By: Bo Bowen
It was a wild weekend in the world of college football. With every passing week, the playoff picture becomes more and more clear. The postseason in the Big Ten is becoming more clear as well, with teams beginning to separate themselves down the stretch. With that said, here are the Big Ten Power Rankings for Week 12.
1. Ohio State: The Buckeyes rebounded after an abysmal loss to Iowa last week with a blowout 48-3 win over Michigan State. Urban Meyer’s team is starting to play to its potential. With a win over Michigan this weekend, Ohio State would have 3 quality wins over ranked Penn State, Michigan State, and Michigan. Yes they have two losses, but they matchup well against Wisconsin in what will likely be the Big Ten title game.2
2. Wisconsin: Yes, we put an undefeated team below Ohio State. Wisconsin’s first ranked win came against Iowa this weekend. Despite remaining unbeaten, Wisconsin’s strength of schedule remains in question. The Badgers have a lack of quality wins that may come into play when the committee selects playoff teams. In order to be in the top four come playoff time, Wisconsin will have to run the table.
3. Michigan State: The Spartans did get smoked in Columbus this weekend, but they still carry quality wins over Penn State and Michigan. This team seems to go as quarterback Brian Lewerke goes. Mark :D’Antonio’s team isn’t completely out of the picture for the Big Ten title game, but a 48-3 loss to Ohio State this weekend greatly hurts their chances at a conference title.
4. Penn State: Penn State came out and rolled Rutger(s) 35-6 this weekend after two straight losses to Ohio State and Michigan State. This team has gotten through the toughest part of their schedule and has fallen out of playoff contention. Still, with a back as dynamic as Heisman contender Saquon Barkley, the Nittany Lions could be dangerous come bowl season.
5. Northwestern: Pat Fitzgerald’s Wildcats finally ended a game in regulation after 3 straight overtime victories. With a 23-13 win over Purdue, Northwestern rises to 5-2 in conference and continues a 5-game win streak. With easier matchups in Minnesota and Illinois looming, it’s quite feasible that the WIldcats find themselves at 7-2 in conference and second in the Big Ten West at the end of the regular season.
6. Michigan: We have the Wolverines at number six in our rankings because their conference slate has been very light. With losses against Michigan State and Penn State, and no quality conference wins, we don’t truly know what the ceiling is for Jim Harbaugh’s team. The Wolverines are still waiting to get back quarterback Wilton Speight from injury, which hurts them going into the Wisconsin game this weekend.
7. Iowa: The Hawkeyes looked flat after an emotional upset win over Ohio State. Wisconsin rolled Iowa 38-14 this past Saturday. Still, the Hawkeyes have two quality wins over Iowa State and Ohio State, giving them a solid resume for bowl season. With matchups against Purdue and Nebraska coming up, Iowa could salvage their season with a winning conference record.
8. Nebraska: It’s been a down season in Lincoln. The Huskers have lost two straight and could see that skid extended to 4 with a road matchup versus Penn State this week and Iowa coming to town after that. Without much of a running game or defense, Nebraska could struggle down the stretch. Tanner Lee’s development will continue to be a question for the Cornhuskers.
9. Purdue: The Boilermakers suffered a tough loss in Evanston this weekend. However, this program is still trending up even from last season. They will have to go on the road to Iowa and finish their season with a home game versus Indiana. Without David Blough starting, this offense becomes very one-dimensional. A bright point for this team, however, has been its defense, which held Justin Jackson mostly in check this weekend.
10. Minnesota: P.J. Fleck’s team has had a down year thus far. However, with a big win over Nebraska this weekend, there is a lot to be optimistic about for Gopher fans. Demry Croft looks like a legitimate dual-threat quarterback. With tough matchups at Northwestern and home against Wisconsin, it may be tough for this Minnesota team to salvage a disappointing season.
11. Rutgers: Somehow, someway, the Scarlet Knights have tallied 3 conference wins this season. Still, this program perennially finds itself at the bottom of the Big Ten. Without much movement upward, it may be a disappointing few seasons to come for a disorganized Rutgers program.
12. Maryland: The Terps have lost two straight. That probably will continue with matchups against Michigan State and Penn State coming up. Injuries at quarterback have plagued this team all year, as the Terps come in at 115 in passing yards this season.
13. Indiana: The Hoosiers lone conference win came against lowly Illinois this season. There hasn’t been much to be optimistic for in Bloomington this season. Richard Lagow hasn’t fully developed as a passer. All in all, this team’s struggles don’t really seem to have an end in sight.
14. Illinois: Lovie Smith hasn’t been able to gain much traction this year. The Fighting Illini have yet to register a conference win this season. Their remaining slate is still brutal, with games against Ohio State and rival Northwestern yet to be played. Barring upsets, this season was abysmal for Illinois as a program.
With two weeks left in conference play, things could change in the Big Ten conference. Bowl eligibility and selection is on the table for many of these teams. Expect more craziness to come with rivalry week and bowl season coming up.