In one of the more exciting weeks in the Big Ten, we saw the biggest upset of the season with Wisconsin losing to a struggling Fighting Illini team, but little major excitement in the other results. Ohio State continues to set the standard that everyone is trying to reach, and the only other team in the conference that can truly overtake the No. 1 spot is Penn State. We see a new face in the No. 2 spot now and a slowly-climbing Golden Gopher team that remains undefeated.
We will see a big showdown this week with the Badgers testing the Buckeyes and a crucial non-conference match-up for the Wolverines when they host the Fighting Irish. Will Michigan or Wisconsin get a big win? Will Michael Penix be back for the Hoosiers? Can Rutgers reach their second win against Liberty? As the season reaches its tail end, the dust will settle more, and we will get a clearer picture at where teams lie in the Big Ten.
Big Ten Football Week 9 Power Rankings
No. 14 Rutgers (1-6, 0-5 B1G)
Previous: No. 14; Last Week: Loss against #20 Minnesota 7-42
The Scarlet Knights are looking for any opportunity to rebuild a little bit of confidence for a program that seems to be in a free fall with no signs of recovery. That being said, 5-2 Liberty is favored against Rutgers in Piscataway, and Illinois just came off one of the biggest upsets this season. The road ahead is not pretty for Rutgers.
No. 13 N’Western (1-5, 0-4 B1G)
Previous: No. 11; Last Week: Loss against #4 Ohio St. 3-52
Not only did the Wildcats get obliterated by Ohio State on Friday night, at home, on national TV, but they also had the extra kick in the teeth watching their rivals in Champaign pull off the big upset. The Wildcats will still win games this year due to a good running game and defense, but their QB situation keeps getting worse.
No. 12 Maryland (3-4, 1-3 B1G)
Previous: No. 11; Last Week: Loss against Indiana 28-34
The Terrapins have dropped back-to-back games for the second time this season after their latest matchup with the Hoosiers. Maryland has just one win over the past five games and with their next three games coming against ranked opponents, the Terrapins have to find some kind of momentum if they want to get their season back on track.
No. 11 Purdue (2-5, 1-3 B1G)
Previous: No. 9; Last Week: Loss at #23 Iowa 20-26
To credit Purdue, they kept a game close against Iowa on the road. Jack Plummer has been a welcome surprise for the Boilermakers, throwing 327 yards and two touchdowns in Iowa City. Purdue’s receiving corps might be one of the deepest in the league. However, at the end of the day, the Boilermakers are 2-5 on the season with just two wins against Vanderbilt and Maryland.
No. 10 Illinois (3-4, 1-3 B1G)
Previous: No. 13; Last Week: Win against #6 Wisconsin 24-23
Illinois pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the season, defeating undefeated Wisconsin on a last second field goal. The win ended the Illini’s four-game losing skid and pushes them to the halfway point for bowl eligibility. Lovie Smith’s team can look to build on this win as their next two opponents (Purdue and Rutgers) have a combined record of 3-11.
No. 9 Nebraska (4-3, 2-2 B1G)
Previous: No. 9; Last Week: Bye Week
The Cornhuskers didn’t play this week, which gave them a chance to hit the reset button after a 4-3 start. Weirdly, Nebraska still has an outside chance to win the Big Ten West. However, a poor performance against Indiana on Saturday will flush even those hopes and dreams down the toilet.
No. 7 (Tie) Michigan St. (4-3, 2-2 B1G)
Previous: No. 7; Last Week: Bye Week
Michigan State had a much needed bye week after losing to OSU and Wisconsin by a combined 72-10. They host the Nittany Lions this week and will try to avoid a 4-4 record on the season. Michigan State may have one of the toughest schedules in the Big Ten and will need to pull off a victory over either Maryland or Illinois (along with Rutgers) to secure a bowl bid.
No. 7 (Tie) Indiana (5-2, 2-2 B1G)
Previous: No. 8; Last Week: Win at Maryland 34-28
Indiana has accomplished something they have not since 2007, having five wins on the season in October. The Hoosiers defeated the Terrapins in a close battle and with five games remaining on the season, Tom Allen’s team needs just one win to go bowling for the first time since 2016. Their next two contests are on the road against Nebraska and home against Northwestern. These two games are a chance for Indiana to go ahead and achieve the six-win mark before they resume division competition in November.
No. 6 Iowa (5-2, 2-2 B1G)
Previous: No. 6; Last Week: Win against Purdue 26-20
The Hawkeyes see themselves with a 5-2 overall record, but a 2-2 conference record, seven games into the season. They currently sit in third place in the West behind Wisconsin and Minnesota. Iowa has a matchup next week against Northwestern, and then they will get a shot at both the Badgers and Gophers. If Kirk Ferentz’s team wants to make a statement in the division, then knocking off the top two teams could give them a chance at a trip to Indianapolis in December.
No. 5 Michigan (5-2, 3-2 B1G)
Previous: No. 4; Last Week: Loss at #7 Penn St. 21-28
Michigan cannot seem to catch a break. After starting 0-21 to the Nittany Lions in University Park, they answered back with a couple touchdowns to make it a game late. However, they could not pull off a crucial, signature victory. They have two more opportunities this season with the first being next week when they host a 5-1 No. 8 Notre Dame team that is looking for a signature victory themselves.
No. 4 Minnesota (7-0, 4-0 B1G)
Previous: No. 5; Last Week: Win at Rutgers 42-7
Minnesota is cruising through the conference schedule as planned with another definitive victory, now against Rutgers. Maryland is the Golden Gophers last tune-up before they host PSU, travel to Iowa, and host Wisconsin to end the season. They have a legitimate chance to be a 10-win team and the biggest surprise in the Big Ten this season.
No. 3 Wisconsin (6-1, 3-1 B1G)
Previous: No. 2; Last Week: Loss at Illinois 23-24
Although the loss to Illinois has significant playoff implications for the Badgers, the loss does not greatly change where Wisconsin ranks among the Big Ten. On paper, the Badgers outplayed the Illini without question, but untimely turnovers from Wisconsin’s two key offensive players, QB Jack Coan and RB Jonathan Taylor, allowed the Illini to pull off the upset.
No. 2 Penn State (7-0, 4-0 B1G)
Previous: No. 3; Last Week: Win against #16 Michigan 28-21
The end of PSU’s win on Saturday gave their fans some discomfort, but ultimately, James Franklin’s crew got another big win to keep their playoff hopes alive. The road ahead gets bumpy, quickly. Three away games in the next four weeks at MSU, Minnesota, and OSU loom.
No. 1 Ohio State (7-0, 4-0 B1G)
Previous: No. 1; Last Week: Win at Northwestern 52-3
After the weekend’s results, Ohio State now has a 46% chance of going undefeated, according to ESPN’s Bill Connelly’s S&P+ model. Head coach Ryan Day will look to make sure the team plays their best this coming Saturday against Wisconsin, who will surely play angry after their stunning loss at Illinois.
Featured Photo: IndianaHQ