The top portion of the rankings got a nice jumble thanks to the final 10 seconds in Ann Arbor.
A play that will go down in college football lore was more than just a big moment in the Michigan State-Michigan rivalry. It was a big moment in this season’s race for a spot in the College Football Playoff. The Spartans stayed perfect and at 7-0 remain in a great position for one of those final four spots. The Wolverines, meanwhile, suffered their second loss of the season and are likely off the list of teams that still have a chance to play for a national title.
Squarely on that list, though, is Iowa, still undefeated at 7-0 with a pretty easy schedule the rest of the way.
Here’s how the teams landed in this week’s batch of power rankings.
1. Ohio State Buckeyes (7-0, 3-0)
Last week: 1
Still the kings of the hill after another win — that’s 20 in a row, for those counting at home — the Buckeyes still look every bit a national-championship contender. That offense everyone’s so worried about has produced at least 34 points in every game but one this season, including in each of the last four. This weekend’s 38-10 crushing came against Penn State, which boasts one of the country’s best defenses. Ezekiel Elliott is dominant, and while everyone wants J.T. Barrett (four total touchdowns this weekend) to supplant Cardale Jones as starter, just realize that Urban Meyer might know what he’s doing.
2. Michigan State Spartans (7-0, 3-0)
Last week: 5
Saturday’s win might have come in the most ridiculous fashion imaginable — Sparty scooped up a fumbled snap on a punt and returned it 38 yards as time expired to beat Michigan in an absolutely jaw-dropping manner — but there’s something to be said for still having a zero in the loss column. Michigan State’s defense played one of its best games of the season against its in-state rival. And Connor Cook aired it out in a strong performance. The Spartans aren’t showing any signs of breaking their habit of barely winning nail-biters, but who cares? They’re winning, at that’s all that matters, isn’t it?
[MORE BIG TEN: The guy who saved the day for Spartans ended up in the hospital]
3. Iowa Hawkeyes (7-0, 3-0)
Last week: 3
Speaking of winning, you know who’s done an awful lot of that? The Iowa Hawkeyes, who after a 40-10 shellacking of previously ranked Northwestern have a spotless record and the No. 12 ranking in the country. It’s much deserved, as Iowa seems to be firing on all cylinders, refusing to let injuries get in the way. A Drew Ott-less defense is playing great (held Northwestern to 61 rushing yards), a hobbled C.J. Beathard continues to carve up opposing defenses and after Jordan Canzeri went down with an injury, Akrum Wadley — the No. 3 running back — rushed for 204 yards and a school-record four touchdowns. Injuries be damned!
[MORE BIG TEN: Undefeated Hawkeyes up to No. 12 in AP poll]
4. Michigan Wolverines (5-2, 2-1)
Last week: 2
You really can’t blame Michigan for the final result in Saturday’s game, as it was due to one of the flukiest endings ever. The Wolverines defense is still playing incredibly well after limiting the Spartans to just 58 rushing yards. Michigan still boasts the No. 1 scoring defense in the land, holding opponents to an average of 9.3 points a game. You didn’t know how old-school modern-day college football could get until you saw Michigan play stunning defense and score multiple touchdowns with its full back. The College Football Playoff might be out of the picture after that second loss, but Jim Harbaugh still has Michigan looking great.
5. Northwestern Wildcats (5-2, 1-2)
Last week: 4
Northwestern, on the other hand, does not look great after a second consecutive blowout loss. Through five weeks, the Cats’ sensational defense was limiting opponents to seven points a game and the team was No. 1 in the Big Ten in rushing. The last two weeks, Northwestern has been outscored, 78-10, and rushed for a combined 89 yards in losses to Michigan and Iowa. The Cats sit fifth in these rankings thanks to the fact that those two losses have come against the current Nos. 12 and 15 teams in the country, and they won games earlier in the season against Stanford and Duke, currently Nos. 10 and 23, respectively. A tough schedule, but Northwestern needs to get things straightened out.
6. Wisconsin Badgers (5-2, 2-1)
Last week: 6
Wisconsin took its turn beating up on Purdue this weekend, rolling to the tune of 24-7. The Badger defense is one of college football’s finest, ranking third in scoring defense (10.9 points a game) and seventh in total defense (272.3 yards per game). Defensive coordinator Dave Aranda should most definitely get head-coaching consideration this offseason. Wisconsin’s only losses have come against the current Nos. 8 and 12 teams, but as good as the defense has been, there isn’t an impressive victory to be found, with the best win of the season being … Nebraska? And that win required a game-winning field goal in the final seconds.
[MORE BIG TEN: A slow start, but Badgers' defense powers win over Purdue]
7. Penn State Nittany Lions (5-2, 2-1)
Last week: 7
The Lions got thumped on their visit to Columbus, but should a loss to the No. 1 team in the country really earn much admonishment? Ohio State boasts a pretty prolific offense, which powered right past a typically stout Penn State defense. And a good Buckeye defense meant nothing doing for Christian Hackenberg and the Lions’ offense: Hackenberg completed just seven passes. But there was a bright spot in the return of Saquon Barkley, the freshman stud of a running back who missed the previous two games with an injury. Even against the nation’s top-ranked team, Barkley went for 194 yards. The kid is already one of the league’s best backs.
[MORE BIG TEN: J.T. Barrett has four total TDs as Buckeyes rout Penn State]
8. Illinois Fighting Illini (4-2, 1-1)
Last week: 9
No game this week for the Illini, but they move up a spot thanks to what everyone else did. Illinois needed this bye week, coming off a loss to Iowa, mostly because there are injury concerns all over the place. Running back Josh Ferguson missed the last game with a shoulder injury, and there’s still no telling when he’ll be back. Geronimo Allison — one of three Big Ten receivers with more than 600 receiving yards — was also battling an injury in the wake of the loss to the Hawkeyes. The Illini need to have those key offensive pieces healthy as a date with Wisconsin looms next.
[SHOP BIG TEN: Get your Fighting Illini gear right here]
9. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (3-3, 1-2)
Last week: 11
It doesn’t matter how little he's seen the field, there’s no denying that Leonte Carroo is the Big Ten’s best wide receiver. For the third time this season, Carroo caught three touchdown passes in a game, helping Rutgers stage an incredible comeback victory over Indiana in which it erased a 25-point deficit and kicked a game-winning field goal as time expired. There were a lot of heroes in that game — Robert Martin had four touchdowns, Kemoko Turay came up with a huge scoop and score and Chris Laviano is quietly having one of the best quarterbacking seasons in the conference — but Carroo is an absolute star. Here’s hoping Carroo is at full strength for the next game.
10. Indiana Hoosiers (4-3, 0-3)
Last week: 8
The Hoosiers put on an offensive show, scoring 52 points before the third quarter was even over. Unfortunately, Rutgers stormed back for an incredible comeback win. For Indiana, it was an incredible fall-from-ahead loss. Nate Sudfeld made some critical turnovers that cost the Hoosiers the game, but there’s no doubting how important his return was to a team that struggled to produce points without him. With the starting quarterback back in the lineup, three different Indiana receivers had more than 100 yards and the Hoosiers had 627 yards of offense. But next time, maybe don’t get outscored, 22-0, in the fourth quarter, OK?
11. Nebraska Cornhuskers (3-4, 1-2)
Last week: 12
Finally a dominating win for the Huskers. Boy, did they need a game like Saturday’s 48-25 whomping of Minnesota. Yes, the Nebraska defense again allowed 300 passing yards — this time to Mitch Leidner, not known for his prolific yardage totals — but it clamped down on the Gopher running game, limiting it to just 65 yards on the ground. Tommy Armstrong completed 69.2 percent of his passes, a major improvement over recent weeks, and threw three touchdown passes, while Terrell Newby went for 116 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Nebraska is far from being back on track with four losses to its name, but this was one very positive performance.
12. Minnesota Golden Gophers (4-3, 1-2)
Last week: 10
Meaning it was not a good day for the Gophers, who fell back to Earth after smoking Purdue a week before. While Mitch Leidner threw for a career-high 301 yards, he also threw two late interceptions. But it was the running game that let down Minnesota’s again-struggling offense Saturday, amassing just 65 yards. Playing from behind had something to do with the Gophers’ unusual lean toward the passing game, and Shannon Brooks only got eight carries and fumbled on one of them. What’s happened to a once-strong Minnesota defense, though? The Huskers totaled 464 yards of offense.
13. Maryland Terrapins (2-4, 0-2)
Last week: 14
No game this past week for Maryland, which meant no loss. The upcoming date with Penn State will mark the first game since Randy Edsall was fired as head coach. Things are still bad in College Park — they’d have to be for a head coach to get a midseason axe. But with Purdue looking as bad as it has, the Terps get a one-spot boost in this week’s rankings.
14. Purdue Boilermakers (1-6, 0-3)
Last week: 13
The Boilers were handled again, losing to Wisconsin, 24-7. Purdue really had no chance in this one, despite trailing by just a field goal at halftime. Even with that small deficit at the break, the Badgers had a massive advantage in just about every category. After the break, it was all Wisconsin. Purdue couldn’t even hit 200 total yards on the day and allowed 322 passing yards to Badger quarterback Joel Stave. Purdue ranks 101st in the country in scoring defense, allowing an average of 32.9 points per game. It’s not the worst mark in the conference, though, that belongs to Indiana.