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Big Ten power rankings: Purdue prepares for life after Hazell

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Plus, Ohio State survives a tough road test, and Northwestern is heating up - right before their game against Indiana

NCAA Football: Purdue at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

We’ll get to the Purdue news in a moment, but let’s jump right into things.

Tier 5: Rutger

14. Rutger

Good news: Cable Box University finally put up some points yesterday for the first time in a few weeks. The bad news? It was only 7 points, and they lost to Illinois, who last week lost to a team that just fired its coach.

Tier 4: Bowl eligibility in doubt

13. Illinois

Finally played a complete game with their win at Rutger. Too bad it wasn’t a conference game though, am I right?

12. Purdue

Yesterday, Purdue finally fired their much maligned head coach, Darrell Hazell, after three and a half uninspiring years. His record speaks for itself:

The Hazell news was inevitable, but especially after he gave up 99 total points in losses to Maryland and Iowa in recent weeks. Now, Purdue has a leg up on other teams in its search for a new head coach. One interesting part of the search is that new Purdue AD Mike Bobinski has yet to make a high-profile football hire. Paul Johnson was head coach throughout Bobinski’s tenure at Georgia Tech, and Xavier didn’t have a football team. So we’ll see what happens, but you’d have to think that PJ Fleck is an early name in the mix, along with Les Miles, or... oh no, not the old Rutger guy!

The Big Ten West doesn’t have the same obstacles of winning as the East right now, so if Purdue strikes old gold with its hire, they might be in a great position to return to the glory of the Brees/Tiller era. But if IU is any indication, this will be a long process and involve several years of successful recruiting classes, as well as program identity. We’ll see what they decide to do.

11. Michigan State

With games against both Michigan and OSU left, it’s going for a struggle for Sparty to even make a bowl game. As awesome as the Spittoon victory was for Indiana, that win has looked less and less impressive as time has gone on.

Tier 3: Still in need of separation

10. Maryland

The early season shine is wearing off for the Terps, as they dropped one at home to Minnesota in a game which they never really even came close.

9. Northwestern

The same Wildcats team that lost 9-7 to FCS Illinois State in week 2 is suddenly cooking with gas - Mick McCall’s offense has put 92 points up in their last two games and won 54-40 at East Lansing last weekend. Of course, this resurgence for Northwestern just happens to coincide with their game against Indiana next weekend because that’s the sort of dumb luck Indiana football has.

8. Indiana

A frustrating loss, because even more so than last week, the Hoosiers definitely played well enough to win. Props to Tom Allen for getting the defense (now ranked in the top-30 on S&P+) ready for this one. I didn’t like a ton of the playcalling either - not sure why Diamont came in at a few points, and things like a run on third and long didn’t seem ideal. The Hoosiers are still staying in games this year, but whether it’s through high powered offense or stingy defense, it’s still frustrating to keep coming close and not quite have enough.

7. Minnesota

A big road win over Maryland moves them up this week, and with games against Rutger, Illinois, and Purdue coming up, the Gophers could easily be 6-3 in a few weeks.

6. Iowa

Other than Wisconsin, Iowa is the team I’d least expect to play a game with a 49-35 final score. Weird things happen in West Lafayette.

5. Penn State

No game last week, but they’ll have a chance to make a statement under the lights this weekend in Happy Valley against OSU.

Tier 2: The favorites in the West

4. Nebraska

Questionable fumble ruling aside, I gotta give Mike Riley, Tommy Armstrong, Terrell Newby, and the rest of the Husker offense credit for that final back-breaking drive on Saturday. The team controlled the ball on the ground, came up with a gutsy 4th down conversion, and burned enough clock to put the game away. Nebraska still feels like a team that could get exposed in the coming weeks, but with a top-10 ranking and at 6-0 for the first time since Eric Crouch, the fans can’t have too much to complain about.

3. Wisconsin

Lost a heartbreaker in Madison, as they gave up a late lead only to lose to Ohio State in OT. Despite the tough schedule, the Badgers could still win the division. They need to beat Nebraska though, but if the Huskers lose to Wisconsin and OSU and everyone wins out otherwise, the Badgers would win the division at 7-2.

Regardless, this team is still the positive surprise of the B1G this year, and I’m sure they’d love to get another shot against OSU or MIchigan in December.

Tier 1: The favorites in the East

2. Ohio State

Looked shaky for most of the game, but Urban Meyer and J.T. Barrett were able to find a way to win. After the past two weeks, I’m not as intimidated by the Buckeyes as I once was, but the danger of this team is the

1. Michigan

Played no one, but I have no reason to knock them off the top spot this week.

Quick Harbaugh tangent: He’s the only guy above the age of 10 who could get away with drinking a giant glass of milk with his steak.

Three non-B1G teams I liked

I’m going to stick to Group of Five teams this week. Yes, Houston won in a nail-biter over Tulsa, but there are a few other G5 teams that have legitimate claims for that New Years’ Six game spot.

Boise State - Chris Petersen may be long gone, but the Broncos keep winning under Bryan Harsin. They’re undefeated again this season, and that early-season win over Wazzu will just keep looking better and better if the Cougars keep winning Pac-12 games.

Western Michigan - PJ Fleck has rowed the boats out to a 7-0 start in Kalamazoo, and they just destroyed Akron, 41-0. He’s already defeated both B1G teams in the state of Illinois, and the MAC schedule allows the Broncos an opportunity to run the table. Purdue fans may have their eyes on Fleck, but he might even get offers from several top Power 5 teams with vacancies this offseason.

South Florida - the Bulls have scored at least 35 points in all of their games so far this season, and the 35 came in their only loss to Florida State. Willie Taggart has this team rolling, and while they wouldn’t play Houston until a potential AAC title game, they’re in prime position to at least win their division.

Three non-B1G teams I disliked

Notre Dame - Oh boy. The Irish are now 2-5 after a loss to Stanford, who was playing without Christian McCaffrey. Brian Kelly’s turned the Irish around during his tenure, but this team is starting to look like one from the end of the Charlie Weis era. Has Kelly worn out his welcome in South Bend? Or is this just a down year?

Tennessee - The Vols are having a fine season, and hardly anyone beats Bama, but losing by 39 to the Tide at home is unacceptable for a top-10 team. The worst part is that unless Florida somehow runs the table, Tennessee-Bama will almost certainly be the SEC championship game this year, since the SEC East is mostly a garbage fire.

Arizona - Could this be the end of the RichRod era in Tucson? the Wildcats are 2-5 and just were destroyed at home by USC. RichRod has flirted with other jobs recently (most notably South Carolina) - is he a possible Purdue dark horse? I wouldn’t totally rule it out.