Big Ten Country

Big Ten Power Rankings: Michigan, Penn State hold serve amid chaotic week

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The Big Ten saw its top teams hold serve over Week 3, but there was plenty of turmoil near the bottom of the conference in a busy non-conference slate of games.

Perhaps the best showing of the weekend came from Ohio State, who thrashed Western Kentucky to set themselves up for a Week 4 showdown with Notre Dame. Penn State also did what it needed to against Illinois, though Drew Allar struggled in his first career road start for the Nittany Lions.

Minnesota dropped a tough contest at North Carolina, while Purdue fell to 1-2 after losing to Syracuse in West Lafayette.

Nebraska got on the win column over the weekend, while Indiana and Northwestern both fell to Power Five opponents.

Here is this week’s ranking:

14 Northwestern (Last Week: 13)

Any positive momentum Northwestern generated in their win against UTEP was quickly erased with a flat showing against Duke, with the Blue Devils scoring pretty much at will in a 38-14 laugher in Durham.

Things won’t get any easier for the Wildcats when they welcome Minnesota to Evanston this week, with the Gophers’ tough defense serving as a stern test for a Northwestern squad that has struggled to move the ball at times this season.

13 Indiana (Last Week: 12)

The Hoosiers went down 21-0 to the Cardinals in the first half, but Tayven Jackson continued to impress as he threw for 299 yards and a touchdown in an ill-fated comeback attempt by Indiana.

Indiana will have to do better than 58 yards rushing on 27 attempts if they want to win games moving forward, but count us among those intrigued by the idea of this Indiana squad facing Maryland and Michigan in coming weeks.

12 Michigan State (Last Week: 9)

Michigan State had been a strong second-half team in their first two games, but their final non-conference game exposed some serious flaws in their roster. Michael Penix Jr. torched the Spartans for 473 yards and four touchdowns in a 41-7 drubbing in East Lansing.

Add to that the continuing distraction of the Mel Tucker situation, and Michigan State is in a rough spot moving forward.

11 Nebraska (Last Week: 14)

 Matt Rhule’s squad is finally in the win column, as they held Northern Illinois to just 149 yards of offense in a victory in Lincoln. Without Jeff Sims at quarterback, the Cornhuskers got 256 total yards and three touchdowns out of Heinrich Haarberg, and Gabe Ervin and Anthony Grant each contributed touchdowns as well.

Nebraska is in the middle of a stretch where they play five-of-six games at home, with Louisiana Tech next on the docket, followed by a tough showdown against Michigan on Sept. 30.

10 Illinois (Last Week: 10)

Credit is due to Illinois’ defense, which really gave the Penn State offense fits in the first half of Saturday’s loss in Champaign. Johnny Newton had one of his best games, and a defense that had been torched by Toledo and Kansas really stepped up when it needed to.

The downside? The team’s offense went completely kaput as Luke Altmyer struggled to take care of the ball, and John Paddock couldn’t get things turned around in the second half either.

Illinois will have a chance to make things right against Florida Atlantic this week, but that will be the true test on whether this team still has any sort of shot to compete for a West Division crown.

9 Purdue (Last Week: 8)

Purdue now has losses to Fresno State and Syracuse on its resume this season, and though Hudson Card had a solid day throwing the football for 323 yards, the Boilermakers’ turnovers were a huge issue, as Card lost three fumbles and threw an interception in the loss to the Orange.

Devin Mockobee also fumbled the ball three times, meaning that Purdue put the ball on the ground seven times. That simply cannot happen again this week, as they face a Friday showdown with Wisconsin.

8 Rutgers (Last Week: 11)

It wasn’t Gavin Wimsatt’s best day under center, but Kyle Monangai continued to turn heads with 143 rushing yards and three touchdowns as Rutgers earned a Power-Five victory over Virginia Tech on Saturday.

Even with Michigan on the schedule this week, Rutgers still has to feel good about this portion of their schedule, with seemingly-winnable games looming against Wagner, Michigan State and Indiana.

7 Minnesota (Last Week: 5)

It was tough to drop Minnesota two spots after a road loss against a ranked opponent and one of the top quarterbacks in the 2024 NFL Draft class, but with Drake Maye throwing for 414 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and with Athan Kaliakmanis continuing to struggle to find his footing at quarterback, the Gophers take a step back here.

They’ll have a chance to respond in another road trip to Northwestern, but the real test will come in October when they face consecutive games against Michigan and Iowa, the latter of which is on the road.

6 Wisconsin (Last Week: 7)

Wisconsin’s offense continues to struggle to find its footing, with Tanner Mordecai throwing for 236 yards and zero touchdowns this week, and truth be told, their game against Georgia Southern may have had a different result if Davis Brin hadn’t thrown five interceptions.

That being said, Wisconsin still has a great running attack, combining for 207 yards and five touchdowns as Braelon Allen and Chez Mellusi led the way.

A Friday showdown with Purdue should help tell the story for the Badgers, and whether their hopes of competing for a West Division crown remain intact.

5 Maryland (Last Week: 6)

The Terrapins went down early against Charlotte in Week 2 and stormed back for a victory, and they did the exact same thing against Virginia in the first meeting between the schools since 2013.

Taulia Tagovailoa continued his strong start to the season with 342 yards passing and a touchdown, and Colby McDonald had 75 rushing yards to help Maryland to victory.

4 Iowa (Last Week: 4)

We’re just as tired of talking about Iowa’s offense as anyone else, but they did put up 387 yards against Western Michigan on Saturday. Cade McNamara turned the ball over twice, but Leshon Williams’ 145 rushing yards helped ensure a Hawkeye victory.

Still though, two things warrant watching this week: how Iowa’s offense looks without tight end Luke Lachey, who suffered a “significant” injury, and how they play in a hostile road environment against a Penn State defense that forced five turnovers in Week 3 against Illinois.

3 Ohio State (Last Week: 3)

The Buckeyes have seemingly figured out their offensive approach in their first two non-conference games, including a 63-10 thrashing of Western Kentucky, and Kyle McCord’s success has been a big part of the reason why, with 318 yards and three touchdowns to his credit in Week 3.

They also have the third-best defense in the country, but their biggest test of the season so far looms this week, as they’ll travel to South Bend to face Sam Hartman and Notre Dame in a nationally-televised matchup of Top-10 teams.

2 Penn State (Last Week: 2)

Penn State left the home environs of Beaver Stadium for a road matchup against Illinois, and though Drew Allar struggled badly, the defense was able to force five turnovers in a 30-13 victory in Champaign.

The big question for Penn State will be how they respond, as they’ll face Iowa in their first home game of the Big Ten season.

1 Michigan (Last Week: 1)

Michigan looked like they had things well within control in their first two games of the season, but they had a bit of a hiccup on Saturday against Bowling Green, with JJ McCarthy struggling to take care of the ball and their offense struggling to find its footing.

Blake Corum was there to save the day with two touchdowns, but the Wolverines will need a better effort on Saturday as they face dual-threat quarterback Gavin Wimsatt, running back Kyle Monangai and the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at the Big House.

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