Big Ten football power rankings after Week 4: Separation begins at the top

Week 4 is complete in college football and we had some good games to gauge competition with the first mostly full week of conference play. We got to see some of those early out-of-conference cupcakes go by the wayside and see teams in the conference measure up against each other.

And yeah, that means a lot.

What we observed has changed our perception and thoughts about what the pecking order is in the Big Ten. We saw Wisconsin not measure up against Ohio State, Minnesota show its might against Michigan State, Michigan come back to Earth a wee bit against Maryland, and more.

Here’s an updated look at our Big Ten football power rankings after all the action from Week 4.

Nebraska Cornhuskers (1-3)

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?

Nebraska didn’t play this week, so at least it couldn’t lose. Nothing to see here aside from what we’ve already seen through the first four miserable games of the year.

Previous week

Change

14

no change

Next Up

vs. Indiana

Northwestern Wildcats (1-3)

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?

Oh, boy. Remember when we thought Northwestern might have a bounce-back year when it beat Nebraska in Ireland? Little did we know that was likely a matchup between the two worst teams in the league. The Wildcats have been awful since, with a loss against MAC opponent Miami (OH) to keep that trend going this week.

Previous week

Change

13

no change

Next Up

at Penn State

Illinois Fighting Illini (3-1)

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?

It’s tempting to catapult the Illini further up than this with a 3-1 record, but we can’t forget about the loss to Indiana a couple of weeks back. The other three wins are against some pretty suspect competition, so until we see a win over an opponent that means something, this is where we’re comfortable placing a program still looking to build towards better things.

Previous week

Change

11

-1

Next Up

at Wisconsin

Indiana Hoosiers (3-1)

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?

We had a feeling Indiana would run out of gas after an early 3-0 start, and that’s exactly what happened against a very good Cincinnati team. It wasn’t just a loss though, it was a bad one. Still, the Hoosiers beat Illinois, and it’s hard to believe this team is any worse than what we’ve seen in Lincoln and Evanston. This was far from a heading in the right direction type of game.

Previous week

Change

10

-1

Next Up

vs. Nebraska

Rutgers Scarlet Knights (3-1)

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?

Rutgers might have been exposed a little against an Iowa team that had struggled to start the year. The Scarlet Knight got out of the shrink wrap early with a 3-0 record, but we’re starting to see that the Boston College win wasn’t what it seemed at the time. There’s no way around it, this past week was a disappointing drop back to reality. It probably won’t get any better with a trip to Columbus next week.

Previous week

Change

6

-4

Next Up

at Ohio State

Iowa Hawkeyes (3-1)

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?

There are clearly still some offensive struggles to work out but the Iowa defense is still lights out. Rutgers looked like a much-improved team this year but the Hawkeyes had no problem winning on the road, largely because of big, timely plays on defense. This is usually about when Iowa starts to figure things out and might be on the rise.

Previous week

Change

12

+3

Next Up

vs. Michigan

Purdue Boilermakers (2-2)

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 always say that a team shouldn’t get credit for a loss no matter what, but in this case, it’s hard to get credit for the win either. Purdue struggled against Florida Atlantic, narrowly escaping with a 28-26 win at home. It’s a narrow miss type of win considering the Boilers had to do it without starting quarterback Aidan O’Connell, but even with that, the showing should have been better. Moving up a spot is more about the realization of where Rutgers is as opposed to Purdue making a statement.

Previous week

Change

9

+1

Next Up

at Minnesota

Michigan State (2-2)

November 19, 2011; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartan helmet on the sideline during the game against the Indiana Hoosiers at Spartan Stadium. Michigan State won 55-3 to clinch the Legends division of the Big Ten. Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Why the Ranking?

I feel a little oily moving Michigan State up a spot after such a dismal performance vs. Minnesota, but I really think the Gophers are that good — and again — Rutgers almost has to move down below an Iowa team that handled them. So, here we are. It’s clear though that the Spartans aren’t nearly the team they were last season. If only Mel Tucker could have found himself another Kenneth Walker III in the transfer portal.

Previous week

Change

8

+1

Next Up

at Maryland

Wisconsin Badgers (2-2)

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?

What I just said about Michigan State could play here too. The Badgers didn’t belong on the same field with Ohio State on Saturday and probably wish they weren’t. This no longer looks like a team that’s going to be in the running for the West division title, but I’m not sure the Badgers are worse than all the teams behind them here. This is still likely a solid bowl team but that’s about it.

Previous week

Change

7

+1

Next Up

vs. Illinois

Maryland Terrapins (3-1)

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. Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Why the Ranking?

We’re not giving credit to Maryland for a close loss to a very good team in Michigan, but we’re not going to penalize them either. The ‘Terps look like they can create some problems for teams down the road as long as Taulia Tagovailoa can remain healthy. There are still a lot of unknowns here, but Maryland looks like an improved bunch.

Previous week

Change

5

no change

Next Up

vs. Michigan State

Penn State Nittany Lions (4-0)

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?

After a big win on the road in SEC country last week, Penn State seemed to have a bit of a hangover this week against Central Michigan but found things late. I’m not sure that Auburn win is going to look as good as it did last week through the rest of the year, but the Nittany Lions still look like a team that could potentially challenge Ohio State and Michigan in the East.

Previous week

Change

3

-1

Next Up

vs. Northwestern

Minnesota Golden Gophers (4-0)

Nov 10, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; A general view of a Minnesota Golden Gophers helmets before a game against the Purdue Boilermakers at TCF Bank Stadium. Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Why the Ranking?

It’s time to give Minnesota its due. Many had a wait-and-see approach with the dominating fashion the Gophers had early on with a rather easy schedule, but after a dominating win against Michigan State, it’s time to take notice. I’m not feeling Minnesota about the Gophers being on the same level as Ohio State and Michigan, but they look like the best team in the West right now … by far.

Previous week

Change

4

+1

Next Up

vs. Purdue

Michigan Wolverines (4-0)

Michigan analyst Ryan Osborn was allegedly coaching against NCAA rules
Michigan analyst Ryan Osborn was allegedly coaching against NCAA rules

Nov 18, 2017; Madison, WI, USA; An Michigan Wolverines helmet during the game against the Wisconsin Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium. Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Why the Ranking?

I know Ohio State fans are going to want to pile on Michigan for only beating Maryland by a touchdown, but there’s more to it. Sure, the Wolverines may not deserve all the praise they’ve gotten for beating up on three of the worst teams in FBS through three games, but this was a character-building win against what looks like a pretty good Maryland team. Michigan still has a decent chance of facing off with Ohio State for everything on the line at the end of the regular season. Now we’ll see how this offense does against an excellent Iowa defense next week.

Previous week

Change

2

no change

Next Up

at Iowa

Ohio State Buckeyes (4-0)

Ohio State football drops trailer for Wisconsin game | Buckeyes Wire
Ohio State football drops trailer for Wisconsin game | Buckeyes Wire

Oct 17, 2015; Columbus, OH, USA; A general view of the Ohio State Buckeyes’ all-black helmet before the game against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Ohio Stadium. Credit: Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

Why the Ranking?

Ohio State looks like it might be separating itself after two straight weeks of the offense really coming alive. The defense continues to be much improved, but the offensive skill is going to be hard for anyone to stop, especially if a very good Wisconsin defense gave up 52 points with the Buckeyes’ best receiver sidelined with injury.

Previous week

Change

1

no change

Next Up

vs. Rutgers

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