Big Ten football power rankings after Week 5: A muddled mess below the top

Another week has passed in the Big Ten and things have been thrown into turmoil, well — aside from the top of the league. What we thought we knew below the top three or four teams has turned into chaos and questions that may result in an interesting rest of the year.

Teams like Ohio State, Michigan, and Penn State continued to exert themselves and show that they are the best teams in the league, while others like Minnesota and Wisconsin were humbled by poor showings.

Now that we’re through Week 5, we have more observations and results on the field to help sort through the mess that seems to be the middle to the bottom of the league.

Here are our Big Ten football power rankings after Week 5. We’re sure it’ll change again next week after some more surprises and disappointments.

Northwestern Wildcats (1-4, 1-1)

Sep 30, 2017; Madison, WI, USA; Northwestern Wildcats helmets on the field prior to the game against the Wisconsin Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium. Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Why the Ranking?

We could probably put one of about three or four teams here, but Northwestern has yet to win a game in the United States, losing four straight after the win over Nebraska in Ireland. The offensive struggles are real and problematic and it’s hard to see a way this team starts to turn it around.

Previous week

Change

13

-1

Next Up

at Wisconsin

Indiana Hoosiers (3-2, 1-1)

Sep 5, 2015; Bloomington, IN, USA; A Indiana Hoosiers helmet sits on the ground while the players warm up before the game at Memorial Stadium. Credit: Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Why the Ranking?

After signs of significant improvement early in the season, we might be starting to see the true colors of Indiana. The Hoosiers fell to a struggling Nebraska program and have now dropped two straight with the defense being a real sore point. Simply gaining bowl eligibility might be a challenge the rest of the way.

Previous week

Change

11

-2

Next Up

vs. Michigan

Nebraska Cornhuskers (2-3, 1-1)

Oct 6, 2018; Madison, WI, USA; A Nebraska Cornhuskers helmet sits on the sidelines during the game against the Wisconsin Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium. Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Why the Ranking?

OK, I see you Nebraska. After going through a ton of adversity and playing below the talent level, the Cornhuskers came to play against Indiana and got a big win to hopefully start to turn things around to respectability. Next week we’ll get a better idea if this is a one-game flash or if real progress is being made.

Previous week

Change

14

+2

Next Up

at Rutgers

Rutgers Scarlet Knights (3-2, 0-2)

Ohio State Football: Preview and prediction for the Rutgers game
Ohio State Football: Preview and prediction for the Rutgers game

Nov 20, 2021; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; A detailed view of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights football helmets during a warmup prior to the game against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Beaver Stadium. Credit: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

Why the Ranking?

This team is a mystery still. We knew it would be tough to hang with an explosive Ohio State team, but there have been times when it looks like Rutgers can be competitive enough to make a bowl game this season again. The quarterback situation has to get sorted out before the Scarlet Knights can surprise one of the contenders in the league.

Previous week

Change

10

-1

Next Up

vs. Nebraska

Wisconsin Badgers (2-3, 0-2)

Nov 9, 2019; Madison, WI, USA; A Wisconsin Badgers helmet during the game against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Camp Randall Stadium. Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Why the Ranking?

I’ll admit, I didn’t see this one coming. Suddenly, after two-straight games of getting gashed on defense, Wisconsin is searching for answers. This team doesn’t seem to be as physical as it has been in the past, and that’s a real problem when that’s your culture and calling card. It could be a long season in Madison after a route at the hands of Illinois.

Previous week

Change

6

-4

Next Up

at Northwestern

Michigan State Spartans (2-3, 0-2)

Michigan State’s Jalen Nailor wears the “S” logo on his helmet along with the rest of the Spartans for the game against Indiana on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020, at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing. Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Why the Ranking?

There are some real problems in East Lansing after three straight losses. The offense just isn’t the same as last season and the passing defense continues to give up big plays after Taulia Tagovaila carved the secondary up for over 300 yards. Mel Tucker might have to work the transfer portal even harder this next offseason to plug some serious holes.

Previous week

Change

7

-2

Next Up

at Maryland

Iowa Hawkeyes (3-2, 1-1)

Dec 4, 2021; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Detailed view of Iowa Hawkeyes helmet on the sidelines in the Big Ten Conference championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Why the Ranking?

Welcome to this part of the Big Ten power rankings where you can actually move up a spot despite losing. That’s more to do with where the teams are beyond the top, but we will point out that Iowa at least has a real, live defense that will more or less keep it in games. The loss to Michigan wasn’t horrible aside from the offense again.

Previous week

Change

9

+1

Next Up

at Illinois

Illinois Fighting Illini (4-1, 1-1)

Dec. 30, 2019; Santa Clara, California, USA; General view of the Illinois Fighting Illini helmet during the second quarter against California Golden Bears at Levi’s Stadium. Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Why the Ranking?

Look, I know moving a team up this far doesn’t normally happen, but Illinois looked downright dominant against Wisconsin. The problem is that the bottom half of the league is a crapshoot and at least the Illini have looked pretty good aside from the one game vs. Indiana. So, here we are for now.

Previous week

Change

12

+5

Next Up

vs. Iowa

Minnesota Golden Gophers (4-1, 1-1)

Oct 26, 2019; Minneapolis, MN, USA; A general view of Minnesota Golden Gophers helmet before a game against the Maryland Terrapins at TCF Bank Stadium.  Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Why the Ranking?

I sure felt pretty good about what we’ve seen from Minnesota so far and then this week happened. I know not having Mohamed Ibrahim was a big issue, but if you are truly a contender in the league, one player doesn’t cause that many issues on offense. For now, we’re still unsure exactly how good the Golden Gophers are but we still think they are the favorites in the West division — maybe.

Previous week

Change

3

-3

Next Up

Idle

Purdue Boilermakers (3-2, 1-1)

Oct 14, 2017; Madison, WI, USA; A Purdue Boilermakers helmet during the game against the Wisconsin Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium. Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Why the Ranking?

I’m not sure I believe that Purdue will remain in this spot, but right now at this point in the rankings, it’s a little like little league soccer where the kids are all bunched up and you can’t tell who is who. Give the Boilermakers credit for beating Minnesota, but also remember that Gopher running back Mohamed Ibrahim was out with injury and that had an impact on the game.

Previous week

Change

8

+3

Next Up

at Maryland

Maryland Terrapins (4-1, 1-1)

Ohio State has never lost to these 49 FBS teams it has a history with
Ohio State has never lost to these 49 FBS teams it has a history with

Sep 30, 2017; Minneapolis, MN, USA; A general view of Maryland Terrapins helmets during pre-game before a game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers at TCF Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Why the Ranking?

With Minnesota’s loss, we’re now forced to look at who else might be the best of the rest, and with Maryland’s record and the fact that it played Michigan closer than anyone, we’re going with the Terps here. Taulia Tagovailoa can be a problem for the rest of the league if he remains healthy.

Previous week

Change

5

+1

Next Up

vs. Purdue

Penn State Nittany Lions (5-0, 2-0)

Nov 16, 2013; University Park, PA, USA; General view of a Penn State Nittany Lions helmet prior to the game against the Purdue Boilermakers at Beaver Stadium. Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Why the Ranking?

The weather and game were sloppy last week but Penn State was able to win ugly against Northwestern. There are still questions about this team until it plays a good team, but right now the Nittany Lions have yet to stumble and look like they have the talent to provide at least more than a speed bump for Michigan and Ohio State.

Previous week

Change

4

+1

Next Up

Idle

 

Michigan Wolverines (5-0, 2-0)

Dec 30, 2016; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; A Michigan Wolverines football helmet sits on the field prior to the game between the Florida State Seminoles and the Michigan Wolverines at Hard Rock Stadium. Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Why the Ranking?

Michigan had a pretty good bounce back after a mediocre performance vs. Maryland. Iowa didn’t have much offense to speak of per usual, but a lot of that had to do with the Wolverine defense. It sure looks like Michigan and Ohio State might be on a collision course.

Previous week

Change

2

no change

Next Up

at Indiana

Ohio State Buckeyes (5-0, 2-0)

Oct. 1, 2022; Columbus; Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Julian Fleming (4) celebrates a touchdown catch with wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. (18) in the second quarter of the NCAA Division I football game between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Ohio Stadium.

Why the Ranking?

Ohio State continues to show that it can win in multiple ways after the impressive win over Rutgers. At some times it’s by way of air miles with C.J. Stroud and his receiving corps, while other times it’s on the ground like this past week with Miyan Williams and the offensive line. Add that to a defense that’s much better this season and this could be a fun year in Columbus.

Previous week

Change

1

no change

Next Up

at Michigan State

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