Big Ten Country

Big Ten Power Rankings: Michigan, Penn State remain atop the heap

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While many of the top teams in the Big Ten held serve in Week 2, a few teams saw their fortunes take a bit of a hit as the season gets rolling.

Wisconsin traveled to the Pacific Northwest, falling to Washington State in Pullman. Illinois, after a narrow Week 1 win over Toledo, gave up an explosion of offense in the first half to Kansas, and they couldn't quite narrow the gap against the Jayhawks.

Penn State and Michigan each held serve at home, while Ohio State righted the ship and got Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka going against Youngstown State.

Here is our analysis of how the Big Ten looks after two weeks.

14 Nebraska Cornhuskers (last week: 13)

The Cornhuskers have some serious questions on both sides of the football after two straight losses to open the season, but it all starts with quarterback Jeff Sims.

Matt Rhule gave Sims a vote of confidence on Monday, but the numbers don’t lie. He has already thrown four interceptions in 34 passing attempts, with one touchdown to his credit, and he’s been sacked five times.

13 Northwestern Wildcats (last week: 14)

The Wildcats bounced back from a disappointing loss to throttle UTEP in Evanston. Their path forward at quarterback remains uncertain, and they’ll face a really tough test on Saturday when they face Duke in a road matchup in Durham, North Carolina.

12 Indiana Hoosiers (last week: 12)

After scoring just three points against Ohio State, the Hoosiers got 88 rushing yards from Jaylin Lucas and 236 passing yards from Tayven Jackson in a 41-7 rout of Indiana State. Other results in the Big Ten kept them from moving up, but they’ll have another good opportunity to make a non-conference statement when they play Louisville in Week 3.

11 Rutgers Scarlet Knights (last week: 11)

Credit has to be given to the Rutgers’ defense for allowing just 14 points in opening wins over Northwestern and Temple, but their offense has been the real star of the show.

Quarterback Gavin Wimsatt has 418 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns in the two games, and has only been sacked once. Running back Kyle Monangai is even better, rushing for 214 yards with two touchdowns, including 165 yards against Temple on Saturday.

Virginia Tech, fresh off a loss to Purdue, will be Rutgers’ next opponent, and then a road matchup against Michigan looms on Sept. 23.  

10 Illinois Fighting Illini (last week: 8)

There are some reasons for optimism for Illinois, with Luke Altmyer showcasing his skills in a big way in both games so far this season, but there are also reasons for concern after a 34-23 loss to Kansas.

For starters, can their defensive line get enough pressure on opposing quarterbacks? Jalon Daniels had 301 all-purpose yards and a pair of passing touchdowns in Friday’s game, and the Jayhawks had 539 yards of offense.

Things won’t get any easier for Illinois this week as they face Penn State in Champaign.   

9 Michigan State Spartans (last week: 9)

The Spartans’ offense has combined for 76 points so far this season, with Nathan Carter rushing for more than 100 yards in each of their wins and quarterback Noah Kim combining for 571 yards of passing in the games against Central Michigan and Richmond.

After those opening two wins, the real meat of Michigan State’s schedule gets underway, as they face a home contest against No. 8 Washington on Saturday, and then conference showdowns with Maryland and Iowa in the weeks to follow.

8 Purdue Boilermakers (last week: 10)

Everything could have gone wrong for Purdue on Saturday. Their game was delayed by more than five hours because of rain. They were facing a Virginia Tech team notoriously difficult to defeat at Lane Stadium.

Despite all that, Hudson Card threw for 248 yards, and the Purdue defense held strong in the face of a fourth-quarter comeback attempt by the Hokies to earn their first win of the season.

7 Wisconsin Badgers (last week: 4)

Wisconsin’s defense allowed Washington State to convert on numerous third-down chances in Saturday’s loss, but another concerning development emerged on offense, as the Badgers lost three fumbles, with Tanner Mordecai turning the ball over twice.

Their run game was held in check to the tune of 90 yards on 29 carries, leading to their first loss of the season.

6 Maryland Terrapins (last week: 5)

Saturday was a strange day for Maryland, as they fell behind early 14-0 to Charlotte before storming back for a 38-20 victory.

The Terrapins have gotten exactly what they’ve needed from Taulia Tagovailoa, Roman Hemby and the rest of the offense so far this season, but can that continue against Virginia and Michigan State in their next two games?

5 Minnesota Golden Gophers (last week: 7)

The Gophers’ offense is still a question mark despite two straight home wins to open the season, but the first real big test of the season looms in Week 3 as they’ll hit the road to face North Carolina.

Athan Kaliakmanis has thrown for 313 yards and a touchdown in the first two weeks of the season, but the team’s potent run game has been helping them to thrive, with Darius Taylor rushing for 196 yards and a touchdown in the first two contests of the season.

4 Iowa Hawkeyes (last week: 6)

Speaking of offenses that have struggled to get going, Iowa does have two wins to their credit, but they will hold their breath each week as Cade McNamara nurses a leg injury. He threw for just 123 yards in a win over Iowa State last week.

Running back Jaziun Patterson did help out with 86 yards and a touchdown, but Iowa’s eyes are surely focused on two weeks into the future, as a date with Penn State looms to open up Big Ten play.

3 Ohio State Buckeyes (last week: 3)

After a middling showing against Indiana in Week 1, Ohio State did bounce back nicely in a 35-7 win over Youngstown State, with Kyle McCord throwing for 258 yards and three touchdowns to secure the full-time starting role for the Buckeyes.

Marvin Harrison Jr and Emeka Egbuka both looked like their best selves in the win, and while their game this week against Western Kentucky won’t inspire much concern, their looming matchup with Notre Dame in South Bend on Sept. 23 likely will.

2 Penn State Nittany Lions (last week: 2)

Penn State’s offense has been humming right along in the first two weeks, with Drew Allar taking charge in emphatic wins over West Virginia and Delaware. Their running attack is firing on all cylinders as well, giving them a balanced attack that could strike fear into the Big Ten.

Their run defense remains somewhat questionable, but in all likelihood they’ll be up to the task against an Illinois squad that has gotten much of its rushing from quarterback Luke Altmyer in the first two weeks of the season.

1 Michigan Wolverines (last week: 1)

While the scorelines of their first two wins over ECU and UNLV aren’t exactly eye-popping, the efficiency of JJ McCarthy and the rushing prowess of Blake Corum certainly have been noteworthy. Both are putting up numbers that could land them in Heisman contention, and they’ve got the Wolverines off to a drama-free start.

Michigan’s backloaded schedule should keep them in the driver’s seat for the time being, with road matchups against Nebraska and Minnesota likely serving as the first real tests of the season.

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