It’s rivalry week in the Mitten State but the Wolverines and Spartans appear headed in opposite directions. With an assist from the Nittany Lions, Michigan has ascended to the top of our power rankings for the first time this year and as the first unanimous top team to boot. Hmmmm, I wonder which of our incredible contributors has had the Wolverines there from the beginning? Oh, oh, wait! I know this one!
Penn State and Northwestern are other notable risers as we get ready for another week of high profile matchups in the Big Ten. Michigan-MSU will get plenty of attention but Nebraska’s trip to Madison presents the best conference game of the weekend and Ohio State returns to the friendly confines of The Shoe to take on an ascending Wildcat team while hoping to leave their mistakes in Happy Valley.
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: 7-0 (4-0) Previous Rank: 2
Michigan REALLY has to feel confident about a likely make-or-break trip to Columbus now. After watching the Buckeyes suffer through a disastrous trip to Happy Valley, Wolverine fans everywhere broke out their happy dance. As is per norm, Michigan rolled through another hopelessly overmatched team with no signs of slowing down. The Illini narrowly avoided the shutout but failed to be competitive which has become a common theme for Michigan opponents. It might be “rivalry week” in the state of Michigan (as if), but the Wolverines really only have one game left on their schedule and are the clear front-runners in the Big Ten now.
2. Ohio State [2.3] Record: 6-1 (3-1) Previous Rank: 1
The Buckeyes certainly didn’t get a few calls their way but if they are nearly as good as they claim to be on message boards everywhere, it shouldn’t have been close enough to matter. The problem is, this young Buckeye squad ISN’T good enough yet. The talent is there but they’ll need to find their ceiling before TTUN comes to visit. Ohio State will still make the playoff if they win out but that looks like a tall task at the moment. J.T. Barrett won’t survive rushing twenty times against Michigan the way he’s been forced to lately by much lesser defenses. They better start improving this week against Northwestern and I’m sure they’ll be more than happy to return home.
3. Nebraska [3.3] Record: 7-0 (4-0) Previous Rank: 3
Nebraska had smooth sailing against the tattered Boilermakers but the waters are about to become treacherous. The Cornhuskers travel to Madison for a massive Big Ten West showdown. A win legitimizes Big Ten title hopes and therefore playoff talk, but a loss muddies those treacherous waters and opens the door for Wisconsin to get back in the conference picture. All eyes should be on this one.
4. Wisconsin [3.5] Record: 5-2 (2-2) Previous Rank: 4
Iowa might not be a slouch but after the recent gauntlet the Badgers have been through, it was a welcome breather. Wisconsin took care of business in Iowa City and they are getting quite the reward. A visit from undefeated Nebraska with the Badgers conference life on the line. Wisconsin easily has the most difficult schedule in the country but if they can survive this, it opens up a world of possibilities. They’ll lean on Corey Clement but freshman quarterback, Alex Hornibrook, will have to make enough plays to be the difference.
5. Penn State [5.3] Record: 5-2 (3-1) Previous Rank: 7
GLASS HALF FULL! I feel like Dan Dierdorf screaming “I told you!” But honestly, the Nittany Lions were expected to be fodder for Ohio State and instead locked those Buckeyes in a white hell they’ll be having nightmares about for months. I’ve raved about Saquon Barkley all year even if I can’t remember how to spell his name (thank you google) and he has singlehandedly saved James Franklin’s job while making Happy Valley happy again.
6. Iowa [6.0] Record: 5-3 (3-2) Previous Rank: 5
After their third loss. three more than all of last year’s regular season, the Hawkeyes bye week presents an opportunity to do some major soul searching and attempt to figure out where things have gone so wrong. Iowa just can’t seem to find enough playmakers and C.J. Beathard hasn’t developed into the quarterback many thought he could be.
7. Northwestern [7.1] Record: 4-3 (3-1) Previous Rank: 9
The Wildcats are continuing their complete turnaround and after dispatching of Indiana with ease, they’ve won four straight and are firmly in the mix for the Big Ten West with just one conference loss. So far. Austin Carr has emerged as an elite playmaker but they’ll need all they can get from him and more if they have any hope of doing the unthinkable in Columbus this week.
8. Indiana [8.1] Record: 3-4 (1-3) Previous Rank: 6
Indiana has firmly entrenched themselves in the “not quite good enough” category. They aren’t awful. But they aren’t good either. Richard Lagow’s passing numbers are bordering craziness as he AGAIN came close to SIXTY pass attempts. He might not have an arm by season’s end. Someone tell the Hoosiers that running IS allowed under college football rules.
9. Minnesota [9.0] Record: 5-2 (2-2) Previous Rank: 8
Minnesota looked well on their way to a throttling of a ghastly Rutgers team but faded and only narrowly escaped one of the worst teams in FBS. Mitch Leidner looks like that chocolate ice cream with eyes emoji if you know what I mean. That is to say, not great. Thankfully it appears coach Claeys really does read this because he has stopped forcing Mr. Ice Cream to throw fifty times a game and is instead relying on a much more effective ground game. Next up is Illinois and maybe try not letting them score 32 the way you let a truly awful Rutgers team.
10. Maryland [9.6] Record: 5-2 (2-2) Previous Rank: 10
So Perry Hills IS alive and apparently he’s happening. The Spartans may not be the defensive juggernaut of year’s past but Hills was efficient and made all the right plays. Ty Johnson was once again electric from the backfield and the Terrapins find themselves just one game away from bowl eligibility in D.J. Durkin’s first season at the helm. An upcoming game in Bloomington is important without many obvious wins remaining on the schedule. After Indiana, Maryland’s next three opponents have a combined one loss on the season. WOOF.
11. Michigan State [11.3] Record: 2-5 (0-4) Previous Rank: 11
What’s not happening is Michigan State. This was never going to be a great season considering the losses on both sides of the ball but their fall from playoff team to not-in-a-bowl-game has been anything but expected. It’s tempting to say this is rock bottom for the Spartans but they welcome in the literal machine that is Michigan Football this week and according to our sources, the Wolverines don’t plan on playing nice. This one can and will get messy. It’s hard to look away from train wrecks but you can certainly sell your tickets to them which Spartan fans are doing in mass.
12. Purdue [11.9] Record: 3-4 (1-3) Previous Rank: 12
New (temporary) head coach, same predictable results. To be fair, the Cornhuskers are a very good football team but there’s just not much to say about Purdue Football right now. The Boilermakers would literally need Saquon Barkley to get hit by a train in order to stop him. Good luck. Maybe, start drinking at breakfast.
13. Illinois [12.8] Record: 2-5 (1-3) Previous Rank: 13
They did not get shut out by Michigan and that’s worth something. Heck, the Illini even converted a two-point try! Illinois never had a chance against Michigan’s talent but they do have a real opportunity to upset the lackluster Golden Gophers at home. Go Fighting Lovies, GO!
14. Rutgers [14.0] Record: 2-6 (0-5) Previous Rank: 14
So close. But still winless in Big Ten play. Fortunately, the Scarlet Knights have a bye to rest their tattered souls. After, Rutgers faces a much less daunting stretch in search of their first conference win under Chris Ash.