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Big Ten Power Rankings: Week 4

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This conference has some bad football teams and one really, really good team.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 14 Eastern Michigan at Illinois Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Auston got the week off from Power Rankings and I decided to implement a tiered system. Enjoy. Or don’t.

TITLE CONTENDER

1. Ohio State Buckeyes

Last week: 51-10 win at Indiana (3-0)

SP+ Ranking: 5

Ohio State cakewalked over Indiana Saturday at Memorial Stadium. The Buckeyes used a balanced offensive attack and a dominant front seven to embarrass the Hoosiers on national tv. It’s early, sure, but it appears the only thing standing between the Buckeyes and the College Football Playoff is a complete meltdown like the one they had last year in West Lafayette.

TITLE CONTENDERS UNTIL THEY PLAY OHIO STATE

2. Wisconsin Badgers

Last week: Bye (2-0)

SP+ Ranking: 7

3. Michigan Wolverines

Last week: Bye (2-0)

SP+ Ranking: 16

The header for this group needs the following qualifier: if they win this week. With Michigan and Wisconsin facing each other in Ann Arbor this Saturday, the winner will be thinking CFP. But so far, the Badgers and Wolverines have been a class below Ohio State and until they show more, it’s hard to think of either of these teams as true title contenders.

PURGATORY

4. Iowa Hawkeyes

Last week: 18-17 win at Iowa State (3-0)

SP+ Ranking: 24

5. Penn State Nittany Lions

Last week: 17-10 win vs Pittsburgh (3-0)

SP+ Ranking: 14

Both of these teams are pretty good, each capable of racking up nine or 10 wins. But neither of them looks capable of running the gauntlet (Iowa plays at both Michigan and Wisconsin and Penn State gets Michigan a week after heading to Iowa City, not to mention the Nittany Lions play in Columbus). A couple thrilling wins in rivalry games will give each some momentum moving forward, but it would seem that neither of these teams is bound for anything more or less than a Capital-One-Bowl type of season

PROBABLY GOOD ENOUGH TO GO BOWLING

6. Nebraska Cornhuskers

Last week: 44-8 win vs. Northern Illinois (2-1)

SP+ Ranking: 39

7. Michigan State Spartans

Last week: 10-7 loss to Arizona State (2-1)

SP+ Ranking: 23

8. Indiana Hoosiers with Michael Penix, Jr. at quarterback

Last week: Bye (2-0)

SP+ Ranking: 48

9. Maryland Terrapins

Last week: 20-17 loss to Temple (2-1)

SP+ Ranking: 54

These four teams have played some of the most mind-boggling games of the Big Ten season so far, and while each of them has been far less than perfect, each are plenty capable of notching four more wins and becoming bowl eligible. But it’s hard to say any of them are a lock for bowl eligibility given some of their performances — Nebraska in a meltdown loss at Colorado, Sparty doing whatever that was against Herm Edwards this week, Maryland crashing back to earth against Temple, and everybody not named Michael Penix, Jr. against Ohio State.

All of these teams should get to six wins, in my opinion. But would it really surprise anybody if any of these clubs stumbled around during the next nine weeks and failed to reach .500? Nope.

PROBABLY GOOD ENOUGH TO GO BOWLING BECAUSE THE BIG TEN WEST SUCKS

10. Minnesota Golden Gophers

Last week: 35-32 win vs. Georgia Southern (3-0)

SP+ Ranking: 41

Minnesota falls into the probably-good-enough-to-go-bowling category simply because they play some real bums the rest of the way, and I am certain that they can and will beat Illinois, Rutger, and Northwestern, probably Purdue too (if Sindelar is out again). But they fall behind all of the other teams in the tier because they have shown absolutely nothing through three weeks. They’ve played South Dakota State, Fresno State, and Georgia Southern and are legitimately three plays from being 0-3. This is a bad football team.

PROBABLY NOT GOOD ENOUGH TO GO BOWLING

11. Northwestern Wildcats

Last week: 30-14 win vs. UNLV (1-1)

SP+ Ranking: 69

12. Purdue Boilermakers

Last week: 34-13 loss vs. TCU (1-2)

SP+ Ranking: 58

13. Indiana Hoosiers with Donovan Hale at quarterback

Last week: 49-yard touchdown pass vs Ohio State (null)

SP+ Ranking: N/A

Northwestern is going to be 1-6 (Michigan State, @ Wisconsin, @ Nebraska, Ohio State, Iowa in their next five games) when they play an Indiana team that should still have a legitimate shot at bowl eligibility in Bloomington on November 2. To become bowl eligible in that situation, they’d have to rattle off five straight wins over Indiana, Purdue, UMass, Minnesota, and Illinois.

As for Purdue, they may just run out of games. If they don’t have Elijah Sindelar against Minnesota, they could easily fall to 1-3 with Penn State, Iowa, and Wisconsin still on the schedule. If they don’t right the ship quickly, the Boilers may be looking for win number four or five when the Bucket Game rolls around. But the week one loss to Nevada suggests there’s even more wrong with Purdue than one could imagine (the Wolfpack lost to Oregon by 71).

Lastly, I’m not sold on the Donovan Hale-led Hoosiers simply because he will never be the quarterback for Indiana. But he made the best throw of the day for the Hoosier offense on Saturday.

TAKE THESE TEAMS OUT BACK AND PUT THEM DOWN HUMANELY

14. Indiana Hoosiers with Peyton Ramsey at quarterback

Last week: Lol vs. Ohio State (0-1)

SP+ Ranking: bruh

15. Illinois Fighting Illini

Last week: 34-31 loss vs Eastern Michigan (2-1)

SP+ Ranking: 83

Let’s get one thing straight: this isn’t being mean or overreacting or anything of that nature when it comes to Peyton Ramsey. This is having seen him utterly fail in what is now almost two season worth of football (nine games as a freshman, a full season as the starter as a sophomore, and the calamitous performance on Saturday). His arm is not strong enough. His decision-making is not good enough. And as a result, the game is played on a field 10 yards long when he is at the helm for Indiana — the five yards beyond the line of scrimmage and the five yards behind it. Ohio State’s defense may be out of this world, but almost any defense in the country can compete with an offense that can’t stretch the field even to the end of the chains.

As for the Illini, current Illinois coach Lovie Smith’s crew fell to future Illinois coach Chris Creighton’s Eastern Michigan squad in what has become an annual tradition for whatever Big Ten program is foolish enough to schedule the Eagles.