Big Ten football power rankings after week 8: What’s for real, and what’s not?

·9 min read

Another week of Big Ten football play is in the books, and while only ten of the fourteen teams were in action, we still saw a lot that’s had us re-think the power rankings for this week.

It’s beginning to look more and more like the king of the conference is still the king of the conference and that the biggest threat might be an old rival from up north. But where do the rest of the teams stand? Who is No. 1, and who can contend with the top dog of the league? Where have we seen improvement, and which teams are regressing?

Let’s get after it. Here are the latest Big Ten football power rankings after Week 8 of the college football season.

No. 14 - Northwestern Wildcats (3-4, 1-3)

Oct 16, 2021; Evanston, Illinois, USA; Northwestern Wildcats head coach Pat Fitzgerald looks on in the first half against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Ryan Field. Credit: Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

The reason for the ranking

We saw some improvement from Northwestern last week, but things got out of hand in the second half with some regression against Michigan this week. It’s a wildly inconsistent team right now and we’re just not sure the talent and ability is where Pat Fitzgerald would like to have things.

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12

– 2

Rutgers Scarlet Knights (3-4, 0-4)

Ohio State football's game time, network, against Rutgers announced
Ohio State football's game time, network, against Rutgers announced

Greg Schiano after Isaih Pacheco of Rutgers scored a fourth quarter TD as Rutgers crushed Temple 61-14 in their season opener at SHI Stadium in Piscataway, NJ on September 4, 2021. Credit: USA TODAY Sports

The reason for the ranking

Rutgers was off this week, but there’s no denying the direction this team is headed. The beginning of the season had many hopeful that Greg Schiano was going to spoil things for some teams, but after four straight losses in the conference, there are more questions than answers. Where do the wins come from at this point?

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13

Indiana Hoosiers (2-5, 0-4)

How to watch, stream, listen to Ohio State vs. Indiana - Buckeyes Wire
How to watch, stream, listen to Ohio State vs. Indiana - Buckeyes Wire

Sep 11, 2021; Bloomington, Indiana, USA; A end zone pylon is seen before the game between the Indiana Hoosiers and the Idaho Vandals at Memorial Stadium. Credit: Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

The reason for the ranking

Likewise for Indiana. The Hoosiers were ranked in the preseason but haven’t been anything close to what we thought they would be this season with all the returning talent. Injuries have played a role for sure, but what we saw Ohio State just do to Indiana Saturday doesn’t speak well for where the program is this year.

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Illinois Fighting Illini (3-5, 2-3)

Oct 23, 2021; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini defensive back Tony Adams (6) celebrates on the field following his team’s nine overtime victory against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Beaver Stadium. Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The reason for the ranking

We hate to have a knee-jerk reaction here, but Illinois beating Penn State in Happy Valley has us reassessing what this team can do. Unfortunately, most of the year it has looked like a team that needs serious upgrades across the board, but there are now three wins to brag about, and one over a top-ten opponent. We’ll see what the next few weeks bring, but right now, the Illini are kind of on the rise. We think?

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14

+ 3

Maryland Terrapins (4-3, 1-3)

Oct 1, 2021; College Park, Maryland, USA; Maryland Terrapins head coach Michael Locksley looks on during the second half of the game against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium. Credit: Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

The reason for the ranking

I was really tempted to knock Maryland down a peg or two because of the poor showing against Wisconsin in combination with three straight losses, but there are still some good things this team has done. It feels like it’s only a matter of time though before we start to slide the Terrapins down.

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10

Nebraska Cornhuskers (3-5, 1-4)

Sep 25, 2021; East Lansing, Michigan, USA; Nebraska Cornhuskers cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt (5) walks off the field with his head down after the game against the Michigan State Spartans at Spartan Stadium. Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The reason for the ranking

Nebraska is much better than its record shows, but there’s something missing from a culture standpoint when you continue to lose close games. Look for this team to make one of the teams looking to go bowling unhappy before the end of the year.

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9

Wisconsin Badgers (4-3, 2-2)

Wisconsin Badgers quarterback Graham Mertz (5) scores a touchdown in the second quarter against Army, Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wis. Samantha Madar/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

The reason for the ranking

Is Wisconsin starting to improve? The offense came to life a bit against a Purdue team that just knocked off Iowa the previous week, so things are looking up. The defense continues to be outstanding, so if the offense can continue to trend upwards, the Badgers might still have something to say in the West Division.

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8

Purdue Boilermakers (4-3, 2-2)

Purdue head coach Jeff Brohm during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021, at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, Ind. Credit: USA TODAY Sports

The reason for the ranking

You could almost feel the letdown coming this week against Wisconsin after the big upset over No. 2, undefeated Iowa last week. Purdue is what it seems to always be; a team that looks good one week only to befuddle us all the next.

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Minnesota Golden Gophers (5-2, 3-1)

Sep 2, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Gophers head coach P.J Fleck and his players enter the field prior to the game against the Minnesota Gophers at Huntington Bank Stadium. Credit: Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

The reason for the ranking

Very quietly, Minnesota is making some noise in the West Divison. With Purdue’s loss, the Golden Gophers now control their own destiny with just one loss in the conference. P.J. Fleck’s crew won’t scare you on tape, but it just seems to do a little bit of everything well enough to keep winning games.

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+ 1

Penn State Nittany Lions (5-2, 2-2)

Oct 23, 2021; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini defensive back Devon Witherspoon (31) forces Penn State Nittany Lions running back Noah Cain (21) out of bounds on a run during overtime at Beaver Stadium. Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The reason for the ranking

Yes, we had Penn State at No. 2 last week. Yes, losing to Illinois at home is unforgivable. There’s absolutely no way the Nittany Lions should have looked so bad against the Illini, but the offense seems to be taking a step backward. I know quarterback Sean Clifford is banged up a bit, but that shouldn’t make as big of a difference as what it has lately. This team looks like a paper tiger now and might struggle going forward. We’ll see.

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Iowa Hawkeyes (6-1, 3-1)

Big Ten football Week 7 television schedule, key facts | Buckeyes Wire
Big Ten football Week 7 television schedule, key facts | Buckeyes Wire

Iowa freshman wide receiver Keagan Johnson (No. 6, left) celebrates with teammates after scoring a touchdown in the second quarter against Colorado State at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa, on Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021. Credit: USA TODAY Sports

The reason for the ranking

As bad as Iowa looked against Purdue, there’s still a really good body of work the Hawkeyes have put together. Iowa was off this week but gets the benefit of how poor Penn State played and moves up a spot. Can the Hawks keep things together enough on offense to make it to Indy? That’s the question everyone is asking right now. The game on the road against Wisconsin and the tussle with Minnesota in a couple of weeks looms suddenly large.

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5

+ 1

Michigan State Spartans (7-0, 4-0)

Sep 3, 2021; Evanston, Illinois, USA; The Michigan State Spartans celebrate their win over the Northwestern Wildcats at Ryan Field. The Michigan State Spartans won 38-21. Credit: Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports

The reason for the ranking

We keep saying this, but it still rings true; there’s not a statement win for the Spartans yet. However, being undefeated in the Big Ten at this point counts for something when we continue to see team after team go down unexpectedly. There’s a big one on tap now against Michigan next week. Get your popcorn and favorite beverages ready.

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Michigan Wolverines (7-0, 4-0)

Oct 2, 2021; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh walks on the field during warmups prior to the game against the Wisconsin Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium. Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The reason for the ranking

It hasn’t always been pretty, but Michigan just keeps winning with a physical brand of running and a good defense. The Wolverines are probably the closest athletically to Ohio State, but we’ll see how things go next week whether TTUN or Michigan State is going to jump up and challenge the Buckeyes. No matter what happens from here on out though, it’s a good bounce-back year for Jim Harbaugh. How far of a bounce-back remains to be seen.

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Ohio State Buckeyes (6-1, 4-0)

Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback C.J. Stroud (7) celebrates a 16-yard touchdown to wide receiver Chris Olave (2) during the second quarter of the NCAA football game at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington, Ind. on Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021. Credit: USA TODAY Sports

The reason for the ranking

Ohio State seems to be getting more and more explosive on offense and the defense continues to improve. The loss against Oregon now seems like a distant memory and it’s not a stretch to say that OSU is playing better than almost anyone in the country right now. The king is still the king in the Big Ten with what we’ve seen over the last few weeks, and with the blowout win over Indiana fresh in our minds.

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