Week 1 of the college football season took place this weekend, and most Big Ten programs welcomed out-of-conference opponents to begin preparation for conference play.
The Big Ten is talked about with the SEC as one of the future power conferences in the sport. However, not many Big Ten programs looked the part in Week 1. There was enough of a struggle with easily winnable games that I received a few texts Sunday night asking if anybody in the conference aside from Michigan was any good.
That’s likely an overreaction. Most Big Ten teams found ways to pull away late (except Purdue). However, it’s safe to say it wasn’t the greatest week of Big Ten football.
So with that, here are our Big Ten Power Rankings after Week 1 of the season:
Week 1 Result: 24-7 loss to Rutgers
Previous Rank: 14 (no change)
This is not going to be a good season for the Northwestern Wildcats. Take away the Pat Fitzgerald situation and coaching turnover, it is a roster largely devoid of talent (that also went 1-11 last season). The program’s last win was 372 days ago (Week 0 2022 vs. Nebraska in Dublin). Its last win on American soil was Oct. 16, 2021 (687 days ago). The situation is not good in Evanston.
That’s a snapshot of where the program stands. Sunday’s game against Rutgers could also be used. The Scarlet Knights rolled to a 24-7 win. There was not one area of the game Northwestern had success in.
A loss to UTEP next week and an 0-12 season becomes a real possibility.
Week 1 Result: 23-3 loss to Ohio State
Previous Rank: 13 (no change)
The good news: Indiana covered and showed a real pulse on defense.
The bad news: The Hoosiers only recorded 153 total yards of offense, averaged 2.2 yards-per-carry and could not muster any offense against a strong Ohio State defense.
Opening the season against a top-five team in college football is no easy task. While the score often told a story of a closer game than it actually was, the Hoosiers hung in with the Buckeyes and showed signs of life.
Not every opponent will be Ohio State. But Indiana has some figuring out to do on offense if it wants to gain bowl eligiblity this season.
Week 1 Result:
Previous Rank: 12 (no change)
It’s hard to fully assess a team’s caliber when it rolls Northwestern. But after a 4-8 season a year ago, Rutgers looked somewhat improved. Quarterback Gavin Wimsatt went 17 of 29 for 163 yards and a touchdown. He added 33 yards and a touchdown on the ground. The offense, which has struggled for years, looked to have life under new offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca.
Most matchups within the Big Ten East are unlikely to go well for the Scarlet Knights. But credit is due for the opening-week performance.
Week 1 Result: 39-35 loss to Fresno State
Previous Rank: 10 (down 1)
Our preseason rankings seems to be right about Purdue this year. Fresno State came into West Lafayette and dropped 487 total yards (371 passing) and four passing touchdowns. The Bulldogs lost the turnover battle, committed twice the number of penalties as Purdue and still won 39-35. It was not the greatest debut for new head coach Ryan Walters.
The somewhat good news is Purdue transfer QB Hudson Card looked pretty good and wide receiver Deion Burks is a legitimate weapon. But it’s hard to take silver linings here when Purdue opened its Big Ten West title defense with a terrible out-of-conference loss, especially when it hired a defensive head coach.
Here’s a final stat to consider: Fresno State was paid $1.3 million to come to West Lafayette and hand Walters his first loss.
Michigan State (1-0)
Week 1 Result: 31-7 win over Central Michigan
Previous Rank: 10 (up 1)
Michigan State moves up one spot by default, thanks to Purdue. The 31-7 final score does not tell the story of how shaky the Spartans looked for most of the contest.
The Spartans led 10-7 at halftime, 17-7 entering the fourth quarter and pulled away late thanks to a few splash-play touchdowns. Yes, it’s Week 1 and the teams we saw will likely look much different in November. But in the first half of this contest, an average Central Michigan team consistently won up front.
I will give credit to the Spartans: They held CMU to 55 second-half yards (before the final drive when the game was long decided). Despite the win, this contest could not have installed much confidence about MSU’s chances in the East.
Week 1 Result: 13-10 loss to Minnesota
Previous Rank: 9 (no change)
You can take the Scott Frost out of Nebraska, but apparently you can’t keep the team from blowing a late seven-point lead and losing another one-possession game. The program’s ability to choke late in the fourth quarter, always in different ways, is unbelievable.
All that said, what were the expectations for Matt Rhule’s debut as head coach? Because watching this new Nebraska team they looked physical, better-coached and strong defensively. Now QB Jeff Sims’ arm could be an issue, but this team already looks much-improved compared to last year.
It’ll still find a way to lose 6-7 one-possession games this year, just watch.
Week 1 Result: 30-28 win over Toledo
Previous Rank: 7 (down 1)
If you spent your Saturday night sweating Illinois’ comeback against Toledo, you weren’t rewarded with much aside from an ugly victory.
There’s a lot to note here. Transfer QB Luke Altmyer did not impress, and Illinois is still looking for a Chase Brown replacement at running back (Altmyer also led the team in rushing). The Illini committed 10 penalties for 100 yards, looked extremely sloppy, scored only seven points in the first half and still had enough for a second half surge to a win.
This team has a great deal of potential, but questions remain about how much the departures of QB Tommy DeVito, RB Chase Brown, safety Sydney Brown, cornerback Devon Witherspoon, defensive coordinator Ryan Walters and others will matter.
Week 1 Result: 13-10 win over Nebraska
Previous Rank: 8 (up 1)
The Week 1 power rankings are not the place for drastic overreaction, in either direction. That’s where this Minnesota game is interesting. The Gophers could not move the ball and needed three Jeff Sims interceptions and four total Nebraska turnovers to escape with a 13-10 victory. Watching this live, Nebraska looked like the better football team all night.
But Minnesota won. So how can I raise huge alarm bells.
Week 1 Result: 38-6 win over Towson
Previous Rank: 8 (up 2)
I did not watch this contest. But Maryland is good. Taulia Tagovailoa is likely the second-best quarterback in the conference, and the Terps dominated Towson in every category.
If it wasn’t for the Big Ten East, Maryland would be an outside contender in the conference.
Week 1 Result: 24-14 win over Utah State
Previous Rank: 4 (down 1)
Brian Ferentz’s offense needs to average 25 points-per-game for him to be retained, and the group opened with 24 against SP+ No. 113 team in the nation. That isn’t a confidence-building start.
The great thing is, the game started with a Cade McNamara long touchdown pass and everybody on Twitter, including myself, proclaiming Iowa’s offense back. Then the rest of the game happened and the Hawkeyes were outgained by Utah State, 329-284.
Iowa should still be a West co-favorite with Wisconsin. But this was not the offensive explosion the team needed, to say the least.
Week 1 Result: 38-17 win over Buffalo
Previous Rank: 5 (up 1)
Like Iowa (and Illinois, Purdue, Minnesota, Nebraska and half of the Big Ten), Week 1 was not the impressive showing everybody expected from the Badgers. The team started slowly, led 14-10 at halftime and despite the new offense, still didn’t seem able to throw the football.
Enter RBs Chez Mellusi and Braelon Allen, who combined for 298 rushing yards and four touchdowns. There’s the recipe for success, especially with the defense often in lighter boxes.
In all, an OK debut by Luke Fickell. Nothing earth-shattering, yet still a comfortable win.
Ohio State (1-0)
Week 1 Result: 23-3 win over Indiana
Previous Rank: 3 (no change)
A program is in an incredible place if a 20-point conference win is considered a disappointment. But that’s what this was. The Buckeyes were stagnant on offense for the majority of the game and struggled to look like the explosive team we’re used to seeing.
A drop-off from C.J. Stroud to Kyle McCord should be expected, but in that case, Ohio State should be able to run the ball at will with its great running back room. That wasn’t quite the case on Saturday. The Buckeyes averaged 4.6 yards per carry against a defense they should easily top 6-plus ypc. against. There were also just five combined receptions for 34 yards between all-world wide receivers Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka.
The lack of offensive production was a bit alarming. But the talent is obviously all there, and I’d bet Ohio State figures it out soon.
Expect this team to look far different in November. But like most of the conference, it wasn’t the greatest Week 1 performance.
Penn State (1-0)
Week 1 Result: 38-15 win over West Virginia
Previous Rank: 2 (no change)
A 24-8 second half made this contest look lopsided (and a buzzer-beater touchdown covered the spread), but West Virginia was able to hang with Penn State for a large chunk of this contest.
The good news is Drew Allar looked as-advertised in his first start, and the Nittany Lions played a clean, disciplined football game with zero turnovers and one penalty.
Allar and McCord enter similar situations as new quarterbacks. Allar was the one that looked the part on Saturday, which is great news for Penn State fans.
Week 1 Result: 30-3 win over East Carolina
Previous Rank: 1 (no change)
There isn’t much to talk about here. J.J. McCarthy looked really good. Blake Corum is healthy and dominant, and East Carolina isn’t very good. Michigan can’t be properly judged until conference play begins.