WHOAAAAA, HE HAS TROUBLE WITH THE PITCH! And just like that, Jabrill Peppers’ dash to the end zone both boosted his Heisman case and simultaneously exorcised many past demons as he put an exclamation point on Michigan’s victory in East Lansing. Though the result was expected, having the lead with zeroes on the scoreboard had to feel great for Jim Harbaugh, his first victory over the Spartans, who have terrorized Michigan for the better part of a decade.
Elsewhere in the Big Ten, Northwestern fell but kept it uncomfortably close for the Buckeyes, Wisconsin’s stifling defense helped hand Nebraska their first loss, making things interesting in the West, and Penn State followed up their eye-popping victory over Ohio State by embarrassing those poor Boilermakers. Take notice because these Nittany Lions are legit.
Like always, individual rankings can be found in the graphic at the bottom of the page. Enjoy.
(Indicates 1st place votes) [Avg Rank]
1. Michigan (8) [1.0] Record: 8-0 (5-0) Previous Rank: 1
It wasn’t the pretty beat down many fans were hoping for, but Michigan went to East Lansing and took care of business the way they were supposed to. The final margin was closer than the game on the field, Wilton Speight didn’t have his best day, and the vaunted Wolverine defense took the fourth quarter off, but they brought home Paul Bunyan for just the second time in nine years. With that proverbial monkey off their back, Michigan can continue on their very real quest towards a Big Ten Championship. Next up? Departed defensive coordinator, D.J. Durkin’s feisty Maryland team. He might be greeted with cheers in his return to the Big House, but don’t expect Michigan to play nice on the field.
2. Ohio State [2.1] Record: 7-1 (4-1) Previous Rank: 2
Hello, J.T. Barrett? Yes, this is downfield pass, I’m just calling to remind you about our services. I think if you’d take the time to hear our offers, we could be of great use to you. What’s that? You’re not interested? Look here young man, if you don’t make some changes soon, you can forget about a trip to Indianapolis. Uh huh, you too, have a nice day.
The Buckeyes are fortunate to have some of their toughest games at home, but even in ‘The Shoe’, Barrett is going to have to find ways to stretch the defense, especially against Nebraska this week. Every remaining game is a must-win for Urban Meyer’s young squad but a loss here would make Michigan’s end of the year visit virtually meaningless in the playoff picture.
3. Wisconsin [2.9] Record: 6-2 (3-2) Previous Rank: 4
N-A-S-T-Y. That’s how you spell Badgers defense. They made tenth year senior, Tommy Armstrong, look like a wide-eyed freshman as they ravaged his offensive attack and laughed at his futile attempts to complete meaningful passes. Quarterback Alex Hornibrook was largely a non-factor for Wisconsin’s offense but they didn’t need him to be spectacular. This win keeps the Badgers conference hopes alive but they’ll have to be just as sharp in Evanston against a dangerous looking Northwestern team that’s just hitting their stride.
4. Nebraska [4.0] Record: 7-1 (4-1) Previous Rank: 3
Struggles against Wisconsin’s defense are not unexpected but the Cornhuskers have to get more from veteran quarterback, Tommy Armstrong. He and the rest of Nebraska’s offense couldn’t do much right all day and despite rallying to force overtime, the Cornhuskers were still handed their first loss of the season. That loss turns this week’s trip to Columbus into a must-win situation. A win puts Nebraska in the driver’s seat in the Big Ten West, but a loss muddles the picture greatly and likely puts the division in Wisconsin’s grasp.
5. Penn State [5.6] Record: 6-2 (4-1) Previous Rank: 5
In case you thought last week’s victory over Ohio State was a bit of a fluke, the Nittany Lions casually dropped 62 on Purdue. Saquon Barkley continues to be not of this world, making his case as the most underrated back in America, and Trace McSorely managed the game to perfection at quarterback. Penn State has reeled off four straight victories since a disastrous trip to Ann Arbor and has become an unexpected player in the Big Ten East where early season slip-up against Pitt could prove to be quite costly.
6. Iowa [5.8] Record: 5-3 (3-2) Previous Rank: 6
I sincerely hope the Hawkeyes used their time off to rest up, make adjustments, and formulate a gameplan to stop Saquon Barkley. It’s going to be a long night in Happy Valley if not.
7. Northwestern [6.9] Record: 4-4 (3-2) Previous Rank: 7
The season that could’ve been… The Wildcats may have let one slip away in The Shoe but they once again showed how much better they are than the team that lost three of their first four games, one of which came against FCS Illinois State. Austin Carr is doing things, Justin Jackson is doing things, Clayton Thorson looks competent. It’s just a shame Northwestern took so long to reach this point. There’s still a mathematical possibility to win the West, however unlikely, and it will require overcoming Wisconsin’s suffocating defense this Saturday.
8. Minnesota [8.3] Record: 6-2 (3-2) Previous Rank: 9
Minnesota threw the ball 19 times. They ran the ball close to fifty times. Huh. If only someone said to do this ALL SEASON LONG. I know, I know, I sound like a broken record of repeated ‘I told you so’s’. The point is, the more Minnesota runs the ball, the better they perform. Or, more accurately, the less Mitch Leidner throws the ball, the better they perform. It only took half the season to figure it out, but now that we’re here, Minnesota is a potentially dangerous team. Not that we’ll find out much this week when they host the little engine that couldn’t.
9. Indiana [8.5] Record: 4-4 (2-3) Previous Rank: 8
Alright, I’m gonna start needing some compensation from teams if they keep stealing my wisdom. This advice isn’t free! Well, I guess it is, but throw a dog a bone every once in awhile, okay? Richard Lagow threw only 25 passes, less than half of his attempts the previous week, as Indiana literally ran their way to victory. Backup quarterback, Zander Diamont, was shuffled in and out of the offense as he and two Hoosier backs all eclipsed 100 yards on the ground. Crazy how a multi-dimensional offense is more effective that throwing every play. /s
10. Maryland [10.1] Record: 5-3 (2-3) Previous Rank: 10
Indiana presented a crucial opportunity for the Terrapins to pick up a win as their next three games are as tough as they come but despite holding slim leads at halftime and late in the third quarter, Maryland couldn’t seal the deal. D.J. Durkin returns to The Big House for the first time since leaving his former team but walking out with a win seems incredibly unlikely.
11. Michigan State [11.1] Record: 2-6 (0-5) Previous Rank: 11
Mark Dantonio’s coaching decisions have come under heavy scrutiny in the aftermath of the Wolverines visit, but they shouldn’t. Knowing his team’s limitations, Dantonio coached to win, making all of the calls he could to keep the Spartans within striking distance while not overextending and asking them to do something out of their abilities. Sure the two-point attempt was pointless but so was any decision in that situation. He’s earned the right to make that call and he had his team ready to play despite being out-manned across the board. The Spartans won’t make a bowl game this season but two straight wins are more than possible for a team getting reps for next season.
12. Illinois [12.3] Record: 2-6 (1-4) Previous Rank: 13
Jeff George Jr. was harassed and mauled all day and despite not throwing an interception, he coughed up four of the five Illini fumbles, three of which Minnesota recovered. Easy recipe for a lopsided loss. Wake me up when Lovie Smith gets more talent on campus.
13. Purdue [12.8] Record: 3-5 (1-4) Previous Rank: 12
Purdue’s entire day was a trainwreck and they couldn’t do anything to slow down Penn State as they filled up the scoreboard. It may be a long shot but the Boilermakers should do everything in their power to coax P.J. Fleck to row his boat from Western Michigan to West Lafayette.
14. Rutgers [13.8] Record: 2-6 (0-5) Previous Rank: 14
Hey, Rutgers didn’t lose this week! Of course, they had a bye but hey, progress. Now they welcome a Hoosier team in desperate need of a win to keep pace in the race to bowl eligibility. Rumor has it, Rutgers will be hosting 400 recruits as they try to avoid another embarrassment. Okay, okay, I made that up, but hey, you wouldn’t really be shocked would you?