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Big Ten power rankings: Wisconsin makes a Lambeau Leap

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Also, defending Tracy Claeys’ decision to go for 2 up 7.

NCAA Football: Lambeau Field College Classic-Louisiana State vs Wisconsin Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

14. Purdue

The Boilers did on Saturday what Iowa State, Virginia, and Washington State couldn’t, and that’s beat an FCS team. Despite the 45-24 victory, I still need more evidence to move them up the ladder. They’ll have an opportunity to do so on Saturday, when they host Cincinnati, who struggled with UT-Martin for a couple quarters before dispatching of them.

13. Rutger

Oh ho ho it was quite a start to the #AshEra in Seattle on Saturday. The Scarlet Knights lost a 48-13 laugher to Washington, who in all fairness are a top-15 team, but alas, Rutger didn’t show much of anything to get excited about under a new coach. Luckily, Howard comes to town on Saturday. Speaking of which...

12. Maryland

If the Terps and Scarlet Knights had their opening matchups switched, I’d probably be criticizing DJ Durkin and praising Chris Ash right now. Instead, Maryland got an easy cupcake win over Howard to star off the Durkin era on a positive note. This weekend, the Terps travel to FIU, which should be a good barometer of how they stack up to Indiana.

11. Illinois

When you’re the highest-profile hire for your school in at least a decade, you don’t want to screw up the first game. Lovie Smith didn’t, and the Illini walked to a 52-3 victory over Murray State. Next, they’ll host a UNC team that just lost its opener to UGA, so if Wes Lunt and company can steal a victory from the Heels, then people will really start to take notice.

10. Northwestern

Last year, Northwestern won every one-score game that they were part of on the route to 10 victories. On Saturday, their luck ran out, as Western Michigan rowed the boat past the Wildcats in a 22-21 victory in Evanston, adding a B1G victory to future Purdue head coach PJ Fleck’s resume. WMU has a chance to sweep the state of Illinois when they travel to face the Illini in week 3.

9. Minnesota

Up 24-23 with a minute and a half left against Oregon State, the Gophers scored a touchdown. Head coach Tracy Claeys made the unorthodox decision to go for two. Twitter, as it often does, unanimously criticized the decision.

I thought it was the right call.

Look, say you kick the extra point there. Even if it’s good, it’s late in the game, your defense is gassed, and the other team still has time to march downfield, score a touchdown, and go for two to tie it up late. You want to secure that late lead? Go for two, get up nine, and make it a two-score game. You still have a seven-point lead, and unless you’re playing a huge underdog, the opposing team isn’t likely to go for two and try to win it there. Plus, as Texas and Notre Dame can attest last night, extra points are never sure things either. The conversion failed (I didn’t like the playcall to pass in that scenario), but Minnesota still won, 30-23.

Despite getting the head job last winter, Tracy Claeys is still one of the lowest-paid coaches with the least amount of job security in the B1G, so he can afford to take the risks here. Props to Claeys for trying something unconventional. This article explains the decision more in depth.

8. Indiana

It wasn’t pretty for the first three quarters, but the fourth was a thing of beauty for the Hoosiers, who dispatched of FIU, 34-13. In a rarity for a Kevin Wilson coached team, the offense struggled, while the defense had a great game, getting two pick-sixes and a safety and outscoring the FIU offense on their own. Already, the Tom Allen hire is looking like a great move.

7. Nebraska

Ran all over Fresno State, 43-10. Also gave this touching tribute to late punter Sam Foltz, assuring there wasn’t a dry eye in Memorial Stadium:

6. Penn State

Not too much to discern from a 33-13 victory over Kent State. Like the Hoosiers, PSU started slow but were very much in control by the end.

This weekend, the Nittany Lions travel to Heinz Field to take on Pitt, in what is a very underrated in-state rivalry. The two teams haven’t played for 16 years, but back in the 70s and 80s, before they both joined conferences, this was a bitter annual contest that often featured two of the best teams in college football.

5. Michigan State

Were unimpressive in a 28-13 win over Furman. Luckily, they’ll have two weeks to figure out what went wrong before their next game at Notre Dame.

4. Iowa

Like many other B1G teams, Iowa rolled past an inferior opponent in Miami-Ohio without having to show much. This weekend, they gear up for another exciting edition of El Assico against in-state rival Iowa State.

3. Wisconsin

When Paul Chryst was hired, my Pitt alum cousins were happy that he was heading to Madison, and glad to have him off their hands. That’s never a good sign for an incoming coach. Chryst had a successful first season, but I looked at Wisconsin’s schedule this year and thought they might be in trouble.

Now, Chryst has just knocked off a top-5 LSU team (and his former DC, Dave Aranda) that was the trendy non-Alabama pick to represent the SEC in the Playoff. A lot of LSU’s wounds were self-inflicted, but the Badgers stuck to their strengths and their gameplan, and edged out a victory in Lambeau. The Badgers now get two cupcakes before a brutal stretch of MSU-Michigan-OSU-Iowa begins.

2. Ohio State

Dominated Bowling Green, 77-10. Must be nice to have no QB controversy hanging over their heads this year.

1. Michigan

Still the leader for now, after waxing Hawaii in the Big House. However, the night before this game, the Wolverines let Paramus Catholic, a New Jersey high school that has produced some top UM recruits such as Jabrill Peppers and Rashaun Gary, use the Big House for a game. Okay sure, but Paramus Catholic has a lot of other issues right now, as detailed in a recent NJ.com editorial. For example, they recently fired a teacher for being in a same-sex relationship.

Is this the type of school that Michigan, a public university, really wants to play host to? Football trumps all, I guess.

Three non-B1G teams I liked

  • Texas - I always enjoy a Notre Dame loss, and UT played its heart out Sunday night to get the victory over the Irish. And for the first time since Colt McCoy, Texas was actually entertaining to watch. The Longhorn offense was resistant to the spread for many years, but if Sunday was any indication they’ve gone full Big 12 and I loved it.
  • Houston - I didn’t think Tom Herman’s squad could hang with Oklahoma, but after a strong showing to knock off the defending Big 12 champs, the Cougars have positioned themselves for a CFP spoiler if they can run the table. A Thursday nighter at home against Louisville in late November should be their toughest game left.
  • Kansas - won their first game in 15 tries. So what if it was against a terrible FCS opponent, let these poor kids starved for any type of football success rush the field!

Three non-B1G teams I didn’t like

  • Kentucky - Can’t remember the last time a team blew a 25-point lead to an inferior opponent at home like that.

Oh. Right.

  • Arkansas - Needed a fourth down conversion to get a one-point victory over Louisiana Tech. Bret Bielema is going to struggle in these early games, then his team will be winning by 30-40 points by the time NovemBERT rolls around.
  • Mississippi State - Sure, USC stunk against Bama, but who hasn’t struggled against the Tide, so let’s make this whole section SEC-based for week 1. The Bulldogs doinked a last-second field goal off the uprights and were beaten by South Alabama at home. Life without Dak Prescott won’t be easy. CLANGA.