Big Ten power rankings after Week 2: A new team at the top

·10 min read

In many ways, it was a normal week for the Big Ten, but also a crazy one.

Ohio State displayed its weaknesses for the nation to see in an upset loss to Oregon. Michigan ran again, again, again, and again over the formerly ranked Washington Huskies. Nebraska showed more than a pulse against a good MAC team. And Iowa won its second-straight ranked contest in a row.

With all that in mind, it begs the question: is the Big Ten what many thought it was at the season’s outset?

We’re only two weeks into the season (three for some) and we have a few answers, with plenty more to be answered in Week 3. Here’s the complexion of the conference with Week 2 in the books.

List

What Jim Harbaugh said after Michigan's win over Washington

Illinois Fighting Illini

Sep 11, 2021; Charlottesville, Virginia, USA; Virginia Cavaliers defensive back Anthony Johnson (3) celebrates with teammates after intercepting a pass against the Illinois Fighting Illini in the fourth quarter at Scott Stadium. Photo: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

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After a surprise win in Week 0 against Nebraska, Illinois has done nothing but disappoint. On Saturday, it got blown out of the water to a probably OK Virginia team that won't likely have much to brag about by the season's end. Like our preseason rankings, the Fighting Illini have little fight and live at the bottom of the Big Ten until something drastic changes.

Northwestern Wildcats

Sep 11, 2021; Evanston, Illinois, USA; Northwestern Wildcats players celebrate their win against the Indiana State Sycamores at Ryan Field. Photo: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

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Northwestern followed up its embarrassing loss to Michigan State in Week 1 with an OK win over an FCS team in Indiana State. Not much to say other than it's safe to say this team has a lot of work to do.

Nebraska Cornhuskers

Nebraska's Gabe Ervin Jr. (22) leaps into the end zone for a touchdown ahead of Buffalo's James Patterson (8) during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb. (AP Photo/Rebecca S. Gratz)

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Perhaps Nebraska isn't as bad as it looked in Week 0, but it certainly is confounding. It upended the likely best team in the MAC in Buffalo on the efforts of an inspired performance by Adrian Martinez who led the Huskers in both passing and rushing. Will the Cornhuskers give Oklahoma a challenge next week? That will tell us pretty much everything we need to know about the team's trajectory this season.

Minnesota Golden Gophers

Tyler Nubin #27 of the Minnesota Golden Gophers runs with the ball after intercepting a pass by Brett Gabbert of the Miami (Oh) Redhawks in the fourth quarter of the game at Huntington Bank Stadium on September 11, 2021 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Gophers defeated the Redhawks 31-26. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)

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Minnesota followed up its inspired performance against Ohio State in Week 1 with a lackluster showing against a MAC team in Miami (OH). Treyson Potts was the star of the show replacing Mo Ibrahim's production with 178 yards and 2 TD but a one-possession game with Miami doesn't exactly inspire confidence.

Purdue Boilermakers

Sep 11, 2021; East Hartford, Connecticut, USA; Purdue Boilermakers quarterback Jack Plummer (13) throws a pass against the Connecticut Huskies in the first half at Rentschler Field at Pratt & Whitney Stadium. Photo: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

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Purdue moving down has nothing to do with their resounding performance against UConn and more to do with some of the teams that were below it moving up. The Boilermakers took advantage of a UConn team in complete and utter disarray at the moment, which is precisely what it was supposed to do. We'll see where they go from here.

Indiana Hoosiers

Sep 11, 2021; Bloomington, Indiana, USA; Indiana Hoosiers players stop for a picture after defeating the Idaho Vandals at Memorial Stadium. Indiana won 56-14. Photo: Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

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Indiana got back in the good graces of the win column by taking down an FCS team in Idaho in convincing fashion. Michael Penix Jr. wasn't asked to do much and we saw Stephen Carr have a 118-yard game, so things are trending in the right direction. Still, the Hoosiers have a lot to prove if they're going to live up to the expectations many had for them this season. It's still enough for them to move up two spots.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Adrian Cole #10 of the Syracuse Orange tackles Aron Cruickshank #2 of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights during the third quarter at the Carrier Dome on September 11, 2021 in Syracuse, New York. (Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images)

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Rutgers had itself a nice little test in a probably not great Syracuse team which it faced on the road. Still, the Orange were 1-0 heading into the game and this was the type of nonconference game that the Scarlet Knights used to be embarrassed in. However, this is a different Rutgers and we're buying in. Despite RU getting outgained in all facets of the game, the defense continues to be opportunistic, helping the Scarlet Knights find victory when it seems implausible. It'll be interesting to see what happens from here, but somehow Rutgers keeps finding ways to win?

Maryland Terrapins

Photo: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

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Maryland destroyed an FCS team in Howard, 62-0. Taulia Tagovailoa and Dontay Demus Jr. continued to impress and the defense got the shutout. Still, it's an FCS team, and now an 0-2 one at that. We have very little answers to how good the Terps may or may not be.

Wisconsin Badgers

Eastern Michigan's Freddie McGee III breaks up a pass intended for Wisconsin's Danny Davis III during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, in Madison, Wis. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

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Another game where a MAC team was overmatched. This time it was Eastern Michigan, which has been improved over the years but hasn't necessarily been a mainstay in the middling conference. Wisconsin certainly looked better in Week 2, but it would have been more surprising if it hadn't. Its Week 4 contest against Notre Dame should tell us a bit more about what the Badgers are capable of.

Michigan State Spartans

Michigan State's Anthony Russo looks to throw against Youngstown State during the fourth quarter on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, at Spartan Stadium. Photo: Lansing State Journal

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Michigan State followed up on its impressive outing at Northwestern with another one in the home opener. The problem? It came against an FCS school in Youngstown State. If the Spartans showed any amount of struggle, it would signify potential issues with the team. However, they passed the test they had in front of them and continue in the same spot as they did a week ago. Miami (FL) looms next week, but the Hurricanes look very beatable at 1-1.

Michigan Wolverines

Blake Corum #2 of the Michigan Wolverines scores a second half touchdown past Cameron Williams #6 of the Washington Huskies at Michigan Stadium on September 11, 2021 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Michigan won the game 31-10. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

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Had Washington not lost to FCS-level Montana, Michigan would have a ranked win under its belt. But such is not the case. Had Michigan also passed the ball more than a handful of yards in its Week 2 contest, it could have also moved up. Don't get this wrong: what Michigan did was beyond impressive. For the second-straight week, the Wolverines ran for over 300 yards, and it did so against the Huskies with impunity. Washington looked overmatched from the very beginning, but Michigan's strategy of not going with the killer instinct and putting it away sooner means we still have questions about what this team is. It'll be a few weeks before it gets a full-on, true test when it heads to Madison to take on Wisconsin in Week 5. We'll see how much the maize and blue show us in the meantime with games against NIU and Rutgers.

Penn State Nittany Lions

Sep 11, 2021; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Penn State Nittany Lion players sign their alma-mater following the conclusion of the game at Beaver Stadium. Penn State defeated Ball State 44-13. Photo: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

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Penn State still has the most impressive in-conference win having taken down what's likely a very good Wisconsin team. And it manhandled Ball State, as one would expect, in Week 2. But there's still no way of telling exactly how good or not the Nittany Lions are. The good news? We'll know later this week when Penn State hosts red-hot Auburn for a primetime tilt at Beaver Stadium. Another ranked win would certainly bolster PSU's resume in short order.

Ohio State Buckeyes

The Oregon Ducks mascot stand behind the endzone during the fourth quarter of the NCAA football game against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium in Columbus on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. The Ducks won 35-28.

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Columbus: we have a problem. Ohio State's defense is but a shell of what it has been the past two seasons, and while we saw glimpses of trouble against Minnesota, it came full-tilt on Saturday in the loss to the supposedly overmatched Oregon Ducks. Though quarterback C.J. Stroud grew up a lot even over the course of one game, the Buckeyes were in a position to tie when he threw a costly interception. OSU was unable to run the ball in Week 2 as it had in Week 1. Listen, Ohio State is still the most talented team in the Big Ten by perhaps a wide margin. But it has some issues it needs to figure out. Its College Football Playoff hopes haven't been dashed just yet, but it looks weirdly mortal for the first time in a long while. Thus, for now, at least, it drops to the No. 2 spot.

Iowa Hawkeyes

Iowa senior punt return specialist Charlie Jones runs the ball upfield after taking a punt in the first quarter against Iowa State at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021.

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This was not an easy decision to supplant Ohio State, a team that is likely still the class of the Big Ten and very well could go undefeated for the rest of the season. However, with a mixture of the troubles facing the Buckeyes on several levels and the fact that Iowa has had two straight tests against ranked opponents and passed means that the Hawkeyes, at least for the moment, deserve the top spot. Sure, Indiana and Iowa State may have been overrated. But since we have preseason rankings, the fact that Iowa took down both, a year after finishing 2020 as perhaps the hottest team in the conference not named Ohio State means it deserves the top spot -- for now.

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