With four teams in the top ten of the second edition of the College Football Playoff rankings, the top half of the Big Ten is looking better than ever. Last weekend, everything held to the serve, with the only upset being Illinois over Michigan State. With that in mind, let's dive into this weeks power rankings.
14. Rutgers (2-7, 0-6) LW: 12
Well, I was wrong. The defense was opportunistic and gave Rutgers a chance when it mattered but, the offense could not do anything and quite frankly the second half of Saturday's game was borderline unwatchable. The offensive line struggled to protect Gio and didn't open running lanes in the second half. The punt game was brutal, giving Indiana good starting field position, possession after possession. The pass defense was porous at best. That also doesn't take into account the numerous mental mistakes that occurred including: Andre Patton not getting out of bounds during the two minute drill, John Tsimis stepping out of bounds and getting called for illegal touching on a key third down, and Patton dropping a dime from Rescigno that would have been a touchdown. Now, there were some positives. The run defense did a much better job (although Indianas two biggest plays were rushing touchdowns), they blocked two field goals, and Kemoko Turay was back from the dead. Rutgers enters Saturday's game against Michigan State with yet another chance to grab a Big Ten win and start building momentum toward a huge game against Penn State on the 19th.
13. Purdue (3-6, 1-5) LW: 14
The Boilermakers again hung tough playing Minnesota close into the 4th quarter before ultimately fading in a 44-31 loss. Clearly a member of the bottom half of the Big Ten, Purdue has proven that they can compete and just need to play a 60 minute game. What sets teams like Purdue, Rutgers, and Illinois apart from the upper half of the Big Ten is not only a lack of top tier talent, but a lack of depth and you see that in the second half of games. Purdue hosts Northwestern this weekend.
12. Michigan State (2-7, 0-6) LW: 11
It feels light years ago that Sparty beat Notre Dame to go 2-0 on the season. The downward spiral continued again last week when the Spartans fell to Illinois on the road for the first time since 2009. The talent of a major power is still there for Sparty as they have players such as L.J Scott who are legit but, sometimes you just have those seasons where nothing goes right and this is it for Sparty. They host Rutgers this weekend in a battle to get out of the Big Ten basement.
11. Illinois (3-6, 2-4) LW: 13
I didn't think they had a shot, and it wasn't pretty, but they managed to "upset" Michigan State 31-27 at home. It was always going to take some time in Champaign, but it seems that Lovie Smith is starting to steer the boat in the right direction. The Illini face a major test this weekend heading to Camp Randall to take on the Badgers of Wisconsin.
10. Maryland (5-4, 2-4) LW: 10
Woof. Obviously it wasn't 78-0 but, Maryland is looking more and more like a game Rutgers is going to be in to close out the season after a 59-3 loss to Michigan. Quarterback play continues to be an issue as the Terps struggles continue after a 4-0 start to the season. The road won't get any easier as they host Ohio State at home.
9. Iowa (5-4, 3-3) LW: 6
Iowa takes a tumble after a disappointing showing against Penn State in a 41-14 blowout that could have been worse. Their defense gave up over 500 yards and their offense continued to struggle as the Hawkeyes lack a true offensive game changer. The Hawkeyes welcome Michigan to Kinnick Stadium Saturday night in prime time.
8. Northwestern (4-5, 3-3) LW: 8
22-21; 24-13; 24-20; 21-7. Four games against four ranked teams and the Wildcats have combined to lose them by a mere 30 points. The Wildcats continue to be a tough out but lack that signature win to bring them into the national picture. With games against Purdue and Illinois still to go, the Wildcats should get to 6 wins and become bowl eligible.
7. Indiana (5-4, 3-3) LW: 9
11 trips to the red zone and only SEVEN points is not going to get it done against most teams but, the Hoosiers were able to ride their passing game to a 33-27 win over Rutgers. Indiana throughly dominated Rutgers and proved me wrong when I said I thought Rutgers was the better team. Richard Lagow rebounded from a terrible first half to throw for over 400 yards in a game that was not nearly as close as the score indicated. The Hoosiers need to tighten up their special teams and figure out the kicking situation because they left 10 points on the field in missed kicks alone. Indiana hosts Penn State this weekend.
6. Minnesota (7-2, 4-2) LW: 7
I wanted to put them over Nebraska but couldn't find a way to do so after looking at the soft schedule Minnesota has played. The Golden Gophers somehow avoided Ohio State, Michigan, and Wisconsin this season and their best result is a 29-26 overtime loss to Penn State. Minnesota gets a chance to prove their record when they head to Lincoln Saturday night against the reeling Huskers.
5. Nebraska (7-2, 4-2) [College Football Playoff Ranking 19] LW: 5
I didn't think the Huskers were good, but, I didn't think they were bad enough to lose to Ohio State 62-3. I think part of that had to do with losing Tommy Armstrong to injury, but the Huskers did not represent themselves well Saturday night. They face an untested Minnesota team Saturday with a chance to either save their season or continue a late season slide.
4. Wisconsin (7-2, 4-2) [College Football Playoff Ranking: 7] LW: 2
They're boring, they're slow, they don't score a lot, but all the Badgers do is win. After grinding out a 21-7 win over Northwestern, the Badgers have put themselves in a spot where if they win out, including a win over Ohio State in the Big Ten title game, they will most likely be in the College Football Playoff, a crazy thought at the beginning of the season. Quarterback continues to be a question mark but, Jersey boy Corey Clement provides stability and success from the running back position.
3. Penn State (7-2, 5-1) [College Football Playoff Ranking: 10] LW: 4
Penn State continued it's march back to relevance with an emphatic 41-14 win over Iowa in a game that was worse than the score indicated. Saquan Barkley continued his Heisman campaign by rushing for over 200 yards and being a dynamic threat in general. His season reminds me a lot of Christian McCaffrey's 2015 season. An early season loss to Pitt continues to haunt Penn State as it could leave them out of the Big Ten championship game due to tie breakers.
2. Ohio State (8-1, 5-1) [College Football Playoff Ranking: 5] LW: 3
For at least one week, Ohio State looks to be "back". The big plays returned and the defense was flying around doing its thing. The Buckeyes need to win out to earn a spot in the Big Ten championship game where they will likely face Wisconsin.
1. Michigan (9-0, 6-0) [College Football Playoff Ranking: 3] LW: 1
Jim Harbaugh shows no mercy and anyone who gets in his way will be crushed. Two weeks separate us from the showdown of the 2016 when Harbaugh and Meyer showdown for all the marbles. Buckle up, it's about to get good.