushing the ball and being able to stop the run reversed, with Iowa holding a 179-102 rushing edge.
7. Indiana Hoosiers
Last week: 5
Running into a juggernaut like Ohio State will stop any team’s momentum. Such was the case for the Hoosiers, who mustered just 281 total yards against the Buckeyes, who boast one of the best defenses in the country. Another tough test awaits against Nebraska, but after that comes Northwestern, Maryland, Rutgers and Penn State — opportunities for the Hoosiers to establish themselves as one of the top teams in the conference’s middle tier.
8. Minnesota Golden Gophers
Last week: 8
Minnesota’s defense came to play in the battle for the Floyd of Rosedale, holding Iowa to just 14 points and one touchdown, also forcing three turnovers. Unfortunately the Gophers’ offense was completely ineffective, gaining just 102 rushing yards and getting just 13 completions from Mitch Leidner in 33 attempts, the quarterback also throwing two interceptions. For a team that found so much success on the ground behind Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks, the Gophers were unable to take advantage of weeks of poor play by the Hawkeyes’ defense against the run.
9. Maryland Terrapins
Last week: 6
After throttling Purdue 50-7 and gaining 400 rushing yards, Maryland lost its undefeated season against Penn State, beat up pretty bad as DJ Durkin saw what real competition looks like after a fun 4-0 start. The Terps were out-gained 524-270 in a 38-14 loss. In a complete reversal of the rushing success from a week prior, Maryland was out-rushed 372-170 this past weekend, Saquon Barkley going over the double-century mark and Ty Johnson bottled up for just 11 yards.
10. Northwestern Wildcats
Last week: 11
No game for the Cats this weekend, but obviously the taste in their mouths is still a good one following that upset win at Iowa. Things get a good deal dicier moving forward: Northwestern’s next four games come against Michigan State, Indiana, Ohio State and Wisconsin. Thankfully for the Cats that tilt with the Spartans looks far more winnable as Michigan State keeps losing. But still, escaping that stretch with two wins would probably be a success for Northwestern.
11. Michigan State Spartans
Last week: 9
What is happening with Mark Dantonio and the Spartans? It’s one thing to fall against a team playing as well as Wisconsin, but back-to-back losses to Indiana and BYU seemed unthinkable just three weeks ago. Obviously injuries that have depleted that linebacking corps are one of the reasons why things are all screwy in East Lansing. But does that excuse the kind of outcome from Saturday? The Cougars limited the Spartans to just 206 total yards, a ghastly number, while the Michigan State defense couldn’t stop BYU on third and fourth down, BYU converting 12 of 20 times.
12. Purdue Boilermakers
Last week: 14
For just the third time under Darrell Hazell, the Boilermakers won a Big Ten game, beating Illinois in Champaign for the second time during his tenure. The Illini were atrocious on defense, allowing Purdue to look like an offensive juggernaut of sorts a week after getting thumped 50-7 and mustering just 10 rushing yards against Maryland. Saturday the Boilers went for 459 total yards and 231 on the ground, benefiting from some late Illinois mistakes to sneak away with a win.
13. Illinois Fighting Illini
Last week: 12
Things are looking very, very bad for Lovie Smith in the first year of his rebuild of this program, and it looks like that journey will be a mighty long one. Credit the Illini offense for putting up some big numbers — 499 total yards and 315 rushing yards — after quarterback Wes Lunt went down with an injury. But the defense was gashed by Purdue of all teams. Plus, Illinois committed 12 penalties, missed a potential walk-off field goal and fumbled in overtime to hand the Boilers the win. Not a good sign for the Illini.
14. Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Last week: 13
If you thought the 58-0 thrashing at the hands of Ohio State was bad, Rutgers was mauled even worse by Michigan this past weekend, falling by an almost unbelievable score of 78-0. The Wolverines are looking sensational, and the Knights are certainly looking the opposite of that, gaining just 39 yards while allowing 600. Rutgers completed two passes for five yards. That sounds like pure fiction. It’s almost unfair that Chris Ash had to play back-to-back games like that, and luckily things get a whole lot easier with fellow basement-dweller Illinois on the docket this weekend.