Tier 4: Can Indiana beat these three?
14. Maryland (2-3) (Previous: 12)
Last week: Lost to Michigan, 28-0
This week: at Ohio State (5-0)
It could be a lost season for the Terps, whose offense seems anemic at the moment. Ultimately, Randy Edsall's job status could come down to one man: Under Armour founder and Maryland alum Kevin Plank, who is set on his alma mater becoming Oregon East.
13. Purdue (1-4) (Prev: 14)
Last week: Lost to Michigan State, 24-21
This week: vs. Minnesota (3-2)
The Boilers went down 21-0 early but showed fight in a comeback bid. They may not win many games this year, but this team is not going to be a walkover in the Bucket game.
12. Rutgers (2-2) (Prev: 13)
Last week: Bye
This week: vs. Michigan State (5-0)
By the virtue of not playing, Rutgers moves up a spot. They've had two weeks to prepare for Sparty - will they at least be able to give them a game under the lights in Piscataway?
Tier 3: Five dollar bits of broken chairs
11. Nebraska (2-3) (Prev: 8)
Last week: Lost to Illinois, 14-13
This week: vs. Wisconsin (3-2)
did i read that correctly
Nebraska LOST to Illinois?
(reads game recap)
Ohhhhhhh Nebraska. We need to talk.
It's one thing to lose on a last-second touchdown. It's another thing to try to run out the clock by passing, turn the ball over on downs, and let Illinois march down the field and score that TD. This is now the third heartbreaking loss of the year for Nebraska, and if this keeps up, Mike Riley's aw-shucks act might be wearing thin in corn country.
10. Minnesota (3-2) (Prev: 9)
Last week: Lost to Northwestern, 27-0
This week: at Purdue (1-4)
I'm putting Goldy on upset alert in Ross-Ade this week. Yes, Northwestern has a great defense, but Minnesota's offense has been out of sorts all season. And Purdue gave them quite the game last year.
Tier 2: Not yet distinguished themselves
9. Penn State (4-1) (Prev: 10)
Last week: Defeated Army, 20-14
This week: vs. Indiana (4-1)
A six-point win against a struggling Army team doesn't look good on paper. However, as IU fans can attest, defending against service academy triple-option ball is never the easiest thing, so I give Penn State credit for that. Because of B1G realignment, this will be IU's first trip to Happy Valley since 2012.
8. Illinois (4-1) (Prev: 11)
Last week: Defeated Nebraska, 14-13
This week: at Iowa (5-0)
Bill Cubit is still making his case to be permanent head coach in Champaign. The Illini look to be in good shape to make a bowl game, something that seemed out of the question when the season started.
7. Indiana (4-1) (Prev: 7)
Last week: Lost to Ohio State, 34-27.
This week: vs. Penn State (4-1)
Right now, Nate Sudfeld and Jordan Howard are day-to-day, so we'll be monitoring their statuses all week before the PSU game.
6. Wisconsin (3-2) (Prev: T-5)
Last week: Lost to Iowa, 10-6.
This week: at Nebraska (3-2)
It's only 5 games into the season, so I probably shouldn't be jumping to these conclusions. However, I'll put it out there anyway: is Paul Chryst the Brady Hoke of Wisconsin? The Badgers' first-year coach and former Wisconsin QB is sticking to the tried and true Barry Alvarez formula, but only six points at home has to be cause for concern, especially with the masterful job Dave Aranda is doing with the defense in Madison.
Also, Wisconsin punted from the Iowa 33 and later from the Iowa 40 while down by four in the 4th quarter. I have no words.
Tier 1: Purple reign
5. Iowa (5-0) (Prev: T-5)
Last week: Defeated Wisconsin, 10-6
This week: vs. Illinois (4-1)
I would say that 10-6 is the ideal Kirk Ferentz score, but he did win a game 6-4 a decade ago.
4. Michigan (4-1) (Prev: 4)
Last week: Defeated Maryland, 28-0
This week: vs. Northwestern (5-0)
Okay, Harbaugh, we get it. You can coach. Yeah, we laughed all offseason about your enthusiasm unknown to mankind, your shirtless appearances at satellite camps, random tweets to Nicki Minaj, and of course your khakis, but you and DJ Durkin have put together quite a defense in Ann Arbor. Ever since the opening night loss, Michigan has given up 14 total points in 4 games, including two shutouts in a row. Which means, we're likely to get a redux of the M00N game next week.
3. Michigan State (5-0) (Prev: 1)
Last week: Defeated Purdue 24-21
This week: at Rutgers (2-2)
MSU held on and saved themselves from the ultimate Sparty No on Saturday, but the team definitely is looking more vulnerable as the season rolls on. Rutgers shouldn't be a problem, but a trip to the Big House looms on the 17th.
2. Ohio State (5-0) (Prev: 2)
Last week: Defeated Indiana, 34-27
This week: vs. Maryland (2-3)
I'll still put them second for now, because like FSU last year, they keep finding ways to win. This team has a ton of potential, but outside of the second half of the Virginia Tech game, they haven't quite looked like the same dominant force as they were last year. The Buckeyes should be fine for now though; however, they end the season against both Michigan teams, which will basically determine how their season fares.
1. Northwestern (5-0) (Prev: 3)
Last week: Defeated Minnesota, 27-0
This week: at Michigan (4-1)
I think the Wildcats have to be #1 right now. The defense is the real deal, they've defeated quality opponents, and they already have as many wins as they did in both of the previous two seasons. This year also marks the 20th anniversary of Northwestern's annus mirabilis, when the team went undefeated in the B1G and made it to the Rose Bowl. So be prepared to hear a lot in the coming weeks about how Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald played linebacker for that 1995 team.