Tiers within the Big Ten conference are starting to reveal themselves after the fourth week of action. At the very top of the pile, Ohio State and Wisconsin seem to have separated themselves as the two best teams in the league. As noted from our power rankings, these two teams represent our currently predicted champions of both divisions.
Time will tell if undefeated Penn State and Iowa also deserve recognition, but currently the eye test says “not so fast.” With a few disappointing losses, Rutgers, Illinois, Northwestern, and Purdue have an uphill battle to climb back into bowl-contention. None of these are being counted out; however, the Big Ten slate does not get any easier moving forward.
Big Ten Football Week 5 Power Rankings
No. 14 Rutgers (1-2, 0-1 B1G)
Previous: No. 14; Last Result: Loss against Boston College 30-16
Fresh off of a bye week, there was a good chance for Rutgers to get an important victory against another Power Five team; however, the Scarlet Knights just couldn’t pull it off. Rutgers kept things close in the first half but the Eagles ultimately overpowered Rutgers in the second half. There is a big uphill battle for Rutgers as they have only one remaining non-conference foe.
No. 13 Illinois (2-2, 0-1 B1G)
Previous: No. 11; Last Result: Loss against Nebraska 42-38
Illinois is coming off to a four point lost to the Cornhuskers where they gave up over 670 yards and still had a chance to win. Offensively, the Fighting Illini put up just 78 passing yards on nine completed passes but the rushing attack broke the end zone four times for the offense. Illinois has a bye week to get ready for a four game slate where they play Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Purdue over the course of October.
No. 12 N’western (1-2, 0-1 B1G)
Previous: No. 11; Last Week Result: Loss against Michigan State 31-10
The early-season gauntlet has Northwestern in shambles in late September. After putting up just 7 points in a week 1 loss at Stanford, the Wildcats only mustered 10 in a home defeat to MSU. Freshman RB Drake Anderson continued his hot streak, rushing for 91 yards and a TD vs. the Spartans. A trip to Madison, Wisconsin looms next week; can the Wildcats catch the Badgers off guard?
No. 11 Indiana (3-1, 0-1 B1G)
Previous: No. 12; Last Result: Win against Connecticut 38-3
The Hoosiers enter week five of the season with a 3-1 record and are facing their first true road test of the season in East Lansing. With the loss of senior lineman Coy Cronk, Tom Allen’s team has to find a way to attack the talented Spartan defense that has given up just 11 points and 228.3 yards per game. After the disappointing loss to Ohio State, this game serves as another chance for Indiana to earn the upset victory they need to break out in the Big Ten East.
No. 10 Purdue (1-2, 0-0 B1G)
Previous: No. 10; Last Result: Bye
The Boilermakers get an important week of rest before heading straight into the depths of the Big Ten East. TCU, who beat Purdue last week, lost to an unranked SMU team at home. Vanderbilt also lost big to conference rival LSU. Both of these games cast a cloud of doubt on Purdue and the Boilermakers’ strength of schedule did not improve during the bye week.
No. 9 Maryland (2-1, 0-0 B1G)
Previous: No. 9; Last Result: Bye
After coming off a three point loss to Temple in week three, Maryland had a bye week to get ready for a home matchup against Big Ten east foe Penn State. This game is a chance for the Terrapin offense to see if it can get back to its dominance it showed the first two games. The Nittany Lion defense is giving up an average of 10 points per game while their offense is putting up 47 per game. Maryland has to find a way to get their offense off to a good start if they want to keep up with the Nittany Lions through four quarters.
No. 8 Nebraska (3-1, 1-0 B1G)
Previous: No. 7; Last Result: Win at Illinois 42-38
It wasn’t easy, but the Cornhuskers recorded their first road win since October 2017. They tallied 690 total yards of offense, but only managed a nail-biting 4-point win at Illinois, where Nebraska was favored by 13. Nebraska’s next game at home against Ohio State can either propel the Huskers into Big Ten West contention, or potentially thrust their season into disarray.
No. 7 Minnesota (3-0, 0-0 B1G)
Previous: No. 7; Last Result: Bye
Minnesota took a much needed bye week after stumbling and pushing to a perfect 3-0 record. Their first true test comes against Purdue next week to see if they can compete in the Big Ten this year after a rough start against overmatched teams. This game will be highly dependent on if the Golden Gophers can make some big defensive plays to stop the Boilermakers.
No. 6 Michigan St. (3-1, 1-0 B1G)
Previous: No. 6; Last Result: Win at Northwestern 31-10
It’s tough to say how good Michigan State is playing as their opponents have a lot of questions themselves. Northwestern has been greatly underperforming this year and the Spartans took advantage of that with a convincing 31-10 win in Evanston. Dantonio won his 110th game for MSU, making him the winningest coach in school history. Michigan State once again looks like a strong defensive school that will help put their offense in optimal situations to score.
No. 5 Michigan (2-0, 0-0 B1G)
Previous: No. 4; Last Result: Loss at #14 Wisconsin 35-14
We all knew that Michigan would struggle in Madison this weekend, but this was both an impressive outing by both teams in opposite ways. Michigan’s defense had no answer for Jonathan Taylor and are now experiencing QB uncertainties with the replacement of Shea Patterson with Dylan McCaffrey after Patterson had two fumbles in the first two games and had a poor outing against the Badgers in the first half. Patterson did reenter the game and finished stronger, but as Harbaugh stated, Michigan has “a lot to fix.” Harbaugh continues his poor showing against ranked opponents on the road – he is now 1-6. They return to Ann Arbor to face Rutgers next weekend.
No. 4 Iowa (3-0, 1-0 B1G)
Previous: No. 5; Last Result: Bye
The Hawkeyes had the week off and are moving on to a non-conference battle against Middle Tennessee State. A win this week gives Iowa a 4-0 start to the season and their best start since 2015 when they went the regular season undefeated. This week’s game can be used as a final tune-up for Kirk Ferentz’s team as matchups against Michigan and Penn State are coming the next two weeks.
No. 3 Penn State (3-0, 0-0 B1G)
Previous: No. 3; Last Result: Bye
While PSU didn’t play a game this weekend, a couple of their non-conference opponents, Pitt and Buffalo, picked up impressive wins of their own, over #15 UCF and Temple, respectively. The Nittany Lions’ first road game comes Friday, at Maryland.
No. 2 Wisconsin (3-0, 0-0 B1G)
Previous: No. 2; Last Result: Win versus #11 Michigan 35-14
Heisman candidate Jonathan Taylor continues to build his impressive resume. In the first quarter alone, he ran for over 140 yards and two touchdowns against a porous Michigan defense that got embarrassed. Despite giving up their first points on the season, Wisconsin absolutely handled Michigan from start to finish, and they have triggered a social-media witch hunt focused on Harbaugh’s tenure at Michigan.
No. 1 Ohio State (4-0, 1-0 B1G)
Previous: No. 1; Last Result: Win against Miami (Ohio) 76-5
Another week passes by, and another Ohio State demolition catches the attention of Big Ten football fans. The Buckeyes drubbed the Redhawks in Columbus, thanks in large part to six TDs from QB Justin Fields…in one quarter. A tricky two-game stretch awaits the Buckeyes: a road game at Nebraska on Saturday, then a home game against MSU the following week.