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2019 Big Ten Football Power Rankings Week 2

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How does the conference landscape look so far?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 07 Syracuse at Maryland

Greetings, everyone. Interesting week of games in the B1G this past weekend, with two losses (one was Rutgers, of course, to Iowa in a 30-0 game that didn’t even seem that close) and twelve wins. There were some fun games to watch this week – in the East division, Michigan almost coughed one up to a really fun to watch Army team, and Penn State was losing at the half to Buffalo but pulled away in the second half. In the West division, Minnesota won a double overtime thriller at Fresno State, while Nebraska coughed up a dominating first-half lead to Colorado, losing in overtime on a field goal.

A reminder as to how these power rankings work:

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 regularly 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.

Let’s get right to it.

14) Rutgers Scarlet Knights (1-1, Last Week Ranking: 14, 30-0 defeat to Iowa in Week 2, BYE Week 3). Ugh. I don’t really know what to say, except that was super ugly and a reminder of how far we have to go to compete with the (still good) teams which comprise the middle of the conference rankings. I’m not here to knock effort – I don’t think Rutgers gave up at all in sixty minutes – and I honestly think our team is the most talented one we’ve fielded since 2014, at least on paper. It’s just a failure of offensive execution, and usually at this level, consistent failures in execution fall almost one hundred percent on the coaching staff. This can’t happen again on Sept. 21 vs. Boston College.

13) Illinois Fighting Illini (2-0, Last Week Ranking: 13, 31-23 win at UCONN in Week 2, vs. Eastern Michigan Week 3). Using the two finest words in the English language – de-fault! – Illinois lands just one spot above Rutgers for the cellar of the B1G this week. I actually subjected myself to watching some of this game on CBS Sports Network over the weekend, and did not see anything to suggest Illinois should be ranked much higher than this – letting perhaps the worst team in the Group of 5 hang around all game does not augur well for the future, though Bill Connelly of ESPN puts their bowl chances above 50% at the present time (link: https://twitter.com/ESPN_BillC/status/1170795269589491713) probably just because the rest of their schedule is set up to get to six wins. We very well might be one of those six if things don’t improve in Rutgers-land…

12) Northwestern Wildcats (1-0, Last Week Ranking: 11, BYE Week 2, vs. UNLV Week 3). New Rule: a team on a bye week automatically drops a spot, where possible, especially when…

11) Purdue Boilermakers (1-1, Last Week Ranking: 12, 42-24 win vs. Vanderbilt Week 2, vs. TCU Week 3). …another team’s quarterback drops over 500 yards and five passing touchdowns on a Power 5 defense, like Purdue’s Elijah Sindelar did versus Vanderbilt in Week 2. Underrated, fun game of the week, and I’ll go out on a limb and say Purdue may be pretty fun to watch this season. A big test for them will be TCU at home next week, with ESPN’s FPI prediction actually giving TCU a very slight edge.

10) Minnesota Golden Gophers (2-0, Last Week Ranking: 9, 38-35 win vs. Fresno State Week 2, vs. Georgia Southern Week 3). Fresno State: actually a pretty good team, ranked at 51 in the country using SP+ even after losing this tight game to Minnesota. It’ll take a lot more than the last two weeks for Minnesota to convince me they’re any different from how they were predicted to finish at the beginning of the season (generally 5th or 6th in the 7-team B1G West).

9) Nebraska Cornhuskers (1-1, Last Week Ranking: 7, 34-31 loss to Colorado Week 2, vs. Northern Illinois Week 3). I’m always a fan of college students rushing the field and having fun post game, and – Rutgers homer that I am – I kept waiting for the announcers to give me some kind of fun alliterative call at the end of the game, like “It’s Bedlam in Boulder!” Anyway, CRAZY game here with a super-fun ending, and another sign Nebraska was a bit overrated at the beginning of the season. Mark down September 21 in Champaign, as Nebraska plays Illinois on the road, as an interesting game to watch.

8) Indiana Hoosiers (2-0, Last Week Ranking: 8, 52-0 win vs. Eastern Illinois Week 2, vs. Ohio State Week 3). Despite margin of victory, Indiana stays put at #8 because wins vs. Eastern Illinois don’t count for that much these days.

7) Iowa Hawkeyes (2-0, Last Week Ranking: 7, 30-0 win vs. Rutgers Week 2, at Iowa St. Week 3). Despite margin of victory, Iowa stays put at #7 because wins vs. Rutgers don’t count for that much these days.

OK, a few more words on Iowa. I was super impressed with their offensive play-calling, with the exception of a few drives early in the game where I think they were a bit overconfident and thought they could out-cute us deep in their own territory. That deep throw on the first possession of the game was a thing of pure beauty, objectively speaking. A win over Iowa State next week could lead to a significant jump in the rankings. Kinda like…

6) Maryland Terrapins (2-0, Last Week Ranking: 10, 62-20 win vs. #21 Syracuse Week 2, at Temple Week 3). …Maryland, who converted many people (including this humble dude with an Internet connection) into believers by absolutely decimating Syracuse this past weekend. The game was 42-13 at the half and never really in doubt. Maryland has a prolific offense and while Syracuse may not have as much offensive firepower as they did last season (they only scored 17 vs. Liberty in their Week 1 matchup), holding any Power 5 team to 20 points shows they have enough defense to hang in close games. I am not excited to play Maryland this season.

5) Michigan Wolverines (2-0, Last Week Ranking: 2, 24-21 win vs. Army Week 2, BYE Week 3). One of the tougher decisions this week was where to rank Michigan vs. Maryland. I decided – perhaps controversially – to keep Michigan ranked against of Maryland, just because I think Michigan beats them on a neutral site. Army is ranked only #79 in SP+ (though perhaps that’s unfair because Army plays unconventionally, e.g., going for it on many fourth-and-short situations where other teams punt), but game-planned an amazing performance vs. Michigan which almost worked. I imagine local sports fans in Ann Arbor are none too happy going into what turned into an unsurprisingly well-timed early bye week for Michigan.

4) Michigan State Spartans (2-0, Last Week Ranking: 5, 51-17 win vs. Western Michigan Week 2, vs. Arizona State Week 3). It took a home game versus a directional Michigan school to get Michigan State’s offense to start working, but work they did, with touchdowns on their first three drives and 31 first downs. They face a minor test at home vs. a decent Arizona State team next week.

3) Wisconsin Badgers (2-0, Last Week Ranking: 3, 61-0 win vs. Central Michigan Week 2, BYE Week 3). Not much to say here except it’s fair to leave a really good Wisconsin team exactly where they are, though I internally debated shuffling Wisconsin and Penn State.

2) Penn State Nittany Lions (2-0, Last Week Ranking: 4, 45-13 win vs. Buffalo Week 2, vs. Pitt Week 3). Though Penn State let Buffalo hang around far too long (and put a Joe Theismann-type injury on Buffalo’s poor punter in the second half), I move them up two spots in the rankings because of their quick-striking offense in the second half of this game. Their scoring drives in the second half by length of possession: 0:05, 0:43, 1:35, 1:54, 1:51. With the exception of the first possession, all were 50+ yards in length. It was impressive even against a tired, lesser opponent, and gives me some confidence they could beat the teams ranked beneath them on this list.

1) Ohio State Buckeyes 2-0, Last Week Ranking: 1, 42-0 win vs. Cincinnati Week 2, at Indiana Week 3). I realize I just spent 100 words or so explaining Penn State’s quick strike offense, but I rank Ohio State at the top again because they continue to make other college football teams look absolutely silly, start to finish, and will probably do the same vs. Indiana next week.