There was a bit of a shake up this week in the power rankings as the Big Ten begins to take shape — and because of one injury.
Sean Clifford of Penn State was forced to miss the second half against Iowa due to an injury and this significantly impacted the contest. Ohio State’s offense is back into form while the bottom of the Big Ten continues to be unimpressive.
After six weeks, there are three clear tiers in the conference and they can be seen below in the power rankings. Here is how they are shaped heading into seven weeks.
(Editor’s Note: AP Poll rankings included after power rankings listing for each team it’s applicable for.)
1. No. 2 Iowa (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten)
Most Recent: W, 23-20 vs. Penn State
Next: 10/16 vs. Purdue
It was an advantageous weekend for the Hawkeyes. They benefitted from an injury and an Alabama loss to move up to No. 2 in the rankings and the top spot in the Big Ten power rankings. A win is a win and the road gets easier for Iowa as they hope for a Big Ten title this season.
2. No. 6 Ohio State (5-1, 3-0 Big Ten)
Most Recent: W, 66-17 vs. Maryland
It seems like only a matter of time before the Buckeyes get back to the top. The offense is becoming more consistent and it begins with the play of CJ Stroud. After putting up 66 points against the Terrapins, it is clear that Ohio State is still on a different level moving forward. The Buckeyes are off this week but they are primed and ready for a title run once again at the end of the season.
3. No. 8 Michigan (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten)
Most Recent: W, 32-29 at Nebraska
Michigan has played close calls week in and week out. At the end of the day, they are finding ways to win and that is all that matters. At 6-0, there are high hopes in Ann Arbor but as we have said before, the Wolverines have not taken that step until they find a way to beat Ohio State. That will have to wait a couple more weeks.
4. No. 7 Penn State (5-1, 2-1 Big Ten)
Most Recent: L, 23-20 at Iowa
Penn State endured some bad luck against Iowa when Sean Clifford left with an injury. The Nittany Lions held a 14-3 lead but it is difficult to win on the road against a top-three team with a backup quarterback. Penn State is still one of the best teams in college football but will need to remain healthy moving forward.
5. No. 10 Michigan State (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten)
Most Recent: W, 31-13 at Rutgers
Next: 10/16 at Indiana
Big plays and record-setting performances took place in Piscataway on Saturday. The Spartans continue to show that they are the real deal and have moved into the top 10 in the AP Poll. Kenneth Walker III is a legitimate threat in the backfield while Jalen Nailor had a day to remember. Michigan State has another winnable matchup with Indiana this weekend and can move to 7-0.
6. Nebraska (3-4, 1-3 Big Ten)
Most Recent: L, 32-29 vs. Michigan
Next: 10/16 at Minnesota
Nebraska turned in another close call against a top-ranked team. They were within one score of Oklahoma, Michigan State, and now Michigan. Wins matter in power rankings but after the top five in the Big Ten, there are no clear contenders for this sixth spot. Nebraska jumps in because on paper, they are playing some of the best football recently. Scott Frost has his team competing at a high-level.
7. Minnesota (3-2, 1-1 Big Ten)
Most Recent: BYE
Next: 10/16 vs. Nebraska
Minnesota is a confusing team. They kept it close for a bit against Ohio State and blew out Colorado early on. This was ruined by a loss to Bowling Green. The Gophers are coming off a bye week and a victory against Purdue beforehand. Looking at the cast of characters for Minnesota, they continue to be a threat but still have a lot to prove after five games.
8. Wisconsin (2-3, 1-2 Big Ten)
Most Recent: W, 24-0 at Illinois
Next: 10/16 vs. Army
It is amazing that a quarterback can still look unimpressive in a 24-0 victory. Graham Mertz managed to pull this one off going 10-19 for 100 yards and an interception. The Badgers were balanced by two 100-yard rushers in Chez Mellusi and Braelon Allen. Wisconsin is not going anywhere this season but they can at least bet the lower tier of the conference.
9. Maryland (4-2, 1-2 Big Ten)
Most Recent: L, 66-17 at Ohio State
A bye week is best-case scenario for Maryland right now. They are coming off two blowout losses to Iowa and Ohio State. These are difficult opponents but at some point, a team has to show they can compete. Maryland has not shown that against the best. They still sit at 4-2 but Maryland remains a shaky team in the conference and one that is very beatable moving forward.
10. Rutgers (3-3, 0-3 Big Ten)
Most Recent: L, 31-13 vs. Michigan State
Next: 10/16 at Northwestern
Rutgers is beginning to come back down to Earth and the improvements of 2020 are not carrying over. Despite returning their coaching staff and talent offensively, the Scarlet Knights have scored just 13 points in each of their last three games. Rutgers still cannot hang with the class of the Big Ten but that does not mean that they will not win a few more games. The schedule eases up moving forward and six wins is still an achievable goal.
11. Purdue (3-2, 1-1 Big Ten)
Most Recent: BYE
Next: 10/16 at Iowa
Purdue is likely to fall to .500 as they travel to Iowa this weekend. They are coming off a bye week but the talent discrepancy is large between the Hawkeyes. Purdue is another unimpressive team that struggles to put points on the board at times. Against that Iowa defense, it could be a long afternoon for Purdue.
12. Indiana (2-3, 0-2 Big Ten)
Most Recent: BYE
Next: 10/16 vs. Michigan State
Indiana still has a lot to prove this season. After coming into the season as a ranked team, but quickly showed that they were overrated. The Hoosiers are still searching for that statement victory but it will be difficult against Michigan State on Saturday.
13. Illinois (2-5, 1-3 Big Ten)
Most Recent: L, 24-0 vs. Wisconsin
Illinois is probably going to get comfortable at the bottom of the rankings. They failed to score against Wisconsin and the bye week could not come at a better time. The Illini have issues to workout and they are not easy fixes.
14. Northwestern (2-3, 0-2 Big Ten)
Most Recent: BYE
Next: 10/16 vs. Rutgers
The last time Northwestern was on the field, they were dominated by Nebraska. Pat Fitzgerald’s team is going through a down year and that does not look like it is going to change. The good news for the Wildcats is that they have a winnable game at home coming up against Rutgers. This is a big matchup for both sides this season.