Big Ten Power Rankings: Statement wins keep top teams looking strong
Big Ten Power Rankings: Week 3
Big wins for the top teams have the peak of the Big Ten mountain looking real strong heading into the start of conference play. Ohio State's win at Oklahoma, Michigan State's win at Notre Dame and Nebraska's win against Oregon have the Big Ten looking like the top league in college football. But how did this week's Big Ten Power Rankings shake out?
1. Ohio State Buckeyes
Last week: 1
The Buckeyes looked absolutely dominant in a huge road win at Oklahoma that cemented them as one of the country’s prime College Football Playoff contenders as conference play gets underway. J.T. Barrett was his usual play-making self, but young offensive stars are emerging in wide receiver Noah Brown (four touchdown catches, including maybe the catch of the year) and running back Mike Weber (123 yards on the ground). But that defense is probably Ohio State’s greatest strength at the moment. The Buckeyes lead the nation with nine interceptions, four of which — including one Saturday — have been taken back for touchdowns.
2. Michigan Wolverines
Last week: 2
Despite an early 21-7 hole, the Wolverines put on yet another blowout display, outscoring Colorado, 38-7, after the first quarter to run away with a win. Jabrill Peppers had a monster afternoon, racking up 204 all-purpose yards — including 54 on a punt-return touchdown — to go along with nine tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and one sack. There are other teams with better resumes after three non-conference games (Ohio State, Michigan State, Nebraska and Wisconsin all have better marquee wins), but few teams are dominating opponents in such a fashion as Michigan.
3. Michigan State Spartans
Last week: 6
Surprise, surprise. Mark Dantonio’s team came away with a big win in a big game. The Spartans, thanks to that ever-present chip on their shoulder, always seem to come through when the lights get bright (save that College Football Playoff loss to Alabama last season), and Saturday was no different, Michigan State heading into Notre Dame Stadium and playing some dominant football against the Fighting Irish. After going down 7-0 early, the Spartans scored 36 straight points in the second and third quarters, the defense simultaneously shutting down DeShone Kizer and the Irish offense.
4. Nebraska Cornhuskers
Last week: 5
How much different does this Nebraska team look than the one Mike Riley led to a 6-7 record in his first campaign just a season ago? The Huskers came up with a huge win over the perennially powerful Oregon Ducks, Tommy Armstrong delivering a clutch 34-yard touchdown scamper in the game’s final minutes for the go-ahead score. Armstrong had four total touchdowns in the game, and while the Huskers benefited greatly from the Ducks’ four failed two-point conversion attempts, this win was a landmark one for Riley & Co.
5. Wisconsin Badgers
Last week: 3
The Badgers raised a whole lot of eyebrows with a narrow six-point win over lowly Georgia State, a win that saw Wisconsin trailing in the fourth quarter. Behind backup quarterback Alex Hornibrook — who it sounds like won’t be the backup much longer — the Badgers got the requisite score to win the game, but style points these were not. Still, the Wisconsin defense stood tall much of the afternoon, holding Georgia State to just 302 total yards, only 33 of which came on the ground.
6. Indiana Hoosiers
Last week: 7
No game for the Hoosiers this past weekend, but they still have two wins in two tries and are getting it done on both sides of the ball for a change. The offense hasn’t been its typically explosive self through just two contests with new quarterback Richard Lagow running the show. But the defense has been totally different, ranking sixth in the Big Ten allowing an average of just 16.5 points a game.
7. Minnesota Golden Gophers
Last week: 8
The Gophers were off this past weekend, but Minnesota fans have to be happy with an offense that looks capable behind quarterback Mitch Leidner. Leidner has six total touchdowns through just two games, and only Ohio State and Michigan are scoring more points per game than Minnesota and it’s 44-point scoring average.
8. Iowa Hawkeyes
Last week: 4
Anyone who thinks North Dakota State’s win over Iowa on Saturday was an upset of epic proportions simply hasn’t been paying attention to the Bison, who have won five straight FCS national titles and now have beaten five straight Power Five conference opponents. Still, though, that was a rough one to lose for the Hawkeyes, who now face a steeper climb toward their College Football Playoff aspirations. Bouncing back will have to start on defense, where they let up 239 rushing yards. And on offense, Iowa mustered just 34 rushing yards.
9. Maryland Terrapins
Last week: 10
Guess who’s still undefeated? No one’s picking the Terps to be a surprise conference-title contender, but it’s a great start to the DJ Durkin Era in College Park. Durkin’s third win came in exciting fashion, with backup quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome rushing in for the game-winning score in double overtime after starting quarterback Perry Hills was injured. Maryland went for 246 rushing yards in the win, and Terps quarterbacks still haven’t thrown an interception through three games.
10. Penn State Nittany Lions
Last week: 9
Yes, the Lions won, bouncing back from that thrilling loss to Pitt with a win over in-state foe Temple. It was revenge following last year’s loss to the Owls, but it wasn’t exactly pretty. Saquon Barkley returned from an early injury for the game’s most critical touchdown: a 55-yard dash after the Owls came within three points in the fourth quarter. There were goods and bass on both sides of the ball. The Penn State defense bounced back by holding Temple to just 38 rushing yards, and the offense racked up 403 total yards. But the Lions benefited from Temple’s 13 penalties, and the Lions turned the ball over three times.
11. Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Last week: 12
The Knights seem to like playing from behind because a week after going down 14-0 to Howard before a comeback win, they went down 21-0 to New Mexico and came back for a victory. This time it was a 37-7 scoring advantage after the early deficit, and once more it was Janarion Grant driving the comeback in every imaginable fashion. Saturday, Grant threw a touchdown pass on a trick play and scored via a 69-yard punt return. Chris Ash better iron out these early deficits, though, because his Knights likely won’t be able to bolt back against the likes of Ohio State and Michigan State.
12. Northwestern Wildcats
Last week: 14
The Cats finally got in the win column, besting Duke for a win over a Power Five conference team after dropping their first two contests to a MAC squad and an FCS opponent. The best news, though, for Northwestern was the absolutely explosive passing game, something that hasn’t been seen in Evanston for quite some time. Clayton Thorson passed for 320 yards and a trio of touchdowns of 26, 44 and 58 yards. That’s a mighty positive sign as the Cats have been looking for offensive diversity for years.
13. Purdue Boilermakers
Last week: 13
No game for Purdue this past weekend, but the upcoming tests can’t look too promising. David Blough is coming off that five-interception game against Cincinnati, and another FBS team awaits in Nevada. The Wolf Pack aren’t very good, but Darrell Hazell still has just one win in non-conference play against FBS teams compared to nine loss during his tenure in West Lafayette.
14. Illinois Fighting Illini
Last week: 11
That promising start to the season might have been thanks to the competition, as Illinois has followed up a throttling of Murray State with back-to-back beatdowns of losses to North Carolina and Western Michigan that came by a combined 49 points. Saturday, the Illini managed just three rushing yards — three! — as the Broncos had their way, rushing for 287 of their own. And even more bad news: Both those games came in Champaign. What happens when Lovie Smith’s team has to go on the road?