Big Ten power rankings after Week 1: A new team on top

·9 min read

Now every single Big Ten team has at least one game under its belt with Week 1 in the books. But how does each team stack up against the others?

Some teams won unimpressively — Penn State, Michigan State, Nebraska, Iowa, and Indiana are among them. Some won impressively — Michigan, Wisconsin, Rutgers, and Maryland. Two lost — Purdue and Illinois, both in Big Ten games. In fact, every Big Ten team that faced a nonconference opponent won their game. But not all things are created equal.

With that in mind, our weekly power rankings are officially back in full form, and there’s a new No. 1 this week compared to our preseason and Week 0 rankings. See where your favorite Big Ten team stands below.

Nebraska Cornhuskers (1-1)

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How are you going to fall to last place on the heels of a win? Such is the case of the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

The Huskers may appear to have handled business against FCS-level North Dakota if you look at the final score, but Nebraska was in a dogfight until relatively late in the game. Even though the Huskers managed 244 yards rushing, they also allowed 175 yards on defense, the second-straight week where teams have been able to run with impunity on them.

While some may say never to apologize for a win, perhaps Nebraska should.

Illinois Fighting Illini (1-1)

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Illinois followed up its impressive win over Wyoming by refusing to take the win at Indiana — a team that was so hapless a year ago that it didn’t win a Big Ten game.

The coup de grace for the Illini was the decision by Bret Bielema to go for it on fourth down late in the game rather than taking the points. Sure, if he would have converted, it would have put the game away, but the turnover on downs led directly to Indiana taking the lead for good.

QB Tommy DeVito’s late interception thrown right to Josh Sanguinetti aside, the offense moved the ball well through the air and on the ground. The rush defense was incredible, allowing just 32 yards. However, Missouri transfer QB Connor Bazelak shredded the Illini defense for 330 yards in his debut for the Hoosiers.

Indiana Hoosiers (1-0)

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Indiana, you’re still not much better than Illinois.

As mentioned, Bazelak had an incredible game through the air, but 32 rushing yards in a football game is atrocious, and a sign that the Hoosiers aren’t likely to win many games again this year, particularly in-conference.

The defense made timely stops and Josh Sanguinetti seemed to be involved in nearly every big play. With three sacks and 10 tackles for loss, there’s a chance that Indiana’s defensive attack could keep it in games, but this was a game that IU should have definitely lost. However, credit for the win where it’s due.

Purdue Boilermakers (0-1)

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Purdue is a team that will likely move way up when the season moves on, but due to being 0-1 in the season record after one week unfortunately means that the Boilermakers are currently in the bottom of the pack.

Aidan O’Connell had a solid game against Penn State, as did the defense most of the time. Like for Illinois, it was a game that Purdue should have won, but the lack of a commitment to the run really hurt Jeff Brohm’s squad down the stretch. Instead, Brohm relied heavily on the pass when it was time to ice the game with a lead, and after multiple incompletions, the clock didn’t move for long stretches, giving the Nittany Lions ample opportunities to stage a comeback.

Iowa Hawkeyes (1-0)

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Honestly, the almost final score of 5-3 would have been a much more Iowa type of thing.

If you glanced at the score, you’d think that Iowa scored a touchdown, while FCS-level South Dakota State managed just a field goal. Wrong! The Hawkeyes managed one field goal and two safeties.

The Iowa offense is even more in shambles than it was a year ago, though the defense is still formidable. But with QB Spencer Petras managing just 44% passing with 109 yards, and the run game putting up just 57 yards against an FCS team, this was an abysmal showing that casts doubt on Iowa’s ability to return to Indianapolis in December.

Northwestern Wildcats (1-0)

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Despite being idle, Northwestern moves up a spot. The offense looked good and the defense was solid in Week 0.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights (1-0)

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What a good, gritty win for Rutgers, on the road, against a hypothetically solid team.

These aren’t the types of wins expected of the Scarlet Knights, but Greg Schiano got the job done in a game that was anticipated as a loss for a Rutgers team that tends to lose nonconference games such as these.

The passing game still isn’t great, but Rutgers managed to find both a run game as well as a run defense. The Scarlet Knights managed 212 yards on the ground while stuffing the Eagles for just 29 yards on 28 carries. The pass defense allowed Phil Jurkovec to put up 283 yards while three quarterbacks combined for 110 yards.

A one-point win on the road for a program like this is huge, especially given the difficult schedule for the team in Piscataway.

Michigan State Spartans (1-0)

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Another game where the final score didn’t indicate how close the game really was.

In Mel Tucker’s third year, this was supposed to be an evisceration against a common MAC opponent in Western Michigan. And it looked like it was going to be that way when MSU went up 21-3 over the Broncos. However, the offense stagnated and while the defense kept WMU out of the end zone most of the time, it was a one-score game relatively late. Finally, the dam broke and the Spartans won handily, but it was a much harder-fought game for a team that has higher expectations than just beating Group of 5 teams and enjoying a good bowl game.

Jalen Berger and Jarek Broussard were very good running the ball when asked, and the defense had its moments. But this MSU team needs to figure some things out, and in a hurry, with a trip to Washington coming up.

Penn State Nittany Lions (1-0)

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Well, Penn State has a win, and that’s good for the Nittany Lions. However, at no point did they ever look like the better team against Purdue, and though the defense allowed the team to hang around just long enough, the offense is still very much a work in progress.

The offensive line still cannot protect Sean Clifford, nor can it create much in terms of the run game. Still, credit James Franklin for managing a late game-winning drive on the road, something we see very irregularly.

Maryland Terrapins (1-0)

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A solid effort in nonconference by the Terps, but that’s become a somewhat usual happenstance for Maryland.

A mixture of passing prowess by Taulia Tagovailoa, who threw for 290 yards, as well as 149 yards rushing, showed us that Maryland still has it offensively. Defensively, the Terrapins also shut down Maurice Linguist’s Buffalo team, allowing just 160 yards through the air and 108 yards rushing.

But we’ve read this story before, with Maryland beating up on its nonconference opponents, no matter the level (remember: the Terps beat Texas in consecutive years) before it sputters in Big Ten play. We’ll see what happens.

Minnesota Golden Gophers (1-0)

 

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It was just New Mexico State, but Minnesota did precisely what it was supposed to do.

The Gophers shut out the Aggies on defense while scoring 31 points in an offensive resurgence under Kirk Ciarrocca. With 297 yards rushing, Minnesota did not need to rely heavily on the pass game, especially considering the defense allowed just 91 total yards to NMSU.

It was a solid effort by P.J. Fleck’s team, and a good start for what could be the Big Ten West champion this year.

Wisconsin Badgers (1-0)

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A ho-hum win in the first game of the year is exactly what Wisconsin needed, especially after the first four games of the 2021 season.

The Badgers relied on Graham Mertz to manage the game, and he did exactly that, while the run game, led by Braelon Allen’s 14 carries for 148 yards, carried the load. The defense shut out former Minnesota QB Zach Annexstad’s Illinois State, en route to a 38-0 victory.

It wasn’t an overwhelming victory, but it was indeed a solid win.

Michigan Wolverines (1-0)

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It was an impressive 51-7 win over what could be an improved Colorado State team. The Wolverine defense was particularly eye-opening, with seven sacks and 11 tackles for loss. The offense did what it needed to, but wasn’t necessarily overwhelming.

That will be the next step, to get the offense rolling. Which, given the nature of the rest of the nonconference schedule, is likely to happen.

This wasn’t Michigan in end-season form a year ago, but looks eerily similar to what we saw to begin the year last year. The only reason it fell a spot was due to who the No. 1 beat.

Ohio State Buckeyes (1-0)

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Ohio State earns the top spot this week due to beating No. 5 Notre Dame, but it wasn’t exactly an impressive win.

Expected to be explosive and formidable, the Buckeye offense was relatively mediocre. There were a handful of big plays which allowed OSU to score, but otherwise, Ohio State stalled out with regularity.

However, the defense was impressive compared to the last several seasons. How much of that had to do with facing what could be a not-so-good Irish offense remains to be seen, but beating a team that entered the season at No. 5, it very well could be a signature win.

But this really didn’t look like the No. 2 team in the country, to be quite honest.

Story originally appeared on Wolverines Wire