Ohio State picked up the most valuable win so far this season by a Big Ten team when it scored a last-second touchdown at Notre Dame to grab a win. Penn State was absolutely dominant at home against a beat-up Iowa team. And Michigan continues to do what Michigan does and score 30 points in a win against a team nowhere in their league.
So how does one rank these three top teams in the conference? I struggled with my order and feel there is no clear answer to this question at this point in time. It will be a while before these three teams start sorting things out on the field. For now, all three continue to stay the course with undefeated records. And now Ohio State and Penn State have top 25 victories to their name.
Here is a quick rundown of everything that happened around the Big Ten (and a lot happened!) in case you missed anything in Week 4. Here is a look at my updated Big Ten power rankings following the results of Week 4.
Indiana (2-2, 0-1 Big Ten)
Last game: Won vs. Akron, 29-27 (4 OT)
There was nothing pretty about Indiana’s overtime victory over Akron. The Hoosiers were out-gained by a wide margin and only made it to overtime because of a missed Akron field goal in the final seconds of the fourth quarter.
Previous ranking: 13
Next up for Indiana: at Maryland
Purdue (1-3, 0-1 Big Ten)
Last game: Lost to Wisconsin, 38-17
Purdue dropped to 1-3 this season with its only win coming on the road at Virginia Tech. And Virginia Tech may not be very good either. The Boilermakers had three turnovers in a home loss to Wisconsin but only allowed one score off of those turnovers. There is still time for Purdue to fix some things and turn it around, but the fight for bowl eligibility just got a little tougher with its remaining schedule in front of them still including games against Ohio State and Michigan.
Previous ranking: 10
Next up for Purdue: vs. Illinois
Northwestern (2-2, 1-0 Big Ten)
Last game: Won vs. Minnesota, 37-34 (OT)
I still do not think Northwestern is going to have too many happy moments this season, but Northwestern is no longer the owner of the bottom spot in the Big Ten. Not after digging out of a 21-point deficit in the fourth quarter and winning against Minnesota in overtime. But things should get a bit tougher this coming weekend.
Previous ranking: 14
Next up for Northwestern: vs. Penn State
Nebraska (2-2, 0-1 Big Ten)
Last game: Won vs. Louisiana Tech, 28-14
Nebraska fans got a full dose of the Heinrich Haarberg experience with a big day on the ground from the quarterback. The running game took over in a home win against Louisiana Tech, but the Cornhuskers still have to improve things a bit to catch up with their Big Ten competition.
Previous ranking: 12
Next up for Nebraska: vs. Michigan
Illinois (2-2, 0-1 Big Ten)
Last game: Won vs. FAU, 23-17
Illinois played a much better overall game this week at home against FAU, which of course was expected after a tough game against Penn State the previous week. But there are lingering concerns still for Illinois after a slow start and an early hole at home against an FAU team with just one win this season.
Previous ranking: 11
Next up for Illinois: at Purdue
Michigan State (2-2. 0-1 Big Ten)
Last game: Lost to Maryland, 31-9
The tale of this season seems to have taken a hard right down the wrong path for Michigan State. A week after getting shredded on their home field by Washington, the Spartans had five turnovers in a home loss to Maryland. This could turn into a long year in East Lansing if it hasn’t gotten there already.
Previous ranking: 9
Next up for Michigan State: at Iowa
Minnesota (2-2, 1-1 Big Ten)
Last game: Lost at Northwestern, 37-34 (OT)
The Gophers are trending in the wrong direction and making me regret my previous rankings of them this season. Minnesota’s offense has been stale all season and it just failed to close out a 21-point lead on the road against Northwestern before losing in overtime. That is an inexcusable loss for Minnesota and they deserve to be hammered for it.
Previous ranking: 6
Next up for Minnesota: vs. Louisiana
Rutgers (3-1, 1-1 Big Ten)
Last game: Lost at Michigan, 31-7
Rutgers silenced the Michigan fans with an early touchdown in Week 4, but the Scarlet Knights could not put together any more legitimate threats on the road against Michigan. Rutgers avoided being completely destroyed by the Wolverines, so it’s difficult to knock them much for their performance this week.
Previous ranking: 8
Next up for Rutgers: vs. Wagner
Iowa (3-1, 0-1 Big Ten)
Last game: Lost at Penn State, 31-0
We knew Iowa was going to be in a tough spot against Penn State on the road in a whiteout game without three key offensive players. Still, the Hawkeyes managed fewer than 80 yards of total offense in a 31-0 loss that has to be a bit tough to recover from.
Previous ranking: 4
Next up for Iowa: vs. Michigan State
Wisconsin (3-1, 1-0 Big Ten)
Last game: Won at Purdue, 38-17
Wisconsin needed a solid overall game in its Big Ten opener, and it got just that. Where the Badgers move forward now without running back Chez Mellusi remains to be seen, but the Badgers will still rely on running the football as long as Braelon Allen is an option in Madison. The defense still has some room to improve, however.
Previous ranking: 7
Next up for Wisconsin: vs. Rutgers (Week 6)
Maryland (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten)
Last game: Won at Michigan State, 31-9
Maryland remains undefeated after a good road win at Michigan State in Week 4. Taulia Tagovailoa had four total touchdowns in the win as the Terrapins continue to look like a team that could be a thorn for any of the Big Ten’s perceived top three teams.
Previous ranking: 5
Next up for Maryland: vs. Indiana
Michigan (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten)
Last game: Won vs. Rutgers, 31-7
Michigan has yet to feel the pressure to put its foot on the gas pedal, so they haven’t needed to show much in the style points department. Jim Harbaugh’s return to the sideline was accompanied by a good all-around team win against Rutgers to continue taking care of business.
Previous ranking: 1
Next up for Michigan: at Nebraska
Ohio State (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten)
Last game: Won at Notre Dame, 17-14
Watching Ohio State in a defensive slugfest against Notre Dame was encouraging for the Buckeyes defense. In their first real test of the year, Ohio State battled all game long and walked away with a last-second victory in South Bend. there were some real good positives for the Buckeyes in this one including slowing down the Irish offense.
Ohio State moves back up the rankings after a solid offensive showing last week and the biggest win so far of the year in the Big Ten in their favor.
Previous ranking: 3
Next up for Ohio State: vs. Maryland (Week 6)
Penn State (4-0, 2-0 Big Ten)
Last game: Won vs. Iowa, 31-0
We are now four weeks into the season and no defense in the Big Ten has looked as good as Penn State‘s. The offensive numbers may be lacking compared to expectations, but the Nittany Lions have also played turnover-free offense so far. That will change at some point in time, but this has been the most complete team in the Big Ten early on, and now they have a top-25 victory under their belts as well.
Penn State also enters a three-week stretch with a game at Northwestern, a bye week, and a home game against UMass before their first big test at Ohio State in October.
You could put Ohio State in this top spot and I honestly wouldn’t really argue against it. Heck, you can put Michigan on top and I still wouldn’t kick up much dust about it. Any order you put these top three feels fine by me, and it could easily change a week from now. This is just how the Big Ten power is balanced right now. It’s these top three teams and everyone else.
But for at least one week, I have Penn State enjoying the top spot in the power rankings.
Previous ranking: 2
Next up for Penn State: at Northwestern