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Big Ten power rankings: Rivalry week is upon us

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Plus, things go from bad to worse in Piscataway, and could the B1G get two teams in the Playoff?

NCAA Football: Indiana at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

With only one more week of regular season play in the Big Ten, this will be the final power rankings of the year for football. Let’s see how the teams stack up as we go into Rivalry Week.

Tier 4: Home for Christmas

14. Rutger

The Scarlet Knights have now had FOUR conference games in which they did not score a single point, after a 39-0 home loss to Penn State. Once again, I hope the Big Ten is enjoying that extra cable cash though.

But hey, at least Rutger hoops is 4-0!

13. Illinois

I think it’s more embarrassing that the Illini gave up 28 points to Iowa’s offense than it is to get shut out by the Hawkeyes.

12. Purdue

So the past two weeks have not gone well for the Boilers, but even though the game is in Bloomington, I still don’t want to take anything for granted. Anyway, I’m curious who Purdue will choose for its new head coach.

As an IU fan, I think the two possible hires that would worry me the most in West Lafayette would be PJ Fleck and Jeff Brohm. Both are young, energetic coaches whose teams score a lot of points, and I’m pretty sure they cold both succeed at Purdue.

11. Michigan State

I understand the call to go for two late in the fourth quarter against Ohio State during a miserable season. Regardless, this was not a good two-point playcall, and ultimately I think it might have made more sense to kick the extra point and take your chances that you either get the ball back or send the game into overtime. Fortune doesn’t always favor the bold, and it’s a shame because MSU beating OSU during a historically bad Sparty season would have been hilarious.

Tier 3: Win or go home

10. Maryland

The offense is gone anemic in recent weeks and the defense is giving up big plays. Luckily, all the Terps need to do to get to a bowl game is beat Rutger this weekend. A 6-6 season would be a promising start for DJ Durkin.

9. Northwestern

Lost 29-12 to Minnesota to fall to 5-6. They should still make a bowl with a win over Illinois, but this has been a very erratic season for the Wildcats.

8. Indiana

Indiana football seasons are starting to take on a familiar script. The loss to Michigan was yet another close one suffered to a top-10 team Here we go again: All the Hoosiers have to do to get to a second straight bowl game is beat a dilapidated Purdue team. A win here would be their fourth straight Bucket win for the first time since 1947.

Tier 2: Warm weather bowl games ahead

7. Minnesota

If the Gophers can somehow upset Wisconsin and reclaim the Axe, they could kick in some serious Big Ten chaos. In fact, there’s still a chance that Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Nebraska could all finish 6-3 in conference.

6. Iowa

Beating Illinois 28-0 just guaranteed Kirk Ferentz $2 million more in that sweet contract cash.

5. Nebraska

The injury-plagued Huskers cruised by Maryland, and a win over Iowa would mean a double-digit season and could be the culmination of a very impressive turnaround this year by Mike Riley.

Tier 1: NY6/CFP contenders

4. Penn State

All the Nittany Lions need to do is beat Michigan State and root hard for a Buckeye victory in The Game, and they’ll be in the B1G title game. If they beat Wisconsin, they’ll be 11-2 and should have a good case to grab a playoff spot. Of course, if Clemson and Washington win out in their respective conferences, they’ll likely have dibs over Penn State, and it will be hard for the Nittany Lions to jump OSU, despite their head to head victory.

3. Wisconsin

If the Badgers defeat Minnesota, they’ll be in the title game. While Penn State is an unknown, the Badgers did play both Michigan and OSU closely, so a rematch between either one of those teams could make for an intriguing, low-scoring game.

1 (tie). Michigan

1 (tie). Ohio State

Both the Wolverines and Buckeyes survived close matchups over the weekend, so I’ll put them tied for first going into The Game. Right now, with Michigan’s injury status, Ohio State has to have the edge, especially since the game is in Columbus.

Think ESPN is excited for this one? They’ll be in Columbus for College Gameday, and the show will run for FIVE HOURS.

Three non-B1G teams I liked:

Colorado – The Buffaloes have been in the doldrums since joining the Pac-12, but they’re having a renaissance this season, and they defeated a Washington State team that hadn’t lost since early September. A playoff berth is unlikely, but not out of the question if everything breaks their way. Still, a win against Utah would assure them of a Pac-12 South title, which is quite an achievement for Mike MacIntyre.

Virginia Tech – I made a pilgrimage to South Bend this weekend to see Notre Dame play the Hokies. It was my first time to an Irish game, and while I’ve made my feelings known about ND on this site, I still had a great experience. And Virginia Tech, despite some sloppy play, got it going on both sides of the ball during the second half to come back from 24-7 in inclement weather on the road to pull off a 34-31 victory. Justin Fuente is already working wonders in year one in Blacksburg.

Western Michigan – Props to the Broncos, who are the only non-Bama team to still be unbeaten. PJ Fleck has built an impressive machine in Kalamazoo, and getting to host Gameday last week was a well-deserved honor.

Three non-B1G teams I didn’t like:

Louisville – A lot of Louisville fans made their feelings heard about only being 5th in the CFP rankings last week. Then the Cards went down to Houston, where the Cougars curb-stomped them, 36-10. Not even Lamar Jackson, whose praises I’ve sung a lot in this column this season, could save the Cards, as he was sacked 11 times. This loss rules out Louisville out of the Playoff, and while Jackson probably still is the odds-on Heisman favorite, he cannot afford another slip-up against Kentucky this weekend.

Texas – You lose to Kansas, you end up here. Those are the rules. While Charlie Strong’s tenure seems over in Austin seems all but over, it’s unfair how Texas is stringing him along at this point. My guess is that Tom Herman ends up at UT next year, but there are a lot of issues with the program that extend beyond whoever ends up taking the job.

West Virginia – The only fans more upset about the CFP last week than Louisville were WVU’s, when the Mountaineers got placed at 14 last week. WVU had a huge opportunity to make a statement at home on a snowy Saturday night against Oklahoma, but the Sooners jumped out to a huge lead and never looked back. WVU will most likely end up 10-2 or 9-3, but this loss will sting well into the offseason.