Big Ten Football Power Rankings after Week 12

Tom Brew

Minnesota’s dreamy unbeaten season came to an end Saturday in Iowa City, where it seems like we can count on the Hawkeyes to knock off a College Fooball Playoff contender every year.

The Gophers’ loss shuffles our weekly Big Ten Power Rankings after Week 12, and it now sets up another showdown of No. 1 vs. No 2 when Penn State travels to Columbus to meet the Buckeyes Saturday and settle the representative for the Big Ten East in the conference title game. It should be a doozy.

Here are my rankings after the games of Nov. 16, with last week’s ranking and this week’s opponent included:

1. Ohio State (10-0)     ***     Last week: 1

Last week: Beat Rutgers 56-21

This week: Penn State (9-1) at Ohio State, Noon ET (TV: FOX)

The skinny: I was wondering if the Buckeyes would be interested in hanging 100 on the Scarlet Knights, but they took their foot off the pedal pretty early in this one and didn’t cover the biggest point spread ever (52.5) in a Big Ten game. Justin Fields was nearly perfect again, completing 15 of 19 passes for 305 yards. Big game next week for the Buckeyes, who will be back at full strength.

2. Penn State (9-1)      ***      Last week: 3

Last week: Beat Indiana 34-27

This week: Penn State at Ohio State (10-0), Noon ET (TV: FOX)

The skinny: Penn State moves back up to No. 2 after beating pesky Indiana, but that move has more to do with the Minnesota loss than anything. The Nittany Lions have some things to shore up on defense this week. They let Indiana move the ball far too easily, giving up 462 yards to the Hoosiers.

3. Michigan (8-2)      ***      Last week's ranking: 4

Last week: Beat Michigan State 44-10

This week: Michigan at Indiana (7-3), 3:30 p.m. ET (ABC/ESPN)

The skinny: Michigan has really looked good the past month or so in winning three straight and outscoring its opponents 127-31 in the process. All that ailed them early in losses to Wisconsin and Penn State seems to be fixed now. Saturday will be a big test in Bloomington, though.

4. Minnesota (9-1)      ***      Last week: 2

Last week: Lost to Iowa 23-19

This week: Minnesota at Northwestern (2-8), Noon ET (TV: TBA)

The skinny: Minnesota got a ton of national love last week after finally beating a quality opponent in Penn State, but the thrill didn’t last long when the Hawkeyes exposed a lot of weaknesses in the Gophers. Suddenly, the Big Ten West is still up for grabs. It’s all about the season-ending showdown with the Badgers now. And if you Gophers fans are mad about being ranked behind Michigan, just know that on a neutral field, I'd take Michigan by at least a touchdown.

5. Wisconsin (8-2)      ***      Last week: 5

Last week: Beat Nebraska 37-21

This week: Purdue (4-6) at Wisconsin, 4 p.m. ET (TV: FOX)

The skinny: Wisconsin kept its Big Ten West title hopes alive by beating Wisconsin. Jonathan Taylor had another 200-yard rushing game and the Badgers are now primed to still get to Indianapolis for the title game. It’ll take wins over Purdue and Minnesota to do it, but the Badgers seem ready to run over everyone right now.

6. Iowa (7-3)      ***      Last week 7

Last week: Beat Minnesota 23-19

This week: Illinois (6-4) at Iowa, 4 p.m. ET (TV: BTN)

The skinny: Iowa moves up a notch after knocking off unbeaten Minnesota, doing what they always do it seems, knocking off a playoff hopeful at Kinnick late in the season. Minnesota had 368 yards passing and still only got 19 points, which is odd. Saturday will be interesting since Illinois is red-hot and on a four-game winning streak.

7. Indiana (7-3)      ***      Last week: 6

Last week: Lost to Penn State 34-27

This week: Michigan (8-2) at Indiana, 3:30 p.m. ET (TV: ABC/ESPN)

The skinny: Indiana is 7-3 after that tough loss to Penn State, where the Hoosiers had plenty of chances to pull out a win. Kudos to Peyton Ramsey, who threw for 371 yards against a very good Penn State defense. The Hoosiers get Michigan this week in the home finale, which should be very interesting.

8. Illinois (6-4)     ***      Last week: 8

Last week: Bye week

This week: Illinois at Iowa (7-3), 4 p.m. ET (TV: BTN)

The skinny: The Illini will be well rested after its bye week, and they’ll look to stay hot when they travel to Iowa. Lovie Smith has done a great job with this team, getting bowl eligible now after winning four straight. Can they run the table?

9. Purdue (4-6)      ***      Last week: 9

Last week: Bye week

This week: Purdue at Wisconsin (8-2), 4 p.m. ET (TV: FOX)

The skinny: The Boilermakers are still hoping to get bowl eligible, but the immediate task at hand is going to Wisconsin and taking on the Badgers. Purdue’s run defense has been horrible all year, so prepping for Jonathan Taylor is big this week. They need to win this week and then beat Indiana to get bowl eligible.

10. Michigan State (4-6)      ***      Last week: 10

Last week: Lost to Michigan 44-10

This week: Michigan State at Rutgers (2-8), Noon ET (FS1)

The skinny: Michigan has regained control in this rivalry, which was clear after Saturday’s 44-10 rout. This Spartans collapse during this five-game losing streak has been mind-numbing. It’s one thing for the MSU offense to struggle, because we’ve seen that the past couple of years, but where’s that once-proud defense. Shea Patterson throws for 384? Come on.

11. Nebraska (4-6)      ***      Last week: 11

Last week: Lost to Wisconsin 37-21

This week: Nebraska at Maryland (3-7), 3:30 p.m. ET (TV: BTN)

The skinny: Nebraska got pushed around by Wisconsin on Saturday, so now the Cornhuskers are going to have to run the table (Maryland, Iowa) or they will miss out on a bowl game again, something we never expected in Year 2 of the Scott Frost era. That contract extension makes no sense, either. He’s got a lot to prove on the recruiting trail this winter.

12. Maryland (3-7)      ***      Last week: 12

Last week: Bye week

This week: Nebraska (4-6) at Maryland, 3:30 p.m. ET (TV: BTN)

The skinny: Maryland needed a bye week more than anyone after a couple of blowouts. It’s going to be interesting to see what the Terps can do Saturday against a Nebraska team that’s been struggling, too. New coach Mike Locksley would sure like to finish on a high note.

13. Northwestern (2-8) *** Last week: 13

Last week: Beat UMass 45-6

This week: Minnesota (9-1) at Northwestern (2-8), Noon ET (TV: TBA)

The skinny: Northwestern finally scored some points in the blowout nonconference win over UMass, so hopefully that will give them a little more conference for the final to conference games of the year against Minnesota and Illinois They’ll need it. It’s been a shockingly rough year for the Wildcats, who are still looking for that first Big Ten win.

14. Rutgers (2-8)     ***     Last week 14

Last week: Lost to Ohio State 56-21

This week: Michigan State (4-6) at Rutgers, Noon ET (FS1)

The skinny: The bad news? Another blowout loss for Rutgers. The good news? They scored 21 on Ohio State and covered the spread. Finishing the home schedule with Michigan State means the agony is almost over. Will they even get 10,000 fans for this game?

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