Big Ten Power Rankings (Week 6): Cancellations Continue to Make Pecking Order Hard to Figure

The bottom nine of the Big Ten is a muddled ball of mess this season, so trying to put the league's teams in order from No. 1 through No. 14 is pretty tough these days. Here's Week 6, with Nebraska fans sure to complain, but what else is new?
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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — It's getting hard to figure out who's good and who's not in the Big Ten these days. We had another week with COVID troubles, and this time we lost two games. And then to top that off, the bottom three teams in last week's power rankings — Rutgers, Penn State and Michigan State – all pulled off upset victories.

This much I know for sure. Ohio State is really good, and clearly the best team in the league. Behind them, Indiana, Northwestern, Iowa and Wisconsin are good, solid football teams. Everyone else, the other NINE teams, all have serious flaws.

It makes it tough to rank them, but that what's those two cents are for. It's my job to rank the power. 

Here are the new rankings after Week 6, 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: Did not play due to their own COVID-19 positive tests.
  • This week: Ohio State at Michigan State, Noon ET (TV: ABC)
  • Preseason ranking: No. 1
  • Highest/Lowest ranking: 1/1
  • The skinny: Ohio State has missed two games now because of COVID, once Maryland's doing and now their own. The Buckeyes have to play this weekend at Michigan State to remain eligible for the Big Ten Championship Game, and as of Wednesday we still don't know if they will happen, though the Buckeyes remain hopeful. Coach Ryan Day, part of two dozen positive tests, won't be coaching and it's still unknown which players have tested positive. What a mess. 

2. Indiana (5-1) *** Last Week: 3

  • Last week: Beat Maryland 27-11
  • This week: Indiana at Wisconsin, 3:30 p.m. (TV: ABC)
  • Preseason ranking: No. 6
  • Highest/Lowest ranking: 2/6
  • The skinny: Indiana moves back up into the second spot after an impressive win over Maryland, but it was a costly win. The Hoosiers lost star quarterback Michael Penix Jr. to an ACL injury and he's out for the year. That's his third season-ending injury in three years. The Hoosiers need to finish off their season now with Jack Tuttle at QB, and he gets thrown into the fire immediately against Wisconsin's tough defense.

3. Northwestern (5-1) *** Last Week: 2

  • Last week: Lost to Michigan State 29-20
  • This week: Northwestern at Minnesota CANCELED
  • Preseason ranking: No. 9
  • Highest/Lowest ranking: 2/9
  • The skinny: Peyton Ramsey finally came back to earth last week in a very bad loss at Michigan State. I pondered dropping them even further, but the Wildcats have already beaten Iowa and Wisconsin, and now that their game is canceled this week, they are the Big Ten West champions. 

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

  • Last week: Beat Nebraska 26-20
  • This week: Iowa at Illinois, 3:30 p.m. ET (TV: FOX Sports 1)
  • Preseason ranking: No. 7
  • Highest/Lowest ranking: 4/9
  • The skinny: Iowa wasn't all that impressive in its win over Nebraska, but any time you can get a win against an arch-rival, all is well. Iowa had only 322 yards of total offense, but it was enough to get the job done and secure a fourth-straight victory.

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

  • Last week: Did not play due to Minnesota's COVID-19 issues
  • This week: Indiana at Wisconsin, 3:30 p.m. (TV: ABC)
  • Preseason ranking: No. 2
  • Highest/Lowest ranking: 2/5
  • The skinny: The Badgers have been hurt the worst by the COVID-19 pandemic. They've played only three games all year, missing two because of their own issues, and one last week because of Minnesota's problems. They finally get a game this weekend with upstart Indiana, and it will be interesting to see how crisp  they can be after the off week.

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

  • Last week: Lost to Indiana 27-11
  • This week: Maryland at Michigan, 3:30 p.m. ET (TV: Big Ten Network)
  • Preseason ranking: No. 13
  • Highest/Lowest ranking: 6/13
  • The skinny: Maryland should drop further after that loss, but there's no one behind them ready to move, so the Terps hold on to their spot. This is a good week for Maryland to make its move and take advantage of a Michigan team that's really been struggling this year.

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

  • Last week: Did not play due to its own COVID-19 issues
  • This week: Northwestern at Minnesota CANCELED
  • Preseason ranking: No. 4
  • Highest/Lowest ranking: 4/13
  • The skinny: Minnesota will miss its second straight game this week because of the pandemic. It's a shame that 2020 robbed the Gophers of all that karma from a year ago. It's seems like a real non-season for them.

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

  • Last week: Did not play due to Ohio State's COVID-19 issues
  • This week: Iowa at Illinois, 3:30 p.m. ET (TV: FOX Sports 1)
  • Preseason ranking: No. 12
  • Highest/Lowest ranking: 8/14
  • The skinny: Illinois moves up two spots without even playing, mostly because of the teams struggling behind them. Still giving them some love for looking so good at Nebraska two weeks ago, and I won't be surprised if they give Iowa a game this weekend.

9. Purdue (2-3) *** Last Week 8

  • Last week: Lost to Rutgers 37-30
  • This week: Nebraska at Purdue, Noon ET (TV: Big Ten Network)
  • Preseason ranking: No. 10
  • Highest/Lowest ranking: 4/10
  • The skinny: Purdue's fan base is really starting to turn on Jeff Brohm now. How do you lose at home to Rutgers? That's a three-game losing streak now, and they've just shown a lot of flaws during this losing streak. The games have been close, but that might be even more frustrating. They can't seem to find a way to win the close ones. And quit blaming the refs. Play better.

10. Michigan (2-4) *** Last Week: 9

  • Last week: Lost to Penn State 27-17
  • This week: Maryland at Michigan, 3:30 p.m. ET (TV: Big Ten Network)
  • Preseason ranking: No. 5
  • Highest/Lowest ranking: 3/9
  • The skinny: Michigan has been favored in five of six games this season, but they've won only twice and looked horrible in losing to Penn State, which was 0-5 at the time. In the long and glorious history of the Michigan program, they've NEVER lost to a team with an 0-5 record or worse. Just shut it down, boys.

11. Rutgers (2-4) *** Last Week: 12

  • Last week: Beat Purdue 37-30
  • This week: Penn State at Rutgers, Noon ET (TV: FOX Sports 1)
  • Preseason ranking: No. 14
  • Highest/Lowest ranking: 11/14
  • The skinny: Rutgers got a nice win at Purdue and I would have liked to bump them up a notch, but they did have the loss to Michigan head-to-head. The start of the turnaround under Greg Schiano is taking shape, and it will be interesting to see if they can pull off another win or two before it's all over.

12. Michigan State (2-3) *** Last Week: 14

  • Last week: Beat Northwestern 29-20
  • This week: Ohio State at Michigan State, Noon ET (TV: ABC)
  • Preseason ranking: No. 11
  • Highest/Lowest ranking: 10/14
  • The skinny: Michigan State's win over Northwestern came as a completely surprise to me because I hadn't seen anything I'd liked about the Spartans for weeks. But it all came together against the Wildcats and they made plays when they had to. It'll be interesting to see what comes of this week's game with Ohio State, and which players can actually take the field.

13. Penn State (1-5) *** Last Week: 13

  • Last week: Beat Michigan 27-17
  • This week: Penn State at Rutgers, Noon ET (TV: FOX Sports 1)
  • Preseason ranking: No. 3
  • Highest/Lowest ranking: 3/13
  • The skinny: Penn State has been playing football since 1887 and the Nittany Lions had NEVER been 0-5, so it was great to finally get a win against Michigan. If Penn State can finish the season strong, that will soften the blow of that long losing streak.

14. Nebraska (1-4) *** Last Week: 11

  • Last week: Lost to Iowa 26-20
  • This week: Nebraska at Purdue, Noon ET (TV: Big Ten Network)
  • Preseason ranking: No. 8
  • Highest/Lowest ranking: 8/14
  • The skinny: Nebraska drops to the bottom after the loss to Iowa and the surprising wins by the bottom of last week's rankings. I'm sure Nebraska fans think I'm crazy having them dead last, but they've done nothing to prove otherwise this season. Beat Purdue this week, and that will show me something.

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
  • WEEK 5: Finding the real No. 2 behind Ohio State. CLICK HERE