Big Ten Power Rankings: Plenty of Shuffling Already After Week 1

Ohio State still looks like the clear favorite in the Big Ten, but there were plenty of impressive wins elsewhere too, most notably from Michigan, Indiana, Purdue and Northwestern.
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Well, that was worth the wait.

It look an extra seven weeks for the Big Ten football season to start this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the first weekend of play clearly didn't disappoint.

Preseason favorite Ohio State looked great and we had two quarterbacks — Ohio State's Justin Fields and Wisconsin's Graham Mertz – who were nearly perfect right out of the gate. Both of them were 20-for-21 passing, a whopping 95.2 completion percentage

Ohio State and Wisconsin were my top two teams in the preseason, and nothing I saw this weekend changes that thinking, although I really liked a lot of what I saw from Michigan and Indiana, too.

And congrats to former Indiana quarterback Peyton Ramsey, who won the quarterback job at Northwestern and really played well in the Wildcats' rout of Maryland.

Here are the new rankings after Week 1:

1. Ohio State (1-0)   ***   Preseason ranking: 1

  • Last week: Beat Nebraska 52-17
  • This week: Ohio State at Penn State, 7:30 p.m. ET (TV: ABC)
  • The skinny: Justin Fields is a late arrival to the Heisman Trophy race, but he picked up right where he left off last year, with just the one incompletion. He threw for 276 yards and two touchdowns and the Buckeyes offense looked really good, rushing for another 215 yards as well. Ohio State started slow, but got more comfortable as the game played out. Wide receiver Chris Olave took a shot to the head late in the third quarter and did not return. His status for next week will need to be monitored all week.

2. Wisconsin (1-0)   ***   Preseason ranking: 2

  • Last week: Beat Illinois 45-7 on Friday night
  • This week: Wisconsin at Nebraska CANCELED
  • The skinny: Graham Mertz came to Wisconsin with a lot of fanfare as the highest-ranked quarterback recruit in school history, and he was tremendous in his first start in the Friday night beatdown of Illinois. He was steady and cool in racking up 248 passing yards and making five touchdown throws. Mertz took over for Jack Coan after foot surgery derailed last year's starter, and it's going to be interesting to see what happens when Coan gets healthy. 

3. Michigan (1-0)    ***    Preseason ranking: 5

  • Last week: Beat Minnesota 49-24
  • This week: Michigan State at Michigan, Noon ET (TV: FOX)
  • The skinny: Beating ranked teams on the road hasn't happened a lot in the Jim Harbaugh era at Michigan, but the Wolverines sure looked good Saturday night in boat-racing Minnesota. Quarterback Joe Milton handled the big stage well, going 15-for-22 passing for 225 yards and a touchdown. Michigan, who scored 35 first-half points, rushed for 253 yards and had runs of 70 yards by Zach Charbonnet and 66 yards by Hassan Haskins. The Wolverines should be heavy favorites this week in the in-state battle with Michigan State.
Joe Milton did a nice job in his first start at quarterback for Michigan. (USA TODAY Sports)

Joe Milton did a nice job in his first start at quarterback for Michigan. (USA TODAY Sports)

4. Indiana (1-0)    ***    Preseason ranking: 6

  • Last week: Beat Penn State 36-35 in overtime
  • This week: Indiana at Rutgers, 3:30 p.m. ET (TV: Big Ten Network)
  • The skinny: The Hoosiers have been looking for a signature win under Tom Allen, and it finally happened on Saturday when they took down Penn State in overtime. Indiana's defense forced three turnovers, and after struggling through three quarters, quarterback Michael Penix Jr. was awesome on the final drive and in overtime, completing 8-of-9 passes for 71 yards. Indiana is now 2-22 all-time vs. the Nittany Lions.

5. Penn State (0-1)    ***    Preseason ranking: 3

  • Last week: Lost to Indiana 36-35 in overtime
  • This week: Ohio State at Penn State, 7:30 p.m. ET (TV: ABC)
  • The skinny: Penn State doesn't usually have to deal with turnovers and penalties a lot, but both were a huge issue in the loss to Indiana. Three turnovers put them in an early hole and 100 yards worth of penalties also came at very inopportune times. What was really surprising, though, was how Indiana won the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Sean Clifford (17 carries for 119 yards) ran well, but the running backs had just 131 yards on 35 carries, a 3.7-yard average.

6. Northwestern (1-0) *** Preseason ranking: 9

  • Last week: Beat Maryland 43-3
  • This week: Northwestern at Iowa, 3:30 p.m. ET (TV: ESPN)
  • The skinny: Peyton Ramsey, the transfer quarterback from Indiana, hit the ground running for the Wildcats, who look ready to bounce back from last year's 3-9 season. Northwestern had 537 yards of total offense, which was nearly double what they averaged a year ago. Ramsey was 23-for-30 for 212 yards and a score. The Wildcats rushed for 325 yards and four scores in Pat Fitzgerald's 100th career win at Northwestern. They were the biggest movers of the week in the rankings.

7. Purdue (1-0)    ***    Preseason ranking: 10

  • Last week: Beat Iowa 24-20
  • This week: Purdue at Illinois, Noon ET (TV: Big Ten Network)
  • The skinny: It didn't matter that Purdue was without its head coach and best player on Saturday, and they found a way to beat Iowa anyway. Aidan O'Connell got the start at quarterback and was 31-for-50 passing for 282 yards and three touchdowns, though he did have two interceptions. Purdue wide receiver David Bell was tremendous, making 13 catches for 121  yards and three scores. This upset surprised me, I have to be honest. With coach Jeff Brohm and Rondale Moore both at home, I didn't expect this kind of win, especially with the comeback at the end.
Purdue's David Bell (right) led all Big Ten receivers with 13 receptions in Week 1. (USA TODAY Sports)

Purdue's David Bell (right) led all Big Ten receivers with 13 receptions in Week 1. (USA TODAY Sports)

8. Minnesota (0-1)    ***    Preseason ranking: 4

  • Last week: Lost to Michigan 49-24 
  • This week: Minnesota at Maryland, 7;30 p.m. ET Friday night (TV: ESPN) 
  • The skinny: Minnesota got pounded at home by Michigan, which was something of a surprise that the Gophers' defense struggled so much. The Gophers take the biggest drop in the rankings, and clearly have some work to do.

9. Iowa (0-1)   ***   Preseason ranking: 7

  • Last week: Lost to Purdue 24-20
  • This week: Northwestern at Iowa, 3:30 p.m. ET (TV: ESPN)
  • The skinny: Iowa has a lot of work to do with a new quarterback at the helm. Spencer Petras was 22-for-39 passing for 265 yards, but no touchdowns. That was a game they should have won, especially with Purdue short-handed. Northwestern suddenly becomes a must-win game for the Hawkeyes to stay alive in the Big Ten West.

10. Nebraska (0-1)   ***   Preseason ranking: 8

  • Last week: Lost to Ohio State 52-17
  • This week: Wisconsin at Nebraska, CANCELED
  • The skinny: Nebraska drew the short straw in drawing Ohio State right out of the gate, so the 35-point loss has to be taken with a grain of salt. The defense needs to get better in a hurry, though, and the Cornhuskers need to get more out of the passing game. It doesn't get any easier this week with Wisconsin coming to town. 

11. Rutgers (1-0)    ***    Preseason ranking: 14

  • Last week: Beat Michigan State 38-27
  • This week: Indiana at Rutgers, 3:30 p.m. ET (TV: Big Ten Network)
  • The skinny: The Greg Schiano era started emphatically with a big win at Michigan State, and for the first time in my two years of doing the power rankings, the Scarlet Knights aren't holding down the bottom spot. You had to love the impressive play of the defense, which forced seven turnovers. Indiana is next.

12. Michigan State (0-1)    ***   Preseason ranking: 11

  • Last week: Lost to Rutgers 38-27
  • This week: Michigan State at Michigan, Noon ET (TV: FOX)
  • The skinny: Michigan State starts our parade of the three most disappointing teams in Week 1. We knew wins might be hard to come by for the Spartans, but they were 11-point favorites in this game. Sure, it's early but seven turnovers shows a clear lack of preparation. Mel Tucker's honeymoon period might get short in a hurry, especially since they will likely be underdogs the next three weeks against Michigan, Iowa and Indiana.

13. Illinois (0-1) *** Preseason Ranking: 12

  • Last week: Lost to Wisconsin 45-7 on Friday night
  • This week: Purdue at Illinois, Noon ET (TV: Big Ten Network)
  • The skinny: It was really disappointing to see Brandon Peters complete just 8-of-19 passes for only 89 yards against Wisconsin. This team should be better, and I'll be interested in seeing how they bounce back against Purdue, a team they beat a year ago. 

14. Maryland (0-1)    ***    Preseason ranking: 13

  • Last week: Lost to Northwestern 43-3
  • This week: Minnesota at Maryland, 7;30 p.m. ET Friday night (TV: ESPN) 
  • The skinny: Maryland was a complete no-show in the opener against Northwestern, and it was something of a surprise that they were so inept. Maryland had only 64 yards rushing and gave up 325 on the ground. That's a true whipping at the line of scrimmage.