Another weekend of Big Ten football is nearly upon us. Following last week’s action we’ve got some minor shakeups in the power rankings, mostly toward the bottom as the bottom-feeders try to figure out who’s just bad and who’s really, really bad. The top, however, is awfully sturdy.
Last week: 48-7 win @ Nebraska (5-0)
SP+ Ranking: 2
Last week I said that Ohio State-Nebraska might be a bloodbath. Despite what others may have thought, I was right. The Huskers didn’t have a chance. OSU led 14-0 after a quarter, 38-0 at the half and then coasted to an easy win in Lincoln. As I’ve said for weeks, the Buckeyes are legitimate College Football Playoff contenders and should probably be the overwhelming favorites to win the Big Ten at this point in time. Next up for them is a nationally televised matchup with No. 25 Michigan State at home. Expect a long night for the Spartans, because if Michael Penix Jr. could take advantage of their D then Justin Fields almost certainly should be able to. It also helps that the OSU defense is significantly better than the IU defense.
Last week: 24-15 win vs. Northwestern (4-0)
SP+ Ranking: 8
It wasn’t the dominating performance that some, myself included, expected, but it was a classic Big Ten-style win. The ground game and the defense led the Badgers to a win over Northwestern as Johnathan Taylor went for 119 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries. He averaged roughly 4.5 yards per carry which isn’t spectacular but definite something you’ll take from your workhorse. The defense allowed just 97 rushing yards and 213 total. The Badgers limited Northwestern to just 18 completions on 41 attempts through the air as well and picked up four sacks to boot. Following the performance the Wisconsin D jumped to the top spot in the SP+ rankings. Now that we’re roughly a third of the way through the season it’s easier to get a grip on what each team’s aspirations should be. This year it seems like Wisconsin is the team to beat in the Big Ten West and should be fighting for a New Year’s Six bowl, possibly a Rose Bowl appearance if Ohio State makes the CFP.
Last week: 59-0 win @ Maryland (4-0)
SP+ Ranking: 7
To put it simply, Penn State beat the tar out of Maryland. They went down to College Park and absolutely spanked the Terps. How much of it was Penn State being good and how much of it was the Turtles being bad? No idea. I’m guessing a bit of both. For now the Nittany Lions are considered to be among the best teams in the nation by SP+, but I have a gut feeling that they’re due for a bit of regression that will come in the form of some tough matchups down the stretch. They begin a gauntlet of a month this week as they play Purdue before they go to Iowa, host Michigan and then travel to Michigan State. That stretch doesn’t include their matchup with Ohio State nor future matchups with potentially tough underdogs Minnesota and Indiana. It’s gonna be an awfully tough hill to climb for Penn State to close out this season, but if they can get through it relatively unscathed they could be in the NY6 discussion as well.
Last week: 48-3 win vs. Middle Tennessee State (4-0)
SP+ Ranking: 20
The Hawkeyes got to beat up on a lower-tier team in a buy game last week. The offense put up a bunch of numbers, the defense shut down the Blue Raiders, basically everything you would’ve expected. The Hawkeyes currently sit at No. 14 in the national poll and they’ll face their first test of the Big Ten schedule this weekend when they travel to the Big House to play No. 19 Michigan. That game will be a huge one for both teams as they could each use a win against a quality opponent to solidify their respective places among the top teams in the conference.
Last week: 52-0 win vs. rutger (3-1)
SP+ Ranking: 13
And here are the Wolverines. Like Iowa they also got to beat up on a lower-tier team in what should’ve been a buy game last week. Also like Iowa the offense put up a bunch of numbers and the defense shut down its opposition. The Wolverines will have home-field advantage against the Hawkeyes this season which should be worth something. That very well could be the most intriguing game in the conference on Saturday.
Last week: 40-31 win vs. Indiana (4-1)
SP+ Ranking: 21
Michigan State held on for dear life against IU once again, taking the closest nine-point win I’ve ever seen. For now, it still appears that the Spartans sit on the edge of the “good” teams and the more questionable ones – not quite as good as Penn State or Iowa, but better than Nebraska, Minnesota and, according to the head-to-head result, Indiana. This weekend they’ll play in Columbus and if I wouldn’t anticipate things turning out well for them.
Last week: 40-31 loss @ Michigan State (3-2)
SP+ Ranking: 29
The Hoosiers lost, but for some reason I’m even more optimistic than I was before the game. I wrote about that in-depth here. The brief form is that the Hoosiers are young and they still almost beat the ranked Spartans. They’re up in SP+ and favored to make a bowl game. They get a bye this week before hosting rutger for homecoming. #9WINDIANA is still coming, which is why I didn’t bump the Hoosiers down despite the loss.
Last week: 38-31 win @ Purdue (4-0)
SP+ Ranking: 33
I haven’t really believed in Minnesota so far this season, but they’re the one team I’ve doubted that’s yet to lose a game despite some close calls. They’re undefeated in part thanks to a weaker schedule to open the season and looking at their upcoming schedule things only get a little tougher. They’ll take on conference bottom-feeder Illinois this week, then play host to Nebraska before traveling to rutger and then returning home to play Maryland. All four of those teams are notably below the Gophers in these rankings as well as the SP+ rankings. Folks, we’re potentially looking at 8-0 MINNESOTA heading into a showdown with Penn State in November. Start building your bunkers and safe houses because I’m pretty sure that if Minnesota football won eight games in a row PJ Fleck would instantly become one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse and we would all be doomed.
Last week: 48-7 loss vs. Ohio State (3-2)
SP+ Ranking: 39
Nebraska was what I thought it was. The Huskers took on Ohio State and got pantsed. They’ve lost two games now and fell to the point where they’re ten (10) spots lower in the SP+ rankings than Indiana. Luckily for them, they get a small reprieve this week as they’ll host Northwestern this weekend. They should be able to rebound nicely against the Wildcats, who are famously not great this year though they did compete a bit with Wisconsin.
Last week: 59-0 loss vs. Penn State (2-2)
SP+ Ranking: 46
Like Nebraska, Maryland also played a good team and got pantsed. If you were on Twitter during the game you surely saw the plethora of jokes, memes and whatnot. The Terps gained 108 yards in the game. Like total. As an offense. On the bright side, that’d be great in 1903. Like Nebraska, Maryland also get a reprieve this week. They’ll play rutger so expect a clobberin’.
Last week: 24-15 loss @ Wisconsin (1-3)
SP+ Ranking: 69 (nice)
Give the Wildcats credit. They actually hung with one of the best teams in the conference, only losing by nine points to Wisconsin. It still feels like they aren’t terribly good, but perhaps they’re moving in the right direction. This weekend they go to Lincoln to take on Nebraska. Maybe they’ll hang in there again this week. (whispers) maybe they’ll actually beat the Huskers, who knows?
Last week: 38-31 loss vs. Minnesota (1-3)
SP+ Ranking: 63
Rondale Moore hurt? Elijah Sindelar hurt (again)? I actually kinda feel bad for our friends up North. They’re gonna get ejected forcefully from Happy Valley this weekend.
Last week: Bye (2-2)
SP+ Ranking: 56
They aren’t good. They moved up in SP+ because other teams moved down. Not much to report after a bye week. They’ve got Minnesota this weekend on the road, but I wouldn’t and will not expect much out of the Illini.