The Big Ten Power Rankings Week 10 are so volatile. In the Big Ten West, the team in sole possession of first place is not Wisconsin or Iowa. It’s not Purdue or Minnesota. The first place team in the Big Ten West is Northwestern. After starting the season 1-3, Pat Fitzgerald has led the Wildcats to four straight victories to put their conference record to 5-1. The Wildcats now control their own destiny to the Big Ten Title game. However, that’s all put on hold this week as Northwestern welcomes a national championship contender to Ryan Field Field on Saturday night in Notre Dame. Crazy things have happened this year so don’t count out Northwestern just yet.
Here are last week’s Big Ten Power Rankings for reference.
14. Rutgers (1-7)
On a positive note, Rutgers could not lose because they had a bye week. I’m not going to pretend like I have the answer to fixing the football program at Rutgers. I don’t think Chris Ash is the answer, but then again, who can do a better job? The better question might be who wants the job. We’ll find out soon enough. Rutgers travels to Camp Randall to play Wisconsin on Saturday.
13. Nebraska (2-6)
Beat Bethune-Cookman, 45-9
Nebraska won its second game on Saturday, but before bragging about that victory, let’s pump the brakes. Bethune-Cookman is an FCS team, not a Power 5 school. So Nebraska did its job by beating an inferior opponent by over 30 points. For a team that only has two wins, Nebraska has to take its victories where they can get them, but let’s see what happens when they travel to Columbus to play a motivated Ohio State team on Saturday.
12. Illinois (3-5)
Lost to Maryland, 63-33
Illinois played well on offense. 261 yards passing, 232 yards rushing, and 33 points is a great day for most teams. However, it was as if the Illini had 8 guys on defense because Maryland ran wild all day. The Illini allowed Maryland to rush for 431 yards and 5 TDs and the Terps finished the game with 712 total yards. You might have thought Illinois was playing a Big 12 school by looking at those huge numbers. Here are the last three opponents’ score totals against Illinois: 46, 49, 63. Illinois needs to learn how to stop someone asap. Illinois plays Minnesota at home on Saturday afternoon.
11. Indiana (4-5)
Lost to Minnesota, 38-31
What has happened to Indiana? The Hoosiers started the year at 3-0. Since then, Indiana has lost 5 of the last 6 games with their 1 win coming against Rutgers. The defense was supposed to be the strength of the team, but in the 5 losses, the Hoosiers have surrendered more than 33 points each game. I’m no expert, but it’s hard to win games when you can’t stop the other team. The Hoosiers have a much-needed bye.
10. Minnesota (4-4)
Beat Indiana, 38-31
Minnesota desperately needed to win a game after four straight losses. Behind quarterback Tanner Morgan’s 3 TD day including a late 4th quarter TD pass to Rashod Bateman with under two minutes left, the Golden Gophers ended their losing streak and picked up their first conference win of the season. Morgan started for the injured true freshman Zack Annexstad. It’s all about baby steps for this program. Win two more games and they’re in a bowl. Minnesota will play Illinois on the road in another winnable game.
9. Maryland (5-3)
Beat Illinois, 63-33
Total domination for the Terps as the offense accounted for 712 yards (!!!). 431 yards rushing and 5 TDs is beyond impressive, but the stat that stands out for me is Kasim Hill’s 281 yards passing and 3 TDs. Maryland needs Hill to be productive through the air to so for him to put up numbers like that is a luxury. Don’t forget that Maryland beat Texas to start the season. The Terps are talented when they put it altogether. Maryland welcomes Michigan State to College Park on Saturday.
8. Purdue (4-4)
Lost to Michigan State, 23-13
Oh how a week makes a difference. A week after thrashing Ohio State, Purdue ran into a buzzsaw aka the Michigan State defense. Quarterback David Blough had his worst game of the year, throwing for 277 yards, 0 TDs, and 3 INTs. The running game was also nowhere to be found as they only managed to rush for 62 yards. Purdue will look to get back on track in a huge matchup with Big Ten West implications on the line as the Boilermakers face Iowa at home.
7. Wisconsin (5-3)
Lost to Northwestern, 31-17
Wisconsin is known for running the ball, controlling the clock, and playing tough defense. However, against Northwestern, Wisconsin was beat at their own game as the Wildcats dominated the Badgers from start to finish. Quarterback Alex Hornibrook was out on Saturday, which proved to be a huge loss for the team as backup Jack Coan could only muster 158 yards though the air. Now, Wisconsin no longer controls their own destiny in the Big Ten West. They need to win out. Wisconsin plays Rutgers at home on Saturday.
6. Michigan State (5-3)
Beat Purdue, 23-13
I am going to write “Michigan State is one of the weirdest teams in college football” every week because that’s the only thought that comes to mind when describing the Spartans. The Michigan State offense could not do anything right against Michigan, but against Purdue, the Spartans outgained the 2nd best offense in the Big Ten. The difference was redshirt freshman Rocky Lombardi, who started for the injured Brian Lewerke, and his 300+ yards passing and 2 TDs. Michigan State travels to College Park on Saturday to play Maryland.
5. Northwestern (5-3)
Beat Wisconsin, 31-17
Northwestern, welcome to the top of the Big Ten West. They did not have to squeak out a win as they did in the previous weeks. Northwestern dominated Wisconsin from start to finish as they now sit atop the Big Ten West standings. The Northwestern offense line dominated the line of scrimmage all day as the Northwestern offense outgained the Wisconsin offense in rushing, passing, and total yards. Northwestern does not play in conference this weekend so a win or loss won’t hurt their Big Ten resume, but the Wildcats will have a chance to put the whole country on notice as they host Notre Dame on Saturday night.
4. Iowa (6-2)
Lost to Penn State, 30-24
For a team that usually wins ugly, defensive battles, Iowa came out on the wrong side of the spectrum as Penn State knocked off the Hawkeyes in a close game. Surprisingly, Iowa had more rushing, passing, and total yards than Penn State. The loss sets Iowa back in the Big Ten West as they fall in a tie for second behind first-place Northwestern. However, those two teams will play in two weeks. Iowa has a difficult road test this Saturday as they travel to West Lafayette to take on Purdue.
3. Penn State (6-2)
Beat Iowa, 30-24
Remember when I said Penn State could play spoiler in the Big Ten? Well, that theory got off to a hot start this past Saturday as they took down Iowa, who is fighting to represent the Big Ten West in the Big Ten Conference Championship. Despite playing injured, Trace McSorley was able to gut out a victory on a rainy and chilly day in Happy Valley. Once again, Penn State will have a chance to disrupt the conference if they can knock off Michigan in Ann Arbor on Saturday afternoon.
2. Ohio State (7-1)
After a bye week, the Ohio State Buckeyes are out for revenge after getting waxed by Purdue. Was the loss a fluke or was a sign of a downward trend in the future? For now, I’m leaning towards a fluke because I still believe with Dwayne Haskins at quarterback, this team can compete with anyone in the country. Ohio State plays in Columbus on Saturday against Nebraska.
1. Michigan (7-1)
No changes at the top. Michigan is still the top team in the Big Ten. With the best defense in the country, opposing teams have struggled to accumulate yards against the Wolverines all year as the Michigan defense allows an average of 220.0 yards per game, which is the lowest average in the country. With the luxury of the top defense in the country, Shea Patterson and the offense don’t necessarily need to be electric on offense as opposed to just being efficient. Michigan has a huge test this week as they welcome Penn State to the Big House on Saturday afternoon.
All eyes will be on Northwestern this Saturday night as they look to disrupt the College Football Playoff if they can knock off Notre Dame.