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Big Ten Power Rankings [BLOG]

By: Brian Chapman

Last week was kind of a weird week in the B1G. First of all, four teams had the week off which meant less B1G to watch and less for me to write about. Second of all, the two top teams looked less than stellar in their victories. Sure Michigan State won by 24 points, but they scored in the final minute when 99% of teams (including Michigan State 99% of the time) would have taken a knee to milk the clock. They also scored on a pick six. If you take those 14pts away, the Spartans offense only scored 21pts the rest of the game. For a team that had one of the highest scoring offenses in the country heading into this game, basically 21 points against Michigan (at home!) is not all that exciting (especially to a College Football Playoff committee member.)

I also expected the Buckeyes to blow out Penn State. In the first half they scored just 17 points which was significant because it was the first half of football since the Virginia Tech game where they scored fewer than 20 points. Then they were shutout in the second half and needed two overtimes to escape with the win. It looks like for the third straight year, Urban Meyer has a very good, but fraudulent team that has no business in the playoff conversation.

So how do I see the conference halfway through the conference season? Like this:

1. Michigan State (7-1, 4-0, last week No. 1)… This was not the prettiest Michigan State win of the season, but because it came against Michigan, I'm sure it was the most satisfying for Spartan fans. For the second straight year "Little Brother" bludgeoned their archrival and even ran up the score with a late touchdown to thrill gamblers who put their confidence in MSU before the game. The effort needed to finally win by 24 points obviously didn't please the College Football Playoff committee, but it impressed me enough to keep them atop these power rankings.

2. Ohio State (6-1, 3-0, last week No. 2)… A week ago I pondered moving the Buckeyes up a spot to No. 1, but after needing two overtimes to beat Penn State and getting shutout in the second half, I had to decide whether or not to move them down a spot. Ultimately, they remain at No. 2 because the game appeared to be an aberration. J.T. Barrett was looking like a Heisman trophy contender until Penn State's defense made him look like a freshman. I can't imagine that he'll play like that for the rest of the season. I also think that on a neutral field, Ohio State would beat Nebraska by a touchdown. Ohio State stays at No. 2 and should remain there after this coming week. The big showdown is the week after in East Lansing.

3. Nebraska (7-1, 3-1, last week No. 3)… This game was not nearly as close as the final score indicated. When the Corn Huskers scored a touchdown early in the 3rd Q to take a 28-7 lead, this game was over. Ameer Abdullah was running wild and free and broke the school's all-time record for all-purpose yardage in a game, while the defense held Rutgers to a series of punts and a missed field goal in the 2nd quarter. Still, the 18 point margin of victory cannot have impressed the College Football Playoff committee, hence their low ranking. That's why even if Nebraska wins out with a convincing win against the Spartans or Buckeyes in the conference championship game; they will have no shot at the Playoff appearance.

4. Wisconsin (5-2, 2-1, last week No. 6) … Just when I was starting to wonder about them, Wisconsin reverted back to its Brett Beilema days with a 52-7 stomping of Maryland at Badger Stadium. It was a win that reeked of the Badgers of yesteryear, suggested that this team still could be a problem for other foes in the West and gives fans some hope that they could score an upset at home against Nebraska on November 15. Without a decent passing game, I find that hard to believe, but crazier things have happened.

5. Minnesota (6-2, 3-1, last week No. 4)… Last week I said that Minnesota appeared to be a pretty good team whose record would make a correction at the end of the season against stronger competition. One of those teams named in the stronger competition category was not Illinois, but Golden Gophers went on the road and lost to them anyway. Mitch Leidner completing just 40% of his passes in the loss that shows without a doubt that Minnesota remains a long way away from competing for a B1G title.

6. Iowa (5-2, 2-1, last week No. 7)… Iowa is coming off of a bye week after losing by 7 points at Maryland. Their next two games are against middle class B1G teams Northwestern and Minnesota. If they can somehow establish the run game with Mark Weisman and Jordan Canzeri to milk the clock and keep Jake Rudock from having to pass to win the game, they can emerge as one of the better middle class B1G teams. A far more likely scenario is splitting the next two, beating Illinois and scratching and clawing in the final two at home for an upset. If there's any pride and any advantage left in having a pink visitor's locker room, they'll eke out their 8th win.

7. Maryland (6-2, 3-1, last week No. 5)… For the second time this month Maryland experienced a welcome to the B1G moment. First, it was the 52-24 thrashing by the Buckeyes. Then on Saturday, Wisconsin rolled up 311 yards on the ground and held the Terps scoreless until the final minute of a 52-7 rout. I truly thought that Maryland would fare better as a middle class B1G team on the road. Oops.

8. Northwestern (3-4, 2-2, last week No. 8)… Northwestern had the week off and needed it off in the worst way. After clobbering Penn State and upsetting Wisconsin, they lost consecutive games to Minnesota and Nebraska, scoring 17 points in each game. It looks like the luster from the upset wins has disappeared. The good news is that aside from a non-conference game against Notre Dame, they actually have a shot to win out. Their final four B1G games are at Iowa, vs. Michigan, at Purdue and vs. Illinois. Despite the losing record, the Wildcats still have a shot to finish second in the West. That's the B1G for you.

9. Penn State (4-3, 1-3, last week No. 9)… It was great to attend consecutive games for my alma mater for the first time since I was a student and it was great to avoid a blowout at the hands of the Deep South Buckeyes, but when you're playing your rival there are no moral victories. What makes the loss that much more painful is it appears the coaching staff is wasting QB Christian Hackenberg's talent. All game it seemed as if the only play in the playbook was the wide receiver screen. Even I can throw a wide receiver screen. With the defense playing as well as it played, they should have won, but it's nearly impossible to beat a quality opponent when your offense is that conservative.

10. Rutgers (5-3, 1-3, last week No. 10)… Nothing surprising happened for Rutgers in their loss to the Corn Huskers. They allowed Ameer Abdullah to do whatever he wanted on the ground and Gary Nova continued to show that his performance against Michigan was a fluke after completing just eight passes over the weekend. To be fair he left the game at the end of the first half, but he was 8/19 at the time of his injury. At this point, I have to believe their entire season rides on their Nov. 15 matchup against Indiana. Win and they're a bowl team. Lose and well… you're still Rutgers. And if Nova can't play (not that he's a star), there's a decent shot that they lose that game and show that they're still Rutgers.

11. Purdue (3-5, 1-3, last week No. 11)… Purdue did not play a week after nearly beating the Golden Gophers in Minneapolis. That gave them an extra week to bask in the glow of almost winning and an extra week to prepare for their matchup in Lincoln against Nebraska. If I were Purdue, I wouldn't even bother game planning for this sure loss and instead would spend all week devising strategies to knock off Wisconsin. If they can pull off that upset at home, they'll have a shot to win their final two games and make a bowl. When there's about a 3% chance of beating Nebraska on the road (and all 3% of it relies on the Corn Huskers pulling their Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde act) why bother? Just win the last three and jump aboard the bus to Ford Field.

12. Michigan (3-5, 1-3, last week No. 12)… Saturday in East Lansing was all about moral victories for Michigan. The Wolverines lost by 24 points, but at least they kept the Spartans under 40. They struggled to run the football, but at least they had positive yards rushing. The offense was inept, but at least they scored a touchdown against Michigan State for the first time since 2011. Devin Gardner was terrible, but at least Connor Cook played poorly enough that the announcers were practically begging him to return for the 2015 season. Michigan's receivers were dropping balls left and right, but at least… well I've got nothing for that one. When all you can point to is a series of moral victories in a rivalry game, you remain near the rock bottom of the conference.
13. Illinois (4-4, 1-3, last week No. 14)… Somehow someway, the Illinois defense stood tall to earn a victory and dig this team out of the basement. Against what I thought was a strong team for the B1G, the Fighting Illini forced three turnovers including the game-winning fumble return for a touchdown in the 4th Q. The offense is still putrid and this isn't a sign that times are changing in Champaign, but at least there's a team behind Illinois in the power rankings.

14. Indiana (3-4, 0-3, last week No. 13)… Indiana had a bye and found a way to beat Missouri back in September, but fell to the bottom this week anyway. How did that happen? The Illini knocked off Minnesota and as long as the Hoosiers are going to use their 3rd or 4th string QB, they're just not the same team. Instead they are the worst team in the B1G.

BONUS: The BCS Standings are back. No, not the Bowl Championship Series Standings. It's my Sports Standings! Here are my top 10 teams in college football: 1. Miss. State, 2. Florida State, 3. Alabama, 4. Auburn, 5. Notre Dame, 6. Oregon, 7. TCU, 8. Ole Miss, 9. Michigan State, 10. Kansas State Week 5 Week 6 Week 7 Week 8 Week 9

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