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Big Ten power rankings, week 11: Northwestern punches ticket to Indy

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All hail the Big Ten West champs, who lost to Akron this season.

NCAA Football: Northwestern at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a couple weeks since I’ve ranked the Big Ten football teams, since I was ranting about the incompetence at Maryland two weeks ago, then IU had a bye last week. But I’m back at it this week, as each B1G team has only two regular season games left to go. Let’s rank them:

14. rutger (1-9)

My girlfriend and I hosted a Friendsgiving over the weekend, and it reminded me that a great joy of the Thanksgiving dinner is the side dishes. I love some good sweet potatoes, or cranberry sauce. And some pumpkin or apple pie to wash down the meal for dessert always feels good too.

13. Illinois (4-6)

Hot off a 55-point explosion against Minnesota, the Illini laid another egg against Nebraska, losing 54-35. I don’t think Lovie Smith will be canned after this season, but if there’s no substantive progress in year 4, it might be time to go in a new direction in Champaign.

12. Maryland (5-5)

With final games against OSU and Penn State, it’s likely that the Terps missed out on their best chance at a bowl by losing 34-32 to Indiana on Saturday. And now that DJ Durkin is officially gone, the Maryland coaching search should be an interesting one, as I could see either Matt Canada being brought back, or Maryland going in a completely different direction — could Lance Leipold up at Buffalo be a candidate?

11. Nebraska (3-7)

This was a trying season for Scott Frost up in Lincoln, but there does seem to be progress, especially with QB Adrian Martinez, so you can imagine Nebraska will be listed as an under-the-radar contender coming into next season.

10. Indiana (5-5)

The Hoosiers almost blew a huge lead against a disjointed Maryland team, but thanks to kicker Logan Justus’s last-minute field goal, the Hoosiers rebounded with their first win since September. There’s still an outside chance IU makes a bowl this year, but regardless of the final two weeks, Tom Allen needs to evaluate what has happened with the defense regressing this season, as well as the inconsistency on offense. The solid recruiting makes me think Allen deserves at least another year or two, but overall the team still needs more conference victories than rutger, Illinois, and Maryland.

9. Purdue (5-5)

An uncharacteristic 41-10 loss against Minnesota was followed up with news that Louisville has fired Bobby Petrino, so the last two weeks of Purdue’s season will be dominated by the rumor mill that Jeff Brohm might head home. If this does happen, don’t worry, we’ve got ideas for the next Purdue coach.

8. Minnesota (5-5)

The Gophers must be regretting blowing those games against Maryland, Nebraska, and Illinois, as Northwestern and Wisconsin will be tough victories to get to the first bowl berth of the PJ Fleck era.

7. Wisconsin (6-4)

The Badgers had an uninspiring 22-10 loss to Penn State on Saturday, as backup QB Jack Coan threw for a grand total of 60 yards. Outside of Jonathan Taylor, another star running back in the long lineage of those in Madison, this team doesn’t have much going on for it this season. A disappointing year for a squad that had CFP aspirations in September.

6. Iowa (6-4)

As I wrote at the beginning of the season, the intrigue in watching Iowa isn’t the destination (7-8 wins per year), but the journey. The Hawkeyes are now on a three-game losing streak, but it’s frustrating for Hawkeyes fans to see four very close losses on the docket (and seeing Northwestern win their division!) and to think what Could Have Been.

5. Michigan State (6-4)

Mark Dantonio going to an intentional safety with a direct snap out of the end zone — in the third quarter — is the most B1G thing of all time. But 6 total points against an OSU defense that’s given up big play after big play this season is a rough outing, even for MSU offense standards.

4. Northwestern (6-4)

They’ve clinched the West with two weeks to go and an 0-3 nonconference record! That’s right, the losers to the Akron Zips defeated Iowa to put a ribbon on the West division and punch their ticket to Indy in December. This seems like it happens every season with the Wildcats: a slow start turns into a magical year in Evanston. The most hilarious outcome would be if they lose two regular season games to finish 6-6, then ruined Michigan’s playoff chances in the B1G title game. I’m very here for this.

3. Penn State (7-3)

With games coming up against rutger and Maryland, the Nittany Lions will probably finish 9-3, and with a bowl victory would finish with 10 wins. Yet, this season will be a disappointment for Penn State, even with this outcome, and the quote about going from good to elite could keep coming back to haunt James Franklin for the rest of his tenure in State College.

2. Ohio State (9-1)

Another ugly victory for the Buckeyes (this is becoming the norm under Urban Meyer!), won thanks in part to punter Drue Chrisman continuing to pin Sparty back within its 5 all game. Chrisman was not named B1G Special Teams Player of the Week, however. That honor went to Logan Justus, and OSU fans were upset about it.

1. Michigan (9-1)

Failed to cover the spread against rutger, winning only 42-7. You’d have to think they were looking ahead their big opponents next weekend... uhh...

(checks notes)

Indiana. #CHAOSTEAM RETURNS!

College Football Playoff

1. Alabama

2. Clemson

3. Michigan

4. Notre Dame

The clear #1 is still Alabama, who now has switched gears from an offensive juggernaut to a defensive powerhouse after its second straight shutout. Clemson came into cold Boston on Saturday night and dominated BC, even if it didn’t put up the same number of points it had been over the previous month. Michigan’s defense is putting up absurd numbers this year, but still needs to get by Ohio State. And Notre Dame still gets the fourth spot for now, though I could name at least 5 teams that have played at a higher level this season, but won’t get the benefit of the doubt that the Fighting Irish do because of their independence and historic reputation (UGA, Oklahoma, WVU, UCF, and Wazzu all come to mind). If this current four-team scenario holds, then it’s time to have a serious discussion about CFP expansion.