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Big Ten Power Rankings: Week Nine

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The Illini finally get a marquee win under Lovie Smith, Penn State takes down Michigan and other fun stuff from around the conference

Wisconsin v Illinois
Head coach Lovie Smith of the Illinois Fighting Illini reacts after a game-winning field goal as time expired in the game against the Wisconsin Badgers at Memorial Stadium on October 19, 2019 in Champaign, Illinois. Illinois defeated Wisconsin 24-23.
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Another week of Big Ten football is down. We saw a big upset, we saw some important top 25 matchups and, of course, we saw another Ohio State beatdown. Here’s how things look heading into week nine:

1. Ohio State Buckeyes

Last Week: 52-3 win @ Northwestern (7-0)

SP+ Rankings: 1

They played football on a Friday night (bleh), but once again they proved why they're the best team in the conference. They absolutely wrecked the Wildcats, surprising absolutely nobody. Until somebody breaks serve against the Buckeyes they’re in a league of their own. They get Wisconsin in Columbus next week so there could be an opportunity, but I’m not sure that the Badgers have the horses to keep up.

2. Penn State Nittany Lions

Last Week: 28-21 win vs. Michigan (7-0)

SP+ Rankings: 8

The Nittany Lions picked up their biggest win of the season to date, solidifying themselves as a second-tier team in the conference. Sean Clifford threw for three touchdowns with no interceptions and KJ Hamler was fantastic once again, catching six passes for 108 yards and two scores. He also got to show off his speed:

This week they travel to Michigan State as 5.5-point favorites and it could be a tough test but if they come out on top they’ll be one step closer to a potential showdown against Ohio State for the division title.

3. Wisconsin Badgers

Last Week: 24-23 loss @ Illinois (6-1)

SP+ Rankings: 7

Whoops. Wisconsin looked like it could coast to a Big Ten West title and a trip to Indianapolis but now that’s a bit of a question. Despite the loss I still think that the Badgers are the best team in the West. They’ll try to rebound in a big way against Ohio State this weekend and it might be a good idea to not turn the ball over three times, which they did do against Illinois.

4. Michigan Wolverines

Last Week: 28-21 loss @ Penn State (5-2)

SP+ Rankings: 14

Michigan suffered its second loss of the season in Happy Valley. The Wolverines are squarely in the third-tier of the Big Ten at this point as they aren’t quite good enough to take down one of the top three teams, but they should be able to beat anybody else in the conference. Next week they’ll play Notre Dame as slight favorites. It’ll likely be their best chance to secure a marquee win this season.

5. Iowa Hawkeyes

Last Week: 26-20 win vs. Purdue (5-2)

SP+ Rankings: 24

They picked up a win, which is always a good thing. Even moreso when you can bounce back from a tight loss against a good team like Penn State. Mekhi Sargent put the game away with a 14-yard touchdown with just a couple of minutes left on the clock. Purdue scored a late TD to make the score more respectable. It was likely a bit closer than the Hawkeyes would’ve liked, but they keep chugging nonetheless. This week they play at Northwestern and they’re 10.5-point favorites. Should be a relatively easy win.

6. Indiana Hoosiers

Last Week: 34-28 win @ Maryland (5-2)

SP+ Rankings: 24

Despite what you may have heard there actually was a post about Saturday’s game on this website. You can find it here. It covered what happened in the game and everything. It’s also on the front page of the site if you’d like to read it. That being said, IU picked up win number five, keeping #9WINDIANA on track. The Hoosiers will get their first chance to become bowl eligibile this weekend when they travel to Nebraska as a slight road favorite. Michael Penix Jr. is still a gametime decision, but the fact that the Hoosiers are playing for their sixth win this early in the season has to make you feel good as a fan.

7. Minnesota Golden Gophers

Last Week: 42-7 win @ rutger (7-0)

SP+ Rankings: 15

They beat yet another bad football team so I bumped them up a spot. Maybe they’re actually good, who knows? This weekend they get Maryland at home and they’re heavy favorites. They should by all means be 8-0 heading into their matchup with Penn State on Novermber 9.

8. Michigan State Spartans

Last Week: Bye (4-3)

SP+ Rankings: 28

They’ve had some time to recover from getting pantsed by Wisconsin and now they have to play host to another good team as Penn State comes to town this weekend. Whether or not they pick up what would be a huge win should depend largely on whether or not the Spartan defense can limit Clifford and Hamler in the passing game. Brian Lewerke against SP+’s 12th-ranked defense might not be great for MSU either.

9. Nebraska Cornhuskers

Last Week: Bye (4-3)

SP+ Rankings: 46

They got a week off after losing to Minnesota by 27 points on the road. The hype train has clearly crashed in Lincoln. That being said they should give the Hoosiers a good game this weekend. Quarterback health will be a big thing to watch for both sides.

10. Illinois Fighting Illini

Last Week: 24-23 win vs. Wisconsin (3-4)

SP+ Rankings: 70

11. Purdue Boilermakers

Last Week: 26-20 loss @ Iowa (2-5)

SP+ Rankings: 50

They lost to Iowa, but competed better than expected. It looks like quarterback Jack Plummer could be a dude. He’s been excellent the last two weeks. Against Iowa he threw for 327 yards while completing 30 of 50 passes. He also scored two touchdowns and threw an interception. That’s about as good as it gets from a guy who had to step into the starting role after an injury. David Bell is a guy that I, among many others, considered to be a really good recruit coming out of Warren Central HS last year and he had possibly the best game of his career so far against the Hawkeyes. He caught 13 passes for 197 yards and a touchdown. He was also really good against Maryland. This weekend they’ll host Illinois as 7.5-point favorites. If they want to have a shot at bowl eligibility despite all the injuries they’ve suffered this is a game that they have to win and they should be more than capable of doing so.

12. Maryland Terrapins

Last Week: 34-28 loss vs. Indiana (3-4)

SP+ Rankings: 47

Maryland kept things tight againt the Hoosiers despite a slowish start. Tyrrell Pigrome played fine until a costly interception cost the Terps a chance to win the game. Javon Leake played pretty well as a 60-yard touchdown boosted him to 158 yards and two scores on 23 carries for the day. They travel to Minnesota this weekend which won’t be an easy matchup for them.

13. Northwestern Wildcats

Last Week: 52-3 loss vs. Ohio State (1-5)

SP+ Rankings: 74