What a weekend of college football. Iowa threw a wrench into the Big Ten and the college football playoff in general, knocking off Michigan in a Saturday night thriller. Let's see how the Big Ten shakes out this week in a little bit of a different format.
Tier 3: Looking to the future
14. Rutgers (2-8, 0-7) LW: 14
Same thing, different week. After consecutive weeks of looking like a competitive team, everything fell back to Earth, and hard, Saturday. On the surface this game looked embarrassing, but deep down was anything else truly to be expected? The Spartans were a top 20 team to start the season, and they looked it. The rush defense looked terrible and although they didn't give up too many passing yards, they gave up three passing touchdowns and just looked lost in the defensive backfield yet again. The Gio Rescignio bubble burst, as he threw for a Laviano-esque 40 yards and two interceptions, including an absolutely brutal pick-6 when the game was still in question. This was a step in the wrong direction for Coach Ash and with recruits starting to de-commit, something needs to change.
13. Purdue (3-7, 1-6) LW: 13
I feel like I could copy and paste my Purdue section every week because it is always the same thing. Another strong first half against Northwestern had Boilermaker fans excited, but they ran out of gas yet again in a disappointing 45-17 loss. Purdue is a team that will be tough in a few years as they continue to build and add depth to their team.
12. Maryland (5-5, 2-5) LW: 10
Their five wins come against teams with a combined record of 16-34 and they are coming off consecutive losses to Ohio State and Michigan by a combined score of 121-6. Quarterback play has fallen off the table and the Terps are at risk of missing out on being bowl eligible. They travel to Nebraska before a season finale game against Rutgers.
11. Illinois (3-7, 2-5) LW: 11
After a big win for the program against Michigan State, the Illini came back to reality with a 48-3 thumping against Wisconsin. The wins haven't come easy this year but, Lovie Smith is starting to build a foundation. Jeff George Jr. has seen lots of game action as a red-shirt freshman giving the program something to build on.
10. Michigan State (3-7, 1-6) LW: 12
I believe that the Sparty team you saw last week was the team experts thought they were going to be all season. An opportunistic passing attack combined with a dominant running game and ferocious defense is a winning strategy no matter the opponent. It will be interesting to see how the Spartans finish out their season, and see if they can build momentum to next season.
Tier 2: The jumbled mess that is the Middle of the Big Ten
9. Indiana (5-5, 3-4) LW: 7
This was one of the hardest teams to rank because the Hoosiers did not play poorly by any means Saturday against Penn Sate but, it is hard to knock a team like Northwestern when they are coming off a win. The Indiana offense showed it belonged on the national stage, showing an ability to almost score at will. The run defense limited Saquon Barkey, but their pass defense let them down at the worst times. The Hoosiers play Michigan this weekend before playing Purdue in the final week of the season.
8. Northwestern (5-5, 4-3) LW:8
The very definition of middle of the pack, the Wildcats got the job done after a scrappy first half from Purdue. Austin Carr has thrust himself into the discussion of best receivers in the country and week in and week out provides a spark for the Wildcats.
7. Iowa (6-4, 4-3) LW: 9
What a difference a week makes. A week after giving up over 500 yards to Penn State, the Hawkeyes rebounded with a resilient defensive effort to stun the Wolverines of Michigan. The passing game continues to struggle but, a strong game from New Jersey native Akrum Wadley pushed the Hawkeyes to victory. Similar to Michigan State, this weeks game represented the Iowa team most experts thought they were going to be.
6. Minnesota (7-3, 4-3) LW: 6
Facing a reeling Huskers team, the Gophers could not get the job done Saturday night. Minnesota continues to be a team that wins the games it should, but hasn't broken through in those 50/50 matchups that can go either way. Minnesota is going to a bowl game but, look for them to continue building to reach that next tier of contenders for a spot in the Big Ten championship game.
5. Nebraska (8-2, 5-2) [College Football Playoff Ranking :18] LW: 5
All the credit in the world to Tommy Armstrong who came back from a major injury against Ohio State, and then another injury against Minnesota, to lead Nebraska to a fourth quarter victory Saturday night. I feel like Nebraska fans look at Armstrong the same way Rutgers fans looked at Gary Nova, he makes you want to pull your hair out but, when he's gone you're going to miss him.
Tier 1: The Contenders
4. Wisconsin (8-2, 5-2) [College Football Playoff Ranking: 7] LW: 4
The Badgers have just about locked their spot up in the Big Ten championship game. They went in and got the job done against Illinois last week and will look to do the same thing against Purdue this weekend. The Badgers are currently on the outside looking in for the playoff picture but, a win in the Big Ten Championship game would make the selection committee really think.
3. Michigan (9-1, 6-1) [College Football Playoff Ranking: 3] LW: 1
If Wilton Speight was not injured I would still have Michigan number one but, with his status in question, I felt the Wolverines needed to take a little slide. Coming off a one point loss, in conference, on the road, isn't the worse thing in the world and the playoff committee obviously felt the same way. The Wolverines should be on upset alert this weekend facing a very solid Indiana team that has proven it can hang with the big boys.
2. Penn State (8-2, 6-1) [College Football Playoff Ranking: 8] LW: 3
I cannot express how much it hurts me to have Penn State this high but, the Nittany Lions have earned it. The Nittany Lions showed a lot about themselves coming back on the road to win a tough game that earlier in the season they might have lost. One thing to keep an eye on is the fact that they are dropping offensive lineman like flys and may have to remove red shirts on their two top offensive lineman recruits. They Nittany Lions control their own destiny and have the inside track to the Big Ten championship game. Penn State comes to Piscataway Saturday night.
1. Ohio State (9-1, 6-1) [College Football Playoff Ranking: 2] LW: 2
I'd like to see the deal that Urban Meyer signed with the devil. Year after year his team seems to catch a break, and this year is no different. Next weeks game against Michigan has lost some of its luster but will still help shape the college football playoff picture.