The Big Ten conference had a representatively strong Week 1, with an overall record of 12-2. Of the losses, one was understandable (Northwestern at Stanford) and one was downright strange (Purdue losing to Nevada on the road, on a last-second, 56-yard field goal kicked by a freshman walk-on).
Here is the first set of Big Ten Power Rankings for the 2019 season. To level set, I’ll be sharing with you some ground rules for how to handle these rankings:
1) Rankings are created using a combination of past results (weighted for strength of schedule), mostly using the eye test but with some input from ESPN’s S&P+ efficiency ratings.
2) Rankings are representative of a point in time, not future results. Rankings will be updated every week after the slate of games is completed.
3) You can assume a team would beat every team beneath them at a neutral site. So #8 would beat #9-14 at a neutral site, #9 would beat #10-14, etc.
4) Where two teams seem tied in every way imaginable, I default to the method used in a classic 1989 episode of“Perfect Strangers” (i.e., whichever team’s mascot would win in a fair fight gets the higher rating). I’m mostly kidding on this one, but I reserve the right to use it as necessary.
Without further delay, here are the Big Ten Conference Power Rankings after Week 1 of the 2019 College Football season.
14. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (1-0, 48-21 victory over UMASS in Week 1, at Iowa Week 2). There were positive developments in our Week 1 victory over a weak UMASS team, but we are going to remain in the bottom spot until we see continued signs of demonstrable progress. The easiest way to move to #13 (or even #12) in these rankings would be to give Iowa a tough fight next Saturday on the road in Iowa City.
13. Illinois Fighting Illini (1-0, 42-3 victory over Akron in Week 1, at UCONN Week 2). Akron’s not a strong opponent (they’re about the same as UMASS in terms of S&P+), so Illinois gets the edge over Rutgers for 13th position due to a stronger overall defensive performance in their game. I’d expect Illinois to win in Week 2 against the bottom dweller of the American Athletic Conference in Storrs, so things look (relatively) up in Champaign this week for Lovie Smith’s crew. The long view isn’t fantastic, however.
12. Purdue Boilermakers (0-1, 34-31 loss to Nevada in Week 1, vs. Vanderbilt Week 2). Did you see the finish to this game? If you haven’t yet, do yourself a favor and leave this thread, watch the linked short video above – it’s less than a minute -- and come back. What a crazy finish in Reno this week. Purdue fans are rightly upset about the start of their season – they’ll probably feel better after they undoubtedly shock Penn State later this season. Purdue is a weird, idiosyncratic team.
11. Northwestern Wildcats (0-1, 17-7 loss to Stanford in Week 1, ODDLY TIMED BYE Week 2). The Fighting Wilbons have to be concerned about their lack of offense, after benching their starting QB (Clemson transfer and former five-star recruit Hunter Johnson) and seeing their backup QB get seriously injured in yesterday’s loss. Based on S&P+ efficiency ratings, Stanford’s a bit overrated (more of a 35-40 rated team), and Northwestern could have played cleaner football.
10. Maryland Terrapins (1-0, 79-0 victory over Howard in Week 1, vs. Syracuse Week 2). I would have put Maryland #12 pre-season. They move up a little after thoroughly stomping a weak FCS team in Howard, but the true test will come next weekend in College Park against a nationally ranked Syracuse Orange team (it hurts typing that last sentence). Fun fact: Howard’s head football coach is former Rutgers OC Ron Prince. I wish him luck with Howard.
9. Minnesota Golden Gophers (1-0, 28-21 victory over South Dakota State in Week 1, at Fresno State Week 2). There isn’t a ton of differentiation in this list, numbers 10 through 7 – you could really put them in any order. I wouldn’t have been surprised if Minnesota lost to a very talented FCS team in South Dakota State at home in Week 1, and I won’t be surprised if they lose at Fresno State in Week 2. That being said, for now, based on strength of opponents so far, I’m comfortable ranking them ahead of Maryland at the present time.
8. Indiana Hoosiers (1-0, 34-24 victory over Ball State inWeek 1, vs. Eastern Illinois Week 2). It took Indiana almost the entire sixty minutes of football yesterday to break away from a weak FBS opponent in Ball State (109 in preseason S&P+ rankings). Why do I rank them ahead of Maryland and Minnesota? Simply put, I’m putting a win against a weak FBS opponent on a neutral site ahead of a home squeaker against a strong FCS opponent (or a blowout against a weak FCS). Unlike the crazy Indiana fans on Reddit, I don’t think Indiana will win nine games this season. Six or seven might be possible, though, depending on how things shake out.
7. Nebraska Cornhuskers (1-0, 35-21 victory over South Alabama in Week 1, at Colorado Week 2). Kind of funny when a hot preseason pick more or less completely fails to show up at home against one of the worst teams in FBS, isn’t it? This was a seven-point game going into the fourth quarter, and Nebraska was one fumble recovery and one elite punt return away from one of the more substantial upsets in a little while. All that said, among the mess in the lower-middle of the Big Ten right now, Nebraska is the more talented of the teams listed so far.
6. Iowa Hawkeyes (1-0, 38-14 victory over Miami (OH) in Week 1, vs. Rutgers Week 2). Miami (OH) at Iowa was a weird game, because it seemed like a closer effort than the final score indicated. Iowa’s methodical approach on offense and some silly mistakes kept Miami (OH) in the game up until halftime, after which the gears finally began to turn for the Hawkeyes. Iowa’s a strong, steady team with veteran leadership, and it will be very tough indeed for Rutgers to compete against these strengths next Saturday. They opened as 20 point underdogs.
5. Michigan State Spartans (1-0, 28-7 victory over Tulsa in Week 1, vs. Western Michigan Week 2). Darn you, Michigan State, for ruining my three-team B1G ATS parlay by only beating Tulsa by 21 points! Though I could have used the $40 in my DraftKings account, Michigan State’s stout defense led the way in a victory that was not as close as the score would lead you to believe. Tulsa’s no world-beater, but they might win a few AAC games. They failed the eye test against Sparty entirely, though, and an elite defense can move Michigan State pretty far this season.
4. Penn State Nittany Lions (1-0, 79-7 victory over Idaho in Week 1, vs. Buffalo Week 2). This is right where I would have put Penn State before Week 1, and it’s where they remain after a stomping of now-FCS Idaho that tells me very little about their team I didn’t already know. Given their early season schedule, barring an upset loss, Penn State could very well plod along undefeated until mid-October.
3. Wisconsin Badgers (1-0, 49-0 victory over South Florida in Week 1, vs. Central Michigan Week 2). Wisco may have had the most impressive performance in the entire conference in Week 1, going to USF and making them look absolutely silly in a 49-0 game which would have been a sixty-spot had Wisconsin not let off the gas midway through the third quarter. Jonathan Taylor is good at running and catching the football, isn’t he? Sigh. Anyway, Wisconsin remains the clear-cut class of the B1G West in the early going.
2. Michigan Wolverines (1-0, 40-21 victory over Middle Tennessee State in Week 1, vs. Army Week 2). Michigan didn’t look great, winning by under three scores against a middling Conference USA squad in MTSU in Week 1, but thankfully they play Wisconsin in just three weeks so we’ll get some clarity soon as to whether Michigan is for real this year…
1. Ohio State Buckeyes (1-0, 45-21 victory over Florida Atlantic in Week 1, vs. Cincinnati Week 2). …but until Michigan beats Ohio State, an undefeated Ohio State will likely continue to hold the #1 spot in these Big Ten Power Rankings. Like recent seasons, it seems like tOSU can still carve up opposing defenses at will, using a balanced mix of the pass and the run game until the game is thoroughly out of reach. They continue to pass both the eye test and the advanced metrics test, and will likely face only a mild test against a decent Cincinnati team next week.