Big Ten Power Rankings: After Big 2 1/2, conference at best a muddle of mediocrity
We’ve seen enough to know it’s the Big 2½ and Little 11½, depending how you slot Penn State. The Nittany Lions either belong among the also-rans or join Ohio State and Michigan as contenders in the East. We won’t know for sure until PSU visits Michigan Oct. 15.
OSU vs. Rutgers:What's next for Ohio State football? An early glance at Rutgers
Until then, we’ll stick with the Buckeyes and Wolverines as towering above the pack of pretenders. Minnesota remains the most intriguing team in the conference, and should be favored to win the West, while Indiana and Rutgers came back to earth, as we knew they would. Last thing: watch out for Iowa. The Hawkeyes’ defense is good enough to make up for a horrible offense. At least in the West. And maybe this week against Michigan?
1. Ohio State (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten)
Last week: 1
This week: Rutgers
What to know: Ohio State could oversleep, miss kickoff by 15 minutes and still crush the Scarlet Knights by 30 points. Must be nice to name your score.
2. Michigan (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten)
Last week: 2
This week: at Iowa
What to know: Coming off something of a scare against Maryland, the Wolverines face another potential fright in Iowa’s defense. Then again, UM can score 20 points and be fine.
3. Penn State (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten)
Last week: 3
This week: Northwestern
What to know: What is this? Alabama? When did Penn State begin scheduling high school teams?
4. Minnesota (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten)
Last week: 4
This week: Purdue
What to know: It feels like 23-year-old quarterback Tanner Morgan is entering his 10th season with the Golden Gophers. Expect the Tom Brady of the Big Ten (in age only) to have a big game against the Boilermakers.
5. Maryland (3-1, 0-1 Big Ten)
Last week: 7
This week: Michigan State
What to know: Maryland typically hits the wall when conference play arrives, but the Spartans apparently are made of wet drywall, so the Terrapins will bust right through.
6. Iowa (3-1, 1-0 Big Ten)
Last week: 8
This week: Michigan
What to know: The Hawkeyes rank No. 6 nationally in total defense, but 131st (and last) in offense. Pickle juice and peanut butter are an easier combo to swallow.
7. Wisconsin (2-2, 0-1 Big Ten)
Last week: 5
This week: Illinois
What to know: Something seems amiss in Madison. Coaching? Failure to adjust ancient offense to modern times? Whatever it is, the Badgers better fix it before the Illini come to town.
8. Illinois (3-1, 0-1 Big Ten)
Last week: 12
This week: at Wisconsin
What to know: Former Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema goes back to Badgerland for the first time since leaving the Dub for Arkansas 10 years ago. Upset special: BB makes a triumphal return.
9. Rutgers (3-1, 0-1 Big Ten)
Last week: 9
This week: at Ohio State
What to know: Rutgers enters a second straight blackout game at the Horseshoe, except this time it’s the Scarlet Knights blacking out.
10. Michigan State (2-2, 0-1 Big Ten)
Last week: 6
This week: at Maryland
What to know: The Spartans looked undisciplined, uninterested and unprepared during their uninspiring 34-7 loss to Minnesota, leading unimpressed MSU fans to wonder if Mel Tucker should go unpaid for overseeing the unfortunate mess.
11. Purdue (2-2, 0-1 Big Ten)
Last week: 10
This week: at Minnesota
What to know: The Boilermakers struggled against Florida Atlantic last week. Don’t expect sea change this week.
12. Indiana (3-1, 1-0 Big Ten)
Last week: 11
This week: at Nebraska
What to know: A litmus test of a game that doubles as a COVID-19 rapid test, telling us which of these programs is more negative than the other.
13. Northwestern (1-3, 1-0 Big Ten)
Last week: 13
This week: at Penn State
What to know: The Wildcats have lost back-to-back games to Southern Illinois and Miami University. Losing back-to-back-to-back is an affront to Pat Fitzgerald’s reputation.
14. Nebraska (1-4, 0-1 Big Ten)
Last week: 14
This week: Indiana
What to know: The Cornhuskers remain the unfinished basement of the Big Ten. Can they add some 1970s-style faux paneling by “upsetting” Indiana? Probably not.