Big Ten Power Rankings (Week 5): So Who's Really No. 2 After Ohio State?

The Big Ten is starting to layer itself out after five weeks of games, and even though it got a scare from Indiana, Ohio State is a clear No. 1. But there's a good debate to be had after that between Northwestern and the Hoosiers.
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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Ohio State staved off Indiana on Saturday, but despite having a 28-point lead at one point, things got a little dicey for the Buckeyes. Indiana had the ball and a chance to tie — or worse — when time finally ran out on their late rally.

Ohio State won 42-35 to remain unbeaten, sending Indiana home with its first loss of the season – and a ton of respect from its vanquisher. The Buckeyes' offense had their hands full in the second half, going the final 27 minutes without scoring and hanging on for dear life as Hoosiers quarterback Michael Penix Jr. hung 491 passing yards on the OSU defense.

 “We can’t be giving up points like that in the second half and not scoring in the second half,” Buckeyes defensive back Shaun Wade said.

Still, they survived and advanced. The Big Ten East division title is basically theirs now, as is a trip to the conference championship game. Their College Football Playoff hopes are alive too, now that the toughest team on their schedule has been dispatched.

We're down to just two unbeatens in the league now after Northwestern toppled Wisconsin 17-7 in impressive fashion on Showdown Weekend between the league's four top teams. 

The Wildcats' win begs the question. Is their win over Wisconsin better than Indiana playing the No. 1 Buckeyes almost even? Who's the real No. 2?

For me, I'm giving Northwestern the edge — for now — because a win is a win, and it came against a pretty darn good team in Wisconsin. So Peyton Ramsey has his Wildcats are No. 2 for now, and Indiana sits at No. 3.

There was good debate about this in the polls, too. Northwestern is a spot behind Indiana in the Coaches Poll, and a spot ahead of them in the Associated Press poll.

Just like here.

For now.

Here are the new rankings after Week 5, with TV and game times for next week as well, plus a quick snapshot on every team: 

1. Ohio State (4-0) *** Last Week: 1

  • Last week: Beat Indiana 42-35
  • This week: Ohio State at Illinois, Noon ET (TV: FOX Sports 1)
  • Preseason ranking: No. 1
  • Highest/Lowest ranking: 1/1
  • The skinny: Ohio State is still the best team in the league, but it was exposed in a big way by Penix and the Indiana receivers in an epic toasting. That can't happen again, but they also probably won't be seeing a quarterback of Penix's level until the playoffs. What we do know is that Justin Fields is really good, and Master Teague stepped up in a big way as a running back.  No. 1 still, and it's a lock.

2. Northwestern (5-0) *** Last Week: 3

  • Last week: Beat Wisconsin 17-7
  • This week: Northwestern at Michigan State, 3:30 p.m. ET (TV: ESPN2)
  • Preseason ranking: No. 9
  • Highest/Lowest ranking: 2/9
  • The skinny: Peyton Ramsey was part of a big debate last year when they sat in Indiana's quarterback room together with Michael Penix Jr. Penix won that QB battle, but Ramsey played great every time he had to replace him after an injury. When he decided to go to Northwestern as a grad transfer, no one quite expected this, a 5-0 start from a team that went 3-9 a year ago. That was a huge win against Wisconsin, and there's no doubt about this – the Wildcats have the best defense in the Big Ten, and it's not even close.

3. Indiana (4-1) *** Last Week: 2

  • Last week: Lost to Ohio State 42-35
  • This week: Maryland at Indiana, Noon ET (TV: ESPN2)
  • Preseason ranking: No. 6
  • Highest/Lowest ranking: 2/6
  • The skinny: Indiana could have rolled over when it was 35-7 against Ohio State, but they fought back and had a chance. Tom Allen said we'd see their character, and thats exactly what happened. Now, here's the big question. Where do the Hoosiers go from here? With Maryland, Wisconsin and Purdue — three teams all .500 or better — still to go, can they get back to their winning ways?

4. Iowa (3-2) *** Last Week: 5

  • Last week: Beat Penn State 41-21
  • This week: Nebraska at Iowa, 1 p.m. ET (TV: FOX)
  • Preseason ranking: No. 7
  • Highest/Lowest ranking: 4/9
  • The skinny: Iowa has all but forgotten those two early losses, because the Hawkeyes are simply pounding people now, and they've done it for three weeks in a row. They've been so impressive that I jumped them over Wisconsin this week, and I've got a feeling they are going to stay there for a while.

5. Wisconsin (2-1) *** Last Week 4

  • Last week: Lost to Northwestern 17-7 
  • This week: Minnesota at Wisconsin, 2 p.m. ET (TV: Big Ten Network)
  • Preseason ranking: No. 2
  • Highest/Lowest ranking: 2/5
  • The skinny: The Badgers turned the ball over five times in the loss to Northwestern, and I never saw that coming. That's just not Wisconsin football, losing two fumbles and having young quarterback Graham Mertz throw three interceptions. The Badgers played really well in their two wins, but Saturday was an obvious example of what happens when you can't practice on a regular basis. Missing all that time because of the COVID outbreak in their program came home to roost on Saturday.

6. Maryland (2-1) *** Last Week: 7

  • Last week: Did not play vs. Michigan State (COVID-19)
  • This week: Maryland at Indiana, Noon ET (TV: ESPN2)
  • Preseason ranking: No. 13
  • Highest/Lowest ranking: 6/13
  • The skinny: Maryland is only here because the eight teams behind them still haven't done enough to pass them, even with the Terps out of commission for two weeks because of COVID. We're in wait-and-see mode now to see if the Terrapins will be able to play Saturday at Indiana. I hope they can, because they were impressive in wins over Minnesota and Penn State before they got shut down.

7. Minnesota (2-3) *** Last Week: 10

  • Last week: Beat Purdue 34-31
  • This week: Minnesota at Wisconsin, 2 p.m. ET (TV: Big Ten Network)
  • Preseason ranking: No. 4
  • Highest/Lowest ranking: 4/13
  • The skinny: I have no real good explanation for moving Minnesota up three spots because they had no business beating Purdue on Friday night. That offensive pass interference call that took away a touchdown in the final minute was horrible, and the Gophers should have lost. But I will give them credit for this. They played that game without a quarter of their roster and still found a way to win. Now there's time for validation in a critical showdown with Wisconsin this weekend.

8. Purdue (2-2) *** Last Week 6

  • Last week:  Lost to Minnesota 34-31
  • This week: Rutgers at Purdue, 4 p.m. ET (TV: FOX Sports 1)
  • Preseason ranking: No. 10
  • Highest/Lowest ranking: 4/10
  • The skinny: Purdue's fan base can whine about that bad call, too, and it has. “You know what I think,” Brohm said. “I can’t really comment on it. It’s part of the game and we’ve got to move forward, but, yes, I didn’t like it at all.” The Boilermakers also should have won that game anyway. I'm still at a loss to try to figure how good this team can be. They've beaten a very good Iowa team and hung with Northwestern. They've got Rutgers, Nebraska and Indiana left. Can they win all three?

9. Michigan (2-3) *** Last Week: 9

  • Last week: Beat Rutgers 48-42 in OT
  • This week: Penn State at Michigan, Noon ET (TV: ABC)
  • Preseason ranking: No. 5
  • Highest/Lowest ranking: 3/9
  • The skinny: Michigan has been favored in every game but one this season, and it's a miracle that they have. Three losses have been terrible, but that over Rutgers might have been even worse. They should have lost in regulation, but found a way to steal a game anyway. It's amazing that Michigan and Penn State will play a game Saturday with a combined 2-8 record. So much for bluebloods.

10. Illinois (2-3) *** Last Week: 11

  • Last week: Beat Nebraska 41-23
  • This week: Ohio State at Illinois, Noon ET (TV: FOX Sports 1)
  • Preseason ranking: No. 12
  • Highest/Lowest ranking: 10/14
  • The skinny: Illinois quarterback Brandon Peters got stuck catching COVID-19, and because he did, he missed three games. Somebody had to pay for that, and it was Nebraska, which got pounded by the Illini. “Ten days in the hotel room is not ideal, especially when you know you feel good enough to be out there,” he said. Hanging 41 on the Huskers had to feel good.

11. Nebraska (1-3) *** Last Week: 8

  • Last week: Lost to Illinois 41-23
  • This week: Nebraska at Iowa, 1 p.m. ET (TV: FOX)
  • Preseason ranking: No. 8
  • Highest/Lowest ranking: 8/11
  • The skinny: Nebraska started to feel better about itself last week after beating Penn State and then they turned around and laid a huge egg. I'm really starting to wonder if Scott Frost is going to be able to turn this program around. It's really a mess right now. They're the lowest-ranked team in the Big Ten West right now. Am I wrong? 

12. Rutgers (1-4) *** Last Week: 13

  • Last week: Lost to Michigan 48-42 in OT 
  • This week: Rutgers at Purdue, 4: p.m. ET (TV: FOX Sports 1)
  • Preseason ranking: No. 14
  • Highest/Lowest ranking: 11/14
  • The skinny: Rutgers is getting closer, but they have to be kicking themselves for letting that one slip against against Michigan. Noah Vedral threw for 381 yards and three scores, and that should have been enough to win. 

13. Penn State (0-5) *** Last Week: 11

  • Last week: Lost to Iowa 41-21
  • This week: Penn State at Michigan, Noon ET (TV: ABC)
  • Preseason ranking: No. 3
  • Highest/Lowest ranking: 3/13
  • The skinny: Penn State has been playing football since 1887 and the Nittany Lions have NEVER been 0-5. That's crazy, especially coming from a top-10 team in the preseason. Will they ever win another game?

14. Michigan State (1-3) *** Last Week: 14

  • Last week: Did not play
  • This week: Northwestern at Michigan State, 3:30 p.m. ET (TV: ESPN2)
  • Preseason ranking: No. 11
  • Highest/Lowest ranking: 10/14
  • The skinny: Michigan State got stuck with no one to play after Maryland's COVID breakout last week, but it was probably a good thing. After blowout losses to Iowa and Indiana, the Spartans could have used a break. They're proof positive that it's hard to get acclimated to a new staff in 2020 and that, combined with a downturn in talent, has the Spartans at the bottom.

Previous Big Ten Power Rankings stories

  • WEEK 1: Plenty of surprises in season openers. CLICK HERE
  • WEEK 2: Hoosiers make their move to No. 2. CLICK HERE
  • WEEK 3: Maryland makes a big jump. CLICK HERE
  • WEEK 4: Northwestern makes its move to the top. CLICK HERE