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Big Ten power rankings: Lost in the Land of Lincoln

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In which I have enough optimism to move Indiana into the top half of the conference.

NCAA Football: Illinois State at Northwestern David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Tier 5: An even more depressing Chicago football team than the Bears

14. Northwestern

It takes a lot to drop below Purdue, especially after a Boilermaker loss, but Northwestern did something that not even the Boilers were able to do, and that would be lose to an FCS team. But future Purdue head coach Brock Spack and Illinois State did just that, beating Northwestern 9-7 in a stinker of a game that ended with the Redbirds doinking a game-winning field goal off the uprights and in.

Pat Fitzgerald has had a solid decade-long tenure in Evanston. The Wildcats went 10-3 last year. But after an 0-2 start with losses by a total of three points to Illinois State and Western Michigan, he might be on dangerous ground, especially if Northwestern loses at home to Duke next week.

Tier 4: Work to do

13. Purdue

The loss to Cincinnati was what we’ve come to expect from the Hazell era: inconsistency, errors, and too little, too late from the offense. Even worse was that former Purdue QBs Austin Appleby and Danny Etling both helped SEC schools win games at Florida and LSU respectively.

12. Rutger

Were down 14-0 to FCS squad Howard before scoring 52 unanswered to put the Bison away. Next up is New Mexico, who are led by former Notre Dame head coach Bob Davie.

11. Illinois

The honeymoon for Lovie Smith is officially over - a 25-point home loss to UNC will do that. The Illini will have a chance to prevent Western Michigan from sweeping the state of Illinois when the Broncos come to town next weekend.

Tier 3: Still too early to tell

10. Maryland

Indiana beat FIU 34-13, but Maryland did them one TD better by winning 41-14 in Miami over the weekend. DJ Durkin has inherited some decent talent in College Park, and seems to be making the most of it thus far. The Terps continue their Florida tour next weekend at UCF, who got pulverized up in Ann Arbor.

9. Penn State

PSU publication Onward State provided plenty of Bulletin Board material for Pitt this week with this tweet:

It looked like the rout was on early for Pitt, but the Nittany Lions stayed in the game thanks to 5 touchdowns from running back Saquon Barkley, who will be tough for any team to stop. But despite fighting back from a large early deficit, Penn State’s run defense still leaves a lot to be desired, and former Mark Dantonio assistant Pat Narduzzi has molded Pitt into a very MSU-like squad with its strong rushing attack. Penn State faces another Keystone State opponent in Temple this weekend.

8. Minnesota

Pasted Indiana State, 58-28. Get a bye before their next game against Colorado State. Fun Fact: The Gophers’ first four opponents all end their names with “State.”

7. Indiana

Both of IU’s opponents may have S&P+ rankings in the hundreds, but nonetheless it’s still two FBS victories for IU. That gets them up into of the top half of the conference for now since these are my power rankings and this is an IU blog so I’ll do what I want, okay?

Tier 2: About to learn what they’re made of

6. Nebraska

Took the Huskers a while to finish off Wyoming, but had no trouble notching a 52-17 victory in the end. This weekend, the Huskers get their first real test when Oregon rolls into Lincoln. Mike Riley has plenty of experience facing the Ducks from his Oregon State days, but his final few Civil War games in Corvallis did not end well. Nonetheless, Oregon comes into this one with a shaky defense, though FCS transfer Dakota Prukop seems to already have the hang of the blur offense.

5. Michigan State

Did not play last weekend. With the Notre Dame rivalry game up next, followed by a better than expected Wisconsin, IU under the lights, and a tricky BYU squad, the Spartans will have their hands full over the next month.

Tier 1: The Contenders

4. Iowa

After a week in which everyone joked about Kirk Ferentz’s gigantic contract extension, the Hawkeyes went out and destroyed in-state rival Iowa State, 42-3.

Next up for Iowa is FCS powerhouse North Dakota State. NDSU has beaten a few FBS teams before. You should point this fact out to friend of the site and huge Iowa fan Hawkize on Twitter. Please tweet @Hawkize and let him know that Iowa should be on upset alert this weekend. He will appreciate it greatly.

3. Wisconsin

2. Ohio State

1. Michigan

Wisconsin proved it can score points, Ohio State limited a Tulsa team known for its offense, and Michigan still won 51-14 despite “being outhit” by UCF, according to Knights coach Scott Frost. OSU gets a great road test on Saturday at Oklahoma, and the Sooners will be hungry for a huge victory after that week 1 clunker against Houston. But if Oklahoma couldn’t stop the Urban Meyer acolyte Tom Herman, I’m not sure how they’ll handle Meyer himself.

Three non-B1G teams I liked

  • Central Michigan - Tom Crean’s alma mater won in the most controversial way possible, after receiving an untimed down on Saturday afternoon to get one final Hail Mary to beat Oklahoma State. I don’t care if technically the Chips shouldn’t have won, because after the 2015 Pinstripe Bowl it’s nice to see a referee error work in favor of a team for once...

The kick was good you know.

People forget that.

  • Louisville - IU is on bye this weekend, so if you can snag a ticket, head two hours south to the Derby City. First you’ll see College Gameday and then you will get to watch Lamar Jackson, the most exciting player in college football so far this season, face off against Florida State. The dude has over 1000 yards by himself in just two games so far, which alone makes him the 44th best offense in the country. He also did this during a 62-28 demolition of Syracuse last Friday.
  • Wake Forest - Gotta give a shout out to Indiana’s next opponent here, who went into Durham and beat Duke, 24-14. The Blue Devils may have lost their starting QB to injury before the season started, but this result is still surprising, as it is unlike a Dave Clawson team to win a game by scoring 10 or more points.

Three non-B1G teams I didn’t like

  • Kentucky - still on this list after a disaster of a loss at Florida. They gave up 45 points to a Florida team not exactly known for its offense. Mark Stoops has a $12 million buyout for his contract this season, a steep price to pay if Mitch Barnhart wants to change course. Kind of ironic considering that UK fans were once laughing about that Tom Crean buyout site.
  • TCU - lost at home to BERT and Arkansas in the most entertaining game of the weekend, a 41-38 double-OT barnburner. Pro tip: Do NOT try to beat Arkansas in overtime. Under Bielema the Hogs have find the weirdest ways possible to win games and Saturday was no exception. Also, the Tracy Claeys strategy could have worked here - TCU scored a touchdown late while up 21-20 and they did not go for two to put the game away, instead going up 28-20. Arkansas immediately marched down the field and scored themselves, then tied the game on a conversion.
  • Washington State - Look, I love watching Mike Leach Air Raid Football late on Saturday nights - it’s perfect programming for right when the bar is closing - but the Cougars’ strategy of giving up huge leads then trying to gain them back as time is running out just won’t work out most of the time. Other than Stanford and Washington, the Pac-12 seems uneven, so maybe Leach will get it together late, but the Cougs certainly have more talent than their 0-2 record indicates.