The Big Ten returned to something resembling status quo this week with few surprises. Maybe the biggest surprise was Northwestern beating Maryland, although every Maryland defeat comes with some big caveats this season.
Mercifully, finally, we get a match-up between two of the top four teams this week in a showdown that should tell us a lot about both teams.
t14. Illinois (2-4, 0-3)
t14. rutger (2-4, 1-2)
rutger got their first win against a Big Ten team in 728 days on Saturday. That’s a real stat. Is Lovie Smith even going to last through this season?
12. Minnesota (3-3, 0-3)
Last week - Loss vs. Michigan State, 30-27
Points wise, Saturday was Minnesota’s best showing in the Big Ten. They’ll get Illinois next week, but there’s next to no chance they’ll go bowling this season.
11. Nebraska (3-4, 2-2)
Last week - Loss vs. Ohio State, 56-14
The good news for Nebraska is they have three winnable games on the schedule. The bad news is they only hold Big Ten wins over rutger and Illinois this season.
10. Maryland (3-3, 1-2)
9. Northwestern (3-3, 1-2)
Last week - Win vs. Maryland, 37-21
It’s hard to hold any loss against Maryland at this point. Max Bortenschlager threw for three touchdowns this week and that’s a sentence no Maryland fan expected to read in the preseason.
But Northwestern had 531 yards of offense and got a badly needed win. The Wildcats have a really easy run of games to end the year - at NEB, vs PUR, vs MIN, at ILL - and could easily still be bowl-bound. Maryland, meanwhile, closes the season vs. MICH, at PSU, vs MSU. Godspeed, Terrapins.
8. Purdue (3-3, 1-2)
Last week - Loss at Wisconsin, 17-9
Something about Indiana college teams and goal-line situations with the game on the line renders them useless. Fortunately for Purdue, they get a brief break from conference play against rutger next week.
7. Indiana (3-3, 0-3)
Last week - Loss vs. Michigan, 27-20 (OT)
A brief aside: IU’s win against Virginia is looking better and better each week. The Cavaliers are now 5-1 and two spots behind IU in S&P at 40. Now, the bad news for IU is they get another ranked opponent on the road in Michigan State.
6. Iowa (4-2, 1-2)
A week of thinking made me realize that Iowa probably doesn’t belong in the second tier.
5. Michigan State (5-1, 3-0)
Last week - Win at Minnesota, 30-27
Winning on the road in the Big Ten is tough no matter the opponent, so I won’t hold a close win over Minnesota against them. The Spartans are beatable but refer to the first sentence as to why IU fans shouldn’t get their hopes up.
4. Michigan (5-1, 2-1)
Last week - Win at Indiana, 27-20 (OT)
Michigan’s defense is great at every level. But my word that offense is atrocious. Consider this me going on record saying Penn State will handle them.
3. Wisconsin (6-0, 3-0)
Last week - Win vs. Purdue, 17-9
If I asked you to name the person leading the Big Ten in rushing, would you name Jonathan Taylor? After running for 219 yards against Purdue, Taylor sits at 986 yards, over 200 yards more than anyone else in the league.
2. Ohio State (6-1, 4-0)
Last week - Win at Nebraska, 56-14
Similar to Taylor, J.T. Barrett is putting together a great season that few are talking about. His five-touchdown performance against Nebraska gives him 21 passing touchdowns to just one interception this year with 1,838 passing yards with an additional 359 rushing yard and five touchdowns.
1. Penn State (6-0, 3-0)
Two weeks to prepare for Penn State with the best player in the Big Ten with College Gameday coming? I’m glad big-time Big Ten football is back.