The Hawkeyes put their No. 1 designation in these power rankings to the test last week and came out with a gritty win against Penn State. Also, the Huskers take another step forward despite a loss.
1. Iowa (6-0, 3-0)
Previous: 1. Last week: W 23-20 vs. Penn State.
The Hawkeyes outscored Penn State 10-0 in the fourth quarter, including a Spencer Petras 44-yard touchdown pass to Nico Ragaini, to win the biggest game of the year in the Big Ten so far. IU trailed 17-3 before halftime, but overcame the deficit. Iowa is in great shape in the Big Ten West and hosts Purdue (one of only two other teams left in the division with only one conference loss) on Saturday.
2. Ohio State (5-1, 3-0)
Previous: 3. LW: 66-17 vs. Maryland.
Concerns about the Buckeyes have abated quickly. Since losing to Oregon and sleepwalking through a big chunk of a win against Tulsa last month, OSU has scored 59, 52 and 66 points. C.J. Stroud threw for 406 yards and five touchdowns on Saturday against the Terrapins. Now, Ryan Day’s team has an off week before traveling to Indiana on Oct. 23. That precedes a huge showdown at home against PSU on Oct. 30. The top four teams in the East (OSU and the next three in these rankings) still all play each other this fall. Giddyup.
3. Michigan (6-0, 3-0)
Previous: 4. LW: W 32-29 at Nebraska.
The Wolverines trailed for the first time this season, saw Cade McNamara throw his first pick of the year and still found a way to beat Nebraska, thanks in part to a late Adrian Martinez fumble. Jake Moody made all four of his field goals and UM leaned on its running back duo of Hassan Haskins (123 yards and two TDs) and Blake Corum (87 and a TD). Jim Harbaugh’s team has a bye, then hosts Northwestern before traveling to MSU for a showdown to close October.
4. Michigan State (6-0, 3-0)
Previous: 5. LW: W 31-13 at Rutgers.
The Spartans started slowly on the road, but closed emphatically. Kenneth Walker rushed for 232 yards and a TD and Jalen Nailor had five catches for 221 yards and a trio of touchdowns. That’ll work. MSU turned the ball over three times, but 588 offensive yards was more than enough to make up for the miscues. The rest of October goes at Indiana on Saturday, bye, home for the big one against Michigan.
5. Penn State (5-1, 2-1)
Previous: 2. LW: L 23-20 at Iowa.
The Nittany Lions were in control on the road in Iowa City late in the first half, but lost quarterback Sean Clifford to an injury and lost the game. They tumble in the rankings because of it, but they’re still very much in the mix. James Franklin’s team can still win the East (it was going to have to beat Ohio State and/or Michigan State anyway), but it’s a tough blow for a team that had budding College Football Playoff aspirations. Maybe running the table and knocking off Iowa in an Indianapolis rematch would still be enough. That will take a lot of work.
6. Minnesota (3-2, 1-1)
Previous: 6. LW: No game.
Minnesota had its off week and returns to play at home against Nebraska on Saturday. The Gophers have beat Scott Frost’s team two straight years and will look to make it three. The gulf between the top five teams in the conference and the rest only seems to be growing.
7. Indiana (2-3, 0-2)
Previous: 8. LW: No game.
The Hoosiers didn’t play Saturday and return to action by hosting unbeaten MSU. Indiana has scored just six points in its first two conference outings and isn’t likely to find the going much easier against the Spartans. What have they come up with during the bye week?
8. Purdue (3-2, 1-1)
Previous: 9. LW: No game.
The Boilermakers didn’t play Saturday and return to action by traveling to unbeaten Iowa. That’ll be quite a task for Jeff Brohm’s team.
9. Nebraska (3-4, 1-3)
Previous: 10. LW: L 32-29 vs. Michigan.
The Huskers led an unbeaten team late in the fourth quarter for the second time in three weeks and lost by a field goal for the second time in three weeks. QB Adrian Martinez accounted for four second-half TDs before a pivotal fumble with 1:45 to go that set up Michigan’s game-winning field goal. Scott Frost is now 5-16 as the Husker head coach in one-score games. The Huskers have a tough test this week: Rebound and try to win at Minnesota before the first of two bye weeks.
10. Wisconsin (2-3, 1-2)
Previous: 12. LW: W 24-0 at Illinois.
A win against hapless Illinois isn’t going to solve all of Wisconsin’s ills, but it probably felt good nonetheless. The Badgers held the Illini to 93 offensive yards and 11-of-34 passing. UW held the ball for 42:43 and won easily despite committing the game’s only two turnovers. Freshman Braelon Allen, a converted linebacker, rushed 18 times for 131 and a TD. Could he be a second-half spark for Paul Chryst’s team?
11. Maryland (4-2, 1-2)
Previous: 7. LW: L 66-17 at Ohio State.
After a fast start to the season, the Terps have seen two of the Big Ten’s best the past two weeks and surrendered 115 points in the past 120 minutes. Maryland turned it over twice against Ohio State and gave up 598 yards and eight offensive TDs plus a defensive score to the Buckeyes, who had the ball just 25 minutes. Ouch. Mike Locksley’s team is off this weekend, then visits Minnesota.
12. Rutgers (3-3, 0-3)
Previous: 11. LW: L 31-13 vs. Michigan State.
The Scarlet Knights got within 14-13 in the second quarter, but then gave up a 65-yard touchdown pass on the first play of MSU’s ensuing possession and the Spartans scored the game’s final 17 points. Michigan State’s four TDs on the day were passes to Nailor of 63, 63 and 65 plus a 94-yard Walker TD run. That’s not going to cut it for Greg Schiano’s defense. RU now travels to Northwestern, where one team will get its first Big Ten win of the year.
13. Illinois (2-5, 1-3)
Previous: 13. LW: L 24-0 vs. Wisconsin.
Illinois hasn’t played well much since its season-opening win against Nebraska, but Bret Bielema’s team was really overmatched against his former employer. The Illini had just 93 yards and nine first downs and let a Badgers offense that had been anemic most of the season roll to 30 first downs.
14. Northwestern (2-3, 0-2)
Previous: 14. LW: No game.
The Wildcats didn’t play Saturday and return to play by hosting Rutgers. Last time out, Pat Fitzgerald’s team gave up 56 points to Nebraska. Can they bounce back and show some progress in the second half of the season?