By: Bo Bowen
The Big Ten conference will begin full in-conference play this week. With several teams in contention for just a few slots in the College Football Playoff, it will be a battle every week for the leagues top teams. Going into conference play, here are the Big Ten football power rankings.
1. Ohio State (Overall 2-1, Conf. 1-0): The season got off to a rocky start in Columbus after the Baker Mayfield-led Oklahoma team rolled the Buckeyes 31-16. However, a loss to a top-ten team with one of the country’s best quarterbacks doesn’t keep Ohio State from topping our rankings. Urban Meyer’s talented roster, along with one of the most talented front sevens in the country, will be contending with Penn State and Michigan for the College Football Playoff.
2. Michigan (Overall 3-0, Conf. 0-0): The reason Michigan comes in at second and not Penn State here is because of strength of out of conference schedule. Jim Harbaugh’s squad won its opener versus top 20 ranked Florida. Penn State has yet to play a strong team. However, the Wolverines have the toughest schedule of the top three in away games versus resurgent Maryland, Wisconsin, and Penn State. If they can emerge unscathed from that stretch going into the Ohio State game, they will be a serious national title contenders.
3. Penn State (Overall 3-0, Conf. 0-0): Penn State returned a massively talented lineup from last season. After being arguably snubbed from the playoff, Saquon Barkley looks like a legitimate Heisman contender. However, the Nittany Lions’ strongest opponent has been Pittsburgh at home. Penn State looks deep and talented, but don’t face a true test until week 7 versus Michigan. It may be a while until we see the Nitanny Lions face stiffer competition.
4. Wisconsin (Overall 3-0, Conf. 0-0): Similar to Penn State, Wisconsin has yet to face a power 5 team going into conference play. The Badgers return a loaded, physical defense from last season, and a primed to come out of the lopsided Big Ten West division. Wisconsin also has one of the easiest conference schedules in the Big Ten, with a home game against Michigan in week 10 being their toughest test.
5. Maryland (Overall 2-0, Conf. 0-0): The Terrapins opened the season with a bang upsetting Texas. This appears to be a revamped Maryland team this year with the 9th most rushing yards in the country. The Terps have a brutal start to conference play with road games against Minnesota, Ohio State and Wisconsin. How Maryland plays in the next four weeks will likely determine where they eventually fall in the Big Ten.
6. Northwestern (Overall 2-1, Conf. 0-0): The Wildcats suffered a tough loss to Duke in week two. Northwestern returns veteran quarterback Clayton Thorson and workhorse Justin Jackson on offense. The defensive side of the ball still has some holes to be filled. With a road matchup with Wisconsin looming, Pat Fitzgerald’s team will face a very tough opening slate of conference games.
7. Iowa (Overall 3-0, Conf. 0-0): Iowa won a thriller over Iowa State in week two and currently sit atop the Big Ten west standings. Despite being 3-0, their strength of schedule out of conference is subpar, having faced Wyoming, Iowa State, and North Texas. They host Penn State this week in what will surely be a tough matchup for the Hawkeyes.
8. Minnesota (Overall 3-0, Conf. 0-0): Similar to Iowa, the Gophers’ only power-5 win comes against lowly Oregon State. Defense is their specialty having only allowed 8 points per game thus far. With a favorable start to conference play, we could be seeing this team sit near the top of the Big Ten West for a while
9. Michigan State (Overall 2-0, Conf. 0-0): After a disappointing season in East Lansing, the Spartans appear to be recharged. They round out conference play versus Notre Dame this weekend. This team runs the football well coming in at number 16 in the country in terms of rushing yards. However, with road games against Ohio State and Michigan, it will be tough for Michigan State to rise in the loaded Big Ten east.
10. Illinois (Overall 2-1, Conf. 0-0): The Fighting Illini suffered a tough lost to ranked South Florida last weekend. However, they have one of the easier starts to conference play with Nebraska, Iowa, Rutgers, and Minnesota. Illinois sits in the less-talented Big Ten West, which could help their chances when it comes to bowl selection.
11. Purdue (Overall 2-1, Conf. 0-0): With coach P.J. Fleck coming in from Western Michigan, he brings with him new energy into the program. Purdue won at Missouri last weekend, showing they can hang with larger programs. Their start to the season shows that this may be the Big Ten’s most improved team this year.
12. Indiana (Overall 1-1, Conf. 0-0): Indiana arguably had one of the toughest starts to the season with Ohio State coming into Bloomington. However, with a loaded conference schedule, it’s possible the Hoosiers will be sitting at the bottom of the standings for a majority of the season.
13. Nebraska (Overall 1-2, Conf. 0-0): The Huskers have had a rough start to the season, with bad losses to Northern Illinois and Oregon. With such a tough beginning to the season, Nebraska will have to rebound quickly with Wisconsin and Ohio State coming to town in two weeks time. Don’t be shocked if a coaching change occurs midseason for the Huskers.
14. Rutgers (Overall 1-2, Conf. 0-0): Rutgers has wallowed in the basement of the Big Ten for a while now, and that likely won’t change anytime soon. With their only win coming in a blowout against Morgan State, things look bleak for Rutgers. They suffered bad losses to Eastern Michigan and Washington. With road games versus Michigan and Penn State, the Scarlet Knights may have another tough season.