The Big Ten disappointed in Week 2, shaking up the standings as staff writer Jonathan Mills previews what is to come.
MADISON - The second week of Big Ten play, in comparison to the conference’s impressive Week 1 debut, was a disappointment. In total, four teams lost and others struggled against significantly weaker opponents. With just one non-conference week remaining, BadgerBlitz.com presents the Big Ten Power Poll: Week 3 below.
1. Penn State Nittany Lions (2-0; 33-14 W against Pittsburgh)
An aggressive offense carried the Nittany Lions to new heights last season and are teasing a repeat. The Penn State defense impressed me last week, forcing three Pitt turnovers. Across the last 13 rivalries between these two in-state programs, the first team to score won. Evidently, PSU walked away with the victory as well as this week’s top spot in the ranking.
2. Michigan Wolverines (2-0; 36-14 W against Cincinnati)
It was a toss-up between the Wolverines and Lions for this week’s top spot but the Lions ultimately won. I was not impressed with Michigan’s offense early on. Against a Cincinnati team that pulled within three, head coach Jim Harbaugh’s defense was the difference maker and intercepted Bearcats quarterback Haven Moore twice. In all, this is a BIG Ten team that flashes championship potential when all parts of their game are clicking despite holding a two spot in this ranking.
3. Wisconsin Badgers (2-0; 31-14 W against Florida Atlantic)
The new trend underway at the University of Wisconsin is a youth movement. True freshman running back Jonathan Taylor started over injured Bradrick Shaw and blew up against an outmatched Owls defense. Taylor rushed for 223 yards and three touchdowns to complement a strong outing from the UW defense. FAU deserves credit, though, for playing competitively for the uncertainty in their home state. A tough BYU opponent looms ahead in Week 3 and is Wisconsin’s first real test in 2017.
4. Ohio State Buckeyes (1-1; 31-16 L against Oklahoma)
This was a defensive-heavy game until the Sooners offense exploded in the second half. In front of their home crowd, the Buckeyes could not shut down Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield, who finished 27 for 35 with 386 yards with three touchdowns. Not a strong showing for one of the top favorites to win it all in 2017.
5. Maryland Terrapins (2-0; 63-17 W against Towson)
They’re back in the five spot and continue to surprise me. The Maryland offense rolled to a huge offensive blowout against the Tigers. The most entertaining play of the game occurred during the second quarter when 5-10, 191-pound defensive back Darnell Savage intercepted a Towson overthrow and brought it back 75-yards for a touchdown. A Week 3 bye is the perfect time for new Terps quarterback Kasim Hill to grow more comfortable before facing Central Florida.
6. Minnesota Golden Gophers (2-0; 48-14 W against Oregon State)
Head coach P.J. Fleck appears to be a perfect fit in a Minnesota football program many do not glance twice at. Sophomore wide receiver Tyler Johnson had four catches for 127 yards and a touchdown to set the tone early. This is an Oregon State program in the middle of a rebuilding process but I’m sure the Gophers will take a win whenever they can.
7. Iowa Hawkeyes (2-0; 44-41 W against Iowa State)
Another in-state rivalry between the Hawkeyes and the Cyclones made for exciting football on Saturday afternoon. Rising sophomore star quarterback Nate Stanley completed 27 of 41 for 33 yards and five touchdowns with a big fourth quarter. Despite his overthrows, his performance sealed a much-needed win for the Hawkeyes if they are to remain relevant in the BIG Ten.
8. Nebraska Cornhuskers (1-1; 45-32 L against Oregon)
Oregon simply outplayed Nebraska in Week 2 and there was little head coach Mike Riley could do to prevent it. The Ducks receiving corps were faster and more aggressive than the Huskers, making big catches despite the man-to-man coverage. However, Nebraska gave Oregon quite a scare in the second half before a late interception put any Husker hope to rest.
9. Michigan State Spartans (2-0; 28-14 W against Western Michigan)
For the sixth time in the past seven years, the Spartans have started 2-0. The win is a positive step forward for a program that won just three total games a year ago. Quarterback Brian Leweke figures to capture some highlight reel appearances with his 61-yard touchdown run, the longest play of his career. Michigan State’s defense already looks much improved and should compete against the BIG Ten’s best within the next three years.
10. Indiana Hoosiers (1-1; 34-17 W against Virginia)
Led by freshman quarterback Peyton Ramsey, the Hoosiers took down a nonconference opponent in quick fashion. Personally, I believe the flashy 29-yard touchdown reception from junior receiver Simmie Cobbs Jr. was the most entertaining play of the weekend.
11. Purdue Boilermakers (1-1; 44-21 W against Ohio)
What a showing in West Lafayette last weekend as Purdue set the pace with a first quarter 10-0 lead. Then, the Boilermakers turned a double-reverse flea-flicker to tack on the lead in the second quarter. Purdue has destroyed Mid-American teams in the past and the trend continues in 2017.
12. Northwestern Wildcats (1-1; 41-17 L against Duke)
Unless it is NCAA College Basketball, there should be no excuses to lose by 20+ points against Duke football. The Wildcats, still my sleeper team in the BIG Ten, played miserably. Running back Justin Jackson rushed for just 18 yards in an embarrassing performance for a BIG Ten team vying to remain in the competitive conversation.
13. Illinois Fighting Illini (2-0; 20-7 W against Western Kentucky)
Despite an undefeated record, the Fighting Illini remain near the bottom of the BIG Ten Power Rankings. Head coach Lovie Smith must be impressed with his team’s defense after allowing just 244 yards of total offense. Perhaps the Illini might surprise some folks and sneak up in the rankings if their positive season continues.
14. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (0-2; 16-13 L against Eastern Michigan)
How a “Power 5” school could somehow lose to Eastern Michigan beats me, but Rutgers proved me wrong in Week 2. The Knights recorded their first 0-2 start to a season since 2008 and the road ahead is not much easier.
Jonathan Mills is a staff writer and covers Wisconsin football/basketball for BadgerBlitz.com on the Rivals.com network. Follow him on Twitter at @realJ_Mills