By: Andrew Bowen
It was yet another crazy weekend in college football, one that included one of the best renditions of The Game of all time between Ohio State and Michigan. After the weekend, 10 (count ‘em), 10 teams from the Big Ten conference are headed for bowl games. And with the Big Ten Championship on the horizon, there is still a very good chance that at least one Big Ten team make the College Football Playoff, and potentially more, especially if Washington and Clemson lose their respective conference title games. That being said, here are this week’s Big Ten power rankings:
- Ohio State (11-1, 8-1 Big Ten): The Buckeyes capped off their nearly perfect season with an unforgettable win against rival Michigan Saturday. Their loss to then unranked Penn State earlier in the season will keep them out of the Big Ten title game. However, Urban Meyer’s team will likely still have the resumé to be included in the College Football Playoff.
- Michigan (10-2, 7-2 Big Ten): Michigan’s double-overtime loss to Ohio State keeps them at a close second to the Buckeyes. Michigan will likely need both No. 4 Washington and No. 3 Clemson to lose each of their title games in order to sneak in to the College Football Playoff. If both or one win, the Wolverines may be playing in the Orange Bowl.
- Wisconsin (10-2, 7-2 Big Ten): Fresh off of a Big Ten West division crown, the Badgers will have a chance to give both Ohio State and Michigan a run for their College Football Playoff hopes with a win in Indianapolis Saturday. If they lose, Wisconsin can probably bank on a Rose Bowl bid for a bowl game.
- Penn State (10-2, 8-1 Big Ten): The Nittany Lions are the surprise 10-win team in the Big Ten. Their win over then-undefeated Ohio State in Happy Valley propelled them into a winning streak that lasted the rest of the season. Behind sophomore running back Saquon Barkley, Penn State has earned the right to represent the Big Ten East in the conference championship game Saturday vs. Wisconsin. Should they lose, the Nittany Lions will likely play in the Cotton Bowl versus Western Michigan in what should be a shootout in Texas. A wins could sneak the Nittany Lions into the College Football Playoff.
- Iowa (8-4, 6-3 Big Ten): Iowa pulled their season together after a rocky start and they topped off their season with a blowout 40-10 win over Nebraska. The Hawkeyes should find themselves in the Holiday Bowl come New Year’s Eve.
- Nebraska (9-3, 6-3 Big Ten): After a hot start, the Huskers went into a skid late in the season, losing three of their last five. Their lost to Iowa this past Saturday ends the regular season on a sour note, however, their 9-3 record should land them a spot in the Outback Bowl.
- Minnesota (8-4, 5-4 Big Ten): Minnesota’s record is impressive at first glance, however, taking a deeper look they have only beaten weaker teams. In fact, the Gophers’ best win is probably against Northwestern. The Gophers should find themselves in the Music City Bowl.
- Northwestern (6-6, 5-4 Big Ten): The ‘Cats are better than their record suggests. 4 of their 6 losses have come against teams that were ranked at some point this season. Despite playing in the toughest conference in college football this season, Pat Fitzgerald’s team will likely find themselves in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl under the bright lights of New York City.
- Indiana (6-6, 4-5 Big Ten): The Hoosiers scraped by against Purdue to barely clinch bowl eligibility. But, Indiana’s program is headed in the right direction, having posted back-to-back bowl appearances. They will probably represent the Big Ten in the Foster Farms Bowl.
- Maryland (6-6, 4-5 Big Ten): Maryland has finally emerged from the bottom ranks of the Big Ten. Pulling out wins against Michigan State, Purdue, and Rutgers this year, the Terps were able to right the ship despite struggling after a 4-0 start. Maryland will likely find themselves in the Quick Lane Bowl as the tenth team in the Big Ten to clinch bowl eligibility this season.
- Purdue (3-9, 1-8 Big Ten): The Boilermakers posted their best record since 2002 with the high point of the year coming in a win over division rival Illinois. But Purdue will likely need to rebuild in the form of a new coach if they want to turn the program around.
- Illinois (2-10, 2-7 Big Ten): The Illini’s 3-point loss to Purdue puts them below the Boilermakers in our power rankings. Illinois is a better team than their record indicates, as the team was riddled with injuries this year.
- Michigan State (3-9, 1-8 Big Ten): After a Big Ten title in 2015, the Spartans had what can only be summed up as a disappointing 2016 campaign. Posting their worst overall record in a season since 1994, Michigan State will miss postseason play for the first time since 2006.
- Rutgers (2-10, 0-8 Big Ten): Sigh… the Scarlett Knights had, at best, a rough season. Losing to East opponents Michigan, Penn State and Ohio State by a combined 175-0, Rutgers posted an abysmal 2-10 record, with their only wins coming against 2 weaker non-conference teams. The good news: this was only the first season for head coach Chris Ash. Rutgers can only go up from here.
So there you have it. This weekend did not breed any huge slips or jumps in the hierarchy that is Big Ten football. However, with College Football Playoff selection looming, the picture is looking increasingly muddied with four Big Ten teams potentially having legitimate cases to make for the Selection Committee. The Big Ten Championship Game this weekend in Indianapolis will hopefully make the picture clearer.